Illustration of the New York City skyline.
Go out and stay safe this spring in New York City. (Illustration by Julie Chow, University of California, Berkeley)

7 Ideal Locations for Socially Distanced Spring Activities in New York City

Winter has ended but the pandemic is still present across the country. These NYC spots make for the perfect COVID-19-safe activities.

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Illustration of the New York City skyline.
Go out and stay safe this spring in New York City. (Illustration by Julie Chow, University of California, Berkeley)

Winter has ended but the pandemic is still present across the country. These NYC spots make for the perfect COVID-19-safe activities.

Spring forward into spring knowing that the weather is nice, the flowers are blooming and summer is just around the corner. Except … we’re in a pandemic. It can be hard to figure out what we can and should be doing during this time that doesn’t create a safety risk. It’s important to note, however, that despite the safety precautions we will have to take this spring to keep each other and our cities safe, we can still have fun things to do to pass the time and enjoy the new season. So, here’s a list of things that we can do in New York City this spring that’s COVID-19 safe.

1. Carl Schurz Park at East 86th Street &, East End Ave

We all know Central Park is the place to be as soon as the weather gets nice. You grab a blanket, a few friends and lay out for a picnic just to enjoy the sun in the city’s most popular park. But if you travel just nine minutes east you’ll end up in Yorkville — a neighborhood on the east side of Manhattan — and stumble upon this hidden gem.

Not many talk about this park because it’s right at the edge of the East River, but its seclusion makes it the perfect getaway spot to enjoy nature in the city. If you’re worried about being flocked by the crowds in the more well-known parks, the beautiful foliage of Carl Schurz Park makes the space seem almost private. Since it was technically a part of an estate during the Revolutionary War, it makes sense.

In 1910, the park was named after the German-born secretary of the interior from 1877 to 1881. It was redesigned in 1939 to conceal the East River Drive underpass that was carved out below the property along the river. Aside from its history, it’s also right across the street from Anita’s gelato shop, so if you get hungry, you can just walk over there for a snack.

2. Skyline Drive-in NYC at 1 Oak St, Brooklyn

New York City is known for its public transportation so it’s rare to find any spots that don’t require hard-to-find street parking or overpriced underground garages. Skyline Drive-in, however, is the perfect place for car owners to park and enjoy a nighttime movie from the comfort of their own vehicle.

Located in Greenpoint, it serves as the newest and only drive-in theater in the city. Notably, it’s more expensive than typical drive-ins, starting at $55 per passenger (up to seven passengers per car) and $34.99 per motorcycle, but it’s definitely an event to splurge on — especially now that they’ve opened up single outdoor seating starting at $22, which is more reasonable since many of us don’t own cars anyway and it allows more people to enjoy a classic film outdoors. (Besides, $22 is about as much as it costs to go to the theater in Manhattan anyway). Moreover, it gives a beautiful view of the New York City skyline and it’s the perfect social distancing activity.

3. The Color Factory at 251 Spring St, New York

The Ice Cream Factory sells ice cream, Olfactory sells perfume, but have you heard of The Color Factory? This art exhibit is a participatory experience that allows you to interact with the installations by jumping in a colorful ball pit, taking a colorful pin off the wall or spinning on a color circle. Inspired by the colors and experiences of New York, the color factory is the perfect place for an interactive experience indoors. It’s bright, creative and, of course, colorful!

Perfect for photos, and when you book your tickets online, they have a list of rules and guidelines on how to stay COVID-19 safe. There’s also one located in Houston and another in San Francisco with their own color theme-inspired rooms, so if you have any friends from there, let them know! Tickets are $38 for adults and $28 for kids.

4. Hex & Company East at 2871 Broadway or 1462 1st Avenue (@ 76th)

As someone who loves a quiet place to sit and read, cafes are my favorite places to be when the weather gets nice. But Hex & Co isn’t just your average coffee shop. Located on the Upper West Side, this board game cafe is the perfect way to spend an afternoon with friends. As Manhattan’s largest board game cafe, they probably have every board game, card game or dice game you can think of. They serve food and drinks and it’s only $10 to sit and play inside. Some games are even available for purchase!

Though the space can be kind of small, they temperature check before you enter and you have to wear a mask while inside. But if we’re comparing, you’ll have to also check out The Uncommons board game cafe in Greenwich Village to see which one is better for you.

5. Cafe Con Libros at 724 Prospect Pl, Brooklyn

So many bookshops have unfortunately closed down this year due to the pandemic. But with Strand as the best (and more popular) new, used and rare bookshop in the city, it might be worth it to move out of Manhattan and take a trip to Brooklyn to check out this independent bookshop. It’s the only intersectional feminist indie bookstore and coffee shop in New York that’s also Afro-Latinx owned. With 90% of books written for women by women who range across the diaspora, it’s definitely worth a look.

Located in Crown Heights, it’s the perfect space to go pick out a book, sit for a conversation on literature, or attend a book reading event. Though, if you can’t make it to the shop itself, that’s perfectly okay because they also have an online website so you can still buy their books as well as have opportunities to tune into their events via Zoom.

6. Watermark Bar and Grill at Pier 15 | 78 South Street,

Springtime in the city is the perfect time to discover new places to eat, but with restaurants and shops mainly doing takeout, it can be hard to find a place to sit. Fortunately, some places have special greenhouse seating and Watermark Bar and Grill is located on the pier. With heated greenhouses, this restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a meal while socially distanced and enjoying a scenic view. It’s typically first come, first serve for the rooftop seating but you can call to make a reservation to ensure you find a spot. They’re especially known for their s’mores kit so grab a friend, head out to the pier and spend your evening waterfront dining.

7. The Hole at 312 Bowery, New York

New York City is known for its museums, art and creativity — and The Hole art gallery does not disappoint. Specializing in contemporary art, these artists hone in on our sense of touch, as you’re allowed to touch every fuzzy or raised sculpture there is in the gallery (though be mindful, we still are in a pandemic). Still, a museum is the best place to maintain social distancing regulations as you walk around wide spaces and admire the art. The exhibits change twice a month and the gallery is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. With the intention of promoting up-and-coming artists, this is the perfect place to discover new art and the best part is, it’s completely free.

Fun in the Sun Affects Our Mood

Honestly, we should look forward to the spring weather. The cold weather kept us in our homes and we could really use the vitamin D, not to mention the sunnier seasons can really increase your mood. Seasonal depression has increased this year due to the pandemic along with anxiety and mental illness. Getting outside, maintaining social connections with people within your circle, and doing fun activities can help combat this and make this hard time more bearable. We may not be able to do everything the way we wanted to this spring but that doesn’t mean we can’t adapt to make sure we increase positive mental health and enjoy the spaces our city has to help with that.


Writer Profile

Arianna Taylor

University of Rochester
Language Media and Communications

Arianna is from the Bronx and is studying language media and communications. You can find her watching "Avengers Endgame" (again), reading about happily-ever-afters and writing short fiction stories. She’s here to try something new.

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