New York bucket list: From green landmarks to vegan restaurants, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 sustainable and eco-friendly must-do’s when traveling to NYC.
Did you know that New York City is one of the most walkable cities in the US? On top of that, NY has one of the biggest and more interconnected public transportation systems in North America, which makes it easier – and more sustainable – to move around when you visit. The City That Never Sleeps has loads of things to do and places to visit, such as visiting Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, or the Grand Terminal. However, on top of the most famous spots, there are other less-known places that are also worth a visit. In this article we’ve created an eco-friendly New York bucket list for all sustainable travelers out there who want to explore the city while having little to no impact during their visit.
1. Visit Central Park
Central Park is one of the most famous parks in the US and worldwide. Located between the Upper West and Upper East Sides of Manhattan, Central Park covers 843 acres, which puts it within the five largest parks in New York. You can get there by subway or bus. On top of just being an iconic, must-visit on your New York bucket list, there are several things you can do when visiting in addition to taking a walk:
- Row a boat in Central Park: From May to September, you can rent out little rowboats and enjoy the summer scenery of the park. It costs $15 an hour per boat, which usually can hold up to four people. You will find this lake and the Loeb Boathouse between 74th and 75th street, on the East side of Central Park.
- Find a remote spot for nature appreciation: Even though NYC is a massive, and extremely busy city, there are remote spots within Central Park where you can nearly hear a single thing. If you want to compensate the extra noise and high speed of the city during your trip, enjoy the benefits of walking and take some time to find one of these remote areas of Central Park to enjoy some quiet, calming time surrounded by only nature.
- Go on a picnic: Spring and summer months are the best time to visit Central Park, and it’s when most people get outside and roll a blanket in the park. You will see families spending time together, kids playing around, people biking and jogging, and couples having picnic dates. Central Park becomes a place of reunion, and alongside the good weather, it makes it the perfect place for a picnic with your travel buddies. You can order cheap take-out food through the Too Good To Go App and enjoy a delicious meal in Central Park.
- Enjoy a free summer movie: Starting in May, the City of New York offers free summer movies in many of its parks, where people can enjoy the good weather and watch a movie outdoors.
2. Bike around Battery Park
On days of good weather, you may want to include biking around Battery Park in your New York bucket list. Located in the Lower Manhattan, you can rent a bike in one of the 20 City Bike stations for $12 a day. During your ride you will be able to enjoy some time outdoors and do some sightseeing. From Battery Park you can see the Staten Island Ferry going from Manhattan to Staten Island, and you can spot the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
3. Visit Green Rooftops
New York City has several rooftop urban gardens in a few major buildings, where some of them have even been turned into farms to produce fresh ingredients to supply their own restaurants. You will find some of these gorgeous gardens in the following buildings:
- Jacob K. Javits Convention Center: The largest green roof in NYC, it has almost seven acres of greenery that visitors can tour. Most recently, this garden has now dedicated a portion for only farming in order to supply fresh ingredients to the kitchen in the convention center, and it is expected to provide around 40,000 fruits and vegetables on yearly basis.
- Eagle Street Rooftop Farm: Located by the East River, this rooftop is located on the top of a three-story warehouse in Brooklyn, and it is an organic farm made up of 6,000 square feet.
- Brooklyn Grange: This rooftop is home of one of the leading rooftop farming businesses in the US. As a company, they design and build urban greenspaces for all ranges of customers, from private homes to corporate buildings. On site, Brooklyn Grange has 5.6 acres of rooftop farms divided in three different roofs, and on top of growing their own fresh vegetables, they also host educational programs and events.
4. Check Out the Brooklyn Flea Market
If you like flea markets and handmade arts and crafts, you will enjoy The Brooklyn Flea market. It’s open on the weekends, and it takes place outdoors during the summer and indoors throughout the rest of the year. You can find furniture, antiques, vintage clothing, jewelry, and art and crafts from local artisans.
5. Explore the High Line, a Green Landmark in NYC
Another landmark to add to your New York bucket list is The High Line, an abandoned elevated train rail that has been transformed in a park in the middle of the metropolitan area. This 1.45-mile-long park has more than 500 species of plants and it is home of many species of birds and insects. It is a free, public space that is opened all year round for visits and paid tours. They also have a few time slots when tours are for free, and the times vary depending on the season. You can enter High Line at 30th Street at Hudson and you can also find several elevators to access the park in the following locations:
- Gansevoort Street and Washington Street (Northwest corner)
- 14th Street and 10th Avenue (Southwest side)
- 23rd Street and 10th Avenue (Southeast side)
- 30th Street and 10th Avenue (Southeast side)
6. Enjoy the Views from the One World Trade Center
The One World Trade Center is one of the tallest LEED buildings in the world. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a worldwide green rating system that evaluates and certifies highly efficient, cost-saving green buildings. In New York City, some buildings are part of this sustainable urban architecture, including the Arbor House and The Visionaire, both apartment buildings. The One World Trade Center is open for paid visits and where you will enjoy the gorgeous views of the whole city.
7. Eat at a Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurant
One of the highlights of traveling if you are a food lover is getting to eat out and trying new places. In NYC, finding plant-based dishes is easier than in other – and perhaps smaller – cities in the United States. If you are looking forward to enjoying some delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes that go beyond veggie burgers and vegan wraps, you should include plant-based restaurants in your New York bucket list. We compiled a few options that may be of your liking:
- Orchard Grocer: Located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, this grocery store also prepares delicious vegan food available for pick up or delivery. The Orchard Grocer can be a great option if you want some healthy snacks and take-out food to enjoy a picnic in Central Park.
- John’s of 12th Street: Even though it is not entirely vegan, this restaurant has a wide variety of vegan Italian dishes on their menu, such as pasta, pizza, meatballs, seitan parmigiana, and more.
- Seasoned Vegan: This 100% vegan restaurant offers veganized versions of traditional dishes, such as lemon crusted “fish steak”, “chicken” parmesan sandwich, or BBQ “crawfish”. You can eat at the Seasoned Vegan restaurant in Harlem or you can order take out via Doordash or Postmates.
- Modern Love Brooklyn: This plant-based restaurant serves vegan alternatives to classic American dishes or appetizers. Their menu includes items such as vegan cheeseburgers, seitan buffalo wings, vegan poutine, jerk tofu, Mac and Cheese and vegan lemongrass chicken sandwich.
- Peacefood Café: This vegan café and bakery offers a variety of plant-based dishes from appetizers and mains, to even bakery items. You can check out their menu for both of their locations in NYC or you can order through their website.
- Jajaja Mexicana: If you are fan of Mexican food, Jajaja Mexicana may be your place to go. They have several locations across NYC, and they offer an entirely vegan menu with plenty of Mexican dishes: street tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, nachos, and more.
8. Visit the Wild Center and Wild Walk
If you are a nature lover, adding this stop to your New York bucket list may be a great option to get a break from the business of the city. The Wild Center and Wild Walk is one of the first LEED-certified museums in the state of New York. You can take a walk across the treetops, get in and out of tree houses and observe the gorgeous nature views from a different perspective at a higher altitude. You can also visit the museum building and spend a great deal of time learning about the environment.
9. Check Out Some Sustainable Stores
If shopping is part of your travel plans during your trip to New York, you may want to check out some of the sustainable and eco-friendly stores in the city. We recommend you to be mindful about what you shop and to rethink the way how you consume. Try to stay away from fast fashion as it is very harmful for the environment, and perhaps consider taking a path towards sustainability on a shoestring budget. By shopping in sustainability stores, you can reduce your carbon footprint and have a plastic-free shopping experience. Here’s a list of options you may want to include on your New York bucket list:
- Earth & Me: They sell things from eco-friendly beauty products to cleaning supplies and other household items.
- Package Free: It is one of the biggest sustainable stores in NYC and has two locations. Everything is eco-friendly and made with zero waste packaging.
- Baggu: Some of their items include reusable bags, backpacks, masks, towels, and other home goods.
- Cap Beauty: They sell beauty and self-care products made from natural ingredients and with sustainable packaging.
10. Learn About Sustainable Energy
If you want to learn more about sustainable energy, the state of New York has a few opportunities for that. You can visit the Jones Beach Energy and Nature Center, a zero-energy building, where they offer several programs to learn about how energy consumption affects the environment. Some of these programs include “The Power of Nature”, “Magic Circuit”, and “Seal Walk”.
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