If you want to exercise during your trip to NYC without missing any sightseeing time, skip the hotel treadmill and take a run through the City itself. With spacious parks, greenways and waterfront spaces, the five boroughs can serve as your outdoor gymnasium, complete with views way better than the TV screen above the StairMaster. So explore the City while breaking a sweat on one of these scenic trails.
Stephanie and Fred Shuman Running Track
Distance: 1.58 miles
Where to enter: Fifth Avenue at 90th Street
What you'll see: One of the park's most beautiful trails is the loop around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, between 86th and 96th streets. The recently renovated circuit includes a soft cinder path, a steel and cast-iron fence and skyline views of Fifth Avenue residences and the castle-like El Dorado building on Central Park West. A word of advice: make sure to circle the track in a counterclockwise direction.
Outer Park Drive Loop
Distance: 6.1 miles
Where to enter: Anywhere along the East, West or Center Drive
What you'll see: If you're after a longer route that's still easy to navigate, follow the wide track along the outer loop of the park. You'll pass Sheep Meadow and North Woods, both within the loop, and the The Met Fifth Avenue, just outside of it. You can use various transverses to cut across and create shorter routes.
Hudson River Greenway
Distance: 4 miles
Where to enter: Various entrances along Riverside Drive
What you'll see: Riverside Park, part of the 11-mile Hudson River Greenway, stretches from 72nd street to 158th Street along the Hudson River. Jogging along the waterfront park's paved esplanades (slightly inland options are open at certain points) can take you past the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument and the Boat Basin Café, among other sights. It's more a favorite for locals than visitors, so you'll likely have more space than you would in Central Park.
Hudson River Park
Distance: 4.5 miles
Where to enter: Various entrances along West Street
What you'll see: Below Riverside Park is 550-acre Hudson River Park, running from 59th Street to Battery Place. A continuous paved path skirts a mini-golf course, sand volleyball courts and multiple piers with green space to sunbathe. For sightseers, the real goal is the picture-perfect view of the Statue of Liberty from the park's southern end.
Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway and Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge Park (and the bridge Itself)
Distance: Varies, though park path is 1.3 miles
Where to enter: Brooklyn Bridge Park, starting at Manhattan Bridge or the western end of Atlantic Avenue
What you'll see: Runners are spoiled for choice: take a quick 1.3-mile trot along the Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront, add on to it with other sections of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway's 6 developed miles or even link the entire proposed greenway (14 miles) from Newtown Creek down to Bay Ridge Avenue, using sidewalks where necessary. The payoff is big: views of the East River, Lower Manhattan and the underbelly of the Brooklyn Bridge. You could also elevate your perspective, heading up to the 1.1-mile-long Brooklyn Bridge to squeeze in some roadwork in the pedestrian lane—just go in the early morning to avoid the crowds of walkers and cyclists.
Distance: 3.35 miles
Where to enter: Anywhere along East or West Drive
What you'll see: The most user-friendly path in Brooklyn's biggest park is the main inner loop along Park Drive. It passes by Prospect Park Bandshell (site of a popular summer concert series) and plenty of natural attractions, and offers peeks at beautiful residential Brooklyn architecture just outside the green space. As in Central Park, there are transverses to customize the length of your run. For a shorter loop, hit the 1.76-mile trail around Prospect Park Lake on the southeastern side of the park.
Van Cortlandt Park
Cross Country Running Course
Distance: 3.1 miles
Where to enter: Main entrance on Parade Ground, Broadway near West 246 Street
What you'll see: Because of its length (5 km) and woodsy topography, this century-old course is a hub for cross-country competitions and practices. The scenery is quite varied: you'll begin on the flat Parade Ground; head to challenging Vault Hill (aka Cemetery Hill), where the Van Cortlandt family is buried; and circle through the 188-acre Northwest Forest, full of oak and hickory trees.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Meadow Lake Trail
Distance: 2.34 miles
Where to enter: Anyplace along the trail, though 69th Road in the south, the boathouse on the lake's northeast side and the roundabout at the top of the loop all make natural starting points
What you'll see: Queens' biggest park includes a pathway looping around 93-acre Meadow Lake, the City's largest. Exercise caution even though the surface is flat—there isn't much shade to mitigate the heat on warmer days. It's also low on sights, though you can cross an overpass off the northern end to glimpse world's fair leftovers like the New York State Pavilion and Unisphere. To partake in another form of exercise at the lake, rent a paddleboat.
Distance: 4 miles
Where to enter: Richmond Road and St. Patrick's Place
What you'll see: This path weaves through the center of the Greenbelt and intersects with other trails along the way, revealing sights like Heyerdahl Hill, which includes the ruins of an old house; the La Tourette Golf Course; and the upscale neighborhood of Lighthouse Hill. After your run, consider a stroll through Historic Richmond Town, which includes museums and restored homes from colonial times.
Distance: 2.6 miles
Where to enter: Richmond or Rockland Avenue, at Forest Hill Road
What you'll see: This trail, which begins on the southwestern side of the Greenbelt, was built to be pedestrian-friendly (and is the only Greenbelt trail on which bike riding is permitted, one reason it's so wide). The path is mostly flat, with crushed gravel surface that makes for easy jogging. It forms a wishbone-like shape, with the northern fork extending past La Tourette Golf Course and the southern fork ending at the Gothic Church of St. Andrew.