By Mary Ann Treger
Yearning for a taste of the Big Apple but skittish about crowded theaters or museums? Consider a winter escape to Gotham City to explore its new outdoor sites. Temperatures likely will be chilly, but after experiencing Gotham’s latest alfresco wonders, you won’t find a better city in the world to warm up with a piping hot cocoa—or better yet, a hot toddy—in dozens of atmospheric cafés.
At first sight, Little Island looks like a collection of massive concrete champagne glasses joined together and embedded into the Hudson River. The architect refer to them as “tulips,” and each one is distinctively shaped and filled with all types of vegetation and attractions.
Since the design is so unusual—dare we say odd?—even before you step foot on the island, you’ll be snapping photos of the structure itself. Yes, the mere sight of it is awesome and worth a visit.
What was once the dilapidated Pier 54, Little Island has dramatically transformed this space into a free 2.7-acre public pier devoted to parkland and varied performing arts programming.
It opened in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic and is part of the larger Hudson River Park. This welcome newcomer provides green space unlike anything else in New York City. The creators envisioned an outdoor experience that would be beautiful all year, regardless of the season. More than 350 species of flowers and 114 trees and shrubs are artfully placed throughout the park. Even on a gray, cold day, Little Island reflects the loveliness of the winter season. The one constant that never changes any time of the year is the amazing view of New York City and the Hudson River. hudsonriverpark.org/locations/pier-55-little-island
The Edge – Hudson Yards
This new New York experience is a nail-biter and definitely not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for queasy folks who dislike heights or for those who turn green at the thought of walking on a glass floor jutting out of a building 100 floors up in the sky. The Edge is the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. Even the elevator ride to get there is breathtaking—it takes close to a full minute.
Located at the very trendy Hudson Yards project, the Edge invites visitors to experience a 360-degree vista of New York City’s iconic skyline. Its vantage point on the western side of Manhattan showcases jaw-dropping views of New York from the tip of Central Park to the Statue of Liberty and beyond.
Hold your breath and step onto the observation deck 1,131 feet above earth. Surrounded by 3,000 square feet of glass walls, the Edge extends out from the building almost 80 feet into thin air. Each glass panel surrounding the platform is angled outward so that visitors can lean out and look down over the city below. If that isn’t breathtaking—or scary—enough, there is a special space for one person to stand alone, surrounded by nothing but glass, air and sky.
For those who may need some libation reassurance before experiencing the Edge, a champagne bar is steps away, ready to provide liquid encouragement before stepping outside or enjoying a celebratory toast après for this “edgy” experience. edgenyc.com/en
The Cliff City Climb
New York is first for many things, and now it is the first city in the world to offer the highest open-air external building climb. The Cliff experience is even edgier than the Edge.
Brave, hearty adventurers get to scale the outside of a skyscraper more than 1,200 feet above the ground and traverse open platforms and stairways above the Edge before leaning out and looking down from the highest outdoor platform.
The Cliff experience includes ascending 32 steps from the basecamp to “The Cliff.” Climbers look down to the street below from 1,190 feet before they approach “The Stair.” That experience consists of 161 steps on an approximately 45-degree incline before reaching “The Apex” at 1,271 feet. It’s an opportunity to lean out and hang over a platform. This experience is definitely not for the faint of heart or the unfit—individuals encounter 370 steps throughout the entire experience, including the ascent and descent.
The Cliff climb lasts between 1 1/2 to 2 hours from check-in to completion. Climbers spend approximately 45 minutes on the course at the top of the building—an ideal experience for Spiderman wannabes. edgenyc.com/en/cityclimb
The Classic Outdoor Favorites: Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge
While exploring the new New York outdoor experiences, don’t neglect the Big Apple’s classic favorite: Central Park. Bring your ice skates and head to Wollman Rink where you can see the stars overhead as you glide around the spacious rink. Or visit The Imagine Mosaic in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields, a tribute to John Lennon, the incredibly talented Beatles singer and composer and longtime New York City resident. It remains a gathering place for his fans from all over the world. Regardless of the winter temps, someone always seems to be there with a guitar, playing one of his many songs.
Even if you’ve visited the park many times before, stop by Belvedere Castle, circa 1865. Sitting high atop Vista Rock, the second highest natural elevation in the park, Belvedere Castle provides a panoramic view in almost every direction and is arguably the most magical monument in Central Park.
The Brooklyn Bridge
Before you head for home, save time for a stroll across The Brooklyn Bridge. This walk isn’t only about the unique views you’ll experience as you stroll across the East River to Brooklyn. Here you will feel the heart and soul of the city that never sleeps.
As the saying goes, “I Love New York.”