By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Off-key buskers and ridiculously tiny dogs aren't all our parks have to offer in the way of entertainment.
CITY CLIMBERS' CLUB533 West 59th Street, 212-974-2250, climbnyc.com Run by and for a friendly and dedicated community of rock climbers, the club boasts over 30 routes under the (sometimes leaky) roof of the West 59th Street Recreation Center. At only $200 a year or $12 a visit, with free gear rental, it's a tiny fraction of the cost of most every other wall in the cityand since it's a Parks facility, that fee includes use of the weight rooms, pools, and basketball courts.
CLAREMONT STABLES175 West 89th Street, 212-724-5100, nycgovparks.org/sub_things_to_do/facilities/af_horseback_riding.html These Central Park stables have been in the same family since the 1930s. You can rent a palomino or an Appaloosa to ride the park's three hilly, secluded trails for $50 an hour. But don't forget, Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx also have miles of bridle paths, and their stables charge only $25 an hour for trail rides.
POE COTTAGEPoe Park, 2460 Grand Concourse, Bronx, 718-881-8900, nycgovparks.org/sub_about/parks_divisions/historic_houses/hh_edgar_allan_poe.html Edgar Allan Poe's last and humblest abode, this green-and-white cottage was built in 1812. Here his cousin and child bride, Virginia, died of tuberculosis, and here he wrote "Annabel Lee." There are only a few sticks of period furniture and some photos, but a spooky spirit pervades the place. ($3 adults; $2 seniors, students, children)
MILLENNIUM SKATE PARKOwl's Head Park, 68th Street and Colonial Road, Brooklyn The largest and most elaborate park of its kind in the area, the imposingly named place provides 14,000 square feet of curved or angled surfaces for eager young wheels, whether bike, board, or blade. Membership: free; knocking out one's teeth on a wicked ollie: priceless.
DOWNTOWN BOATHOUSEPier 26, between Chambers and Canal streets on the Hudson River; Pier 66A, 27th Street and the Hudson River; 72nd Street and the Hudson River; 646-613-0375, downtownboathouse.org In the summer of 2002, 12,000 people took 24,000 kayak trips from one of the three boathouses maintained by the all-volunteer Downtown Boathouse. Boats, life vests, and advice are all absolutely free, and the cheerful folks offer longer guided trips, a youth sailing program, and something called "kayak polo" indoors in winter.
OLD CROTON AQUEDUCT TRAILVan Cortlandt Park, Bronx, nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/virtual_tour/croton_aqueduct The 41-mile-long trail, a national historical landmark, winds from Westchester County to 42nd Street along the path of an aqueduct that conveyed fresh water to New York from 1842 to 1959. Further upstate, it's a 26-mile-long, skinny state park; the Van Cortlandt Park section is thickly wooded and good for hiking and running.
CALLIOPECentral Park, mid-park at 64th Street, 212-879-0244, centralparknyc.org The glossy, hand-carved, antique beastsamong the largest carousel figures in the countryadorning this perennial New York favorite are a reminder of the poor blind mule who powered the original 1870 version. For less than a dollar you'll be whirling to the sweet sounds of a Wurlitzer and the delighted squeals of an army of tots.