Just a Pack | September 16th, 2020 | No comments

Looking for the best parks in NYC?

Ahhhh, New York City. The King of Cities. You can find just about anything you want in New York. But…they don’t call it the “Concrete Jungle” for nothing. Green spaces are at a premium in NYC. Heck, they are a premium even within some of NYC’s famous parks. You won’t find much grass to sit on in Washington Square Park, for instance.

Never fear, there ARE some great green spaces to chill out in in NYC. More every year, it seems. And that’s a very very good thing. Let’s explore some of the best parks in New York, and find the perfect place for you to relax!

The Best Parks in NYC

New York City consists of five boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. So, let’s break down the best parks in New York City by borough, just to make things a bit easier.

Please note – Some of our selections contain affiliate links. These allow us to earn a small percentage every time you make a booking. Using our links enables us to provide all the information found on this site free of charge.

Best Parks in Manhattan

Central Park

explore central park - things to do in new york city

One word that best describes Central Park? We’ll go with iconic.

This is by far the most famous park in NYC. Seen in countless of movies and television shows Central Park is one of the best known landmarks in the entire city. This massive park is an oasis from the constant thrum of the Big Apple, and should be on everyone’s list of places to visit in NYC.

You can spend hours upon hours exploring all the nooks and crannies of Central Park. And once you’re done you can visit one of the numerous museums found in (or in very close proximity) to its borders.

If you want to explore the park with a local guide, while riding bike definitely check out this cool tour!

Central Park: Live Guided Bike Tour

Landmarks You Want to Visit in Central Park 
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Strawberry Fields
  • Bethesda Terrace 
  • The Mall and Literary Walk
  • Belvedere Castle
  • The Conservatory Garden
  • The Loeb Boathouse

For a walking tour of Central Park and its landmarks, check this one out!

New York City: 2.5-Hour Central Park Highlights Walking Tour

Riverside Park

Stretching four lazy miles from 72nd street to 158th streets along the Hudson River, Riverside Park is the largest and perhaps most scenic river park in Manhattan. It’s a great place to go for a run, a walk, or a bike ride on the river.

You’ll also find all manner of recreational facilities in Riverside Park, including a skate park, sports fields, and play grounds. If you’re on the Upper West Side and want to get away from the constant thrum of city life, this is as good a spot as any.

Union Square Park

people shopping at the farmer's market in Union Square NYC

Union Square is a great little park to have a lunch on a nice day in Lower Manhattan. Half pedestrian plaza and half park, all kinds of activities take place daily here. You’ll also find a small play ground for kids if you are exploring Manhattan with the little ones.

From 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays you can find the Union Square Green Market here. It’s a great place to get your hands on locally sourced produce and baked goods. Considering the fact that loads of NYC restaurants stock their kitchen from this market, we reckon it’s a great one to pick up some pristine produce and handmade goodies from.

Across the street from Union Square Park, on 17th between Park Ave. and Broadway sits the largest bookstore in New York City! The flagship Barnes&Noble, which we adore visiting on rainy days (or whenever we get hungry for a new book). If you want something more old school, head to Strand Bookstore. It’s also nearby! So, if you’re a book nerd like we are, go there as too!

Just hop on any of the subway lines that run into Union Square to access this classic NYC park.

The Battery (Formerly Battery Park)

Nestled at the very bottom of the island of Manhattan is the Battery. You will find 25 acres of harbor views, bike paths, some lawns, and an urban garden.

The Battery overlooks New York Harbor, which is home to the the Statue of Liberty. On a clear day you can get a nice view of one of the most iconic statues in the entire world. It’s a great place to bring a packed lunch and soak in the sun, before slipping back into the crowded streets of NYC.

Washington Square Park

 a grey winter day in Washington Square Park, NYC

What Washington Square Park lacks in grassy areas for sitting and picnicking it makes up for with sheer character.

Long gone are the days when desperate teenagers searching for a dime bag flocked to WSP to find shady dealers. Today the park is cleaner and safer, and it’s a great spot to chill out for a bit while navigating Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

If you get lucky there will be a guy sitting at a grand piano on the north side of the park playing classical music with the flair of a trained orchestral performer.

The High-Line

Once an elevated train track, now an urban oasis, the High-Line is one of the most unique parks in NYC. Open from noon to 8:00 pm, if you are on the Lower West Side and need a few moments of peace, you owe it to yourself to stroll the High-Line.

You are likely to see cool art installations and all manner of flowers and urban greenery when exploring along the High-Line.

Best Parks in Brooklyn

Prospect Park

a sunny picnic scene on grassy field in Prospect Park NYC

Prospect Park is OLD, almost as old as Central Park actually. And it was designed by the same person, which is a a cool little tidbit of trivia. Prospect Park is also possibly the loveliest of Brooklyn’s parks…if you don’t mind dodging baby carriages every few steps. We’re just kidding…mostly. There ARE a lot of new families in Prospect Heights and Park Slope, but the park is more than large enough to accommodate the people flocking to it on nice days.

You will find two lakes here, and numerous spots to picnic and chill in the grass on the 520 acres of nature found within the park’s borders. Sports fields and playgrounds are aplenty, as well. 

If you want a really incredible experience, check out Drummers Grove on Sunday afternoons during warmer months. Watch the video below for a sneak peek.

 

McCarren Park

This cozy park in Greenpoint is a great place for a softball game or a weekend picnic. If you are brunching in Williamsburg you can come here and have a seat in the grass for a bit. As a bonus it’s far more local than it is a tourist attraction. So, you’ll see “real New Yorkers” (but really just newly transplanted hipsters) engaged in all manner of lazing around.

Bonus: There is a great running track next door to the park, and some tennis courts available by the automotive high school across the street, as well.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

view of the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park NYC

Offering sweet views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the lower Manhattan skyline this is a wonderful spot to relax in Brooklyn. Come here in the evening for a chance at a beautiful sunset over the city as well.

If you are looking for iconic views to fill up your SD card, this is one of the best parks in New York City to visit.

Domino Park

One of the newer additions to the Brooklyn waterfront development, this park is located on the grounds of the former Domino Sugar factory. If you’re a real New Yorker you will remember this towering building in Williamsburg. Maybe you’ve had nightmares of it, since it always seemed like a great place to film a horror movie.

Anyway, these days the grounds are home to a very nice park (designed by the folks behind the High-Line) where you can read a book on one of the many benches overlooking the East River in peace. Ride your bike here from Greenpoint or Bushwick and hang out, or bring the kids to use the nearby playground.

As a bonus, Domino Park is dog friendly, so you can bring your pup here too!

WNYC Transmitter Park

Another relatively new addition to the Brooklyn waterfront is this small, yet cozy park in Greenpoint. Located at the end of Greenpoint Avenue you can head here (without your dog sadly) to catch some sun, and some river views of Midtown Manhattan.

Marine Park

Many people, including us, think of Prospect Park as the largest park in Brooklyn. In reality, that title goes to the scenic Marine Park in southern Brooklyn, near Sheapshead Bay. You will find 540 acres of protected salt marshes and grassland here, and much more!

Sports enthusiasts will love the park for its golf course, cricket fields, bocce courts, and some baseball diamonds. The park also contains multiple playgrounds, bicycle trails, and a launch site for canoes and kayaks at Gerritsen inlet.

What more can you ask for out of an urban park? It might not be the easiest place to reach from Manhattan if you aren’t driving, but Marine Park is a legit member of the best parks in NYC list.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

a view of a Japanese style gateway in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in New York City

What will you find in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden? Well….52 acres of stunning natural beauty, in the heart of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is truly an oasis.

Among the beautiful gardens you can explore here is an amazing Cherry Blossoms Esplanade which is absolutely breath-taking during the blossom season. You’ll also find a Japanese styled garden, a woodlands garden, and the delectable Shakespeare Garden which features over 80 different examples of plants and flowers mentioned in the Bard’s tales.

If you are visiting this park of Brooklyn for the first time make sure that after you are done walking through Prospect Park you head across the street to pay a visit to this bit or urban beauty.

Admission is free from Tuesday to Friday in December through February, and is always free for kids under the age of 12.

Best Parks in Queens

Astoria Park

view of the Triborough bridge above Astoria Park in NYC

This park offers 60 acres of lawns, fields, and playgrounds all situated along the East River beneath the Triborough and Hell Gate Bridges. You will also find the largest public pool in the city in Astoria Park, for those days when you badly need to cool off and get some of that humid NYC grime off of your skin.

If you live in Astoria you probably visit this park often, and if you don’t then…you should check it out, at least once.

Hunter’s Point South Park

Until recently this park was just a bunch of abandoned warehouses and post apocalyptic industrial wasteland. As recently as the early 2000s you would only go here if you wanted to get mugged.

Today thanks to the dubious joys of gentrification, the park is a beautiful waterfront gem. Just ignore the towering condos and focus on the riverside views of Midtown Manhattan. You’ll also find a dog run, some playgrounds, and adult gym area, and some nice green grass to lay out on. Great for residents of Long Island City looking to take a break from all the concrete, or for anyone biking from Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Kissena Park

This 250 acre park in Flushing used to be one of our favorites when we lived in the area. To this day the park is a shining example of urban greenery.

You will find multiple fields, playgrounds, and chill out areas in Kissena Park. But the real star is the pond/lake, and the beautiful walk you can have around its perimeter.

After you are done exploring or chilling at Kissena you can take the Kissena Park corridor and make your way all the way to Flushing Meadows Park.

Flushing Meadows Park

a view of the Globe in Flushing Meadows Park

Flushing Meadows Park achieved fame by hosting two World Fairs during the 20th century. Even if you haven’t visited NYC you probably recognize the globe (known as the Unisphere) in the picture above. It’s been a landmark in the Big Apple since 1964.

These days Flushing Meadows is a great place to head for a few hours for family picnics, sports activities, play grounds, and everything else that makes NYC parks great. While there you can pay a visit to the next park on our list.

You can also find Citi Field, home of the NY Mets, the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, and the New York Hall of Science in this expansive park.

Queens Botanical Garden

If you live in Queens and you like yourself some beautiful gardens visiting this one is a no-brainer. From a wetlands garden to a cheeky little meadow you can find a wide range of botanical goodness here. And if you are looking for a place to chill and relax this is pretty much a perfect little urban get away.

The Queens Botanical Garden is open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free between November and March, by the way. Take advantage!

Best Parks in the Bronx

Van Cortland Park

With over 1,000 acres of land, Van Cortland is the third largest park in all of New York City. As such it offers a wide variety of activities ranging from a public golf course to dirt bike trails and everything in between.

Wave Hill Park

view of the Hudson and a garden at Wave Hill Park in the Bronx, NYC

This beautiful park can be found in northern Bronx among the expansive estates of the Riverdale neighborhood. Perched overlooking the Hudson River Wave Hill is a stunning park unlike any other in New York City. You’re likely to totally forget you are in the Bronx while you walk over the hills and through the trails you will find nearby. As a bonus you’ll get some impressive views of New Jersey’s rivers side cliffs across the Hudson.

Come in autumn to to see the foliage or, visit in spring for blossoms and blooming beauty. Whenever you decide to visit you’ll find one of NYC’s best parks nestled away in this tiny corner of the Bronx.

Bronx Botanical Garden

The Bronx Botanical Garden is the largest such garden in any city in the entire USA. Over 250 acres of preserved natural beauty can be found within the boundaries of this urban gem.

You and your entire family will find over 50 different gardens on display here, in what amounts to be a living museum, and an ode to the beauty of nature.

Admission is $15 for NYC residents, and free on Wednesdays.

Best Parks in Staten Island

Who cares about Staten Island?

Just kidding…we’re sure there are a few people out there that do. We, however, don’t so if you want to know more about Staten Island’s parks head here.

There you go folks, 22 options for the best parks in NYC. We hope you find some peace and quiet while exploring the greener parts of the Big Apple. Stay safe and healthy, and we’ll see you on the road!

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