It's easy to find excuses not to visit national parks, and one of the most common is, "I don't have the time!" Fair enough, but you don't have to quit your job to explore America's national parks. If you have three free days, you can hop in and out of several parks in the New York City area alone.
Rich in history and — surprisingly, perhaps — natural beauty, the region is ripe for exploration. This three-day itinerary will help you plan your trip to all the best national parks in and around the city. So spend a long weekend in the city this spring, and take a bite out of the Big Apple.
Day 1: Manhattan
Start at 28 East 20th Street, between Park Avenue South and Broadway. This is Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, an unassuming brick townhouse where our 36th president was raised. The house includes a museum and five historically-furnished rooms, with guided tours every hour.
From there it's only a 15-minute subway ride to African Burial Ground National Monument at 290 Broadway, where a beautiful stone memorial marks the place where countless free and enslaved Africans were buried from about the 1690s until 1794. Lost to history for centuries, the burial ground was discovered in 1991 during the construction of a planned federal office building.
Image Source: African Burial Ground National Monument
About 15 minutes further down the line, stop by Castle Clinton National Monument at the southern tip of Manhattan. The castle stands where New York City began, offering a reminder of the city's remarkable growth.
Day 2: New York Harbor
New York Harbor is home to some of our nation's most famous and historically rich sites, including Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. Ferries depart from Battery Park throughout the day, taking visitors to both sites. View the Statue of Liberty from its pedestal or climb to the crown for a once-in-a-lifetime view of the city. At Ellis Island, you can view a wide range of exhibits and tour the rooms and halls through which 12 million immigrants passed from 1892 to 1954.
While you're exploring the harbor, be sure to include a trip to Governors Island National Monument, where Castle Williams was once a strategic fortress built to guard New York City during the War of 1812. Today, the island hosts guided tours as well as historical reenactments and musical and cultural events throughout the summer. Ferries head out hourly from Battery Park on weekdays.
Day 3: Long Island
You could spend weeks exploring Long Island's national parks, but you can still pack a lot into one adventure-filled day. Be sure to spend some time at the Jamaica Bay unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, about an hour from the heart of Manhattan. It's a wild oasis with hiking trails, kayaking, and bird watching.
Take a little drive to the north shore of Long Island to catch up with President Theodore Roosevelt, who spent the years from 1885 until his death in 1919 at Sagamore Hill. Known as the "Summer White House," his home is now open to the public at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.
Finish out your day at Fire Island National Seashore, about an hour away on the south shore of Long Island. The pristine seashore is home to high sand dunes, endless waves, ancient maritime forests, and abundant wildlife.
The New York City area offers some of the most exciting parks in America, and they're all within a few hours of each other. Add this Big Apple itinerary to your to-do list, and be sure to share your adventures at FindYourPark.com!
Looking for other opportunities to explore national parks close to U.S. metropolitan areas? Be sure to check out the National Park Foundation’s free Owner’s Guide, Urban Playgrounds.