7 Outdoor, Socially Distanced Things to Do in New York City

September 04, 2020

There is no denying that New York City got slammed by the pandemic. The city quickly became the epicenter within the United States, and remained as such for the months following. Everything was quickly closed, the streets were silenced, and New Yorkers were stuck quarantining in their spacious NYC apartments.

However, with September gifting the city with that perfect early-autumn weather and COVID-19 restrictions slowly being lifted, now is the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors that NYC has to offer — Safely, of course.

Yes, many indoor activities and events remain closed. However, there are plenty of outdoor things to do in New York that are relaxing, fun, and of course, social distancing friendly.

Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge has been a popular tourist destination for decades. However, the lack of tourism due to the pandemic has left the bridge impressively empty. This is the ideal opportunity to walk across the bridge and take in its history and unique design, almost crowd-free. Early riser? Grab a to-go bagel or breakfast sandwich from DUMBO’s La Bagel Delight and enjoy it on the bridge as the sun rises over the Manhattan skyline. If waking up at six in the morning isn’t your thing, no worries. The bridge is stunning at any time of day.

Shop at a Farmers Market

What’s better than shopping local? Shopping local outside! Farmers markets are a great way to affordably purchase produce, baked goods, and other seasonal products from local farmers and artisans. Even if you don’t go with an extensive shopping list, browsing the markets’ stalls is a great way to get outside and experience what NY agriculture has to offer.

Go to grownyc.org/greenmarket for lists of farmers markets throughout the city’s boroughs.

Picnic in the Park

New York City is known as the concrete jungle. However, within its immense infrastructure, you’ll find plenty of beautiful parks where you can sit down and enjoy the day. Or, even a lovely picnic. Escape your apartment by packing some of your favorite snacks, gathering a big blanket, and lounging in one of many NYC parks with great food and good vibes. Wicker basket optional. Enjoy views of the East River from Brooklyn Bridge Park, find a socially distanced spot in the 56 acres of Queen’s Astoria Park, or surround yourself with Manhattan’s skyscrapers by lounging out in Sheep Meadow, a 15-acre lawn right in Central Park.

Explore the Great Outdoors… of Dining!

Even though indoor dining isn’t available, outdoor dining and boozing is here to stay, at least until the end of October. Explore the city’s food and bev scene through rooftops, sidewalks, biergartens, and even streets closed off to traffic (thanks to New York’s Open Streets program). Whether you’re enjoying a meal while surrounded by giant buildings or sitting on top of one, outdoor dining is a great choice if you’re looking for dinner with a great view.

Bike the Hudson River Greenway

This 11-mile greenway goes from downtown’s Battery Park all the way up to the Bronx, offering incredible views of the East River and surrounding city. The greenway is pedestrian-only, which makes biking next to the river easy, accessible, and enjoyable. One of the most popular options for bike rentals is with Citibike: a day pass is only $12! Rent a bike from one of their many stations, cruise down the riverside, and enjoy the late-summer sun. Go later in the afternoon to catch an incredible view of the sunset over the Hudson.

Visit the New York Botanical Garden

Enjoy a sunny day by walking around the beautiful flora and fauna of the New York Botanical Garden. Located in the Bronx, this incredible garden encompasses 250 acres and is home to approximately 1 million plants. To keep both visitors and staff safe, the garden’s admission is done through time-specific entry tickets, and face masks are required during your leisurely, flowery walk.

Visit www.nybg.org for more information.

Explore Your Own Neighborhood

New York City’s boroughs are composed of many different and diverse neighborhoods, all with their own unique style, vibe, and history. Whether you’re visiting the city and want to learn about your location, or you’re a veteran New Yorker who simply wants to re-discover your home, consider taking a few hours to explore your surroundings. Try going out with the intent to do something that will help you pay more attention to the space around you, such as taking pictures or jotting down notes of interesting things you see. You could even take a walking tour of your neighborhood! Most are pretty inexpensive, or even free, and will give you insight on the history, people, and buildings that have helped build your neighborhood into what it is today.

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