The Best Places to Enjoy Nature in NYC During COVID-19

Friends of Pelham Bay Park hosts Picture the Park! photo contest
Pelham Bay Park. (File)

By Jenna Fanelli

Embracing and exploring nature in NYC is a great way to relieve stress, and when it comes to COVID-19, outdoor spaces are a great way to maintain safety guidelines and still be able to have fun and get out of the house. And, while you might not think of wide, open spaces when you think of the concrete jungle, there are actually plenty of places to enjoy nature in NYC throughout its five boroughs. These are some of the best green spaces throughout NYC to take your family on a fun-filled nature adventure! We suggest that you check in with each respective location to make sure you know the safety rules and regulations before heading out so that you can keep your family and your fellow New Yorkers as safe as possible.

For a day when the weather might not permit a trip outside, check out some fun indoor options in our article Indoor Exercise for Kids: Online Classes and Games During Coronavirus


Pelham Bay Park: Turtle Cove

Pelham Bay Park is New York’s largest public park and boasts miles of bridle paths and hiking trails, as well as the Bartow-Pell Mansion, two golf courses, and a saltwater shoreline that stretches 13 miles along the Long Island Sound. Pelham Bay Park is also home to a diverse array of plant and animal life.

Neighborhood: Pelham Bay Park

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Pelham Bay Park: Twin Island

Located off of the northernmost section of Orchard Beach is Pelham Bay Park’s Twin Island. A hike to the top provides beautiful views of the Long Island Sound. A quick loop around Twin Island makes for a nice jaunt for families with young children, (Check out the Kazimiroff Nature Trail on Hunter Island for a longer hike.)

Neighborhood: Pelham Bay Park

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The Ramble

A part of the famous Central Park Conservancy, The Ramble is a 36-acre wild garden where you can walk around and discover forest gardens and get lost within the beautiful scenery. This was one of the first parks to be built and is surrounded by a thriving wildlife habitat, and includes pathways, giant boulders, coves and rich forest gardens. It is also the center of birding activity within the park with over 230 species spotted.

Neighborhood: In between Upper West Side & Upper East Side

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Central Park: Harlem Meer

Central Park is arguably the most well-known spot to find nature in NYC. Named after the Dutch word for lake, the Harlem Meer was originally designed to mark the former separate village of Harlem, and is now a great place for families to relax and enjoy nature. Come catch a glimpse of wildlife, such as fish, turtles, and waterfowl. In addition to enjoying the landscape, families can also have fun with catch-and-release fishing, park-related tours and exhibits, and skating or swimming at Lasker Rink.

Neighborhood: Harlem

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The High Line

The perfect place to visit to be one with nature while also taking in the beautiful sights of NYC. The 1.45 mile-long walkway was first opened to the public in 2009. Situated along the High Line route is the Gansevoort Woodland, the Sundeck and Water Feature, Chelsea Market Passage, Chelsea Grasslands, Seating Steps, Wildflower Field, and the Radical Bench.

Neighborhood: Lower West Side

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Conservatory Garden

The Conservatory Garden belongs to Central Park, sitting on six gorgeous acres of land. This blooming garden is known as the “formal” garden to Central Park where you can take in the sights of the beautiful Wisteria Pergola, Untermyer Fountain, and memorial fountain for renowned author Frances Hodgson Burnett. You can enter through the Parisian Vanderbilt gate on 104th and 105th Streets to experience these incredible scenes of nature.

Neighborhood: Upper East Side

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Gardens of The Battery

For a peaceful and stunning atmosphere right in Battery Park, visit the Bosque Garden and Gardens of Remembrance at The Battery. Get waterfront views, enjoy the gardens which boast beautiful plants of all kinds, and see the cannons that once fortified the walls of Castle Clinton. And, if you want to take the little ones to see the Statue of Liberty without the hassle of catching the ferry, this is the perfect place with a clear view from the park!

Neighborhood: Battery Park

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Fort Tyron Park

Now celebrating 85 years and located right above the Hudson River, this park is home to acres of elm trees, healths, and heathers that are in full bloom during the summer. You can even find online resources to take with you on your visit which will guide you through the Birds of Cabrini Woods Nature Sanctuary and the Fort Tyron Kids Nature Scavenger Hunt!

Neighborhood: Washington Heights

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Fort Tryon Park : NYC Parks nature in nyc
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91st Street Garden

Visit this nature scene that is home to hundreds of flowers, blooming roses of Sharon trees, giant hibiscus flowers, and monarch and swallowtail butterflies. This block has been carefully curated to create a peaceful atmosphere away from the bustling streets where you can immerse yourself in NYC’s nature.

Neighborhood: Riverside Park

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Elizabeth Street Garden

Located between Prince and Spring Streets, this unique garden has provided the city with an abundance of greenery in what is a very concrete-filled neighborhood for nearly 200 years! The garden continues to serve as a recreational and educational space for members of the community.

Neighborhood: Little Italy and SoHo

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Washington Square Park

Take a stroll down 5th Avenue, through the iconic Washington Square Arch and into Washington Square Park. Here, there are daffodils, irises, crocuses, and more! Have a picnic or enjoy a game of Chess under the Dogwood Trees.

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village

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Prospect Park: The Ravine

At the heart of Prospect Park, the ravine features beautiful foliage and calming streams. City kids will delight in the grandiose waterfall trails at the ravine, which has been the subject of restoration efforts since the mid-1990s. This “natural wonder” is Brooklyn’s only forest!

Neighborhood: Between the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, and Windsor Terrace

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Prospect Park: The Penninsula and the Lullwater

The Peninsula overlooking Prospect Lake is a fantastic place for families to observe birds and ducks, as well as enjoy the restored, scenic views that are home to park wildlife. Along the north edge of the Peninsula, a footpath gracefully leads you under the Terrace bridge, along which the Lullwater proceeds. Nature thrives at the Lullwater, a 16.8-acre wetland in the heart of Brooklyn that leads from the Nethermead into the lake, which houses a variety of waterfowl and green heron.

Neighborhood: Between the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, and Windsor Terrace

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Narrows Botanical Garden

Take your floral nature escape to the Narrows Botanical Garden where there are a variety of flowers and trees. You’ll find weeping willows, roses, linden trees, and water lilies. The garden aims to educate and entertain the public with their delightful gardens, promote the arts with free cultural events, and teach guests about the importance of preservation of the flora and fauna!

Neighborhood: Bay Ridge

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Brooklyn Bridge Park

Enjoy Spanish Bluebells and yellow wildflowers along the East River! With a number of piers and gardens, the Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) consists of 85 beautiful, open acres. Visit the gardens, any of the piers, Main Street, and more.

Neighborhood: DUMBO

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Domino Park

Though there’s a volleyball court (closed at the moment), playground, and fun fountain at the park’s southern top, Domino Park pays tribute to its industrial history. The refinery’s crane tracks various species of plants for the public to enjoy and, stretched along the East River, families can enjoy seasonal flowers and a light breeze off the water while playing a game of bocce or hide and seek on the grounds, which span 6 acres!

Neighborhood: Williamsburg

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Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: West Pond

What better place to find nature in NYC than a wildlife refuge? Renowned as a prime birding spot, the 9,000-acre Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge attracts thousands of land and shore birds who stop there during migration. In the last 25 years, over 330 species have been recorded at this nature refuge. The wide variety of bird species and the well-positioned benches around the trail at the 44-acre West Pond provide kids and families a remarkable place for bird watching.

Neighborhood: Broad Channel

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Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: Big John’s Pond

Big John’s Pond is significantly smaller than West Pond. However, the duck blind designed specifically for observing wildlife and nature is a very popular place to bird watch around the pond. Another highlight of Big John’s Pond is the wooden nesting box, which barn owls call home in-season.

Neighborhood: Broad Channel

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Staten Island

nature in nyc
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Staten Island Greenbelt: Moses Mountain

Families will be amazed by the tranquility of Staten Island Greenbelt, which consists of a contiguous series of forests, meadows, wetlands, ponds, and parks. At the heart of the Greenbelt, Moses Mountain is a premier place for families and kids to enjoy the thrill of nature. Moses Mountain hikers will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Greenbelt and New Jersey’s Atlantic Highlands.

Neighborhood: Egbertville

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Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden

Head over to Staten Island to see the expansive nature scene to experience the botanical gardens surrounded by cobblestone streets and paths of Victorian and Tudor homes. The most common attraction here is the Chinese Scholar’s Garden that is inspired by Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism with a bamboo forest path and Koi ponds.

Neighborhood: Snug Harbor

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