10 best parks in New York City

Take advantage of spring's warmer temperatures at ten of New York City's best public parks.

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New York City is full of public parks—in fact, nearly 14 percent of the city is covered in green spaces. But some of these verdant spots stand out above the rest. Here, we've rounded up ten of our favorite New York City parks—pack a picnic and head to the best picnic spots in NYC to hunker down for an afternoon, catch movies in the park or simply lace up your sneakers and take a walk.


RECOMMENDED: Full guide to NYC parks


Brooklyn Bridge Park

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

Some city parks—Central and Prospect, most obviously—were built to replicate rustic fields and preserve serene woodland. Brooklyn Bridge Park, however, was not—and that’s precisely why it has become so popular in the almost three years since it debuted. The project has transformed a chunk of the Brooklyn waterfront into a nearly 85-acre expanse; several sections house unique attractions such as Jane’s Carousel, a restored 1920s merry-go-round, and riverside esplanades with gorgeous Manhattan views. Pier 5, the first part of the park designed specifically for “active recreation,” opened in late 2012, cementing the space as the city’s premier urban playground.

  1. Main St, (Fulton Ferry Landing)
More info

Central Park

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

For your stroll head to the 38-acre wilderness area on the west side of the park known as the Ramble. The area has a storied history (as a gay cruising spot dating back to the turn of the last century, among other things), and it was even proposed as a recreational area in the mid-'50s. Thankfully, the winding trails, rocks and streams remain, seemingly waiting to be discovered.

  1. 59th St to 110th St, (from Fifth Ave to Eighth Ave)
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Flushing Meadows–Corona Park

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

Give the city’s second-biggest park a day and it’ll show you the world: Its most enduring icon is the Unisphere, the mammoth steel globe created for the 1964 World’s Fair. But there’s also first-rate culture and sports at the New York Hall of Science, Arthur Ashe Stadium and Citi Field (depending on how the Mets are doing). The rolling green fields also encompass a zoo, a boating lake, a skate park, a barbecue area, playfields, and a $66 million aquatic and hockey center. In 2011, wetland plants such as swamp azalea and swamp milkweed were added to better handle the park’s water runoff, improving the catch-and-release fishing in Meadow Lake.

  1. 111th St to Van Wyck Expwy, (between Flushing Bay and Grand Central Pkwy)
More info

Fort Greene Park

  • Free

Both Brooklyn's first park and one of it's loveliest, Fort Greene Park plays host to the Soul Summit house-and-classics get-togethers on summertime Sunday afternoons.

  1. Washington Park, (between DeKalb and Myrtle Aves)
More info

The High Line

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

Opened in 2009, this highly anticipated outdoor park sits on the elevated infrastructure built on Manhattan's West Side in the 1930s. Today, sumptuous gardens and outdoor sculpture adorn this magnificent walkway, which is also an excellent place to enjoy a view of the Hudson River.

  1. Washington St, (at Gansevoort St)
More info

Hudson River Park

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

This strip of waterfront park stretches from Battery Park to 59th Street, allowing you to walk, bike or skate while looking at the Hudson River and New Jersey. There are flowers, benches, piers and lots of programs—including youth sports and kayak rides in the river.

  1. Battery Park City to 59th St, (at West Side Highway)
More info

Inwood Hill Park

  • Free

There’s a unique reward for trekking to the northernmost corner of Manhattan, where you’ll find enormous trees in the island’s last virgin forest. Much of the park has never been developed; due to its comparatively remote location, the land remained rural up until its 1916 purchase by the Parks Department, who decided to leave Inwood as natural as possible. As a result, the area remains very similar to the way the island was 500 years ago.

  1. Indian Rd, (at 218th St)
More info

Pelham Bay Park

  • Free

Jutting into the Long Island Sound with rocky outcroppings, marshy inlets and lush forest, Pelham Bay Park looks more like Maine than the Bronx. The city’s largest park at 2,766 acres—three times the size of Central Park—it takes hours to explore. Among the massive park's attractions are Orchard Beach, the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, and the recently renovated Pelham Bay Golf Course.

  1. Bruckner Blvd, (at Middletown Rd)
More info

Prospect Park

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

Urban visionaries Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who most famously designed Central Park, also put their stamp on bucolic Prospect Park. Amenities like the Long Meadow and Nethermead offer plenty of space to pull up on a patch of grass and indulge in some people-watching, and the woodland expanse of the Ravine is a towering forest within bustling Brooklyn. But we also have to give props to Robert Moses: The controversial city planner was behind some of the park’s kid-friendly offerings, including the zoo and Wollman Rink (which is currently undergoing an extensive renovation).

  1. Prospect Park West to Flatbush Ave, (between Prospect Park Southwest and Ocean Ave)
More info

Riverside Park

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This scenic four-mile waterfront park extends from 72nd to 158th Streets along the Hudson River in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Facilities include sport courts, a skate park, bike paths on the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway and a public marina at 79th Street. Fans of You’ve Got Mail will recall that the promenade at 91st Street is the spot where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan finally revealed their true identities.

  1. Riverside Dr, (at 103rd St)
More info


Users say

4 comments
Megan
Megan

What about Randall's Island. That park is amazing now and has everything anyone could possibly want - it's like a vacation even if your there for a very sort time.

Gary
Gary

How about Gantry Park ( www.gantrypark.com ) in LIC? It's probably the most beautifully park in NYC with an unobstructed, spectacular view of the NYC skyline. Definitely should be on your list.

Nancy
Nancy

I agree except you left the Cloisters off the list!