health | 8 min read

Sober & Fun! Here’s Our List of The Top Sober Activities In New York

Medically Reviewed

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

On November 6, 2023

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On November 6, 2023

What you will learn

  • Think outside the box when it comes to group or social outings. There's so much more to do in NYC than drinking and club life.
  • From recreation and leisure to culture and adventure, the great state of New York has it all.
  • Opportunities abound for sober activities from New York City all the way to the Adirondack mountains.
  • If you or a loved one are struggling with sobriety, Ascendant NY can help. Reach out today.
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Sober Activities In New York

When you’re in recovery, finding alternate sober activities can seem daunting. Fortunately, a state like New York makes it easy. With attractions like visiting the cultural melting pot of New York City and backcountry hiking in the Adirondacks, New York has plenty of sober activities beckoning anybody living there.

Don’t worry–a new sober lifestyle doesn’t have to be boring. Here are fifteen different options for fun things to do besides drinking alcohol in New York:

Eat A Slice of Pizza At The “Original Ray’s Pizza”

A debate almost as old as the city itself is “Which is the original Ray’s Pizza joint?”

In 1959, Ralph Cuomo opened the first “Ray’s Pizza” at 27 Prince Street. But, over the decades that followed, upwards of 40 different pizzerias took some combination of the name “Ray” + “Pizza.” Everybody has a different opinion on which is the best.

With this much debate, you might have to try a signature greasy, crispy crust pizza from everyone to say for yourself which is best. And, honestly, feeling obligated to eat a lot of pizza is really no obligation at all.

Bonus: Try to eat an entire slice without losing any grease on the plate.

Catch A Glimpse of The Headless Horseman In Sleepy Hollow

The first truly American author writing in a distinctly American tradition, Washington Irving popularized the legend of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman set in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

This village actually exists, and you’ll be delighted by its quaint atmosphere and obvious nods to early 19th-century New England life, such as brick buildings and functional water mills.

This village really starts coming to life in autumn, leading up to Halloween. This fun, stimulating atmosphere will help you enjoy your new sober life.

Bonus: Book a walking tour of the cemetery where Washington Irving, Andrew Carnegie, and John Rockefellers are buried.

Spend An Afternoon (or the Whole Weekend) At The Met

The proud distinction of the largest collection of art in a single institution in North America belongs to none other than the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (affectionately called “the Met” by locals).

You couldn’t see every exhibit in an afternoon or even a weekend.

The Met’s collection represents over 5,000 years of human artwork. Recently, they have begun to include Native American Art within Euro-American art departments. Its vast size means that your curiosity can be satisfied for many years to come.

Bonus: Buy a ticket and try to find William, the Museum’s unofficial hippopotamus mascot.

Catch A Baseball Game At Yankee Stadium

Replacing the “House that Ruth Built” in 2009, Yankee Stadium is a grand place to witness one of America’s great pastimes: Baseball.

Bring your jersey, buy some peanuts and cracker jacks, and prepare for the 7th inning stretch because a night here is a night to remember.

There are some especially fun traditions like “Roll Call” and “New York, New York”. While drinks are sold in the stadium, you can fill up on other traditional fare like mounds of loaded nachos and ballpark hotdogs.

Bonus: Get a seat next to the “Bleacher Creatures” near section 203 of the right-field bleachers.

Try To Find The Best Bagel In NYC

Everyone in NYC has an opinion on who’s got the best bagel. Fortunately, most of them are wrong. Just kidding!

NYC is known for its “everything” bagel combinations, including classic cream cheese, smoked salmon, mint jelly, pork rinds, and hot sauce. Depending on where you get it, the sky’s the limit on how customizable they are willing to make it for you.

Remember, once you’ve found the bagel shop you think is the best, there is probably another one out there you haven’t tried yet that might even be better. This could provide a nice focal point to structure your mornings in your new sober lifestyle.

Bonus: Try out Ess-A-Bagel or Sadelle’s for starters.

Hike (or Ski) The Adirondacks

The Adirondacks are America’s hidden adventure gem.

Everyone knows about the Rocky Mountains in the West, but the 5,000 square miles of the Adirondacks squirreled away in upstate New York are a backcountry gem. The highest point in the mountain chain is Mount Marcy at 5344 feet, which puts it higher than Denver. The vertical rise and fall of the peaks rival many in Colorado.

Speaking of Colorado, do you know which state has the most ski areas in the US?

Surprise: It’s New York! New York has almost double the number (52 vs. 32) of ski areas than Colorado and has terrain that anybody from beginner to expert can enjoy.

Hiking and skiing opportunities abound, and plenty of isolated places exist to help you catch some much-needed solitude on your recovery journey. The dopamine release you get from either activity is sure to help, as well.

Bonus: Buy tickets to try snowboarding down Gore Mountain’s steep 2500 ft. vertical descent.

Reflect At The 9/11 Memorial

September 11, 2001, is a date that will forever live in infamy in New York City.

The terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Centers shook NYC to its core but ultimately unified the city as the rebuilding began. Almost 3000 people died, including many NYPD, firefighters, and first responders.

Two giant reflecting pools are situated exactly where each tower used to stand. A list of names of every person killed in 2001 and an earlier attack in 1993 is etched into the metal, into which a cooling system was designed so you can touch these names even in the heat of summer.

In your addiction journey, it’s helpful to take a chance to step outside your own story and into the stories of others. This process of somber reflection may be profoundly sad but also cathartic.

Bonus: You can buy a ticket to the museum on-site or visit the reflecting pools for free.

Catch Your Favorite Musician At Madison Square Garden

New York City has been a destination for great music for many decades.

While countless smaller venues dot the five boroughs, there is perhaps no concert venue like Madison Square Garden. Capable of seating almost 20,000 people, Madison Square Garden is the institutional version of “success.” You’ve made it big time once you headline a show at MSG.

It has hosted musicians like Elvis Presley, John Lennon, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, The Who, U2, Bruce Springsteen, and Taylor Swift. In a society with shrinking space for incidental community, concerts have become one of the few events through which you can have a communal experience.

This feeling of shared connection between you and strangers is a huge boost to your mood state, and the knowledge you’re in the same room with your favorite musician is sure to be a source of strength in your recovery.

Bonus: Even if you can only grab nosebleed seats, MSG will surely be worth it.

Kayak The Finger Lakes

The summertime activities in upstate New York include water-based activities on the eleven Finger Lakes.

These freshwater bodies are surrounded by unbroken countryside that is beautiful every season. You could try swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, or canoeing on the lakes. Each lake has a character all its own, as do the small towns that surround them.

Bonus: Plan a vacation around going to multiple lakes.

Activate “Bookworm Mode” At The New York Public Library

Libraries are one of the rare public spaces where you don’t have to buy anything to use them. These accessible yet “dry” public spaces are invaluable to people on their recovery journeys.

While there are 92 total neighborhood locations, the flagship building of the New York Public Library system on 5th Avenue is the most impressive.

Constructed in 1911, the New York Public Library is the largest marble building ever built in the United States. It has over 56 million items for public use. The grand arching ceiling and the 75 miles of shelving are enough to make anybody find a comfy chair to curl up and read a book.

Bonus: Visit on a rainy day and sit next to a window so you can hear the pitter-patter of rain against the glass.

Visit The Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is the biggest metropolitan zoo in the United States.

There are more than 6,000 species of animals at the Bronx Zoo, so no matter what kind of animal is your favorite, they probably have you covered.

Here, you can have the privilege to get up close and personal with some truly majestic creatures like cheetahs, penguins, sloths, and more. You can learn invaluable conservation information and how you can support existing efforts.

Bonus: Try to glimpse one of the peacocks milling around the public areas.

Improve Your Chess Rankings

You can indulge your “Queen’s Gambit” fantasies in many parks and public spaces across NYC.

Get ready to get schooled in the art of chess because infamous NYC chess hustlers set up shop early in the morning, ready to get down to business as they take tourists to the bank.

If you’re just up for a casual game, you can find that too. You can find games in Washington Park, Central Park, and the New York Public Library.

The best part is that chess is best played sober. You need to leverage all your mental faculties to beat your opponent.

Bonus: Know how to use a chess clock before you start playing.

Catch The Upstate Autumn Foliage

The fall foliage of New York is hard to beat.

You can drive upstate in autumn from late September to early November to catch peak leaf colors. New England foliage boasts vibrant shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown leaves. Ah-mazing!

Combining those leaves with the crisp fall air with a warm cup of coffee in your hands sounds like pure tranquility. These moments of serenity are invaluable moments of repose on your recovery journey. Take them as often as possible.

Reward yourself for little victories. Celebrate every new sober day.

Bonus: Take autumn “snowman” pictures in giant piles of leaves.

Visit One of The Many Emerging Zero-Proof Bars

There is a growing sober-curious movement in the United States, especially in New York City.

Sober-curious people aren’t necessarily against alcohol use, but rather, some are interested in holding off for a night without sacrificing a fun atmosphere. Many zero-proof establishments spread over the five boroughs mix inventive zero-alcohol beverages that are still fun to drink.

They are a social space that doesn’t require buying alcohol to stay there.

Before you go to a zero-proof bar, you must know what you can handle. Don’t attend one of the smells and atmosphere will trigger a relapse to drinking real alcohol. Maintain active communication with anybody with you, and set clear boundaries and expectations before you go.

Bonus: Try the HEKATE CAFÉ & ELIXIR LOUNGE or Absence of Proof.

Visit Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty

More than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954.

These National Historic Landmarks are living testaments to the perilous journeys many immigrants took to imagine a better future for themselves and their families.

The Statue of Liberty welcomed them all to the United States; now, it’s even a UNESCO World Heritage site. The poem at the pedestal by Emma Lazarus reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” These are powerful words.

One cheap ferry ride is all that separates you from one of the most cherished symbols in American iconography. It’s a humbling experience to walk the halls of the place where so many immigration stories began.

Bonus: Schedule tickets in advance to visit the crown of the Statue of Liberty

Need Help Getting Sober? Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Solutions

Drinking too much can devastate you personally, professionally, socially, emotionally, and physically. Even moderate drinking can cause health complications.

When you’re using alcohol to cope with stress or anxiety or taking more of it to avoid withdrawal effects, you might have an addiction. Consult a licensed doctor to diagnose you as soon as possible.

If you do have an addiction, Ascendent NY is here to help.

We offer various alcohol addiction treatment programs, such as residential and outpatient care. Our evidence-based treatment modalities are meant to give you the tools to maintain sobriety and have a successful recovery journey.

Our staff are compassionate, supportive, and committed experts in treating alcohol addiction. Call today to begin your journey to healing and sobriety.

Keep Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

A sober lifestyle isn’t always easy. Sometimes, you’ll wish you could be having fun like before.

But, for every valley, there is a mountain peak nearby. While you will doubt your decision to be sober in some small moments, you’ll have many moments when you’re confident you made the right choice.

Keep your chin up. Stay hopeful. And remember: What is in front of you is nothing compared to what lies inside you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sober Activities In New York

Can You Have Fun Without Alcohol?

Yes. There are plenty of activities and events that can satisfy your penchant for fun without the use of alcohol.

Make sure you hang out with friends who support your new sober boundaries and lifestyle. You’ll probably have to do a little more planning than you did in the past to ensure you don’t end up somewhere with your friends where the only thing to do is drink.

Are There Places in New York City I Don’t Have to Drink?

Yes. There are plenty of parks and libraries where drinking is not actively encouraged.

Furthermore, there are emerging “sober bars” in which different varieties of zero-proof alcohol are served to patrons. Nobody has to feel left out of the fun around them because everybody is sober! Many people at sober bars aren’t actually abstinent from alcohol but rather want to take a night off of drinking while still having fun.

How Do I Vibe Without Alcohol?

You can still make jokes and sip on zero-proof alcohol. Your life doesn’t stop just because you don’t drink anymore. You’ll actually experience that you will get more out of your small daily interactions and pleasures of life when alcohol’s buzz or withdrawal symptoms are not present.

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