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Destination Tips

Get Outdoors in New York Without Camping

Contributing Author May 15, 2022


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It is possible to like being outdoors without enjoying hiking or camping. If you like basking in the sun (Jake prefers shade) without embarking on a three mile nature walk, we’ve got you. Here are some tips on how to plan a weekend getaway and several day trips in the New York outdoors without camping. Enjoy these NY trips without having to buy a tent.

Overhead view of prepared breakfast at camp site, Colgate Lake Wild Forest, Catskill Park, New York
Eat n’ leave. Prepared breakfast at camp site, Colgate Lake Wild Forest, Catskill Park, New York

Go Glamping

Okay, it’s kind-of camping but SO much nicer. Glamping in New York is the perfect solution for enjoying nature, with this stylish and glamorous alternative to camping. There are many glamping sites in upstate New York like the Catskills, where miniature houses, yurts and teepees take the place of the tent. Instead of making your own fire you can sit around a chiminea log burner, and instead of washing in a river you can luxuriate in the beauty of a sauna or outdoor jacuzzi. Glamping varies with the intrepidness of the traveler, so you can range from off-grid living to plugged-in paradise, depending on what you feel comfortable with.

Stroll Through New York Botanical Gardens

Attend a living museum with New York’s stunning botanical gardens. The gardens have a range of different collections you can view, from soothing cherry blossoms through to bright wild daffodil fields. There are many different events put on, from fresh from the garden food tastings through to garden tours. You can even explore from the comfort of home, with virtual tours of many of their collections. You can also visit Bryant Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and McCarren Park for a similar taste of the great outdoors in a beautiful setting. Each park will host events throughout the year, depending on when you visit.

pigeon sitting on branch with flowers of cherry blossom tree in botanical garden
NY pigeon endorsed. Botanical Gardens are a great outdoor visit.

Visit Governors Island

Governors Island is a 172 acre island just off the side of Lower Manhattan. It’s a green paradise, home to a fusion of living art and thriving food markets. Their Green Orchard is home to 102 fruit trees, which bear a huge range of local New York fruits on one single tree, grown through a special process of tree grafting. Governors Island has its own art society that presents public art installations from local artists. It’s the perfect place to see art in the outdoors, attend local events, or visit one of the famous food markets.

Dine Outdoors

Outdoor dining is very popular in New York, with many outdoor restaurants popping up throughout the state. Kokomo, an award-winning Caribbean restaurant in Brooklyn, is notorious for its outdoor dining experience. Enjoy brunch or dinner with stuffed sweet plantain, Caribbean spiced lamb, or a delicious saltfish avocado toast. Their outdoor dining is covered, intimate and decorated with both twinkly lights and lush greenery, making it a perfect place to enjoy their delicious food.

Rooftop with skyline view New York City
Being outdoors doesn’t always mean unreasonable exposure to ticks. Hit an NYC rooftop bar for views and booze.

Enjoy The View From A Rooftop Bar

There are many popular rooftop bars in Brooklyn, one prime example being Williamsburg’s Westlight. You’ll have to queue to get to the 22nd floor where this exclusive terrace is located. Enjoy delectable cocktails and have a tasty bite to eat while looking over the whole of Manhattan. If you’re looking for something a little less intimidating, try the Crab over in Red Hook, which is full to the brim with two full bars, picnic tables, fresh seafood and even a putt-putt course.

Bouldering In Central Park

If you like a bit of adventure, but hate camping, bouldering in Central Park is the perfect activity for you. Bouldering is the art of rock climbing without a rope, and there are three prime locations in Central Park. Go to Rat, Cat or Wave Rock to test your bouldering prowess. Each rock has its own advantages, allowing you to climb extreme vertical faces and challenging gradients. Get there early as you’re likely to see a swarm of climbers showing off their skills in the busier months.

Urban canoeing is a real thing. Float through the Gowanus.

Canoeing On Gowanus Canal 

Gowanus Canal is a canal that winds through the streets of Long Island’s South Brooklyn. Originally this was an essential urban transport hub for cargo, but in recent years it offers intrepid daytrippers the opportunity to explore South Brooklyn by water. The site has the proud reputation as one of the most polluted areas in the world, but don’t be alarmed; it is now home to a series of crab and other sea life. 

Explore The Outdoors Without A Tent

There are many day trips and overnight stays that allow you to sample New York’s extensive outdoor opportunities. There’s something for the intrepid adventurer, fine dining sampler, and relaxed traveler to enjoy. If you don’t like camping, try these suggestions for a fun stay in New York, without a tent.

Know of a great camp-free outdoor activity in New York (or beyond)? Let Jake know in the comments or @modhop on twitter, instagram or tiktok.

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Contributing Author

General travel tips and advice on destinations, hotels and flights.

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