Hidden among the cracks in the concrete jungle that is New York City are occasional swathes of large, green oases. Central Park’s the biggest, which is sometimes great when it comes to parks, but it’s far from the only one worth seeking out—in fact, we would contend that your next picnic might be better suited at one of the green meadows listed below than in the large Manhattan staple. To the parks we go!
Fort Greene Park
If one were trying to conceive of a perfect park size, Fort Greene would be the ideal model. The park is about two miles around the outer edge, and is situated cleanly in the center of one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Fort Greene.
This park is home to basketball courts, an outdoor workout area, and a huge expanse of steps that lead up to a majestic monument and an incredible view of the Freedom Tower. From picnics to pickup basketball, Fort Greene’s a great spot to visit.
Fredrick Law Olmsted, the man responsible for designing Central Park, made this slightly less-renowned but still nearly as majestic contribution to Brooklyn, and Prospect Park is the quintessential natural landscape in this borough.
Not only does the grass stretch for mile upon pile and descend into peaceful woods, but there are also a fair amount of attractions in Prospect Park, including a zoo and a skating rink. Party time.
Hudson River Park
Between Battery Park and East 59th Street lies Hudson River Park, a well-manicured swatch of greenery that plays host to beautiful flower arrangements, waterfront views, and plenty of walking, biking and skating areas. The big draw of Hudson River Park is if you want to sign your kiddies up for a rec sports league—or maybe finally pick that flag football habit back up.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
If you’re more in the market for a very traditional, rustic feel in the thread of Prospect or Fort Greene Park, you won’t get the same vibe at Brooklyn Bridge Park, but that’s what makes it special.
The park is nestled along the Brooklyn waterfront, and boasts an impressive view of Manhattan. There are tons of top-notch outdoor basketball courts, and the tons of novelties, from a skating rink to a merry-go-round. But perhaps the coolest touch is something deceivingly simple: swings that are covered, so the fun can continue even in the rain.
This stretch of greenery is deceivingly expansive, stretching from 62nd Street in along the Hudson in the Upper West Side all the way to 135th. There’s a bounty of playgrounds at the southernmost end of the park for your little ones, and a dog run at 72nd for your canines, both small and large. Situated along the water, this park is the ideal setting for a picturesque late summer picnic, or a long, leisurely bike ride.
The High Line
This park didn’t open to the public ‘til 2009, and finally completed its expansions in 2014, so it has a distinctly newer feel than the rest of the spots on our list—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The park is adorned with rich gardens sculptures that change seasonally, and there are plenty of spots along the High Line to acquire such basic amenities as ice cream and booze. On warm days, they even have wading pools to keep your temp down.
By leaving Central Park off this list, we are certainly not suggesting that you avoid that big, beautiful green pasture in the middle of Manhattan entirely—we just want to make sure you have options. And, contrary to the belief of outsiders, New York City has some of the best and richest parks in the world.