Parks in NYC: The Top 5 Parks for Visitors

NYC isn’t all concrete jungles and taxi cabs. In fact, there are quite a few green spaces spread throughout the five boroughs. So, if you’re heading to the Big Apple and have already seen a few of the must-see attractions (as well as a few of the offbeat NYC attractions, why not head to the parks?

Of course, you’ve heard of Central Park (our favorite green spot in the city and a must-see), but have you heard of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Prospect Park, Hudson River Park, and Riverside Park? Find out what makes them a few of our favorite spots in the city.

5.) Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock

If you’ve ever read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, you may recall the “valley of ashes” commuters would pass by as they made their way from the city to Long Island. This “valley of ashes” was where NYC’s coal-burning refuse and garbage were taken nearly 100 years ago before it became a park.

Located in Queens, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is what became of the “valley of ashes.” It was home to the World’s Fair in 1939 and 1964. If there were a competition in New York for the quirkiest large park, Flushing Meadows would win, hands-down. Why? All of the leftover buildings, sculptures and other artifacts from the World’s Fairs make this part open-air museum and part The Park Time Forgot, in a positive, charming way.

If you’re a tennis or baseball fan, you might see Flushing Meadows as you head to the U.S. Open or a Mets game. Both Citi Field and the Arthur Ashe tennis stadium are on the edges of the park.

4.) Prospect Park

Prospect Park

T Photograph / Prospect Park

Heading to Brooklyn? Park Slope is one of our favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods. It’s got great restaurants, wide sidewalks, and some pretty cool bars as well. Plus, there’s Prospect Park!

Prospect Park was designed by the same architects who brought us Central Park. At first glance, you might notice some similarities. Both parks have winding paths, art scattered throughout the grounds, and at least one adjacent art museum (the Brooklyn Museum is by Prospect Park, and the Met is by Central Park).

However, Prospect Park is a unique entity. Every day you’ll see Brooklynites and their kids running through the grass and enjoying the fresh air. Among the treasures on the grounds are the historic Lefferts House, a century-old carousel, and a stately Audubon Center. Prospect Park also has a great summer concert series.

Plus, if you want to check out even more nature,  the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is right there as well!

3.) Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock

Heading to the Upper West Side? Consider renting a bike and checking out Riverside Park.

This park is, as the name would suggest, on the Hudson River. It runs from W. 59th Street to W. 158th. Along the way, you’ll find winding paths that are perfect for running or walking, amazing views of the river, Grant’s Tomb, the only sets of flying rings in New York, and completely random things like old locomotives on display.

Have a dog? There are a few great dog parks, too.

Thirsty? Stop at Boat Basin for a beer or a quick bite. This riverside bar and cafe is rarely crowded and offers affordable bites and beverages, all in a comfortable outdoor setting.

Riverside Park has also featured prominently in many movies. The Baseball Furies battle, Ajax’s arrest, and Cyrus’s “Can You Dig It?” speech were all filmed at Riverside.

2.) Hudson River Park

Hudson River Park

Boris B. / Shutterstock

If you’re leaving the Upper West Side and heading south towards the Financial District, the Hudson River Park picks up almost where Riverside stops. Hudson River Park begins at W. 59th Street and extends to the end of Manhattan at Battery Park.

What’s different? For starters, it’s more commercial and less filled with nature. Most sections of this park are brand new. They have only gone up in the last decade or so. There’s also a huge focus on art and aesthetics, and you’re likely to find that this park is visually breathtaking.

There’s a lot to do at Hudson River Park, particularly during the summer months. Various piers host free films and activities. The Downtown Boathouse offers free kayaking, and there are even free tennis courts. There’s also a new carousel with carved animals. At Pier 40, you can learn the flying trapeze at the New York Trapeze School’s outside rig. Some bridges will take you out over the water and enclaves where you can sit and read a book.

1.) Central Park

Central Park

T Photography

With the south end of the park starting at 59th Street, Central Park stretches up to 110th street and is what divides the Upper East Side from the Upper West Side. It is an urban oasis like no other.

Whether your fancy runs to ice skating, wandering through a recreation of an English garden, navigating a radio-controlled boat across a pond, visiting an amusement park, or seeing an ancient Egyptian obelisk, Central Park has you covered.

It wouldn’t be hard to spend your entire vacation wandering through the Park, drinking in all of the gorgeous natural and human-made scenery if you so chose.

There are numerous high-quality free entertainment opportunities during the summer. Summerstage puts on (mostly free) concerts, and Shakespeare in the Park offers two productions – not always Shakespeare – every season.

In early December, fans of John Lennon gather at the “Imagine” Mosaic at Strawberry Fields to offer respect and perform Lennon’s music. The bottom line is that if you can’t find something that interests you in Central Park, maybe you’re not looking hard enough.

There are a lot of parks in NYC in addition to these. If you need a break from the concrete jungle, look around the corner. Your green respite from the city might be there. Get out and get some fresh air!

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