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Best Nature Spots in NYC

As summer starts, many New York residents want to leave the city and experience nature. From wildlife conservations to botanical gardens, here are the best spots to experience nature in NYC.

Snug Harbor Botanical Garden (Staten Island): Snug Harbor Botanical Garden contains some of the five boroughs' oldest and most unique architecture and gardens. Originally a retirement home for sailors during the 1800s, Snug Harbor is now used as a cultural center and a way to experience nature. The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden is only one of two authentic classic Chinese gardens in the US. Based on the gardens of the Ming Dynasty, the garden takes inspiration from Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist art and philosophers. Visitors get to walk through a bamboo forest, and waterfall, and see the koi fish pond. The garden is open year-round for guests to experience the garden through the four seasons.

Central Park (Manhattan): Central Park, located in the heart of the city, is the city's most well-known park. It offers many opportunities to experience nature, including The Ramble, a 36-acre garden, that gives you the chance to experience the forests of upstate New York in the middle of the city. Home to local wildlife and unique landscapes such as Belvedere Castle and Bethesda Terrace, this part of the park is located between 73rd and 79th Street. Another iconic part of the park is Harlem Meer, located in the northeast corner of the park. Harlem Meer gives people the chance to relax and experience nature. Many community events and activities are held here, such as catch-and-release fishing, swimming, and skating. Harlem Meer is located between 106th and 110th Street on the East Side.

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx): The New York Botanical Garden is the biggest botanical garden in NYC. The garden is located in Bronx Park and gives visitors the chance to see over one million living plants over its 250 acres. The Thain Family Forest is the last remnant of the vast forest that covered New York City before colonization. It is split by the Bronx River, and many of the trees in the forest are over two centuries old. Another year-round garden is the Ladies’ Border. Originally named after the women who designed many of the gardens in the botanical garden. Ladies’ Border allows guests to see plants from across the globe, such as Peruvian Lillies and South African bulbs.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden (Brooklyn): The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is home to over 14,000 different species of plants. Founded in 1910, the 52-acre park brings in over a million visitors to its different gardens. The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden is one of the first Japanese gardens to be built outside of Japan. It blends the ancient Japanese “hill-and-pond” style with more modern styles. The three hills in the garden signify heaven, humanity, and earth, while the koi fish pond located in the middle of the garden was made to signify the heart. The Native Flora Garden was the first part of the park to open back in 1911. The small forest contains many plants native to New York State. The forest attracts many different types of fauna, such as hummingbirds and hawks.

Wave Hill (Bronx): Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center gives visitors a beautiful view of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades. Originally an estate during the 19th and 20th centuries, Wave Hill is now famous for its botanical garden and its art exhibits. The Wild Garden is a hillside garden that gives you views of the Palisades as you walk through. In full bloom during the spring into autumn, the garden is home to different species of plants, such as Evergreen Trees and Japanese forest grass. North of the Wild Garden is the aquatic and monocot gardens. The two gardens are home to different aquatic animals and plants, such as frogs and water lilies. Both gardens thrive during the summer months, with many of their plants going into full bloom.

Brooklyn Grange Farm (Brooklyn-Queens): The Brooklyn Grange is the largest rooftop farm in the world. Running through Brooklyn and Queens, these rooftop farms provide over 50,000 pounds of produce to New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs. The Grange is used by the community for picnics, workshops, fitness lessons such as yoga, and for farm dinners. The urban farm is only open from May up until October.

Pelham Bay Park (Bronx): Pelham Bay Park is the largest public park in NYC. Over 2,700 acres and over three times the size of Central Park, the park is home to different trails and a 13-mile shoreline. Twin Island, the northmost section of the park, gives hikers a mesmerizing view of the Long Island Sound. Along with the Sound, Twin Island is also one of the city's last salt marshes. The most well-known part of Pelham Bay Park is Orchard Beach, attracting visitors from all five boroughs. Over 1.1 miles long, the beach faces the Long Island Sound and is usually called the Riviera of the city.

Staten Island Greenbelt (Staten Island): The Staten Island Greenbelt is the second biggest park in the city. The Greenbelt has the most diverse flora and fauna in all of NYC, with wetlands and different types of amphibians inhabiting the park. One of the biggest attractions at the park is Moses Mountain. Great for families to hike, the top of the mountain has unforgettable views of all of the Greenbelt and the Jersey Atlantic Highlands.

Prospect Park (Brooklyn): Prospect Park is the second largest public park in Brooklyn, and the most popular. Situated between iconic neighborhoods such as Prospect Heights, Flatbush, and Park Slope, the park gives the borough a piece of nature. The Ravine, at the heart of Prospect Park, is the only forest in Brooklyn. The Ravine’s defining feature is the waterfall, and the park is home to 200 species of flora.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (Queens): The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is the best place to birdwatch in NYC. The 9,000-acre park is home to two different ponds, West Pond and Big John’s Pond. The two ponds have attracted over 330 species of birds over 25 years.

Written by Carla Paz

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