Monday, July 1, 2024

6 Ways To Experience The Great Outdoors Right in New York City

By Jacquelin Carnegie
photo: Courtesy Church of  St. Luke
For New Yorkers, the “great outdoors” could be just a rooftop bar or a stroll along the river—Hudson or East. Here are some cool places to hang out:


A Secret Garden
Barrow St Garden - The Church of St. Luke in the Fields
487 Hudson St (at Barrow St);
(Open: Mon-Sat, 10am-dusk; Sun, 12:00pm-dusk)
“Right smack dab in the middle of town/I've found a paradise that's trouble proof.” No, not up on the roof, but in this hidden-gem of a garden in the West Village. The Church of St. Luke in the Fields was built in 1821 and the first planting in this delightful garden was in 1842. How wonderful that this pretty place of “respite and quiet contemplation” still exists in this skyscraper-mad city. Food is allowed, but smoking, alcoholic beverages, and cellphones are not. Do stop by and be enchanted. (Afterwards, stroll along Hudson St from Barrow to 14th St. There’s any number of eateries, great for dining &/or people-watching.)

Great Entertainment
Little Island
Pier 55, West 13th Street on the Hudson River, NY;
(Open: Daily, 6am-12am; Free admission; some concerts & events require paid tickets, other are free.)
Little Island (photo: Michael Grimm)

The latest edition to Hudson River Park is the loopy Little Island—like a Disneyland ride without the ride! There are several, terrific “vista points” and an outdoor food court. But the best part is all the wonderful entertainment for adults and kids in the magnificent amphitheater overlooking the Hudson and in the lovely, smaller venue, The Glade.

An Army Post Open to Civilians
US Army Garrison Fort Hamilton - Interpretive Trail
Harbor Defense Museum, 230 Sheridan Loop, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY
For centuries, to protect New York harbor, there were fortifications in each borough. Now, Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn is the last active Army Garrison Post in New York City. On the base, in Bay Ridge on magnificent grounds overlooking the Narrows tidal strait, there’s a 10-stop Interpretive Trail of special interest to history buffs that can be visited by the public. Of particular note, is the last stop: a marker to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, a Major General in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
Ft Hamilton, Lafayette Marker (photo: J.Carnegie)

How To Visit: Arrange a free, guided tour of the Interpretive Trail thru Fort Hamilton’s Harbor Defense Museum, Tel: 718/630-4349;
Visitors must have 2 forms of ID (State or Federal) to access Fort Hamilton. Enter thru the Main Gate, at the end of Fort Hamilton Parkway at 101st Street, for a background check at the Visitor Control Center.
Getting There: Subway: R – Bay Ridge/95th St, then 5-minute walk to Fort.

Take A Walk On The Wild Side
Newtown Creek Nature Walk
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY; (Open: Dawn to dusk)
Newtown Creek (photo: J.Carnegie)

This is an outing only for the brave—a true mix of the beautiful and the ugly. On the one hand, the actual walkway, designed by artist & “environmental sculptor” George Trakas, is magnificent. On the other hand, what you’re looking out onto is the Newtown Creek, one of the most polluted waterways in the U.S, and Whale Creek, what I refer to as “scrap metal gulch.” However, almost unbelievably, the overall concept is aesthetically pleasing: ship-inspired design elements, historic granite slabs, native plants, and unassuming “artworks” such as stone circles, under a Honey Locust tree, engraved with place names used by the Lenape people, who once inhabited this area. So, take a walk on the wild side to experience this exquisite ½-mile walk within this gritty setting.
Getting There: Subway: G - Greenpoint Ave. Use the Greenpoint/Manhattan Ave exit. Walk east on Greenpoint Ave, take a left on Provost St, walk several blocks down, then take a right onto Paidge Ave & you’re there; about a 20-minute walk. (The Newtown Creek Nature Walk is right next to the Wastewater Treatment Plant!)

Skyline Views
Gantry Plaza State Park
Long Island City, Queens, NY; 
Gantry Park (photo: Courtesy SWA/Balsley)

This lovely spot is easy to get to by subway or ferry, yet you’ll feel transported. Right on the East River with fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline, there are several sections to the park located on a former dockyard. In fact, the name “Gantry” comes from the restored gantries–-gigantic structures that once transferred railcars onto rail barges. In summertime, there are often concerts and other fun events.
Getting There: Subway: 7 - Vernon Blvd/Jackson Ave. Walk west 2 blocks to Gantry Park. Or, NYC Ferry

Farm Living: Right in the Heart of the Big Apple
Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Floral Park, NY; Tel: 718/347-3276; (Open: Daily, 10am-5pm, Free)
(photo: Courtesy Queens County Farm Museum)

Once upon a time, New York City was all woodland and farmland. Even up to the 1920s, there were some 800 farms within the city limits. Now, only one working, historical farm still exists. So, grab the kids and head to Queens. This 47-acre farm, established in 1697, has lots for youngsters to enjoy from farm animals to hay rides. Adults, who like to cook, will thrill to the heirloom produce available at the farm stand (May to November) and other goodies at the farm store. Throughout the year, there are several, fun, family-friendly events.
Getting There: Subway: E/F - Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike, then #Q46 Bus (eastbound on Union Tpk) to Little Neck Parkway. Cross Union Tpk, walk north on Little Neck Pkwy, 3 blocks to Farm entrance. LIRR: Port Washington Line to Little Neck station, then taxi or Uber (5-10mins).

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