Urban Park Rangers
Each weekend the Urban Park Rangers offer exciting Weekend Adventures in a park near you. These programs enable adults and families to experience the natural world in new and unexpected ways. The variety of these activities is as vast as the parks themselves. They include canoeing, fishing, hiking, biking, archery, camping, wildlife viewing, and astronomy, as well as special programs for kids and families. On a Weekend Adventure program you can immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature, discover our city’s diverse culture, and delve into our rich history, all for free. On an Urban Park Ranger program, adventure, discovery, and the natural world are only a few blocks away.
About Weekend Adventures
Be prepared for your Weekend Adventure! Weekend Adventures take place rain or shine, unless otherwise indicated. Some programs require pre-registration and/or require you to provide your own equipment, so be sure to read the listing carefully. Most Weekend Adventures last between 1-2 hours. Don’t forget to:
- Follow all directions provided by your Ranger guide
- Dress for the weather
- Wear good walking shoes or hiking boots
- Wear hat, sunscreen, & insect repellent
- Bring a snack and water
- Bring binoculars, or ask to borrow a pair
- Ask the Ranger if any special equipment is required
Few truly unique experiences compare with being on the open water in New York City. The rhythm of the waves, the sun on your face, and the exhilaration of slicing through the water, all add up to an experience you’ll never forget. Our trained Urban Park Rangers will lead you on canoe adventures that range from the gentle waters of protected lakes, to the challenging open waters of rivers and bays. On an Urban Park Ranger canoe program, you can go from novice to expert in one just one summer!
Most canoe programs are first-come, first-served, but a few require registration due to the level of difficulty. Advanced canoeing programs are for experienced canoers only. Children 8 years old and up are welcome. For registration programs, participants are chosen by lottery. To enter your name in the lottery, visit our Urban Park Rangers Registration page.
- Basic: Great for all skill levels, including children 8 years and older.
- Intermediate: Some experience preferred.
- Advanced: Experience required.
We camp to create lasting memories, connect with the natural world, and bond with our families. Camping affords us the opportunity to unplug from the diversions of everyday life and to laugh and play with our families. The Urban Park Rangers celebrate the tradition of camping throughout the spring and summer, and we look forward to welcoming your family.
Family Camping programs take place in all five boroughs, but space is limited and families are chosen by lottery. To enter your family in the lottery, visit our Urban Park Rangers Registration page. You must supply your own sleeping bag and bedding.
Catch-and-release fishing is a great way to get outdoors and discover nature, just a few blocks from home. Our experienced Rangers teach the ethics of fishing and the ecology of our waterways on every fishing program. You can try to hook a largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, carp or chain pickerel. Whether you chose to grab a simple bamboo pole at a quiet lake, or join more advanced salt water or fly fishing programs, the Rangers have a program that fits your skill level.
Participation in a mandatory safety review lead by a trained Ranger is required. All equipment is provided. All fishing programs are catch and release only and most fishing programs are first-come, first-served. Seining programs, which use nets to catch creatures close to shore, are great for kids of all ages. Families and children ages 8 years and older are welcome to participate in all other fishing programs.
Hiking and Orienteering
Hiking is the ultimate way to enjoy the outdoors and reduce stress. Regardless of the intensity level, it is a great way to burn calories and stay fit. Our Urban Park Ranger hiking guides will introduce you to the hidden gems of New York City and places often off limits to the general public. On our hikes, you may explore nature, discover our City’s rich history and diverse culture, or just unplug form the world to clear your head.
On Nature Exploration Hikes we will discover the plants and animals that inhabit the urban forest. Our Night Hikes are great for families! Fitness Hikes feature less talking and more walking, for those who don’t mind a vigorous two hour hike. Learn how to navigate using a map and compass on our Orienteering programs. Special geo-cache programs teach you how to use a GPS while searching for hidden prizes. Hiking and Orienteering programs feature intensity levels ranging from light (a leisurely stroll on mostly paved paths), moderate (longer, faster paced hikes on rugged terrain), to vigorous (long distance, with hills and rugged terrain). For all hiking programs we recommend wearing comfortable shoes or boots, and packing water and a light snack.
History and Culture
Ice-age glaciers, Native Americans, Dutch traders, British Redcoats, and the Underground Railroad have all left their mark on New York City. Their stories can be found in the names of our streets, our architecture, and our parks. Urban Park Rangers specialize in interpretation of historic turning points, both natural and man-made, in our city’s long history. Fans of military history can explore our city’s role in various conflicts at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park and Queens’ Fort Totten Park. Architecture and the history of the Hudson River are explained at Manhattan’s Little Red Lighthouse and Highbridge Park. Native American culture is celebrated in special programs and lectures throughout the five boroughs and park history programs tell the story of your favorite parks from the past to their future.
Certain popular programs have limited space and require registration.
Kids and Family
We connect children with nature to encourage active exploration of the natural world. Children who spend time outdoors develop strong imaginations and learn to socialize better with others. Urban Park Rangers are role models who encourage children to let their imaginations run wild in a safe, supportive atmosphere.
While most of our programs are family friendly, the programs highlighted here are specifically for young children and families. Whether enjoying a family friendly movie under the stars, freeing your imagination playing in nature, or learning about conservation through eco-crafts, a free Ranger program is the perfect addition to your family’s weekend. All supplies are provided.
Wilderness Survival and Emergency Preparedness
What would you do if you found yourself lost in the woods? Do you know how to build your own shelter, or start a fire without matches? What would you eat and where would you find water? Do you have what it takes to survive in the wild? Our Urban Park Rangers are skilled in the techniques of wilderness survival and emergency preparedness. On these fun, family friendly programs you will learn tips and tricks that will enhance your knowledge of the natural world, and might just save your life. Whether you are preparing for an extended journey through the woods or just want to be more prepared for any situation, a wilderness survival program is perfect for you.
Wilderness survival programs take place in the fall and winter. All programs are family friendly, but are recommended for ages 8 years and older. Wilderness survival programs feature hands-on activities in an outdoor setting. Please dress appropriately for cold weather.
Nature Art and Photography
It has been said that art takes nature as its model. The beauty of nature has inspired many great Americans to create artistic masterpieces. From the wildlife portraits of John James Audubon to the stunning black and white photography of Ansel Adams, nature has been a muse to artist for centuries. Our Urban Park Ranger Art and Photography programs allow you to interpret the natural would through artistic expression, while learning about nature and the environment.
Art programs may include drawing, painting, poetry and nature art projects. All supplies are provided unless otherwise indicated. All art programs are family friendly, but may be challenging for younger children. All Photography programs are for digital cameras and you must provide your own camera, DSLR preferred.
Astronomy and Night Sky Programs
The wonders of the universe are ready to be discovered and New York City parks are the perfect place to stargaze and explore the night sky. Our Urban Park Rangers will be your guides to the solar system, discussing the science, history and folklore of the universe. Astronomy is constantly rated as a favorite science topic for children and is the perfect gateway subject for science education. Learn about the effects of light pollution and discover the best places in NYC for amazing views of the sky. Fall and winter are the best times to observe meteor showers, the phases of the moon, and many planets of the Milky Way.
Astronomy programs feature the use of telescopes and binoculars to observe specific astronomical events. Many programs feature astronomy experts and all equipments is provided. Night Sky programs highlight the history and folklore of the solar system, using the naked eye to locate stars and planets. Programs are best enjoyed on clear nights, so please call ahead if weather conditions are not clear.
Conservation, Restoration, and Stewardship
Get involved! Help keep NYC clean and green. New York City is home to over 29,000 acres of parkland, 600 miles of shoreline, and over 5 million trees, which need your help. From tree plantings and habitat restorations, to composting and cleanups, to wildlife monitoring, there are many ways for New Yorkers to volunteer and improve our City. The Urban Park Rangers partners with MillionTreesNYC, the Natural Resources Group, and other organizations to support initiatives that help improve the health of NYC’s diverse ecosystems and natural areas. Volunteering just a few hours of your time is a generous way to return a gift to our great city.
Volunteer opportunities usually involve manual labor and may not be appropriate for all ages. Some opportunities require pre-registration
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to deer and seals, wildlife viewing opportunities exist year-round in all of our parks and beaches. Wildlife viewing is a perfect activity for any age. Today wildlife viewing is recognized as one of the nation’s fastest growing activities. Our Rangers will guide you to the best wildlife viewing spots in New York City.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique wildlife viewing opportunities during particular seasons. Birding programs are appropriate for all skill levels and beginners are welcome. To enhance your experience we encourage you to bring binoculars and field guides, or ask a Ranger to borrow a pair.