Everybody knows New York has an exciting, fast-paced lifestyle – but even the busiest New Yorker needs a break sometimes. There’s no need to hop on a plane and go far away, because NYC has so many parks (big and small) here to help you escape from the concrete jungle.
From famous Central Park to smaller city parks that you’ve never noticed before, these green havens are beautiful places for a bit of outdoor escape. Ready for an adventure? Let’s explore some incredible New York City parks — picnic basket and book in hand.
Best Parks in New York City
1. Central Park
Central Park is a lovely urban park ideal for an afternoon delight in exercising and picnicking in New York City. This beautiful park is situated between the Upper West Side and Upper East Side neighborhoods in Manhattan. It is the fifth-largest park in NYC, covering about 843 acres.
In 1858, the first part of Central Park was opened to the general public. It is still acknowledged as one of the city’s most significant achievements, as workers moved nearly 5 million cubic yards of stone, earth, and topsoil, built 36 bridges and arches, and constructed 11 overpasses. They also planted 500,000 trees, shrubs, and vines. The park’s landscapes were manmade and all built by hand.
Central Park offers a multitude of trails and gardens, including the Shakespeare Garden and the Conservatory Garden. There is also the Central Park Zoo, multiple sports fields and courts, the Wollman Rink for ice skating, children’s playgrounds, horse-drawn carriage rides, and the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields.
Some other landmarks include the Bethesda Fountain and Belvedere Castle, the Alice in Wonderland statue, and public art installations provided by the Central Park Conservancy.
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2. Bryant Park
Bryant Park is a spectacular public park full of greenery and free Wi-Fi for park visitors. It has an area of 9.6 acres and is located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan in New York City. The park is privately managed and ideally situated within walking distance of several of Manhattan’s best attractions.
One of the park’s most popular attractions is its seasonal ice skating rink. From October to March, visitors can rent skates and glide around the rink surrounded by the park’s towering skyscrapers. During the warmer months, Bryant Park offers outdoor events and activities, including movie nights, concerts, and fitness classes.
For those looking to relax, the park offers plenty of cozy seating areas where visitors can enjoy a good book or people-watch. The Bryant Park Reading Room, located just behind the main branch of the New York Public Library, provides free books and a peaceful environment for reading and studying.
Foodies will appreciate the park’s numerous dining options, including the Bryant Park Grill and the seasonal Winter Village, which features over 170 vendors selling food, gifts, and holiday treats.
3. Brooklyn Bridge Park
Right near the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges lies Brooklyn Bridge Park. With a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline, this spot will make you double-take. Brooklyn Bridge Park is more than just some ordinary scenic pathways. There are sports fields to play on, slides to zoom down at playgrounds galore, and art installations like you’ve never seen before.
Movie nights beneath the stars? Sure thing. Live bands playing your favorite tunes? Absolutely. Locals know that the best spot for a view is the quiet Fruit Streets sitting area, just above the park. It can get a little busy during weekdays around lunch, but otherwise, it’s one of the few places for quiet in this busy area of Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy is hosting guided tours of these dreamy gardens – they also provide free yoga and fitness classes so you can relax. Otherwise, if you’d rather explore alone, saunter along the 1.3-mile shoreline of the East River, taking in spectacular vistas of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
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4. Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park can be found in the middle of bustling Greenwich Village, and it’s no surprise that this iconic destination has been delighting local New Yorkers and tourists for over one hundred years. From the gorgeous fountain to its proud arch, it’s a certified hotspot with energy abounding.
You won’t be able to miss the iconic Washington Square Arch (modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris) when you visit Washington Square Park. It was commissioned in 1892 to honor George Washington during his centennial inauguration anniversary. Now, it’s the easiest place to meet someone if you’re catching up in the city.
In the park itself, there’s a dog run, playground, chess tables, and basketball courts. Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit pops up twice a year, so you can check out notable works of art by local artists.
As one of the oldest and most historical parks in New York City, Washington Square Park is bursting with rich and captivating chronicles entwined within this great city. It’s been an integral part of bohemian culture since the ’60s — embodying the never-fading spirit of NYC and its outstanding citizens.
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5. Riverside Park
Check out this glimmering gem. Riverside Park is a true urban treasure sitting along the Hudson River. Walk along a four-mile trail and you’ll be treated to beautiful waterfront views.
Riverside Park has been around since 1875. It’s gone through so many changes and updates since then – now it’s packed with fantastic, fun facilities such as tennis courts, basketball courts, and a skate park that kids love. There are playgrounds, too, making it the perfect place to go with family members or friends of all ages.
The most appealing aspect of Riverside Park has got to be its waterfront views. You can amble along the park’s promenade, and it’ll reward you with panoramas of the Hudson River and New Jersey across the way. There are many places to stop for a picnic or plop down on a bench with a good book. Riverside Park is an ideal place to escape all that city buzz.
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6. Pelham Bay Park
Pelham Bay Park is an absolute oasis in the northeast corner of the Bronx. Did you know it’s the largest city park in New York City? That’s right – at over 2,700 acres, it’s more than three times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park.
Pelham Bay Park is an outdoor lovers’ paradise. For adventurous explorers, there are miles of bridle paths and hiking trails that wind through lush forests and open meadows.
Orchard Beach, aka the Bronx Riviera, is an unexpected stretch of sand along the Long Island sound. In recent years, the city has begin renovation projects to update the promenade and facilities. Even though it’s a bit out of the way, it’s the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day.
Ospreys and foxes live in the park, and there are also plenty of forested areas coupled with open meadows to explore – all filled with beautiful plants, trees, and wildlife. Seriously, it’s an experience unlike any other you’ll have in New York City – visit to see it for yourself.
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7. Astoria Park
Address: 19 St. bet. Astoria Park S. and Ditmars Blvd., NY 11105, USA
Tucked along the East River in the Astoria neighborhood in Queens is another true gem – Astoria Park. It’s one of the best parks in NYC, partly due to its magnificent pool, the largest in the city (and has even hosted Olympic Trials).
Astoria Park is where it’s at. With its excellent position right on the East River and sandwiched between two of New York’s most fascinating bridges – the Triborough Bridge and Hell Gate Bridge, there are simply no better views anywhere in the city. Throughout the year, visitors come to take in the sounds of river life and gaze out at the beautiful chaos of NYC – all while relaxing on a nearby bench.
The Astoria Pool is the most famous in the city, and it was originally built in the 1930s. For Summer 2023, the pool is closed and undergoing renovation. So put this on your list for 2024’s hottest days and come down for a dip.
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8. Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park is a memorial about the late president. This beautiful and grand park does its best to honor his legacy, and it’s one of our favorite places to go for a weekend stroll. This monument is located at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island and was designed by famed 20th-century architect Louis I. Kahn.
There are walking trails, playgrounds, and picnic areas across its 4-acre lawn – this park doesn’t mess around with great outdoor activities. The views across the East River are always nice, too. No matter how much time I spend in the city, it’s always the skyline views that impress me.
The park also offers educational programming and resources for visitors to learn more about the Four Freedoms that FDR advocated: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
9. Prospect Park
Prospect Park is a little paradise tucked away in the middle of Brooklyn, New York City. Local and tourist hearts are won over by its rolling hills, calming canals, and dazzling greenery – no wonder it’s such a beloved icon.
Prospect Park, designed by the team of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (the same folks behind gorgeous Central Park in Manhattan), offers countless fun activities for everyone.
Sports fanatics? You’ll love all their fields and courts. Nature lovers? Take a walk through their gardens and wooded areas and keep an eye out for birds.
Experience Brooklyn’s most magnificent sight – the awesome Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The Garden is packed with more than 50 acres of picturesque gardens and nature-filled spaces. Some of my favorite spots include the tranquil Japanese Garden, the colorful Rose Garden and the springtime bloom along the Cherry Esplanade.
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10. Hudson River Park
Get ready for adventure and find respite from the chaos down at the Hudson River Park, which extends from West 59th Street in Midtown to Battery Park in the Financial District.
What a treat – the second-largest park in Manhattan at 550 acres offers a gorgeous waterfront green space with incredible panoramas of the Hudson River. It’s the perfect place to take a breather away from city life and immerse yourself in nature on Manhattan’s West Side.
Experience the Hudson River Park like a local and enjoy all the recreational activities available. There are plenty of enjoyable things to do – rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the river, head out on an exciting fishing charter, or shoot some hoops at one of the sports courts. Plus, there are kids’ playgrounds for hours of fun.
11. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
Visit Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens — the fourth-largest New York City public park, with 897 acres of adventures just waiting to be had. Have you seen the Unisphere? It’s the world’s biggest globe and was created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
The New York Hall of Science is one of the park’s most significant attractions – giving you access to over 450 interactive exhibits that will entertain and educate you for hours. There’s also the Queens Museum, which contains something you’ve got to see: the Panorama of the City of New York – a scale model copy showing all five boroughs.
The nearby Queens Botanical Garden was created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair and used to be in the park itself, but was moved across the road in 1963 in preparation for the 1964 World’s Fair. If you’re in the area, it’s worth checking out as well.
If you’re a sports fanatic, Flushing Meadows Park is the place to unleash your competitive spirit. They’ve got everything from baseball and soccer fields to tennis courts and basketball courts – plus a skate park for the cool kids.
Even if you’re more into lounging around, Meadow Lake has you covered with fishing and boating rentals to get you out onto the water. It’s the largest fishable lake in the city and you’ll find bluegill, white perch, and a dozen other species.
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12. Union Square Park
If you’re searching for a lively park in the middle of all the action in New York City, you have got to check out Union Square Park. Union Square Park is known for its exciting central plaza, where you can find street performers and farmers’ markets coming alive. With 6 acres of green space, you’ve got plenty of room to wander around and soak up everything this beautiful New York City park offers.
Among the standout things about Union Square Park? It’s jaw-droppingly incredible statues and monuments. Everyone’s heard of the most impressive one – George Washington, standing majestically at the north end. It was crafted way back in 1856 by Henry Kirke Brown — a fitting symbol for this park and its surroundings.
13. The High Line
The High Line is an incredible park of nearly two miles of elevated gardens with lush, green landscapes. Plus, it’s built right on top of a historic old railroad line in Manhattan, so you know it’s one-of-a-kind.
But this spot isn’t just filled with gorgeous views – its intentions to become a cultural center have gone way beyond that. This super cool park has taken NYC by storm.
With around 500 different species of plants and trees, this peaceful oasis will have your stress melting away in no time. Walk through the grounds, check out all the artwork, join some outdoor events, or gather up a few friends for an epic picnic – all while taking in gorgeous views of NYC.
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14. Zuccotti Park
Zuccotti Park was formerly known as Liberty Plaza Park and is a whopping 33,000-square-foot open area in NYC’s Financial District. On the park’s southeast corner is an iron sculpture by master artist Mark di Suvero titled “Joie de Vivre” that towers nearly 70′ tall.
Another highlight of the park is the incredible bronze sculpture called Double Check – which phenomenal artist J. Seward Johnson crafted.
Zuccotii Park is known for food trucks and vendors. Visitors can sample a medley of delicious street food, from falafel and gyros to tacos and sushi. The park’s central location also makes it a convenient spot for grabbing a quick lunch or snack while exploring the surrounding neighborhoods.
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15. Domino Park
Situated along the East River in Brooklyn lies Domino Park, a spot that locals and tourists enjoy. It was created from what used to be the Domino Sugar Refinery, an iconic site that proudly ran for over a hundred years before finally closing its doors in 2004.
You won’t believe all the cool things to do and see at this park today. From taking a leisurely walk along the beautiful esplanade with spectacular Manhattan skyline and Williamsburg Bridge views, to diving right into the incredible public pool that was designed based on an old sugar-refining process, there’s so much to do.
Domino Park’s defining feature has to be the epic refinery smokestacks. Reaching up to 130’+, these smokestacks are a reminder of the site’s history and add some serious personality. You won’t find anything quite like this anywhere else in NYC.
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16. Van Cortlandt Park
Van Cortlandt Park is a sprawling space of over 1,000 acres in the northwest Bronx. It’s the third-largest park in New York City, and it’s full of great outdoor activities – you can golf, explore its storied locales, or revel in its natural beauty.
The lush greens of this park with its rolling hills are such a beautiful sight – Tibbets Brook flowing through it makes it even more magical. So many activities here, too, from playing fields and playgrounds and exploring the forests – you can go hiking, or biking down the trails. What better way to enjoy pleasant spring, summer, or fall days? It’s an unmissable gem for outdoor adventurers.
You can also take the trails and pathways in this park to the Putnam Trail, Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, and even further – there’s a vast network of outdoor recreation right at your fingertips. The park is also where you’ll find the Van Cortlandt House Museum, the oldest building in the Bronx.
17. McCarren Park
McCarren Park in Brooklyn is your go-to if you’re itching to get out and have fun in the sun. Thirty-five acres wide and filled with locals and visitors alike, this park buzzes with activity. Located in the Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods, which are primarily residential. Families often come here for kickball, soccer, basketball, or baseball.
The McCarren Park Pool & Play Center is the place to go when you’re looking to cool off. Summer in the city can lead to sweltering days, and getting away from the shadows of skyscrapers is about the only way to beat the heat. The outdoor pool is always a nice way to refresh.
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18. Tompkins Square Park
Tompkins Square Park is a beautiful 10+ acre neighborhood public park in the Alphabet City portion of the East Village in Manhattan. The park offers play areas, trails to explore, picnic spots, sports facilities – you name it.
Tompkins Square Park was first supposed to be used as a market square, but ended up becoming this incredible community park instead. It opened in 1834 and was named after Daniel D. Tompkins, a former Vice President of the United States.
It features basketball and handball courts, a dog run, a playground, and a popular skate park. The park is also home to public art installations and sculptures, including a statue of former New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden.
During the summer months, the park hosts free performances and festivals, including the annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival and the HOWL! Festival, which celebrates the art and culture of the East Village.
Where to Stay When Visiting Parks in New York City
- The Lucerne Hotel – Searching for a neighborhood that is safe, convenient, and celebrated? Head to the Upper West Side. This area is home to some majorly famous parks – Central Park and Riverside Park are just a few. And when searching for a top-notch place to stay nearby, check out The Lucerne Hotel. With its luxe accommodations (including a fancy workout center and delicious restaurant) and steps away from Central Park bliss, it’s perfect.
- The William Vale – If you’re all about checking out parks other tourists don’t know about, then Brooklyn is the place to be. The borough has many gorgeous parks – Prospect Park, McCarren Park, and Brooklyn Bridge Park, just to name a few. And if you want an excellent place to stay while exploring them, you should check out The William Vale. This luxurious hotel offers a rooftop pool and dining options and is steps away from McCarren Park.
- The Boro Hotel – If you’re dying to explore the diverse beauty of parks that Queens presents, look no further. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and Astoria Park should be on your NYC-park bucket list. The Boro Hotel is the place for pampering yourself if you want to stay in Queens. From modern accommodations with a rooftop bar and a fitness center – you’ll love it here.
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Which parks in NYC are dog-friendly?
New York City is a dog-lovers paradise – there are numerous pup-friendly parks to choose from. Central Park, Prospect Park, Madison Square Park, and Riverside Park are some of the favorites.
Plus, many have particular off-leash areas where your four-legged best friend can make friends and enjoy long runs and wild games with their doggy pals. Just make sure to check out the rules for each park before you head out – happy romping!
What are some family-friendly parks in New York City?
There are so many family-friendly parks in New York City that it’s hard to pick just one. From Central Park and Bryant Park to Washington Square Park, Riverside Park, and Brooklyn Bridge Park – you’ll have much fun exploring these incredible spots. Enjoy playgrounds, picnic areas, sports fields – even bike rentals and outdoor movie screenings during summertime.
Are there park hours or any entrance fees I should be aware of?
Yes, New York City parks have specifically set hours that switch up depending on the time of year. Before you plan a park trip, double-check their specific park hours and fees on their website or give them a call. Plus, some areas (like pools and tennis courts) may even have separate hours and costs- keep an eye out for those too!