by Wendy Giman, 12/18/2013
Photo: Alex Lopez
Orchard Beach for Seal Watching
Bruckner Boulevard and Westchester Avenue, 718-885-2275, Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
For some people, the cold-weather months are the ideal time to go to the beach—you'll see fewer people and more wildlife. Orchard Beach, the only public beach in the Bronx, was considered the "Riviera of New York City" when it was first developed in the 1930s as a man-made 1.1 mile strip on Long Island Sound using sand from Queens and New Jersey. From November until May, you can spot harbor seals in the water; the sight of their heads bobbing on the water's surface is more common than you think. If you need some help spotting them, attend a free organized watch from the Urban Park Rangers. When searching for the seals, check out Hart Island in the distance (past the smaller islands); since its purchase from Native Americans in 1654, it has served as a game reserve, boxing site, Civil War training post and a still active potter's field, with more than 500,000 people interred.