How to make New York City feel like you're on a nature-filled vacation
Go Hiking on Staten Island: Robert Moses's scheme for an extended highway across Staten Island was quashed, but the 260-foot pile of rubble displaced in the planning stages remains. Now you can take a gentle 15-minute hike up "Moses's Mountain," reclaimed by trees and wildflowers. At the top, find panoramic views of nothing but treetops and the 35 miles of additional trails that stretch across the Greenbelt's 2,800 acres of wetlands, meadows, and glacial rocks, which feel much farther from civilization than a single bus transfer (S62 to S57) from the Ferry Terminal would have you believe.
700 Rockland Ave.; sigreenbelt.org.
Mountain-bike in Manhattan: Ride all the way up the West Side Greenway, cut east across town at Dyckman Street, and arrive at the northernmost part of Highbridge Park, where both BMX-ers and beginners hit the three miles of dirt-and-rock trails at Manhattan's only bona fide mountain-biking park, which opened in 2007. Maneuver around rocky hills up to 200-feet high (trails range from wide flat paths for beginners to the steep crags of the double-black-diamond "Hellfighter Trail") or ride over tabletops in the jump park, but leave the fixie at home—you'll need thick tires for these jumps.
Highbridge Park, Ft. George Hill and Dyckman St.
Ride a Zip Line in Queens: At the Alley Pond Park Adventure Course, you can hurtle down a 100-yard zip line or swing from the height of a really tall telephone pole, as corporate trust-fallers and day campers watch in awe below. During the week, the platforms are dominated by schools and off-sites building teamwork, but the park opens to the public for free on Sundays through November; preregister the Monday before during the busiest months, July and August.
Activities vary week by week; Alley Pond Park, Little Neck Bay; 718-217-4685.
Bag a Sea Bass in Brooklyn: Twice a day, at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., the Marilyn Jean IV sets out from Pier 6 in Sheepshead Bay for a fishing tour to wherever the catch is good right then, from striped bass by Coney Island to fluke by Sandy Hook. (Morning tours last eight hours, evening tours last five.) Up to 75 people can grab a spot at the rail for $50 ($60 for morning trips), which includes a fishing license, expert advice on tying a rig from Captain Tony and his mates, and as many bluefish—cleaned by the crew—as will fit in your cooler or that the state will allow (15), whichever comes first.
2200 Emmons Ave.; mj2fishing.com.
Dive to a Shipwreck in the Bronx: Captain Mike knows there's more than dead bodies hiding below our waterways, and this former NYPD scuba instructor, who runs classes and excursions out of his shop and training center on City Island, will gladly share the city's shipwrecks with anyone with a license or train anyone willing to try. Dive classes start out in a nearby YMCA pool, but the certified can join Mike for a dive to a 100-year-old wreck at nearby Execution Rocks Lighthouse, or to the USS San Diego off Fire Island, where divers take home souvenirs like china plates or fresh-plucked lobsters.
530 City Island Ave.; captainmikesdiving.com.
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