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Travel Postcard: 48 hours in New York City for nature lovers

Pedestrians sit in a viewing area on the High Line park in New York, June 12, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Pedestrians sit in a viewing area on the High Line park in New York, June 12, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City has a wild side and it has nothing to do with its honking yellow taxis, towering skyscrapers and celebrity-studded nightclub crowds.

It's about soaring bald eagles, quiet tidal salt marshes and sweet berry brambles thriving along Jamaica Bay, the only wildlife refuge in the U.S. National Park System, to Manhattan, where Central Park is a favorite birding spot, with more than 200 feathered species.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you explore New York City's wild side.

FRIDAY

6 p.m. - Check into your hotel and head for 10th Avenue at 30th Street to the High Line, a mile-long park along what was once abandoned elevated train tracks on Manhattan's West Side. Leave street noise 30 feet below as you walk past wildflowers such as shooting stars, purple prairie clover and rattlesnake master on paths meticulously landscaped to appear untended. Head south, with the Hudson River on your right (http://www.thehighline.org)

7 p.m. - When you reach a gathering of outdoor food vendors on the High Line at 15th Street, settle in at Terroir at the Porch, order a cocktail and watch the sun slide down beyond the river. The seasonal bar offers artisanal wines, craft beers and even root beer, all from New York State.

Move to neighboring Delaney Barbeque's Smokeline to tuck into oak-smoked brisket, pulled pork sandwiches, lamb ribs and vegetarian side dishes cooked with produce from regional farms (http://www.thehighline.org/about/high-line-food)

9 p.m. - No walk on the wild side is complete without a memorable view of the city's lights. Depart the High Line at its southern end, and enjoy a nightcap and 360-degree views at Plunge Rooftop Bar & Lounge at Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC hotel, 18 Ninth Avenue (http://www.www.gansevoorthotelgroup.com)

SATURDAY

9 a.m. - Walk into Central Park at 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Known as the jewel of Manhattan, Central Park is quite a hefty bauble, with more land mass than Monaco. America's first public park serves as a pit stop for millions of migratory birds each year and is home to some 230 bird species including the prothonotary warbler, ruby-crowned kinglet, olive-sided flycatcher and Eastern screech owl (http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/centralpark)

9:30 a.m. - Head to the copper-roofed Loeb Boathouse for brunch while watching rowboats and even a Venetian-style gondola ply the waters known simply as the Lake. (thecentralparkboathouse.com, reservations not accepted).

11:30 a.m. - Take a wild foods foraging tour through Central Park with Wildman Brill (www.wildmanstevebrill.com, reservations required) to find cattails along the Lake that can be cooked like corn-on-the-cob, and pick black raspberries near the outdoor Shakespeare stage. Since Brill's tours take place on alternating summer Saturdays, another option is a walking tour offered by the Central Park Conservancy (http://www.centralparknyc.org/visit/tours/, reservations required)

4 p.m. - Hail a taxi to the 40th Street Pier where kayaks and the cool waters of New York Harbor await. This section of the Hudson River is a tidal estuary, where the Atlantic Ocean's salty water meets fresh run-off from Manhattan Island. Native tribes long ago named the waterway Mahicantuck, which loosely means "river that flows two ways." Depending on tides and currents, and of course your stamina, you can glide past the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.(http://www.nykayak.com/, reservations required)

8 p.m. - Back on dry land, walk to 141 W. 10th Street at Greenwich Avenue for dinner at Bell Book & Candle. Chances are at least one delicious nibble on your plate got its start on the restaurant's rooftop garden, where some two-thirds of the eatery's produce is grown, including more than 70 varieties of herbs, vegetables and fruits that are harvested and lowered by a pulley system to the kitchen (http://bbandcnyc.com/, reservations suggested)

SUNDAY

10 a.m. - Views that inspired an entire art movement - the Hudson River School - are just one draw of Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan. Take the subway (Uptown A train to 190th Street) or the bus (M4 or M98 north to the last stop) and enter the park at Margaret Corbin Drive (http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/forttryonpark)

11 a.m. - Stop for brunch at New Leaf Restaurant, a 1930s cottage and outdoor patio that serves seasonal modern dishes inspired by local green markets, upstate farms and the city's community gardens (http://newleafrestaurant.com/, reservations suggested)

12 p.m. - Stroll some of the miles of pedestrian paths in Fort Tryon Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., whose father was a co-designer of Central Park. Meander through heather and alpine gardens and take in sweeping views of the Palisades, steep cliffs that rise so dramatically from across the Hudson River that they have been declared a National Natural Landmark.

1 p.m. - Step back in time by entering The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art housed in the park in a medieval-looking building, itself considered a treasure. Its 9th to 16th century art collection features the renowned Unicorn Tapestries (http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/visit-the-cloisters)

3 p.m. - Head to lower Manhattan (Downtown A train to Fulton Street)

4:30 p.m. - Relax with an early dinner at Dig Inn at 80 Pine Street, a casual eatery with homey dishes made with local produce, vegetarian-friendly sides and smoothies that hit the spot (http://www.diginn.com/home/, reservations not accepted)

6:30 p.m. - For one last look at the majestic skyline, board a New York Water Taxi Audubon Summer EcoCruise at South Street Seaport's Pier 17, 89 South Street. The 90-minute cruise begins at 7 p.m. and takes riders under the city's famous bridges and past small islands dotted with birds like black-crowned herons, glossy ibis, double-crested cormorants and egrets (http://www.nywatertaxi.com/tours/audubon)

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg,; addition reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Erin Geiger Smith, Joseph Ax and Hilary Russ)

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