5 Flushing Meadows Corona Park
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 1939 and 1964 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
This park was designed by the same architects who brought us Central Park, and at first glance you might notice some similarities. Both parks have winding paths, great art scattered throughout the grounds, and at least one adjacent art museum. However, Prospect Park is very much its own 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.
3 Hudson River Park
The Hudson River Park picks up where Riverside leaves off, more or less: it begins at W. 59th Street and extends to the end of Manhattan at Battery Park. What’s different? For one thing, most sections of this park are brand spanking new. They have only gone up in the last decade or so. For another, there’s 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. There’s a new carousel with exquisite carved animals. At Pier 40, you can learn the flying trapeze at the New York Trapeze School’s outside rig. There are bridges that will take you out over the water and enclaves where you can sit and read a book.
2 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. Riverside Park has also featured prominently in many movies; if you’re a Warriors fan, the Baseball Furies battle, Ajax’s arrest, and Cyrus’s “Can You Dig It?” speech were all filmed at Riverside.
1 Central Park
Come now, you knew this one would be first. Central Park is an urban oasis like no other, and you shouldn’t miss it. 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 man-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.