New Yorkers love their city parks. Why wouldn’t they. Living in a concrete jungle, the greener pastures of even a small corner block park are an absolute must have for those wanting to escape the towering buildings and busy streets. Especially during the warmer months, when city life can seem all too imposing.
We’ve rounded up our favorite parks of New York City, which range from big, open spaces to smaller neighborhood parks. Whatever your desire, there is sure to be a park that suits your needs. Whether you’re looking for one to take the kids to, or want a nice, quiet respite from the city, we’ve got you covered.
Favorite New York City Parks
Brooklyn Bridge Park
This might be our favorite park in all of New York City. Located in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, and of course right near the Brooklyn Bridge, this 1.3 mile-long park along the waterfront has some of the best views of Manhattan in the city. The setting is spectacular, making you almost feel like you’re on vacation when you’re there.
The iconic Jane’s Carousel is there, with its famous Manhattan back drop in the distance, along with all sorts of other things – green lawns to picnic, fields, playgrounds, a pebble beach, gardens, pathways for walkers, bikers and runners, the list goes on. Brooklyn Bridge Park might be most famous for its Piers, each with its own setting of activities. The New York Water Taxi is located in Pier 1, if you want to access the park that way.
If you want an adventurous park with fabulous views of the city, plus excellent food vendors and nearby dining, Brooklyn Bridge Park checks all the boxes. You can read my dedicated post here.
You can’t talk about New York City parks without mentioning Manhattan’s crown jewel, Central Park! This 843 acre park, located in uptown Manhattan between the Upper West and Upper East sides, is home to hundreds of movie scenes and is one the world’s most recognizable parks. A wilderness within the big city, it’s a nature escape for all those looking for their own piece of oasis beyond the chaos.
Make sure to check out The Ramble, the adventurous 38 acre area comprised of winding trails, pathways and rocks, as well as Sheep’s Meadow, the wide expanse of lawn full of people playing frisbee, picnicking, playing music and sunbathing. Central Park is home to the Central Park Zoo, as well as Victorian Gardens (during the summer months) and Wollman Rink (during the winter months).
Designed by the same landscape architects that did Central Park, Frederick Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, the 526 acre park is to Brooklyn what Central Park is to Manhattan – a wilderness in the big city. Located in Brooklyn’s “forest”, Prospect Park is the ultimate escape for Brooklynites looking for some nature and peace of mind. Like Central Park, there is ample space to ramble and wander, as well as a zoo, an ice rink, a band shell (an area for live music), and a plethora of recreational spaces and activities. For some serious people-watching and socializing in the great outdoors, Long Meadow is where it’s at.
The High Line
When the High Line first opened in Manhattan in 2009 it was all the rage. Who would have thought that a public park built upon old, elevated railroad tracks would come to be? Thanks to Friends of the High Line, a group formed in 1999 to preserve the tracks and hire architects and landscape designers, that’s exactly what happened. Located on Manhattan’s far west side between Gansevoort and West 34thStreet, the railway tracks continue South into the West Village – in fact, they run right up into the Whitney Museum.
The tracks are literally a park now, filled with grass, trees, plants, sundecks, sun loungers, benches and areas to stop and take a rest. It’s one of the most unique places in the city, and people all seasons can be seen strolling along up above the streets of the Meatpacking and Chelsea districts, taking in the views of the Hudson River as well as the city itself. To read more about the High Line, see my dedicated post here.
I just grabbed drinks with an old friend in Bryant Park the other day at the Bryant Park Café, and had forgotten how perfectly New York this park is. Especially on an early summer evening, being centrally located right in midtown behind the New York Public Library, it’s a central hub for New Yorkers and tourists alike.
Bryant Park is always abuzz with people, and the energy is contagious. Whether it be summer nights for drinks outside (or the popular outdoor Monday movie nights series), or winter time for its popular holiday markets, (the Bank of America Winter Village) and its ice rink, Bryant Park seemingly always feels festive.
Fort Tryon Park
One of New York’s lesser known parks, but no less special, is Fort Tryon Park, located in Manhattan’s far upper west side. It’s very northern Manhattan, in the Hudson Heights and Inwood sections of the city. The park is definitely a hike for most people, and therefore not as well known. But once you’re up there, the setting is majestic, situated on a ridge overlooking the Hudson River and New Jersey palisades.
Fort Tryon Park is home to The Cloisters, the branch of the Met containing medieval arts. It’s a stunning museum, and one everyone should visit, even if just to stroll around its perfectly manicured gardens. The park is also home to the New Leaf Café, a popular restaurant in the beautiful setting that is Fort Tryon. If you want to make a complete trip out of it, visit the park and museum, and finish with a late lunch at the café. You can read my dedicated post on the park and the Cloisters here.
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park is an iconic downtown park located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Known as a congregation spot for New Yorkers, but especially artist and liberals, it’s been a meeting point for many a liberal event for years. The Washington Square Arch on Fifth Avenue cannot be missed, and opens into the park, where its famous water fountain is located. There are a couple playgrounds for kids, and you can always see men playing chess! There are no restaurants located inside the park – it’s fairly small – so a bit dead during the winter but always hopping during the summer.
McCarren park is a neighborhood favorite in the hoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Brooklyn hipsters as much as young families flock to this park for its green open space and abundance of activities, including baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, even its own pool. There are not too many public pools in New York City so this is an extra, added bonus.
Hudson River Park
I love this park, it’s one of my absolute favorites in all of the city. When I lived in the West Village pre-kids, this park had just opened, literally opening up a whole new world for us downtown and cramped residents. Though it’s much larger than being contained to the village – it’s actually the second largest park after Central Park, with 550 acres stretching 4.5 miles along the Hudson River.
A waterfront park and complete haven in New York City, this is one of the best places to go and leave the city hectic life behind and picnic on one of the lawns along the water. Or bike or run its walking path that runs along the river. Or enjoy one of its many piers that jet out into the Hudson. There is a serenity to this park, being a waterfront park, that I just love. Definitely make a visit if you’re checking out the High Line, Whitney or one of the numerous activities along the west side.
Jefferson Market Garden
How did I not know about this absolutely darling little park when I lived in the West Village?! It’s tiny, maybe that’s why. A place to go and read your book, or take a walk around its circular shape and admire all the beautiful plantations. It’s not a park with wide open grass to run around in – actually, it’s a garden. A very special garden on one of Manhattan’s busiest streets (Sixth Ave). But when you enter it’s like entering a little paradise all its own with the most gorgeous flowers, plants and trees. Highly recommend a quick visit if you’re in or near Greenwich Village.