Discovering Nature in New York City: Part 1

You may be surprised to find that there is so much nature to be discovered right here in New York City. So on the days you long to breathe deeply, relax completely, and escape the “hustle and bustle” of the big city, here are some places you can visit in New York City, all just a subway ride away. In Part 1 of Discovering Nature in New York City, we will focus on places in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx where one can go to appreciate nature, along with some fun and interesting facts to add to your growing list of New York City trivia. 

1- Central Park

Central Park is one of the most visited places in all of New York City. It occupies an area of 840 acres  and extends between 59th and 110th streets.

Interesting Facts:

  • Central Park is bigger than the country of Monaco
  • It was the first landscaped park in the country
  • There’s only one straight path in the park
  • It is the most filmed location in the world! The Avengers is among the long list of movies/TV series that shot in the park
  • In 2002, a new species of animal — the Mandarin duck — was discovered inside the park
  • Anybody can adopt a bench for $10,000 in the park and write whatever they want on it!
  • The trees in Central park cancel out over 1 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Just a single mature tree in a year will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen!

2- Riverside Park 

Riverside Park is Manhattan’s most spectacular waterfront park, stretching four miles from 72nd to 158th Streets along the Hudson River.

Interesting Facts:

  • A child is buried in the park (St. Claire Pollock who fell down the cliff onto the rocks of the Hudson river when he was 5 years old in 1797).
  • In the summer of 2019, goats were brought into the park to eat up several types of invasive plants.
  • George Washington suggested it be the sight of the capitol (Where Grant’s tomb is today)

3- Fort Washington Park and the Little Red Lighthouse

(155thish to 180th along the Hudson River)

Beach on the Hudson approximately where 125th street is today.

Located underneath the George Washington Bridge along this treacherous section of the Hudson River once known as Jeffrey’s Hook, this is one of the few surviving lighthouses in New York City and serves as a quaint reminder of the area’s history. 

On Jeffrey’s Hook, under the George Washington Bridge, built in 1920.

4- Fort Tryon Park/The Cloisters
(190th-Dyckman St. on the west side)

The Palisades, across the river from Fort Tryon Park.

Interesting Facts:

  • Land in New Jersey was purchased to preserve the view
  • The Cloisters is a patchwork of other medieval buildings brought from Europe between 1934 and 1939 by John D. Rockefeller Jr.

5- Inwood Hill Park

(Northernmost tip of Manhattan)

There’s old New York, and then there’s old New York. Inwood Hill Park is a living piece of old New York. Evidence of its prehistoric roots exists as dramatic caves, valleys, and ridges left as the result of shifting glaciers.

Interesting Facts:

  • It’s home to the last salt marsh and natural forest in Manhattan
  • A tulip tree inside the park (it died in 1938) is the site where Manhattan was sold by the native americans in 1626

6- Morningside Park (Harlem)

With its convenient location in the heart of Northern Manhattan, only a few blocks from Columbia University, Riverside Park, St. Nicholas Park, the Apollo Theater, and the northern tip of Central Park, Morningside Park’s grounds make an ideal starting point for wanderings, bike rides, and walking tours.

Interesting Facts:

  • The rock that the park sits on is up to 30 million years old!
  • The Heath Hen which is now extinct, was thought to have been abundant especially where Harlem is today.

7- Highbridge Park  

(connects Manhattan and The Bronx at 190th st)

Highbridge Park is home to a variety of native and exotic forests, and it offers recreational fun that serves as reason enough to visit. The park boasts the city’s first mountain biking course and a world class skatepark. And it’s NYC’s oldest standing bridge!

The “Highbridge” that connects Manhattan and The Bronx is part of the Old Croton Aqueduct that you see in the background of this picture.

8- Van Cortlandt Park 

(Kingsbridge, the Bronx)

Interesting Facts:

  • It has the country’s first public golf course.
  • It’s home to the city’s largest freshwater lake.
  • The Van Cortlandt house is the oldest surviving building in the Bronx (1748). It served as neutral ground for American and British soldiers during the Revolutionary war.
  • Test pillars for the marble used to build Grand Central Terminal are hidden in Van Cortlandt park. 

9- Wave Hill

In a stunning landscape overlooking the Hudson River and the sheer cliffs of the Palisades, Wave Hill is a beloved public garden, renowned for its classical horticultural craftsmanship and daring design. Art workshops, for example, might take place outside or source material directly from the garden. Concerts are held both indoors and out. And nature-themed weekends, weaving learning with fun, are offered in every season. (

Interesting Fact:

The famous American writer, Mark Twain, and US President, Theodore Roosevelt, both lived there.

10- New York Botanical Garden 

Interesting Facts:

  • It’s a national historic landmark.
  • There are 12,000 species of plants from almost every part of the world.
  • There’s a 50 acre tract of original, old-growth forest.

11- Pelham Bay Park

Interesting Facts:

  • It’s NYC’s largest park (3 times Central Park!)
  • Orchard Beach was man made in 1936 out of landfill.
  • There are 13 miles of saltwater shoreline.

How many of these places have you been to? Stay tuned for Part 2: Discovering Nature in Brooklyn! Happy exploring! 

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