The Best Green Things to do in New York City
This is a guest post by Nicoline Berthy from adventurersfootprints.com.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about New York City isn’t exactly a natural oasis – rather it’s a concrete jungle. But despite its many tall buildings and eternal hustle and bustle, this American metropolis has surprisingly many eco-friendly things to do, places to eat and places to stay around town.
Not to mention, New York City is both very walkable and (about to become really) bike-friendly. If you get tired of walking or biking, you can always catch the smoothly running public transport to get around.
Whether you are looking for a sustainable tourist attraction or want to indulge in a green meal, I’ve rounded up seven of my favourite spots across New York City’s boroughs. I hope that after you’ve finished reading, you will be inspired to explore the “Big Apple” in a more eco-friendly and responsible way. If you’re looking for more general advice on how to travel more responsibly, I can highly recommend this post.
1. Explore Brooklyn Bridge and its surroundings by bike
Even though New York City isn’t as bike friendly as for example Copenhagen where I’m from, the “Big Apple” is a great place to sightsee by bike. With their wide lanes, lots of green areas and iconic views of the Manhattan Skyline, Brooklyn Bridge and the surrounding areas on the other side of the East River are especially great to explore by bike.
Built in 1883, Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in America and back then, at 1834 meters, it was the longest bridge of its kind in the world. From the bridge, you have a beautiful view of New York City – a view that becomes even better when you get to DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights on the other side.
You can either rent a bike from Brooklyn Bridge Bike Rental located close to the bridge or use one of the many Citi Bikes that you can find all over New York City.
2. Chill out on the High Line
Created on an old and abandoned New York Central Railroad spur, the elevated High Line might be the coolest place to hang out in the city. It was saved from demolition by nearby residents and the City of New York and turned into a public space back in 2009.
The High Line is located on Manhattan’s West Side and runs from Hudson Yards through Chelsea to the Meatpacking District, with several possibilities to access the tracks along the 2.33-kilometre long line.
Despite the limitations of the narrowness of its design, The High Line offers an abundance of things to see and do. You’ll find several gardens with wildflowers, grasses and greens, art installations and design pieces, along with plenty of seating nooks and overlooks. The place is bursting with creative solutions and innovation and is definitely worth checking out!
3. Enjoy the view from “The Top of The Rock”
There’s a reason why “The Top of the Rock” is a classic, it simply offers the best New York City views. On the observation deck, at the heart of the Rockefeller Center, you’re on the 70th floor and are 259 meters above the ground. From here you have the most spectacular views of the city’s iconic skyscrapers, including the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower, the Statue of Liberty and Central Park.
“The Top of the Rock” usually gets pretty crowded. It’s a good idea to show up early or late if you don’t want to share the experience with tons of other people. In addition, you should buy your tickets online to avoid waiting for too long.
4. Escape the hustle and bustle in Central Park
If you are getting a little overwhelmed by all the people and the constant traffic, Central Park is the perfect place to escape all the hustle and bustle of the city.
With its 3.41 square kilometres, Central Park is a large green oasis located at the centre of Manhattan, between the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. Central Park isn’t just a green area where you can go for a walk or sit and enjoy a picnic, it’s a wonderland with so many more things to see and do.
You can listen to music at the SummerStage, catch a fish at the Harlem Meer, honor the Beatles and visit the “Imagine Mosaic” at Strawberry Fields, rent a boat and row your way around the Lake, watch a play at the Delacorte Theatre, say “Hej” to Hans Christian Andersen, take a roller coaster ride at the Billy Johnson Playground, go ice skating at either the Wollman Rink or the Lasker Rink, or get rid of the extra calories you’ve probably consumed while being in the city by doing some sports.
5. Indulge in the New York City foods
New York City is full of great places to eat. I would venture to say that there isn’t a single food that you can’t get at a restaurant, café or market in the “Big Apple” and of course that includes eco-friendly and sustainable foods.
Bell Book & Candle revolves around “rooftop farm-to-table” as all their dishes are heavily influenced by what is in season and ready for harvest in their aeroponic rooftop garden. Everything on the menu is organic and inspired by American foods from all regions. You can find Bell Book & Candle in West Village.
Rosemary’s is an Italian restaurant also located in West Village that serves fresh and seasonal produce from its own rooftop garden. Here you can indulge in classic Italian dishes from early morning to late night, but be prepared to wait for a table no matter what time you arrive – Rosemary’s is popular and it’s not possible to make a reservation.
Smorgasburg is the largest weekly open-air food market in America with more than 100 vendors and plenty of vegetarian, vegan, organic and sustainable options. The market is open from April through November and is at the World Trade Center on Fridays, at Williamsburg’s East River Park on Saturdays and at Prospect Park’s Breeze Hill on Sundays. The Saturday and Sunday markets are the largest ones.
6. See the city from the waterside
New York City is full of waterways, and a great way to see the city’s beauty is from the water. There are plenty of different companies with several boats, routes and types of boat rides.
You can, for example, take the Hop On Hop Off ferry, take the free Staten Island ferry that passes the Statue of Liberty along the way, take a dinner cruise or go on a classic sightseeing tour with one of the many companies located at Midtown West.
7. Visit the 9/11 Memorial
We all wish the 9/11 Memorial didn’t have a reason to exist. Unfortunately, it does and it’s a beautiful place to commemorate one of the darkest days in the history of the United States and to honour the 2,977 victims of the World Trade Center attack.
The most beautiful part is the two reflecting pools, with waterfalls on all sides, that are located where the “Twin Towers” used to rise from the ground. Along the edge of the pools, the names of all those who lost their lives as a result of the terror attack are engraved, making it a very emotional place.
At the additional museum, you can educate yourself on the implications of the events. There are several exhibitions that through technology, archives and narratives focus on different aspects of 9/11, for example, the historical perspective where the events of the day, what lead up to them and the aftermath are expanded.
New York City Passes
If you are planning to visit multiple attractions in New York, it may be worth buying a city pass. Two such options are the NYC Explorer Pass and the NYC City Pass which both give you discounts on a large variety of New York City tours and attractions.
How to get to New York City
There are more than a hundred airlines that have routes to one of New York City’s four international airports, including American Airlines, Delta and United.
If you come from overseas you will most likely arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport located in Queens or at Newark International Airport located in New Jersey. From both airports, it’s quite easy to get to Manhattan by taxi or public transport.
By train or bus
New York City has two main rail stations; Grand Central Station and Penn Station, making it easy to get there by train.
Where Grand Central Station mostly connects the surrounding cities and towns via the Metro-North Railroad service, you can get to New York City from most other parts of the United States via the United States national passenger service, Amtrak.
You can also go to New York City by bus. BoltBus, Concord, Greyhound and Megabus have routes from most parts of the United States and some parts of Canada.
How to get around in New York City
I love to walk around cities and explore at my own pace, and New York City is no exception. Manhattan is fairly small and is very walkable. Alternatively, you can get one of the many Citi Bikes that are located all over the city and explore the city that way.
If you don’t feel like walking or biking, you can always catch the very efficient subway that connects all areas of the city.
Eco-friendly places to stay in New York City
The Benjamin is one of New York City’s first eco-friendly hotels. It’s located in the heart of Midtown East and has a strict program to minimize its carbon footprint and to be socially responsible.
The Hudson Hotel
Close to Central Park, you find the Hudson Hotel. It’s a classic and eco-friendly hotel that among others is part of the NYC Carbon Challenge.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is a fairly new eco-luxe hotel located in Brooklyn with a spectacular view overlooking Manhattan. The hotel strives to be as sustainable as possible and is among others 100% wind-powered.
Find other accommodation
There are plenty of other eco-friendly accommodation options in New York. You can use HotelsCombined to scan across all the top travel sites using the search box below. We use it all the time.
About our guest author
Nicoline Berthy was born and bred in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is a passionate traveler, writer and photographer who has visited over 45 countries on six continents. On her blog, adventurersfootprints.com, she shares honest travel writing, comprehensive guides and compelling photos from around the world to help you travel better and more adventurously and responsibly.