Beneath the shining lights, crowded streets, and landmark attractions that hallmark NYC is a city rich in culture, preservation, and community. Whether you want to see great works of art or the hidden gardens of the concrete labyrinth, there’s a way to do it sustainably. Here’s how:
Amidst the urban jungle that is New York City, you’ll find hidden community gardens that welcome visitors. Deep in the Bronx is Wave Hill, a 28-acre public garden and cultural center with sweeping views of the Hudson River. By connecting people with nature through education and the arts, Wave Hill blends environmental and social impact for a truly moving experience. Across town on the Lower East Side you will find the highest concentration of community gardens in the country. Visit the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, which has exhibits on the community garden movement and leads a walking tour on Saturdays. Lastly, while you’re taking your obligatory stroll through Central Park, be sure to stop at the Conservatory Garden. This 6-acre garden is just a 25-minute walk from the hostel, with the majority of your jaunt spent in the park itself.
Pro tip: A community share Citibike in front of the hostel is the fastest (and most fun) way to get around.
Green Fact: NYC launched “Operation Green” nearly 50 years ago to help turn abandoned city lots into productive gardens. Today it is the largest body of community gardens in the country.
As the US’s largest melting pot, NYC is a great place to explore other cultures and their influence on NYC and America as a whole, from the streets of Chinatown to the cobblestones of Little Italy. Learn the story of the local Latino population at the Museo Del Barrio, as well as explore Latin art. For something truly unique, pay a visit to where representatives from nearly 200 countries meet to discuss world issues: the United Nations. Its Visitors Center offers guided tours that take you behind-the-scenes of one of the most important organizations for strengthening global ties and promoting peace. After a day of exploring, cook a meal or enjoy activities at HI NYC, and get to know a diverse community of travelers from around the world.
Pro tip: If you’re overwhelmed by all the food options, talk to a staff member at HI NYC and they’ll share their personal favorites.
Green Fact: In 2015 at its global headquarters in New York City, the UN released its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, addressing poverty, equality, peace, and the environment, with the goal of transforming our world by 2030.
Arts & Crafts
What’s great about the arts scene in NYC is that all you need is one subway stop to access an acclaimed museum, tons of art galleries, and to shop for one-of-a-kind treasures to take back home. What’s more is that all these venues are connected by the High Line, a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Get started by arriving at the 8th Avenue/14th Street subway stop via the A, C, E, or L, and you’re just a few blocks from The Whitney, a massive museum devoted to American art, with a focus on living artists. When you get hungry, grab a bite at the nearby Chelsea Market, featuring more than a dozen delicious eateries. Continue your artsy venture by checking out Artists & Fleas for unique collectables that embody the NYC art scene. From there, take a walk to the Chelsea gallery district, located predominately in the 20s Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues. All the galleries are free, and if you’re there on a Thursday evening, you can catch a free wine and cheese opening event.
Pro tip: The Whitney is free every Friday from 7-9:30pm, so plan on arriving right at 7pm and skip the $22 entrance fee.
Green Fact: Supporting local artists promotes an appreciation for local culture and diversity and strengthens the local economy, while posing a minimal environmental impact.
Back in Time
Get a firsthand look at how NYC became the world renowned destination it is today by stepping back in time. Start by visiting the Museum of the City of New York, located at 103rd Street and 5th Avenue, a 25-minute walk from the hostel that takes you through Central Park. The museum celebrates NYC’s heritage and distinct character through diverse and engaging displays. Next, grab the 1, N, or R subway line and head all the way down to the South Ferry – Whitehall Street stop. From there, pick up a Statue Cruise and venture to Ellis Island – the place where more than 12 million immigrants entered America for the first time, with a prime view of the Statue of Liberty. The Immigration Museum will share this iconic location’s fascinating history. For a change of pace, when you return to the mainland, grab the free Staten Island ferry. With a 1950s vibe that never left, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time!
Pro tip: If you don’t want to spend the money to visit Ellis Island, you can still get a good look at the Statue of Liberty from the free Staten Island ferry.
Green Fact: A new building can take up to 80 years to overcome the additional carbon footprint created during construction. It’s a good thing HI NYC is a historic, repurposed building from 1881!
Explore all 5 boroughs in one day without a cab and without getting lost! Just join HI NYC guests for Jerry’s Grand Tour on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Led by a true New Yorker, this tour takes you everywhere, from walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to paying respect at Ground Zero to riding on the Staten Island ferry. On Sundays, discover Harlem like you’ve never seen with the Harlem Gospel Tour, featuring gospel service at a Baptist church. And it wouldn’t be a complete visit to NYC without a bagel! Check out Absolute Bagels on Broadway, just a 10-minute walk from the hostel.
Pro tip: A good pair of sneakers is a must for any trip to NYC – save your stylish footwear for when you’re done sightseeing!
Green Fact: In 2015, 2,629 guests took HI NYC’s 5 Boroughs walking tour. Provided they each walked 3 miles instead of taking a taxi, that’s equivalent to planting 87 trees.
This is part of the HI USA Green Footprints series, offering fun, unique ideas for sustainable travel. Click here for more Green Footprints destinations.