Being in the city for too long can cause you to forget certain things, like the look of wide open spaces and the sounds of wildlife. Remind your family of the beauty of the natural world without leaving the five boroughs with a visit to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. That’s right, there’s a wildlife refuge in New York City complete with salt marshes, brackish and freshwater ponds, forests and fields, and no fewer than 330 species of birds, and all it takes to experience it is a trip out to Queens. So gather the kids, slip on some rugged walking shoes, and get ready for a wild adventure. Start at the Visitor Contact Station, where you can pick up your required hiking permits and browse exhibits that highlight Jamaica Bay’s diverse plant and animal life. Then hit the trails, either on your own or as part of a ranger-led hike. Either way, you’re likely to see plants and animals that are native to the area—but completely foreign in Midtown Manhattan—such as egrets, hawks, turtles, fish, and one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the northeast. What starts as a relaxing walk will become much more as you see the excitement on your kids’ faces when they spot a deer for the first time, or wave to Coley, the park’s resident osprey, who lives in a nest visible from the hiking trail. The park closes at sunset, so it’s best to head to the exit once you start seeing the sun sink on the horizon. Your kids will have plenty of stories to share as you make your way back to “civilization.”

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