New York: the best ways to sightsee and stay fit
“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years,” – writer Tom Wolfe said, and I tend to agree.
OF ALL the world’s destinations I’ve wandered to, New York’s loud streets, bustling crowds and overwhelming energy somehow managed to make a girl from country Victoria feel at home immediately, so it’s truly one of my favourite places to be.
I think one of the ways the city manages to beguile anyone who has ever stepped into it is because New York moves so fast, it waits for no one. Before you know it you’re pushing through mobs, yelling for taxis and basically behaving like a NYC native. Even as a traveller, you become totally immersed in the flow of the place and it’s all part of the city’s charm.
So my advice to any visitor who ever finds themselves in Manhattan, or the other four boroughs, is not to be just a spectator but to hit the sidewalk and see and do as much as you can.
I walk everywhere in NYC, which is great for keeping fit while travelling (because who really wants to hit a gym when on holiday?). And in this city, where the food is just as amazing as the sights, there are thankfully loads of things to do that involve incidental exercise.
Here are my favourite things to do in NY that will see you soak up the culture and burn a few calories.
Walking the bridges
Want to get the best view of New York City? Walk across its bridges! While the subway system in NYC is super-efficient, if you want to see this city right you’ve got to stay above ground. To do this your best travel buddy is a great pair of walking shoes – specifically comfy and already broken in sneakers (‘cause those new kicks you just bought just won’t do).
My game plan is to pick and area I want to explore and head there on foot, and because I mostly base myself in Williamsburg I can tell you the trek across the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan is worth the effort. Looking at the skyline as you walk toward the hustle and bustle of the city never fails to remind you that this is the place where so many dreams come true.
Cycling in Central Park
Okay, imagine how big Central Park is, then double it because the place is HUGE! And while you might have your comfy shoes on, you’ll still need a little help to see the whole thing.
To get a full appreciation of Central Park I recommend hiring bikes and cycling around for a few hours. It’s a great little work out – a few hills but not too tough – and you get the bonus of stopping and relaxing on the green grass to enjoy the beautiful surroundings before hopping on your bike and being on your way. You could even take a picnic and sit on the rocks around the ponds made famous by so many movies.
Boating in Central Park
Remember that pond that Big and Carrie fell into that time, well you can fall into it too, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, take a boat!
There are a few boat vendors around the park where you can hire a little rowboat and paddle about – it’s an idyllic way to spend an afternoon in the big city.
Now if you’re still yearning for some exercise, and open to full throttle indoor training, I recommend giving Soul Cycle a go. Spin class is one of my all-time favourite workouts so while in NYC I was very keen to see what the Soul Cycle hype was all about.
Whoa Nelly was it something else! Imagine your spin class… on steroids! The workout was tough – there were weights involved – but the atmosphere made me feel like I was in a nightclub rather than a gym, in a good way. The lights were off, the music was pumping, there were sweaty bodies everywhere but boy it was fun (and effective).
After doing a class I can see why Soul Cycle is so popular, and its popularity means you’ll have to book ahead to get a bike. While it’s not cheap, (About $30 USD) it’s a little bit like an event, so treat yourself and enjoy a class if you get the chance.
Hiking Bear Mountain
If you want to get out of the city for the day, hiring a car and heading upstate to Bear Mountain is a great day trip.
Now don’t fear, I didn’t see bears, (once I know a place doesn’t have brown snakes I’m fine) and it’s not like you have to be a super experienced hiker to do the trail. There’s an information office where you can get maps to help you find the different tracks for all levels.
My big tip would be to make sure you stock up on H2O – I went on a harder trail involving a bit of scrambling up rocks and took about four hours, which made me think we should have taken more water.
But once at the top of the Mountain there are beautiful views, and it’s a great place to have a picnic.
Kayaking in Cold Spring
Cold Spring is a small town in Putnam County, Upstate New York. It’s an easy enough place to get to by train and I’ve been there in winter while it’s freezing and covered with snow but I’d have to say in the summer it’s a totally different and wonderful place.
The town has a population of less than 2000, there are quaint shops and cute cafes in the main street and just off the main drag you can hire kayaks and go out on the Hudson River (a much cleaner part compared to the city) which is great fun.
And here’s something for nothing – if you still have energy to burn there’s a great walk to a local Cold Spring waterfall that’s worth checking out.
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