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The best NYC parks for families

These awesome NYC parks offer playgrounds, boardwalks, bike paths and pretty much everything else you could need for a great day in the great outdoors

Photograph: Iwan Baan, 2009/ High Line Park Photos

NYC parks are a great place for socializing, picnicking and playing with the little ones—after all, they're the closest thing most New Yorkers have to a backyard! These are some of our favorites around town, and seveal are even neat enough to have amazing hiking trailscarousels and spectacular views of our beloved Big Apple. While you're at it, check out our favorite free things to do with kids, too.

Governors Island

Critics' pick

Explore a full roster of free kids’ activities, including craft workshops, an artist-designed minigolf course and prime picnicking at Picnic Point. Governors Island is known for its exciting festivals like FIGMENT, amazing views and top-notch food trucks (think El Paso Taco and Blue Marble Ice Cream). Last, we'd recommend checking out the 20,000-square-foot beach or bringing bikes for a spin on the park's 5+ miles of bike lanes.

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Governors Island

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Critics' pick

Visit Brooklyn Bridge Park for the Pier 6 playground, which boasts the Water Lab (a stone-strewn area with water to splash in), Sand Village (a huge sandbox with large metal slides) and Swing Valley (Tarzan-style ropes). There are also soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, handball courts, bike paths plus a rollerskating and boating area for families. Jane's Carousel, built in 1922, is also worth visiting.

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Brooklyn Heights

Battery Park

Critics' pick

Go for a stroll in the flower-filled waterfront gardens, or educate the kids on sustainability at Battery Urban Farm this summer, where kids can plant and harvest their own crops during summer programs, festivals and workshops. At Battery Park, families can also take boats to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

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Financial District

McCarren Park

Sprint around McCarren Park’s 35 acres of baseball, football and soccer fields with the little ones or watch 'em conquer the skate park on their own. McCarren regularly hosts outdoor film screenings, and during the summer, it features a huge park pool for cooling off. From November through January, McCarren also offers an ice-skating rink with free ice-skating for kids under 12 on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4–7pm.

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Greenpoint

Bryant Park

Critics' pick

Bryant Park has plenty to offer your family year-round. In warmer weather, take a trip to theArt Cart in front of the NYPL to borrow crayons, colored pencils, stencils and other art supplies so the kids can make their next masterpiece nearby (there are professional-quality supplies available for adults, too)! If you’re more in the mood for a relaxing read, check out the Reading Room (no I.D. or library card required), where there are a wide variety of books available to use for free, plus kid’s furniture and books to keep little ones occupied. In wintertime, don’t miss the Winter Village pop-up shops and free skating (ice-skate rentals are available for a fee).

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Midtown West

Hudson River Park

Critics' pick

Feel the wind in your hair as you take the kids on a Pier 62 carousel ride, practice putting with the family at the miniature golf course on Pier 25 or kayak through the Hudson. You can also fish in the Hudson River for free during the summer—just don’t try to eat your catch of the day. In addition to formal fishing instruction from Big City Fishing, kids ages five and older will get a lesson in the ecology and biology of the Hudson River and its species from environmental educators. All fishing equipment, including rods, reels and bait, are provided. The program is offered in several locations on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Monday evenings.

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Prospect Park

Critics' pick

There's everything to do in Prospect Park...the question is, are you ready for an all-day adventure? Check out the Prospect Park Zoo, Carousel, LeFrak roller/skating rink (depending on the season), bandshell for awesome summer concerts and the Lefferts Historic House for a little taste of history. There's also free programming at the Audobon Center for kids.

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Prospect Park

The High Line

Critics' pick

From the winter Sculpt-Off and famed Haunted High Line Halloween to exciting outdoor summer programming for kids, the High Line is really the place to be year-round. Commit to a long loop to check out the sights, plants and cool public art and explore three fun programs for kids in July and August. In those months, visit Lawn Time (ages 0-3), where families can hear readings by different storytellers each week, Wild Wednesday (ages 4+), featuring nature-related crafts and activities, and Arty Hours, where kids explore their creativity through hands-on art projects.

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Chelsea

Randalls Island Park

Wear the kids out at Randalls Island’s 60+ athletic fields, go for a bike ride or drop by the apple orchard or native wildflower meadows to explore seasonal events. In the likely event that you'll want to make a day of your Randall's Island trip, secure a BBQ pit and grill up some hot dogs and burgers for the little ones.

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Randall's Island

Madison Square Park

Critics' pick

Enjoy Mad. Sq. Kids activities throughout the summer like the annual Kids' Fest, featuring art, crafts, theater, storytelling and face-painting. It's also the location of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party (yum) and one of New York's most beloved restaurants, Shake Shack. Last but not least, kids can also play at the Police Officer Moira Ann Smith Playground to get soaked under sprinklers and a 15-foot water wheel!

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