The Big Apple offers plenty of opportunities to get and stay active that won’t break the budget.
The variety of physical activities in New York City is as vast and diverse as the inhabitants of the City itself. Regardless of your age, fitness level or interests, you’re sure to find something you enjoy – and if you do it right, you don’t have to break the bank just to stay active. To help you narrow down the options, here are seven (nearly free) fantastic locations and activities to keep you moving during a visit to New York:
Central Park is a green oasis in the heart of the city and a must-see if you’re visiting New York for the first time. It’s also the perfect location to go for a jog, walk, bike ride or to take a yoga class on the lawn. Running a full loop through Central Park is nearly 6.1 miles, making it one of the best locations in New York City for athletes looking for a longer run. There are also a huge number of landmarks within the park and a constant flux of performances and activities that you can check out for free.
Hiking options are limited within the city, but many trailheads are a short trip away. Best of all, you don’t need a car to get there — many are reachable by train or bus. Going for a day hike outside of the city can be a welcome break in the middle of a busy weeklong visit. Chances are that you’ll do a lot of walking in the city, but hiking uphill movement activates different muscles and burns more energy (upwards of 400 calories per hour) than that walking on flat terrain.
The Old Croton Aqueduct, Camp Smith Trail and Breakneck Ridge are all popular day hikes that you can reach from the city in an hour or less on public transportation.
The High Line
The High Line Park is one of the most unique parks in New York City, running from the Meatpacking District through Chelsea. Built on top of an abandoned railway line, this 1.45-mile park is elevated above the streets and offers great views of the city life below. The greenway is lined with more than 210 species of plants and also serves as a frequent venue for musical performances, street fairs and art installations.
It’s a great place for people-watching and taking a stroll. You can even run on the High Line, but you’ll likely want to show up early in the morning as the relatively narrow path gets crowded in the afternoon, particularly on the weekends.
Kayaking on the Hudson River
You’re only allowed to swim in the Hudson River during sanctioned events, but it’s an excellent spot to test your kayaking skills and squeeze in some upper-body exercise. You don’t need to break the bank renting a kayak — the Downtown Boathouse on Pier 26 is a community organization that lends out its kayaks for free. The facilities are open from May to October and the boats are first come, first served.
The only drawback to the Downtown Boathouse is that boats may only be borrowed for 20 minutes at a time, so if you’d prefer to spend more time on the water, consider renting a boat elsewhere by the hour.
Free Outdoor Fitness Classes
NYC’s Department of Parks and Rec offers free outdoor fitness classes in parks throughout the five boroughs, so no matter which neighborhood you’re visiting, there will likely be a class not far from you. Classes include activities like Pilates, yoga, Zumba, group runs, boot camps and more to help you reach your fitness goals. Many of the parks also have fitness equipment like pull-up bars, box-jump ledges and monkey bars for outdoor strength training on the fly.
The Bronx Zoo
With 265 acres of land, a trip to the Bronx Zoo could easily fill an entire day. As the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, it has an impressive sprawl of exhibits and wild animals. Every Wednesday, admission to the zoo is free. If walking isn’t your speed, check their website for the date of their annual in-park 5k race.
The race is only one day a year, but you can follow the course through the zoo on your own for a full five kilometers of brisk walking — or a careful jog, depending on crowds. Be sure to pass their most notable exhibits, like the Himalayan Highlands, Jungleworld, Madagascar and Tiger Island.
What better way to stretch your legs and explore the city than with a walking tour? You can follow a self-guided path or join a tour group. Free Tours By Foot offers guided tours that are pay-what-you-wish and can be an excellent way to see the city on a budget. Spending an afternoon exploring Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy or one of New York’s other eclectic neighborhoods will likely add up to several miles of walking throughout the day.
In the winter months, ice skating at the Rink at Rockefeller Center is an iconic, though pricey, option to get your blood pumping. The Rink at Bryant Park is a more budget-friendly venue. It’s the only rink in New York City that offers free admission. The caveat is that you need to bring your own skates or face renting them for $15 from the venue.
Regardless of where you decide to hit the ice, skating is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise. Glide your way to a calorie burn that can reach upwards of 600 calories per hour while toning your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves and improving your balance.
In a city as wide and varied as New York, you should have no problem making your visit an active one. Last but not least, if you have an all-club membership and want to fit your regular workout into your trip, be sure to visit any of the 24 Hour Fitness clubs in the New York City area.