New York is a city of chaos and creation. Every year it draws in the world’s greatest minds, creators, schemers and dreamers. The result of all this dynamic action and competition is never-ending turnover; a city that never stays the same, always surprises and pushes ideas further. With so much going on It’s hard to choose what to focus on, but in our guide you can read about incredibly challenging workout studios like Tone House, daytrips out of town to epic mountain climbing range, the ‘gunks’, unparalleled dining at paleo mecca Hu Kitchen, and inspiring runs from Central Park and across the East River. Plenty to keep you busy in a city that always is.
The James Hotel
The wellness offer at the beautifully minimalist James Hotel in Soho is outstanding: extensive spa services, a local guide for healthy eating, exercising and shopping, and personalised running tours. The 24-hour gym grants 17th-floor city views of Manhattan, just as a reminder of what’s waiting for you when your workouts done. While we’re talking views, up on the rooftop with its scenic backdrop, there’s a plunge pool, urban garden terrace and plenty of company at the lively bar. Manhattan is increasingly bike friendly and with complimentary hire of European-style bikes, you really have no excuse not to get out there and enjoy the wind through your hair.
Hotel gyms don’t get much more spacious, well-equipped and downright beautiful than The London’s 24-hour fitness centre. The wood-floored, natural light-filled space offers lots of room to stretch in between using the generous range of cardio machines, free-weights, and Kinesis Wall – a resistance cable based circuit. The West 54th street location is a great setting off point for some New York adventuring. With The London as your base, you’ll easily knock of some key must-sees like MoMa gallery, Fifth Avenue and Central Park (see our run recommendations). Topping it all off are the beautiful room – once uptown residential apartments and elegantly reworked by interior designer David Collins.
Gansevoort Meetpacking District
If one of your key considerations in a hotel is an outstanding rooftop pool, we unreservedly recommend the Gansevoort, Park Avenue. With views towards the Empire State Building, copious sun lounges, and a retro, decorative tiled floor, the pool is a memorable and highly instagrammable spot for a dip – the sort you’d usually have to queue behind a velvet rope for. The hotel also features an excellent gym and the ‘Exhale’ spa which offers a wide range of head-to-toe therapies, massages and award-winning yoga and fitness classes. A little tip: the hotel provides free chauffeured Porsches around Manhattan on a first-come-first-served basis
If you’re looking for a climbing gym with more routes than you could get through in many months, head to The Cliffs. This diamond in the rough of Long Island City is BIG; take a virtual tour of their 30,000 square foot site to see what we mean. Roughly divided into three large areas, the clean, modern facilities have a wide range of clinics and helpful instructors on hand to guide you whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned climber. The facilities on offer include tightrope set-up, auto-belaying machines, bouldering, lead climbing, top roping and a fully functional gym on the upper level. Membership or day passes are available. A tip if it’s your first visit: download and pre-fill the waiver form to save time.
Lower Manhattan Loop
The bottom district of Manhattan can be neatly carved into a traffic light-free, 16 km (10 mile) run. Starting in Chelsea at the Lincoln Centre (near the beautiful Highline), head south along the river, passing through Tribeca on your way to Battery Park at the island’s tip. Keep hugging the waterfront on FDR Drive through the Lower East Side and East Village until you get to East 23rd Street, which you can take all the way back to your starting point in Chelsea. Keep your eyes open for views of New Jersey, Ground Zero’s Freedom Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and Brooklyn.
Things get intense in the dim, red-lit studio of Tone House. It’s home to what’s been labelled New York’s hardest workout, burning up to 1000 calories per hour. The centre offers professional grade equipment and techniques in effort to “Unleash your inner athlete”. Set to a nightclub soundtrack, with a team and coach style dynamic, clients work to encourage themselves and each other through a full range of explosive and progressive movements, medicine ball routines, lateral jumps, burpees and the like. Escape is not an option when hooked up to their infamous 70-pound resistance harness, the centrepiece of Tone House’s Union Square operation. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Van Cortlandt Park
Trail running in New York City? It is possible. Just head a few minutes north of Manhattan to the Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx for some enjoyable scenic running. Miles of shaded, open trails sit within a historic location that transports you back in time to the last of the verdant native woodlands which once covered New York. Take the 1 train to access the 1,146 acre site which has plenty of good 2.5 mile and 5 km trails and cross country options to choose from as well as a 400 metre running track.
Little Park’s colourful and contemporary menu is vegetable-centric but so inventively creative and on-point that even the most avid meat eaters will be forced to take notice. Located inside TriBeCa’s Smyth Hotel, this classy outfit is the latest venture from Andrew Carmellini, a restaurateur with an impressive track record of multiple New York foodie institutions. Alongside his chef de cuisine, Min Kong, he’s created a seasonal, sustainable, farm-to-table menu that’s exquisite, exciting and delicious. Standouts include the healthy trout salad, beetroot tartare (topped with roe), and portobello mushroom sandwich. With food-share style dishes, it's a great spot for a small group of workout buddies post-session (we recommend 2-3 plates per person).
The Butchers Daughter
The Butcher’s Daughter promises to carve, chop, and fillet your plant-based, non-dairy meal with the care and skill that a butcher gives to meat. This popular Nolita café and juice bar serves up a seasonal menu that will delight omnivores and vegans alike. Sit at the bar and enjoy a Market Greens juice in the bright, airy interior designed by founder Heather Tierney—a fresh take on an old school butcher. There’s breakfast, lunch and dinner too, and if you overindulge on the selection of biodynamic wines, you can pick up a juice cleanse on your way out.
Hu(man) Kitchen wants you to ‘get back to human’ with pre-industrial, pre-agrarian and downright delicious food. The sibling duo behind Hu Kitchen have created a Paleo Mecca on 5th Avenue: it’s unprocessed, gluten-free, non-GMO, and mostly organic. You’ll find an expansive menu full of vegetables, fruit, grass-fed pastured meats, hormone-free chicken, wild seafood, minimal whole grains and nutritious snacks. They even make their own cane sugar-free chocolate (try the Almond Butter & Puffed Quinoa). There’s ample seating upstairs or get it to go and soak up some rays in nearby Union Square Park.
Central Park Reservoir
Jogging around Central Park is one of the best ways to see New York City on foot. But at 10km long, doing the whole thing can be a stretch. Thankfully the Central Park is home to a variety of running routes, and none are more manageable – or scenic – than what locals call ‘the Res’. At just 2.5km from start to finish, the Res is easy enough for most people to run a few times before tiring, but long enough to get the heart rate up. Best of all, it circles the picturesque Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, so you’ll have the best views in the park.
Swerve takes a unique approach to the spin studio formula: team sports. On arrival at the 3500 square foot studio, which is based in the Flatiron district, you’re assigned to a peloton of around 10, tasked with competing against 2 other teams in a series of ‘races’ over 45 minutes. Motivation comes in the form of team scores, measured by the advanced bike hardware, which are flashed on a large screen at the front of the class, alongside each team’s best performer. To save embarrassment – and possibly guilt – individual stats are emailed to you privately after the class. The studio is led by competent instructors, complimentary shoe hire is available, as well as showers and lockers. You can even pre-order a smoothie to pick up post session.
With its no-nonsense, industrial fit-out and approach to fitness, Gotham boxing gym in the West Village has become a hotspot for New York celebrities; from “it” models like Gigi Hadid to human superhero, Hugh Jackman. They, like the ordinary punter, come for the calorie-burning, full-body workouts of boxing, Muay Thai and body conditioning programs. Beginners are welcome and those more experienced also well catered for with the high-intensity routines that are structured like a round of boxing: 3 minutes exercise to 1 minute rest ratio. One-on-one training and, to a lesser extent, group classes are led by owner Rod Pielo, whose rising celebrity may soon eclipse some of his clients.
If you’re on a budget and in a hurry but still want a wholesome lunch, then head to Dig Inn. Founded on the principle that sustainably produced food needn’t cost the earth, Dig Inn’s market-to-table approach delivers seasonal, local produce at a reasonable price. Grab a ‘Marketplate’ (your selection of protein and two sides on a bed of greens or grains) and a cold-pressed juice, and feel good about your food choices. For those on specialty diets, check out their website, which helpfully contains nutritional and allergen information for most of their menu.
Celebrity restaurateur Michael Chernow has created another hit with Seamores. The clean, casual and airy venue partners with ethical fisheries to source sustainable, artisanal seafood for its simple, healthy menu – think fish tacos, super fresh catch of the day, and sweet potato chips replacing standard fries. Backed by an all-star team of industry veterans, Seamores combines Chernow’s passion for fishing with his training at the French Culinary Institute. Praised by the New Yorker for “taking the mystery out of seafood”, it has quickly garnered the attention of Vogue, Zagat, NBC, New York Times and features regularly in Timeout’s ‘best of’ lists, including “Most Instagrammable Food”.
The range of creative, healthy dishes at Dimes is overwhelming in the best sense of the word. With lots of vegetarian options, the menu is overflowing with enticing dishes that combine a wide swathe of ingredients and geographical influences. Black rice, quinoa and other grains, as well as kale, chickpea and acia dishes are enlivened by inventive fusings, parings and stylish culinary design that shakes off the daggy, hippy past of healthy vegetarian food (any carnivores won't be disappointed either; bacon, pork and fish make small appearances). Dish sizes range from quick snacks like stuffed dates, to small plates, salads and large dishes and it’s open for breakfast (try: Strawberry Pitaya Bowl), brunch and dinner.
Located just 90 minutes north of New York City, it’s possible for active day trippers to experience the east coast USA’s greatest climbing area, the Shawangunk Cliffs. Popularly known as The Gunks, the 19 kilometre long and 300 meter high ridge offers incredible views of the pristine, relatively unpopulated forests of the Hudson River Valley. The climbs themselves are easy to access with routes that vary from beginner to elite. It’s a world away from the frenetic, dirty streets of New York City, and that’s reflected in the friendly sociable atmosphere of the area which alleviates the intimidatory aspect for newbies and allows more seasoned climbers to gain some great insider tips. Package trips are also available.
Exceed Physical Culture
Founded in 2010, the award winning Exceed Physical Culture has expanded to three locations: two in Manhattan (Upper East Side and Downtown Tribeca) and one further afield in the Hamptons. The spacious, open gyms are bright, airy and spotless, orbiting around their unique and always varied SUMMIT classes: a 50-minute functional fitness training workout. Expect an intense routine involving medicine balls, skipping ropes, TRX suspension bands, rowing machines, kettle bells and movements like pushups, lunges, planks, overhead presses, squats and deadlifts. Both small classes and personal trainers are available, with attention given to the quality of your form rather than a fixation on reps.
Starting at the top of Central Park, the East River Run can be approached in two ways. The longer, regular route, spans a challenging 25 km (16 miles) taking you over the Triborough bridge to Randall’s island where you’ll then head to Queens and back again. Alternatively, find a spot to cut it short, such as heading back from Randall’s Island before Queens, reducing the run to a more achievable 8.5 km distance. Either approach takes you along the waterfront and grants soul-soaring views of Manhattan, Astoria and the Hell’s Gate Bridge. Facilities-wise, you’ll find find bathrooms and water fountains on Randall’s Island.