The days may be colder and maddeningly shorter, but there are plenty of fun things to do if you’re an animal lover. For an outdoor adventure, go birding in Riverdale or enjoy off-leash hours with your dog (or other people’s dogs!) in Prospect Park. On chillier days, cozy up indoors with adoptable kitties, pet-themed art exhibits, or a dazzling array of insects. Whether you’re a cat person, dog fanatic, or beetle enthusiast, the city has something for everyone—and it’s all just a train ride away.
1. For bird-watching: Wave Hill, Riverdale
This breathtaking estate overlooks the Hudson River and lies along the Atlantic Flyway migration route, making it ideal for serious bird watchers. Once migration season ends, Wave Hill becomes home to a handful of bird species including Bald Eagles, vibrant crimson cardinals, chatty mockingbirds, and flitty little juncos, a type of sparrow. To help visitors spot these feathered guests, Wave Hill scatters bird feeders around the grounds. A self-guided map of the grounds highlights bird-friendly plants, and on the second Sunday of each month you can take a birding walk with naturalist Gabriel Willow.
17 minute walk or 3 minute rideshare from Riverdale
2. For art lovers: The American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog, Murray Hill
Here you’ll find one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of canine-related fine art and artifacts, boasting more than 1,700 pieces, with at least 300 on display at any time. Highlights include a 30-million-year-old dog fossil and a collection of paintings depicting historical canines like Barney and Miss Beazley, President George W. Bush's Scottish terriers. Interactive experiences help patrons identify breeds and even discover which breed they most resemble. Visitors can even try their hand at training a virtual dog named Molly. "9/11 Remembered: Search and Rescue Dogs," on display through January, explores the history of Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs while paying homage to those who heroically braved the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11.
2 minute walk from Grand Central - 42 Street
3. For butterfly enthusiasts: Long Island Aquarium, Riverhead
Explore a lush Victorian courtyard filled with butterflies from around the world. Be on the lookout for the world’s largest moth, the Atlas, whose vibrant 12-inch wingspan can be seen from its home in the trees. While there, check out the butterfly laboratory and emergence chamber for a rare opportunity to observe butterflies emerging from their chrysalis. Then, if you dare, book a Bug Encounter to meet surprisingly friendly insects like tarantulas and giant beetles. Families making the trek from the city can reward themselves with waterfront views—and a convenient overnight stay—at the pet-friendly East End Hyatt, just steps from the Aquarium and Riverhead station.
14 minute walk or 4 minute rideshare from Riverhead
4. For dog parents (and dog fans)—Prospect Park Dog Beach, Brooklyn
Let your dog roam free—or go cute-dog-watching—at Prospect Park's Dog Beach, which offers year-round off-leash hours, from 6 to 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily. Off-leash hours are also offered in other areas of the park like Long Meadow near Dog Beach and Peninsula Meadow, whose trails overlooking the water can be explored on a hike. Neathermead, another large meadow surrounded by woodlands, will make you feel miles away from the city. Dog parents can let their pup socialize at Kensington Dog Run, open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. This newly opened dog run features 7,000 square feet of fenced-in space for dogs big and small, ample seating for owners, and New York's only canine-friendly turf.
9 minute walk from 15 Street - Prospect Park
5. For feline fans: Koneko cat café, Lower East Side
For a tasty treat with a side of feel-good fuzzies, head downtown to Koneko cat café. There you'll find a Japanese-inspired menu of drinks and desserts like Belgian waffles and savory pancakes called okonomiyaki, plus a revolving exhibit of cat-themed art. The real draw, of course, is the adoptable cats—Koneko partners with rescue agency Anjellicle to find homes for those on the city's at-risk list. To see them, head through the glass doors by the coffee bar to one of the two catteries, cozy spaces where the cats live and play. If weather permits, head outdoors to the catio, a safely enclosed space where the cats roam freely.
6 minute walk from Delancy Street - Essex Street