Just because you live in a metropolis doesn’t mean you can’t get out and enjoy some of the incredible wonders that nature has to offer. From the beautiful view of the ocean at Fin restaurant in Atlantic City to the breathtaking sites on a Sunset Ranch Hollywood horseback tour through the Hollywood Hills, America harbors a multitude of surprising opportunities to enjoy the outdoors no matter where you live.
Here are 10 easy ways to soak up some natural joy when you live in a big city:
1. Parks: Obvious, perhaps, but also an oft-overlooked source of unique nature experiences. Central Park in NYC has a 20-acre lake as well as a six-acre formal garden with Italian, French, and English sections. The North Park Village Nature Center in Peterson Park, Chicago, offers hikes through its 46 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, and animal watching to boot – all smack in the middle of the Windy City.
2. Biking: Toss your two-wheeled vehicle into the car and take off for your city’s outskirts. Go exploring somewhere you’ve never been – cities often tuck great bike trails away along the outer boundaries of the city limits, and there can be some great views to be had there.
3. Sunsets: Enjoy the fading reds, oranges, and yellows of the sun dipping into the horizon. Seek out the highest point in your city’s park for viewing. Even better if you live by the ocean – San Francisco’s Lands End Lookout not only offers a fantastic vantage point for sunset viewing, but you can also enjoy the trails and cliffs while there.
4. Forests: Yes, you can stroll a tree-filled woodland in many big cities. A scant few miles from the hustle and bustle of downtown Oakland, CA lies Redwood Regional Park – former logging mecca and now home to a serene, trail-filled sanctuary of towering 150-foot sequoias. What could be a better reminder of nature’s power and beauty than mingling among these mind-boggling Redwoods?
5. Pier Fishing: If you’re the hunting and fishing type, don’t despair – fishing is a popular pastime in many populous locales. Head down to the Sixth Street Bridge on the Grand River in Grand Rapids, MI – according to Field & Stream, it’s a prime source of steelhead. Check your city’s website for information about legality and locations.
6. Zoos (at off-peak times): These wildlife wonderlands are teeming with people during the heat of summer, but be one of the brave few to venture out in the cold and you may be rewarded with a peaceful, magical experience. Try the Detroit Zoo when there’s snow on the ground – the polar bears and arctic foxes still roam the chilly outdoor habitat, which is one of the largest in North America.
7. Birdwatching: We don’t always notice these graceful, ever-present feathered friends, but they can pop up in the most surprising of places. Did you know that NYC and San Francisco both harbor wild bird populations? The vast majority of Gotham squawkers are Quaker Parrots while San Francisco is home to Red-Masked Parakeets (among others). Keep your eyes peeled!
8. Aquariums: One of the best ways to connect with nature in a big city is to take in some deep sea creatures up close and personal in your local aquarium. Try out the National Aquarium at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This truly impressive landmark is home to almost 20,000 creatures, including sharks, dolphins, and jellyfish you can pet!
9. Airports: It sounds odd, but check with your city’s airports to see if there’s public access to their surroundings. Take JFK for instance, the airport shares land with Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge – a 9000-acre wetland that’s home to a bevy of birds and other creatures.
10. Exotic produce: When seeking out a nature fix in the big city, don’t be afraid to think outside the box! The sensation of a rough, spiny durian fruit under your fingertips can be as reminiscent of nature’s amazing gifts as skipping a rock over the surface of a lake. Visit Chinatown for a peek into nature’s biodiversity, or pick up a chayote at a local bodega. The options, especially in larger cities like New York or Los Angeles, are virtually limitless.
Whether you’re in Houston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, or anywhere in between, you don’t need to be deprived of wide open spaces and interesting wildlife. Be creative in your ventures – do some digging into local wildlife mainstays like the Bronx River beaver, or local populations of wild turkeys. The Internet makes it easy not only to find unusual places to wildlife-watch in your area, but also to connect with others who have similar interests.
So get out there and bike, hike, fish, and marvel – your big city nature fix awaits!