Summer Guide 2024: Outdoor Recreation

| 14 May 2024 | 02:21


There’s something uniquely satisfying about being not just by but in the waters of Manhattan. And while the borough awaits the return of East and Hudson River swimming (generations of kids used to jump off piers), the island’s kayaking scene continues to thrive. For those able to pay for convenience, the Manhattan Kayak Co. ( at Pier 84 at 44th street, offers both kayak and paddleboard rentals. Because kayakers are a generous, proselytizing sort, a number of free kayaking options are also available for beginners and curious families, including the Downtown Boathouse ( at Pier 26, at the foot of North Moore Street in Tribeca.


Rock Climbing

Among the city’s fastest growing exercise activities is rock climbing. The reasons for this are many: it recalls the unconscious joy of youthful exploration a sport while also offering adults a graduated sets of physical and mental challenge that offer satisfaction to novices and experts alike. Though nearly all city climbers also go to indoor climbing gyms—Central Rock Gym ( on the Upper West Side and Vital Climbing Gym (www.vitalclimbing) in West Harlem and the Upper East Side and West Harlem are popular— there are more options to climb famed bedrock, Manhattan schist, than many people realize. In Central Park, popular “bouldering” spots include Rat Rock (aka Umpire Rock) near 62nd Street in the park’s southwest corner; Worthless Boulder; Cat Rock. Uptown, Fort Tryon Park is also a popular climbing destination.


Bicycle Clubs

Bicycle riding, situational traffic woes and weather incidents aside, is always a pleasure. Pedal power! After a while, even in a city of millions, things can get lonely. The answer, for recreational riders and aspiring racers alike, is to do as New Yorkers have done since the very first cycling boom of the 1890s: join a cycling club! For the competition minded, the venerable Century Road Club Association ( is the obvious choice. For those who want to challenge themselves in other ways and also make new friends, the New York Cycling Club (, founded in 1936, is an acclaimed option, with an extensive calendar of fitness-graded group rides, including its popular “SIG” series of out-of-town rides.



If you don’t know it yet, birders are an ardent lot, no less so in the “concrete jungle” of Manhattan, than many other more verdant settings. The go to organization for city birding is NYC Audubon ( and, though Audabon will probably change its name to the NYC Bird Alliance this summer, their ornithological advocacy and enthusiasm will remain. Among the Manhattan locations birders congregate are Central Park (of course); Inwood Hill Park; Fort Tyron Park and The Cloisters; and, on the Harlem and East Rivers: Swindler Cove Park and Sherman Creek; Highbridge Park; and Carl Schurz Parks. Look, it’s a Red-tailed Hawk! A Belted Kingfisher! A Kildeer! “I can hear that woodpecker but can’t see it...”



Do you play? If you do, no other questions asked, you’re a true New Yorker. If you don’t, it’s both an exercise and a sport well worth trying. Why? First of all, it is tremendous fun, and handball courts are literally everywhere, if not always used for that purpose, as tennis, racquetball, paddleball, baseball, cricket, and soccer enthusiasts also make use of the single concrete walls with the Parks department logo painted upon it. More recently, “picklers” have been setting up pickleball nets on the handball courts. But they built were built for handball, the most egalitarian of games, and one enjoyed by people of all ages and ethnicities—one might even say it’s Unitarianism of city games. The equipment required is minimal in the extreme: a blue racquetball and maybe a pair of gloves. Practice alone for a meditative workout, play singles or doubles for competition. If you’ve never played before, take the ball and throw it against the wall but not too hard—a lob is ok. Catch it. Throw it again. Hit it back with your palm—that’s handball. The people’s sport!