Outdoor tennis courts in New York City: Where to play alfresco

Make like McEnroe at one of these open-air tennis courts—and follow our tips for the best times to head out.

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  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Central Park Tennis Center

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Central Park Tennis Center

  • Photograph: Courtesy McCarren Tennis

    McCarren Park

  • Photograph: Copyright McCarren Tennis

    McCarren Park

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    96th Street Clay Tennis Courts

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    96th Street Clay Tennis Courts

  • Photograph: Lauren Foy

    USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

  • Photograph: Erica Martini

    Washington Market Park

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Central Park Tennis Center


Take advantage of the warm weather and swing by these standout spots. The tennis courts below are located in settings both iconic (Central Park) and tucked away (a single court in Tribeca). And get the skinny on when you should go—lest you waste a beautiful day waiting your turn.

RECOMMENDED: Fitness guide to NYC

Central Park Tennis Center

Central Park Tennis Center

The scene: The 26 clay courts here lure amateurs and seasoned swingers, as well as the occasional local celeb (former mayor David Dinkins has been known to drop by for a set). Make sure to arrive 15 minutes before match time, otherwise you may lose your space to the first group on the wait list. At least all the popularity provides one benefit: The center has a board full of potential partners for future-match pairings. 

Pro tip: The organization vigilantly protects its courts’ surfaces from anything other than smooth-soled tennis shoes, so check your sneakers before you go. (Your kicks will be inspected upon arrival.) 212-316-0800, centralparktenniscenter.com. Daily 6:30am–8pm; free with permit. Permits available at nycgovparks.org; season permit (good through late November) $200; single-play permit $15.

  1. Central Park, enter at Central Park West and 96th St

McCarren Park

The scene: These six courts had been neglected for more than 25 years before an enterprising McCarren Tennis Association formed in 2009. Thanks in part to a grant from American Express and the United States Tennis Association, playing areas were renovated—courts completely resurfaced , nets and poles replaced—and last summer, much-needed windscreens were installed along the perimeter. (Before that, matches could get a little dicey on gusty days.)

Pro tip: There’s not much of a crowd—even on the busiest of afternoons, the wait rarely tops an hour. Daily 7am–dusk; free with permit.

  1. Bayard St to Nassau Ave, (between Leonard and North 12 Sts)
More info
96th Street Clay Tennis Courts

96th Street Clay Tennis Courts

The scene: Pretend that you’re facing off against Andy Murray at these red clay courts overlooking the Hudson River. The Riverside Tennis Association raises $450,000 annually to keep the clay playable—but lucky for you, hitting here costs the same as at any other city park.

Pro tip: Weekend warriors should prepare to hang out for a bit, as waits can be as long as two hours. Avoid the lines by playing on weekday afternoons. rcta.info. Daily 7am–8pm; free with permit.

  1. Riverside Park, enter at Riverside Dr and 95th St

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

The scene: Thwack balls in the same spot as Nadal and the Williams sisters at the public courts run by the USTA. You’d be hard-pressed to find better playing surfaces in the city, since these courts are resurfaced each year. The center features 18 courts outside—as well as 12 indoor and four Har-Tru ones housed under a tennis bubble.

Pro tip: If you have a city tennis permit and adjacent public-park courts are overbooked, you can play an alfresco set here for half price. Mon–Sat 6am–midnight, Sun 6am–11pm; $22–$66 per hour.

  1. Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Kennedy Cir, (at New York Ave)
More info

Washington Market Park

The scene: This downtown court, located in a corner of a Tribeca park, almost feels like a private club. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less crowded.

Pro tip: You’ll have to arrive early to snag one of the coveted hourly slots, since regulars typically arrive around 6:30am to get a good spot. Daily 7am–midnight; free with permit.

  1. Greenwich St, (between Chambers and Duane Sts)
More info


Users say

3 comments
GG
GG

Andy Murray sucks on clay. So why would you suggest "pretend that you’re facing off against Andy Murray?"

Cody k-k.b Louis
Cody k-k.b Louis

"I have found the many Tennis Courts in NYC and NJ., and I have played on just about all of them, especially the somewhat hidden Tennis Courts under the Famous G.W. BRIDGE, on the Hudson Riverside Bicycle Path, I have at least 12 reliable Tennis Courts all of the time that I can share info about, its all about the timing here in truth" :)

Anonymous
Anonymous

Do your research! The four "clay" courts at the USTA National Tennis center aren't clay at all. They're Har-Tru.