Things to do in New York, United States: The Best Nature & Parks

February 1, 2022 Nobuko Falco

New York State has it all – booming metropolises, majestic waterfalls, mountains, wine country, chicken wings. Yes, NYC is a magnet for tourists, but an exploration of the rest of the state can be equally thrilling. The Finger Lakes Wine Region is a vision of serene waters, quaint B&Bs, and pretty vineyards. Movie buffs will love Rochester, home of the George Eastman House and one of the world’s most comprehensive film archives. On your way to Niagara Falls, stop in Buffalo to fuel up on spicy wings.
Restaurants in New York

1. Watkins Glen State Park

1009 N Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891-1432 +1 607-535-4511 http://nysparks.com/parks/142/details.aspx
Excellent
84%
Good
13%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 4,539 reviews

Watkins Glen State Park

The cascades of 18 waterfalls are the calling card of this state park.

Reviewed By marvi62 - Lafayette Hill, United States

We went to Watkins Glen (4th visit) on Tuesday, arriving around 11 am. The NY state Covid regulations in effect right now clearly state that masks are required, even outdoors, when passing within 6' of another person. These rules are posted at the entrance of the park, as is the one way direction for walking the Gorge trail right now. However, I would estimate 60% or more of park attendees did not put on masks when passing- and the Gorge trail is 2' - 3' wide in many locations. A number of hikers also ignored the one-way rule, coming back on the narrow Gorge trail instead of taking the designated trail back. It took us about 2-1/2 hours to hike the mile up the Glen, since my husband took a lot of photographs. The hike back down only took about 20 minutes. Bring water and wear sturdy shoes or good sneakers (the soles of your shoes will get muddy, even on a sunny day). There are bathrooms by the entrance, but none on the trail. Admission to the park is $8, payable by cash or credit card in a self-ticketing machine in the two parking lots (main lot plus 2nd lot across the street). Watkins Glen is an absolutely stunning gorge. I just recommend going really early to minimize close encounters with other hikers. The only park ranger I saw in our entire visit was the man in the Information Center near the park entrance.

2. Cave of the Winds

Goat Island, Niagara Falls, NY 14303 +1 716-278-1730 http://www.niagarafallsstatepark.com/cave-of-the-winds.aspx
Excellent
85%
Good
11%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 6,081 reviews

Cave of the Winds

This exciting tour outfits you in a hooded raincoat and takes you into a cave and then along a catwalk near the foot of the falls for an up-close, wet and very rewarding view of the thunderous, cascading waters.

Reviewed By Kierab2013

This was such a cool experience! My family and I walked to this attraction from the Rainbow Bridge. This tour had been much lower on our To-Do list, when it should have been at the top! We went on a Monday in late August and did NOT purchase our tickets ahead of time. We purchased our tickets when we got to the stand for the next available tour that day, which ended up being in 10 minutes. We didn't have to wait long at all! You get a quick history review about the area via a room like a museum, then watch a short video about the area. Finally, you get a poncho and velcro sandals (you can keep them or recycle afterwards) and then you're set to start your self-paced tour! Keep in mind there is no where to keep your belongings except with/on you (I wore a giant backpack under my poncho and most everything stayed dry inside it - they don't allow food or drinks, except water but they said if they don't see the food then it's fine). If you don't want to get drenched, avoid the Hurricane Deck. You will get great views of the American and Bridal Veil Falls and a slight view of the Horseshoe Falls (but for that I recommend walking a bit further from where you bought the tickets to view the top of the horseshoe falls).

3. Adirondack Mountains

NY [email protected] http://www.adk.org/
Excellent
84%
Good
15%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 55 reviews

Adirondack Mountains

Reviewed By IrishMike4444 - Lexington, United States

At 6 millions acres, there is no larger park except Denali in Alaska; it just doesn't have the verticality (largest peak is only around 5,000 ft.). The vast expanse of lakes and trails is perfect to be enveloped in beauty. Definitely book early and avoid black fly season in early summer. From tents, to camper, to motel, to beautiful lodge, all options are on the table for you.

4. Gantry Plaza State Park

409 47th Rd, Long Island City, NY 11101-5509 +1 718-786-6385 http://nysparks.state.ny.us/
Excellent
76%
Good
22%
Satisfactory
1%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 467 reviews

Gantry Plaza State Park

Reviewed By untdrum99 - Cebu City, Philippines

Gantry Plaza State Park is located in Long Island City in Queens and is a great park with a lot of family-friendly activities with a dog park, sand volleyball, dining, open spaces, and with some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline, especially at sunset. There is also a ferry that goes across to Manhattan, but is also conveniently located near a couple of subway stops. Entrance to the park is free. It's a former dockyards so it is interesting to see how they have repurposed the area into something everyone can use. There is free parking located nearby on the street.

5. Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid, NY 12946 +1 518-637-6859 http://www.ausableriver.org/watershed/lakes/mirror-lake
Excellent
79%
Good
18%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 1,026 reviews

Mirror Lake

Reviewed By luvtotravel6768 - Simcoe, Canada

Mirror Lake has it all - wonderful views; calm lake water; a 2.7 mile interlocking brick pathway all the way around, including part of the downtown street; a small sandy beach; a toboggan run in winter right onto the frozen lake!; kayaks to rent; flowers and flowering shrubs in May/June; and I must have forgotten something! We walked the loop 3 times during our week's stay, and saw walkers, joggers, families, mom's with strollers! Mirror Lake is well worth the stay in Lake Placid!

6. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, NY 14301 +1 877-325-5787 [email protected] https://www.niagarafallsusa.com/
Excellent
80%
Good
14%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 7,961 reviews

Niagara Falls

Three magnificent falls, two American and one Canadian, mark the point at which the Niagara River rumbles over the Niagara Escarpment.

Reviewed By Alpana-traveltern - Lucknow, India

An awe inspiring natural wonder, made all the more inviting due to the ease of access and the all round service and facilities. The beauty and grandeur of the falls is in no way diminished by the presence of thousands of daily tourists, perhaps they only add to the overall feeling of excitement.

7. New York Botanical Garden

2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458-5153 +1 718-817-8700 http://www.nybg.org
Excellent
77%
Good
18%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 2,573 reviews

New York Botanical Garden

Located in the Bronx, just 20 minutes from Midtown Manhattan via Metro North Railroad, the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden is a showplace of nature in every season of the year and a must-see destination for NYC visitors. Discover 50 breathtaking gardens, indoor rain forests and deserts, 50 acres of native forest, a river, waterfalls, and rolling green hills. Major seasonal exhibitions and events complement the existing beauty of the permanent gardens, and highlights include the Holiday Train Show (November - January) and The Orchid Show (March - April). NYBG is the perfect excursion for visitors looking to experience the natural beauty of New York City.

Reviewed By vickibird2015 - Weedon, Canada

Hawaii in miniature in the Bronx! An excellent experience because the free tram ride round the gardens was an extra delight and the boutique and testaurant good too!

8. Central Park

59th to 110th Street Manhattan Borough, from Central Park West to 5th Avenue, New York City, NY 10022 (212) 310-6600 [email protected] https://www.centralparknyc.org/
Excellent
78%
Good
19%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 132,882 reviews

Central Park

For more than 150 years, visitors have flocked to Central Park's 843 green acres in the heart of Manhattan. Since 1980, the Park has been managed by the Central Park Conservancy, in partnership with the public. Central Park is open 6 am to 1 am daily. Visit the official website of Central Park to learn more about Park happenings and activities and to learn how you to help Central Park!

Reviewed By 242SharonC - Mississauga, Canada

This is such a great way to spend the afternoon- it’s huge, so lots of walking but also lots of benches to rest and enjoy. You can rent a bike, row a boat, ride in a horse drawn carriage, visit the zoo, stop for ice cream or lunch, or just wander and take in the various sculptures like Alice in Wonderland, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Lennon’s Imagine mosaic. You cannot visit Manhattan without doing Central Park. Short walk to a lot of hotels and shopping as well.

9. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225-1008 +1 718-623-7200 [email protected] http://bbg.org
Excellent
69%
Good
24%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 2,454 reviews

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is an urban botanic garden situated on 52 acres in the heart of Brooklyn, fostering delight and curiosity in the world of plants while inspiring an appreciation and sense of stewardship of the environment. The Garden also offers weddings and private event catering at the Palm House and Atrium, in a beautiful outdoor setting. Please note, Brooklyn Botanic Garden is open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. Be sure to visit bbg.org/visit before plan your visit.

Reviewed By WorldTravla7 - Cairns, Australia

I loved the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and found them incredibly peaceful and relaxing, not to mention stunning in their variety and beauty - just what needed after almost 2 weeks in a pretty crazy city. I also preferred the intimate design over the larger NYC Botanic Gardens in the Bronx. They shoot major productions here (I recognised several parts of the Gardens immediately in Episode 2 of the Netflix series ‘Maniac’ with Emma Stone). Highlights include: - Cherry blossom trees! (come in April/May when Cherry Esplanade is at its most floral). - Yellow Magnolia Cafe - quaint cafe in a greenhouse setting where you may spot a movie star (I looked up and saw Michelle Williams sitting a table across from me) - Shakespeare Garden (an English cottage style garden with around 80 plants referred to in Shakespeare’s works) - The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden (a traditional Japanese garden and pond with orange torii gate, immaculately kept plants and trees, sculptures, and a gazebo for viewing - The indoor C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum which houses one of the largest collections of bonsai (around 350) outside of Japan All things considered, this is a must do. Perhaps combine it with a day trip to Brooklyn/Prospect Park. Cost is $30 which is not cheap but well worth the spend. You are given a detailed map of the Gardens on entry. Entrance is adjacent to Prospect Park.

10. Prospect Park

450 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225-3707 +1 718-965-8951 http://www.prospectpark.org
Excellent
66%
Good
28%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1,397 reviews

Prospect Park

Brooklyn's answer to Central Park, Prospect Park contains a zoo, an audubon center and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Its entrance is marked by the large Memorial Arch and it is a mecca for families and nature lovers who go to play ball, bird watch and listen to outdoor concerts.

Reviewed By howardb648 - Oceanside, United States

Everyone says Central Park is the best in NY, and maybe it is. But as a native NYC expat (to San Diego) and frequent family visitor, this gem may be even better! It is huge and has much variety, inclluding a beuatful botanic garden, open fields, forested ares, water features, you name it. Best time to go is early April through early June, when the weather is beautiful and the trees are blossoming and fragrant and the flowers and plants are at their peak. You can jog, run, bike or simply take a relaxing stroll and soak in the peace and beauty. Yes a "tree grows in Brooklyn", or in this place, millions of them!

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