Your Complete Guide to Staying Active in NYC This Holiday Season

Central Park's maze of winter walkways where you can escape to this holiday season
Central Park's maze of winter walkways where you can escape to this holiday season Anthony Quintano
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If you're heading to NYC for the holidays to visit friends and family, you might be panicking. After all, you're stuck on a tiny island surrounded by asphalt and, if your family is anything like my family, you're surrounded by wonderful people.... just not incredibly active ones.

Still, while you might think the situation is dire, there are actually tons of outdoor options in Manhattan, and if you're willing to cross a few bridges, there are even more just a short bike or subway ride away. If the weather really isn't cooperating, there are still some rad indoor spots where you'll feel right at home with an outdoorsy crowd.

Surviving the holidays can be brutal, no matter how awesome your family and friends are, so remember to take time out for yourself, get outside, and re-energize with one, or more, of the suggestions from our NYC guide to active escapes.

If you promised quality family time...

Winter running at Central Park
Winter running at Central Park Franklin Heijnen

Central Park for a walk, jog, or ride is a classic for a reason—especially if your family loves watching Home Alone over the holidays. Consider it an educational tour to bring them to different sites in the park. There's also ice skating (much less busy that Rockefeller Center, though still packed on weekends) and plenty of festive fun to be had. It's the sneakiest, easiest way to convince your friends or relatives to get outside and get moving.

But, if you have a full day and some friends up for an adventure, head to Brooklyn Bridge Park over in Williamsburg. It's less crowded, but there will still be plenty of holiday cheer (and potentially even some outdoor fitness classes you can hop into!).

After a walk along the promenade by the water, hit up the Williamsburg Diner for a hipster-cool brunch (order blueberry pancakes and a mimosa, thank me later) and walk it off by crossing back into Manhattan via the iconic Williamsburg Bridge—or head to some of the cool shops in the hipster section of town for a bevy of vintage boutiques. Again, you're sneaking in fitness with an epic hike, but convincing friends that you're really just in search of the perfect vintage clutch. Or, if your crowd is a bit more raucous, walk over to Brooklyn Brewery for a tour or a beer before you head back.

If you need a break to clear your mind...

Get back to nature by taking the subway out to Queens for some trail running or mountain biking in Cunningham Park , IMBA's greatest contribution to the furthering of a NYC mountain bike culture. With well-marked trails ranging from beginner to advanced, you won't take too long to get through most of them, but it will take long enough that you'll regain some of your sanity!

Seriously, just a tiny break...

If you're close to uptown, aim for Riverside Park and run in relative peace along the cobblestones all the way up to Inwood Hills Park , where you can hop on some fantastic twisting trails that will make you forget that you're in the city (or forget about that fight you just had with your sister. No judgment.)

If you have a car...

If you have a car, there's nothing better than a quick trip to Bear Mountain State Park
If you have a car, there's nothing better than a quick trip to Bear Mountain State Park https://www.flickr.com/photos/akasped/

Get away for the day by aiming north to check out some of the quieter parks in NYC, like Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain for a day of hiking, even on part of the famous Appalachian Trail. If it snows, both parks have excellent snowshoe potential. Although, if you're really into winter sports and December brings enough cold, you can head up to the Catskills for some actual skiing, of both the downhill and cross-country varieties.

If the weather is seriously gnarly...

Get climbing! Not up the walls in your tiny apartment rental, but in one of the sweet climbing gyms handily located throughout Manhattan and in Queens. Personal favorite? Chelsea Piers . It's a bit pricier (about $50 for a day pass) but the facilities are unparalleled and in addition to climbing, you can do pretty much every sport known to man (including a simulated surfing class!). There's nothing like getting sweaty on a tough 5.8 bouldering problem to remind you that family life isn't that bad.

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