Nature in NYC

Nature in NYC

Finding Nature in New York City

New York City! The City That Never Sleeps! The City So Nice They Named It Twice! New York is known for a lot of things - being a cultural hub, one of the centers of the world, a fast-paced and high-energy flurry of activity. If any of those things sound exciting, New York City is the place to be! 

However - if you think you might miss nature in the Concrete Jungle, don’t fear. You aren’t alone! Many Barnard students are coming from hometowns surrounded by forests, lakes, mountains, or beaches, and guess what - you don’t have to give those up when you come! Here’s a working list of places to find nature in New York City (and beyond!). I’ve also added in some fun things to do in the parks, and special side quests as well ;)

Local: get friendly with your neighborhood parks

Riverside, Morningside, and Central Park all have their own personalities. I’d recommend exploring all three. You’ll soon figure out which are your favorite!


A fun spot in Morningside Park

Here are a couple suggestions for fun things to do (double points for arriving anywhere before the 9am heat): wake up early-ish on a weekend morning, grab $1 coffee and breakfast sandwiches at Westside (substitute in Absolute bagels if desired), and head to Riverside or Morningside for a catch-up brunch with friends; check out Free Shakespeare in the Park (Summer Limited Edition); or, walk down to the Trader Joe’s at 93rd and Columbus, grab some snacks, and head over to Central Park for a picnic dinner after class, pictured here!   


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A post-work picnic in Central Park (we LOVE golden hour folks!)

Walk the High Line

This city favorite is popular for a reason! Beautiful day or night, the High Line is a destination for tourists and locals. It also features art installations - a museum and park experience in one! 

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This is a Shutterstock image unfortunately - my favorite time to hit the High Line is dusk/evening, which does not make for great photos

When it was first constructed, the West Side Elevated Line served as an elevated train line, but between the 1960s-80s, train activity on the Line dwindled due to the rise of trucks, and it stopped working as an active train line. In 1999, Mayor Giuliani signed a demolition order to take it down. However, nature had already taken its course, and wildlife had grown all over the old tracks, turning the spot into a beautiful oasis in the middle of midtown. 

According to the High Line’s website, “Joshua David and Robert Hammond founded Friends of the High Line, a non-profit conservancy, to advocate for its preservation and reuse as a public space. Friends of the High Line remains the sole group responsible for maintenance and operation of the High Line.”

Fun fact: there is a High Line brand honey, harvested from rooftop beehives in the Chelsea neighborhood!

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This pic is from the High Line website! I did not have a drone in the budget for this blog post

Bonus points: take a class on NYC nature

My picnic friend Emily is trying to get me to take a birdwatching class with her. You get to venture around the city and state learning about and looking at birds! I’ve heard very good things, and might be taking it in the spring.


This grumpy dude is the first thing that came up when I searched “New York bird.” It’s an Eastern Bluebird, and I love him

Go kayaking in Brooklyn

You don’t need a big budget to go on this adventure! Brooklyn kayaking is run entirely by volunteers, which keeps the cost free. I dropped $5.50 for metro fare round trip to Clark Street (on the 1/2/3) or High Street - Brooklyn Bridge (on the A/C) and a quarter to rent a small locker for my valuables - the lockers are big enough for two small bags.


Emily and I were very hyped to kayak - bonus points if you can find the water in this image

I don’t have any photos of myself kayaking because you can’t bring your phone onto the water. It’s a great chance to disconnect and try something new! 

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Etienne Frossard, TIME OUT

The Botanical Gardens

Another heavy hitter is the Botanical Gardens. Located in the Bronx, this spot is so darn beautiful and eclectic that a picture can’t do justice to the actual destination. If you go at different times throughout the year, you can catch that season’s array of wildlife. It’s stunning year-round!

Wow (

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An autumnal wow (

Hit the beach!

Coney Island is a popular spot for New Yorkers and tourists alike. Only a metro ride away, you can find yourself relaxing in the sand, catching a wave, and hitching a ride on the century-old Coney Island Cyclone!

Beyond: try a class that leaves the STATE

Classes like the Death Valley class will have students study a specific environment, and in the case of this class, go visit the location over spring break. A very cool way to explore other biomes!

Bonus points: venture outside of the city

If you’re really craving an immersion nature experience, or a day-long adventure, why not try an excursion to the greater state parks? This will include a bigger time commitment, a little bit more planning, and a slightly bigger budget, but it’s definitely worth it. I’d recommend going in the fall or spring, so the weather will be a little more mild, but the summer (or winter, if you’re brave) is also very fun.

What you’re spending on? You’ll be dropping a little more for round-trip train tickets out of the city, although IMO the view from the train alone is worth it!


Zipping along, checking out some beautiful views

Here we are waiting for the train! 

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I hope you don’t have to struggle as much as I did to get your friends to smile in their photos (looking at you, Jordan!) 

Besides that, some essentials you might have to splurge on: I’d recommend bringing several full (reusable) bottles of water, hand sanitizer/wipes, sunscreen (regardless of time of year), and, most importantly, SNACKS. I went in November, so I brought a Thermos of soup, bread, cheese, and apples.

Here’s some photos from the actual trip. 


It was a really fun day!

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