Brooklyn's about as urban a place as exists in America, but you can find ten ways to exercise outdoors in Brooklyn: bike, run, swim, sail, horseback ride golf, skate, ski and more.
There are 150 public tennis courts in Brooklyn, ten public bocce courts, eight quarter-mile public jogging tracks, and four public Olympic-size pools (with another likely to be renovated in McCarren Park). One can find soccer fields in fourteen different parks throughout the borough. And, needless to say, there are plenty of basketball courts, handball courts, and an entire Atlantic Ocean beachfront for swimmers and runners.
1. Where to Bike, Run, Swim, Kayak, Sail, Golf, Ride a Horse, Skate, Ski and More
Brooklyn has its own version of the "great outdoors." Brooklyn has two horseback riding venues, a kayak and canoe club on the shores of Jamaica Bay, day sailing and fishing in Sheepshead Bay, not to mention an award-winning skateboard park in Bay Ridge, and, when it snows, cross-country skiing in several of large parks. In addition, there are two 18-hole golf courses in Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights.
The following lists ten great ways to get some exercise outside in Brooklyn. There's something for everyone, from athletes who take their sports training seriously, to couch potatoes on a self-improvement mission. Some activities are as free as fresh air; others, such as horseback riding and golf involve fees.
2. Bike in Brooklyn
Brooklyn is biking heaven. Favorite routes include:
- Across the Brooklyn Bridge
- The 3.1 mile loop in Prospect Park
- Along Ocean Parkway to Coney Island
- From Red Hook to Prospect Park
New bike lanes are frequently being created as part of New York City's exciting Greenway Planning.
For an up-to-date map of Brooklyn's bike routes, check NYCBikeMaps.com.
Cycling events are also organized by Transportation Alternatives.
3. Cross-Country Ski in Brooklyn
When there’s a good snow dump, just strap on those cross-country skis and head toward any major Brooklyn park. Favorites include:
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Fort Greene Park
- Marine Park
- Prospect Park
- Red Hook Recreational Area
(There are no official facilities or equipment rental businesses.)
4. Golf in Brooklyn
Enjoy golf at one of Brooklyn's two golf courses.
Dyker Beach Golf Course
86th Street & Seventh Avenue
One of the few public golf courses in New York City, this peaceful, eighteen-hole, seventy-one par golf course in Bensonhurst is open daily. You can rent clubs and carts, and even get a lesson from the on-site pro. From some holes you can get great views of the Verrazano Bridge.
Brooklyn’s largest full-length golf course, Marine Park Golf Course is a nineteen-hole, 210-acre course. Experienced golfers report that because it’s near the water, this course can be windy, adding to the challenge.
Anytime there's a decent snowfall, kids head to Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park for sledding. You can find good sledding hills in Prospect Park's Long Meadow, and behind the Picnic House. Eight great sledding hills.
What about ice skating? Enjoy Brooklyn's renovated skating rink, formerly known as Wollman Rink, after the 2011 season in a beautiful year-round facility called Lakeside.
Wollman Rink at Lakeside in Prospect Park
Parkside Avenue in Prospect Park
The New York Marathon is an annual event, of course, that runs through Brooklyn.Year-round, runners can find long or short distance running events in many Brooklyn parks, and enjoy a half-dozen quarter-mile running tracks (some of Mondo, some of rubber) at McCarren Park, Red Hook Recreation Center and Leon S. Kaiser Playground, among other locations.
Yes, it’s possible to sail, canoe, kayak and even pedal boat in Brooklyn.
Sebago Canoe Club
Avenue N and Paerdegat Avenue North
For an annual fee of about $100, members of the seventy-year-old private Sebago Canoe Club store their kayaks and canoes for trips out into Jamaica Bay, a nature preserve. There are instructional programs in sea kayaking, sailing, and flatwater racing. Every season, several events are open to the public.
Miramar Yacht Club and Sailing School
3050 Emmons Avenue
Miramar’s fleet of Ensigns, a one-design sailboat class, races regularly out of this club along with its larger sailboats, which compete with neighboring Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club.
Renting a pedal boat is the best way to explore Brooklyn’s only lake, a 60-acre beauty in Prospect Park that otherwise is off-limits for both boats and swimming. The pedal boats may be rented from early May through mid-October.
8. Ride a Horse in Brooklyn
It may seem incongruous to ride a horse in the urban epicenter of Brooklyn, but the borough is home to two stables.
E. Eighth Street and Caton Place near Park Circle–Coney Island Avenue
Kensington Stables claims to be "New York City's friendliest, most accessible, and most affordable riding stable." It is located near to Prospect Park, so riders often take the 3.5-mile bridle path through Prospect Park.
Jamaica Bay Riding Academy
7000 Shore Parkway
Explore wonderful trails through three hundred acres of bird-watching country, including three miles along the beaches of Jamaica Bay.
9. Swim in an Olympic-Length Pool in Brooklyn
Brooklyn boasts four outdoors, public, Olympic-size pools. All are open in the summer months. These are huge, WPA-era swimming pools, built during the Depression. All four facilities have children’s pools as well. Opening times vary. Special early and late hours are often made available for lap-only swimmers.
Olympic-size Outdoor Pools in Brooklyn
- Betsy Head, Boyland, Livonia & Dumont Avenues, 718- 965-6581
- Kosciuszko Street Park Pool, Kosciusko between Marcy and Dekalb Avenues, 718- 622-527
- Red Hook Park Pool Bay and Henry Streets, 718- 722-3211
- Sunset Park Pool, Seventh Avenue between 41st & 44th Streets 718- 965-6578
These are not Brooklyn's only pools. Additional intermediate and small pools are listed on New York City Park Department swimming pool website.
Plus, there are numerous indoor, intermediate and small-sized private pools in schools, colleges, YMCAs, churches and synagogues.
In addition, swimmers go to the Atlantic Ocean at the beach on Coney Island, and adjacent to the seaside neighborhoods of Brighton and Manhattan Beach. Caution is advised to swim only when lifeguards are present; there are drownings every year due to rip tides.
10. Play Tennis on a Public Court in Brooklyn
Brooklyn has extensive tennis facilities. Indeed there are 150 outdoor public tennis courts in Brooklyn. (In addition, Brooklyn has many private tennis facilities.
11. Skateboard in a Skate Park
Millennium Skate Park in Owl’s Head Park in Brooklyn
Colonial Road between 68th Street & Wakeman Place in Owl's Head Park
Once rated "best skate park" by New York magazine, Millennium attracts skateboard fans from all over the city. It’s free, of course. It has a six-foot deep 'street bowl,' a barn door-wide concrete "waterfall", plus fun ramps and banks.
Helmets and permit cards are required.
Bike policy: Only BMX bikes are permitted in the skate park.
For more rules, see New York City Park Department information on skateboarding.