Even in Manhattan, there are activities off the beaten path. Consider … biking?
Yes, biking. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently told New Yorkers, in an effort to encourage more pedal-powered transportation: “Skip the hike and take a bike.” That would not seem to be attractive in a city more famous for its lethal ballet between automobiles and pedestrians (“I’m walkin’ here!”). In the past 20 years, however, the city has worked hard to get more cyclists on the road, threading hundreds of bike lanes through the old brick-and-mortar neighborhoods and creating more than 200 miles of greenway lanes inside parks (and not just Central Park), totally outside of car traffic.
The prize, however, goes to the Hudson River greenway, which runs approximately 13 miles along the west side of the island. The southernmost section between Battery Park and 42nd Street is the busiest, especially on weekends. But after you get to Central Park, you can head north and ride the gusty wind currents that first blew Dutch sailors up the Hudson River in the early 17th century.
At Highbridge Park in Washington Heights, bikes can go off-road through several miles of mountain-bike trails. There are plenty of drops, berms, steeps and rock gardens for all levels, but the youngest at heart can make good use of the popular dirt-jump park co-designed by pro rider Jim Dellavalle.
Rental spots for bikes abound in Manhattan, but Bike and Roll is probably the most convenient, with several locations in Manhattan and an extensive selection of mountain bikes. Guided tours are also available. In May, the city launched a bike-share program, installing about 5,500 rentable bikes at 293 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, with more to come as the Hurricane Sandy cleanup continues.
The regular attractions of Manhattan are inviting and enjoyable. But for those intrigued by alternative activities, the pop culture in the Bronx, the food in Queens, the hipness of Brooklyn, the open spaces of Staten Island and the biking in Manhattan are examples of fun options in the five boroughs that make up the great City of New York.
After 10 years working abroad as a Peace Corps volunteer, an English teacher and a journalist, MIKE DUNPHY now makes his living as a freelance writer and editor in New York City. He has written for several publications, including Fodor’s Travel, The Huffington Post and Time Out Istanbul.