An adventurer’s guide to New York City

December 30, 2015                 6m read time
Kristen Bailey


Everyone knows New York City is home to some of the world’s most esteemed museums, restaurants, theaters, and high-end department stores. But if you’re more into hiking boots than high heels and prefer breaking a sweat to breaking into polite applause, our Adventurer’s Guide to NYC is what you need. We’ve found activities that transcend the standard photo ops and instead offer entirely unique—and highly interactive—ways to get out there in the Big Apple.

1. Kayak Around the Statue of Liberty

Kayakers in the New York Harbor in New York City Alec Perkins

Kayakers in the New York Harbor in New York City

Alec Perkins

 

You really shouldn’t leave New York without seeing the Statue of Liberty, but that doesn't mean you have to wade through the crowds. Head over to Pier 13 in Hoboken for a 5.5-mile, five-hour kayak trip to Lady Liberty with Resilience Paddle Sports. While you paddle out, your guide will share a boatload of local history and fascinating facts about the Hudson River estuary and the New York Harbor. You’ll also enjoy unfettered views of the city skyline, the Empire State Building and Lower Manhattan, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the double-decked suspension bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn.

2. Play tennis in Grand Central Station

Inside Grand Central Station in New York City Luboslav Tiles

Inside Grand Central Station in New York City

Luboslav Tiles

 

There’s no better people watching in New York than Grand Central Station. The architectural masterpiece has decorative vaulted ceilings, Tennessee marble floors, and a 49-acre basement—definitely not your run-of-the-mill train station. What most people don't know is the station also houses the Vanderbilt Tennis & Fitness Club. It's a non-membership club so anyone with enough money to spare (around $100-$250 an hour) can reserve a tennis court. Located on the station's fourth floor, the main court features 30-foot high ceilings and views of Midtown Manhattan through Grand Central's iconic arch windows. As you rally, you’ll feel like John McEnroe or one of the Williams sisters, and yep, they’ve played here, too.

3. Fly a helicopter over New York

View over New York City with Wings Air on a helicopter tour Wings Air

View over New York City with Wings Air on a helicopter tour

Wings Air

 

Tired of looking up at skyscrapers? Flip the perspective with Wings Air and soar above the city in a helicopter. A professional instructor will teach you all the essentials and handle the take off. After that, you're in control for an exhilarating half hour. Once you’re confident enough to peel your eyes away from the instrument panel, you’ll see spectacular views of the Hudson River, the Atlantic coastline, and the New York City skyline.

4. Run through the city

Runners on a bridge in New York City Dan Nguyen

Runners on a bridge in New York City

Dan Nguyen

 

With more than 1,700 parks, waterfront pathways, and recreational facilities spread out over five boroughs, New York City is one giant playground for runners. To make the most of it, sign up for a personal or group outing with City Running Tours. The personal tour takes you on a customized route, and the group tours feature a different route every day except Monday. The one-hour, four-mile Crossroads of the World tour, available on Sundays, takes you across bustling Times Square and through Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center. The Rockaway Brewery Running Tour heads along FDR Drive on the Manhattan waterfront, crosses the Queensboro Bridge into Long Island City, Queens, and continues through Socrates Sculpture Park, a four-acre site that exhibits works by local and international artists. The tour ends with well-earned drinks at The Rockaway Brewery. City Running Tours also offers a Brooklyn Bridge run, a Central Park Run, and a run dedicated to killer views of the Statue of Liberty and the surrounding neighborhoods.


Ready to lace up your sneakers? Check out our guide to New York's best running routes.


 

5. Zip-Line in Hyde Park

Zipline in Hyde Park with Big Bear Ziplines near New York City Big Bear Ziplines

Zipline in Hyde Park with Big Bear Ziplines near New York City

Big Bear Ziplines

 

Hyde Park, 90 miles north of NYC, is worth the scenic drive if you have an affinity for flying through the air at breakneck speed. Big Bear Ziplines has more than 4,000 feet of cables for you to zip along during its three-hour canopy tour. First stop is Little Bear, a 300-foot long line just 10 feet above the ground—low enough for novices, but high enough to get you acclimated to jumping off a platform into thin air. Next, you’ll climb up a fire truck ladder to reach the starting platform for the remaining lines up in the canopy. The eighth and final line, Big Bear, is the apex of adrenaline rushes—over a quarter of a mile of zipping at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

6. Hike the Hudson River Valley

The Hudson River Valley near New York City Romiana Lee

The Hudson River Valley near New York City

Romiana Lee

 

North of the city, the Hudson River runs through some pretty impressive and diverse scenery. Let one of Hike with Mike's local guides lead you to some of the best vistas. Options include easy, moderate, and challenging routes: natural beauty is the common denominator. Climb Storm King Mountain to marvel at the view across the river of the Hudson Highlands, including the peaks of Mount Beacon and Breakneck Ridge. Storm up the steep slopes of the latter, or check out the distant New York City skyline from the top of the former. If you don’t suffer from vertigo, consider a cliff-hugging hike up to Gertrude’s Nose. Stand on the outcropping's edge and look straight down. Waaaaaaay down. It’s like standing on the top of a skyscraper, only you’re surrounded by nature instead of tourists and suits. Whichever Hike with Mike adventure you choose, you’ll get a good sense of the powerful geological forces that formed the rugged, rocky landscape that cradles the Capital of the World.

7. Clamber up Boulders in Central Park

Kids climbing rocks in Central Park in New York City Elliott Scott

Kids climbing rocks in Central Park in New York City

Elliott Scott

 

You won’t need ropes or any other fancy climbing gear to go bouldering in Central Park, but you will need a muscle or two to haul yourself up the short—but very steep—rocks. Rat Rock, named for the large family of rodents that used to live nearby, is best for beginners (located near the Heckscher Ballfields at 63rd Street). Named for the feral cats that once called the underbelly of the boulder home, Cat Rock is a favorite climb for the intermediate and advanced bouldering crowd (located near the Wollman Rink). The 12-foot-high Worthless Boulder is the most isolated and the most challenging (located near 110th Street).

8. Raft on Lehigh River

Rafters in Lehigh River Gorge in New York with Sourced Adventures SurangaSL

Rafters in Lehigh River Gorge in New York with Sourced Adventures

SurangaSL

 

To really get your heart beating rapidly, head west for a full day of whitewater rafting at Lehigh River Gorge, a deep, river-carved canyon lined with steep walls and waterfalls. Beat the Class II and III rapids into submission for a few hours before breaking for lunch on a sandy beach. Water guns and splash fights are highly encouraged. Frowns and boredom, not so much.

9. Mountain Bike through Wolfe’s Pond Park

Staten Island's Wolfe's Pond Park The Turducken

Staten Island's Wolfe's Pond Park

The Turducken

 

The single-track mountain biking trails at Wolfe’s Pond Park, located on the southern shore of Staten Island, are great for novices, families, and experienced cyclists alike. You’ll see glacial ponds and open marsh as you ride along sandy beaches and through mature upland woods. Work up a good sweat, and end your ride with a refreshing (read: cold) dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

10. Taste neighborhood delicacies

Katz's Deli in New York City  Sidewalks of NY Tour

Katz's Deli in New York City 

Sidewalks of NY Tour

 

Alright, alright, all that adventuring is probably making you hungry. Here’s what to do: Join a Sidewalks of NY foodie tour and let native New Yorkers lead you to the best and most beloved local delis and restaurants around. The West Village tour includes perfectly chewy, authentic bagels from Hudson Bagels, pizza a la New York from Artichoke Pizza, and sweet cannoli from Faicco's Italian Specialties. As you head through Greenwich Village, your guide will regale you with fascinating stories about West Village luminaries like Kerouac, Dylan, and Ginsburg. The Lower East Side Tour is all about diversity. You’ll learn about the neighborhood’s ethnic groups and how they influenced the foods you’re sampling, including Chinese dumplings from Prosperity Dumplings and savory potato knish from Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery.

11. Kayak to a winery

Kayakers in the Delaware River with Sourced Adventures in New York Stuart Shostak

Kayakers in the Delaware River with Sourced Adventures in New York

Stuart Shostak

 

Paddle out for a pour on an all-day kayaking and wine tasting adventure with Sourced Adventures. After a short bus ride, you'll spend two and a half hours floating down the Delaware River, surrounded by tree-covered bluffs on either side. Enjoy a gourmet deli lunch on the shore and then head to a nearby vineyard for a guided tour and wine tasting. It's the perfect blend of active and relaxing.

12. Cycle Through Central Park

Bikers in Central Park in New York Marco Prati

Bikers in Central Park in New York

Marco Prati

 

With 47 miles of paths through 843 acres, Central Park takes days (if not weeks) to explore on foot. Rent a tandem or one-seater bike from Central Park Sightseeing to see more. Spend a carefree day pedaling around the park, or ask the friendly staff for a rundown of their favorite trail suggestions (and a map) to seek out hidden spots that locals love.

Kristen Bailey

Kristen is a freelance writer based in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska, which is conveniently located smack in the middle of the country for easy access to both coasts and everywhere in between. When she isn’t writing articles or exploring new cities, you’ll find Kristen building things in the backyard, writing songs for her indie rock band, The Inbetweens, or creating sweet, yet macabre, collages from images found in old textbooks and other ephemera.

Subscribe +
Pkarrowicon

Get the best stories and activities, personalized just for you. Go on, get out there!

You might also enjoy: