The New York City air is feeling less and less like a damp blanket, but there are still a few more weeks to soak up the last rays of the August sun — and enjoy all the outdoor art that the five boroughs have to offer. From a riverside walk to a peaceful sculpture garden to a historical plant tour, these city-wide art installations, outings, and activities are the perfect way to take advantage of the fair-weathered end of a scorching summer.

“Penetrable” at the Hispanic Society Museum and Library

In the northern reaches of Manhattan, the Hispanic Society Museum and Library in Morningside Heights is open again after over five years of renovations, a two-month labor strike, and a June union win for its workers. Outside its entrance, the museum is showcasing a spectacular 1990 sculptural work by Jesús Rafael Soto in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the Venezuelan Kinetic artist’s birth. The immersive 42-foot installation comprises an aluminum and steel frame draped with golden plastic hoses that visitors are invited to walk through, activating the artwork. Nearby, the museum is also exhibiting Marta Chilindron’s “Orange Cube 48” (2023).

Hispanic Society Museum and Library
613 West 155th Street, Morningside Heights, Manhattan
Through 2026

Phyllida Barlow, PRANK (2022–2023) (photo by Asya Gorovits, courtesy Public Art Fund)

PRANK at City Hall Park

Sculptor Phyllida Barlow left behind a massive legacy when she died this year at the age of 78. Her oeuvre features what the artist called “nonmonumental” works, which she often created using everyday materials such as plywood and styrofoam. At City Hall Park at the Southern tip of Manhattan, a series of sculptures titled PRANK (2022–2023) highlights some of Barlow’s best work — and some of the last pieces she created before she passed away. The sculptor stacked replicas of furniture in precarious piles and decorated them with her famous bunny ears.

City Hall Park
Broadway and Chambers Streets, Civic Center, Manhattan
Through November 2026

Guided Garden Walk at the Met Cloisters

The Met Cloisters is perched above the Hudson River in Fort Tyron Park and offers astounding views of the river and the New Jersey palisades on the opposite shore. From 11am to 12pm each day, the museum offers a guided garden stroll, free with the price of admission. The gardens themselves are located in the museum’s meticulously reconstructed courtyards of Romanesque and Gothic monasteries and cloisters. The museum has planted its flora with historical accuracy, too: Visitors will learn about the plants Medieval people used for medicine, magic, and art.

The Met Cloisters
99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort George, Manhattan
Through July 1, 2024

Helen Draves, “Hope” (2023) (photo Rudy Bravo, courtesy Art Students League)

“Hope” and “LIFE DANCE” at Riverside Park

In a clever reflection on community healing, pandemic-era surgical masks transform into ceramic birds that escape sky-bound from a sculpture’s frame in Helen Draves’s “Hope” (2023). The work is one of two installations that comprise this year’s edition of the Art Students League’s Works in Public at Riverside Park South. Visitors can stroll along the Hudson while taking in “Hope” as well as Susan Markowitz Meredith’s “LIFE DANCE” (2023), both optimistic commentaries on interpersonal and community care.

Riverside Park South
59th Street Entrance, West Side, Manhattan
Through July 1, 2024

“My Neighbor’s Garden” at Madison Square Park

With the help of her Brooklyn community, artist Sheila Pepe has literally crocheted a web around Manhattan’s Madison Square Park. She created stretches of colorful woven strands with materials ranging from rubber bands to shoelaces, which she then wrapped around lampposts and draped under tree canopies. Pepe’s artistic practice has long-centered crochet, but “My Neighbor’s Garden” (2023) is the artist’s first outdoor installation. It’s also hyper-site-specific, lending the urban green space a whimsical, fairytale quality.

Madison Square Park
11 Madison Avenue, Nomad, Manhattan
Through December 10

The interior of “Sankofa” (2023) (photo by Anna Dave, courtesy Jerome Haferd and Brandt Haferd)

“Sankofa” at Marcus Garvey Park

In Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park, artist and architect Jerome Haferd’s “Sankofa” (2023) has transformed a patch of grass into a reflection of the neighborhood. Visitors can sit on the benches underneath the work’s canopy and gaze at its interior imagery: illustrations celebrating the histories and futures of African, Afro-Caribbean, and Indigenous communities and the Harlem neighborhood itself.

Marcus Garvey Park
East 120th Street and Madison Avenue, Harlem, Manhattan
Through July 1, 2024

Pond Blossoms and Watching Over You at Morningside Park Pond

After launching a community petition earlier this year, Harlem residents secured a victory in June when the city’s parks department and Columbia University agreed to partner to clean up the algae-filled pond in Morningside Park. Now, Elizabeth Knowles and Eric Laxman’s “Pond Blossoms” and Simon Rigg’s “Watching Over You,” two new public installations, are on view through November. They comprise three floating sculptures shaped like flowers and a ceramic kimono that looks out over the pond from underneath the whimsical branches of a willow tree.

Morningside Park Pond
113th Street, Harlem, Manhattan
Through November 12

The Sculpture Garden at the Noguchi Museum

The sculpture garden at the Noguchi Museum (© The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS); photo by Nicholas Knight, courtesy Noguchi Museum)

The Noguchi Museum’s sculpture garden is one of New York City’s most peaceful oases. Noguchi himself arranged the garden in the early 1980s. Occasionally a plant will be replaced or a sculpture will be removed for repair, but for the most part, the idyllic garden exists just as the Japanese-American artist intended. It’s a tranquil and inspiring space to read, draw, meditate, or simply sit with nature and art.

The Noguchi Museum
9-01 33rd Road, Long Island City, Queens
Wednesday through Sunday, 11am to 6pm

The Sculpture Park at Pratt Institute

Across its 25-acre Brooklyn campus, the Pratt Institute displays a revolving collection of around 60 mostly large-scale sculptures. Many of them are exhibited for years at a time. The park features works by artists including Martha Walker, Mark di Suvero, and Santiago Calatrava with the backdrop of collegial brick buildings and manicured lawns.

Pratt Sculpture Park
200 Willoughby Avenue, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Natsuki Takauji, “The Heart of the Tree” (2023) (photo courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden and AnkhLave Arts Alliance)

Branching Out: Trees as Community Hosts at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden near Prospect Park, six site-specific installations presented though a collaboration with Ankhlave Arts Alliance are part of a larger initiative paying homage to nature’s tallest plants. The works range from Sherwin Banfield’s tree sculpture “Botanical Boombox: Brooklyn Branch,” bearing speakers that play music by Brooklyn Hip-Hop artists, to Natsuki Takauji’s dress-shaped tree draped with colorful glass tubes. The narrow hoses look like hospital IVs and water an interior planter in a reflection on the cycle of life.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
990 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Through October 22

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.