New York waterfront hangouts: The best piers and riverside parks

The New York waterfront has undergone a serious face-lift in the past decade. Find out where to sunbathe, stroll, watch the sunset and more.

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  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Gantry Plaza State Park on the New York waterfront

  • Skate park at Hudson River Park on the New York waterfront

  • Photograph: Kayla Rice

    Battery Park City on the New York waterfront

  • Photograph: Donald Yip

    Governors Island on the New York waterfront

  • Bark Hot Dogs at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 on the New York waterfront

     

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Gantry Plaza State Park on the New York waterfront


From the renovated docks of Gantry Plaza State Park to the reclaimed waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park to the reopened oasis of Governors Island, the New York waterfront has changed dramatically in a generation. Here’s where to make the most of it.

RECOMMENDED: Get outdoors in NYC

Best for watching the sunset: Gantry Plaza State Park

  • Free

This 12-acre postindustrial haven has spectacular views of Manhattan’s midtown skyline. Arrive before sundown to stroll along the rose gardens and four piers. At dusk, take the weight off on a wooden chaise lounge or hammock, and watch the sun cast its last rays over the Empire State Building and the United Nations HQ. • (718-786-6385, nysparks.com/parks).

  1. 4-09 47th Rd at the East River, Long Island City, Queens
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Best for playing: Hudson River Park

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

There’s plenty to do at this 550-acre expanse. Join a pickup basketball game at Harrison Street, Canal Street or West 23rd Street at Eleventh Avenue—all three spots are illuminated until midnight. Wanna-be Olympians practice on the sand volleyball courts at Pier 25 (between Harrison and North Moore Sts). Unlike other tennis spots, the hard court at West Houston Street doesn’t require a permit and is first-come, first-served. Cool kids can hit the skate park at Pier 62 at West 22nd Street for bowls and half pipes, or the street-scape park, with ledges for grinding (Pier 25 at North Moore St). If you don’t want to sweat, work on your handicap at Pier 25’s minigolf course (daily 10am–10pm; $5). • (hudsonriverpark.org).

  1. Battery Park City to 59th St at West Side Hwy
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Best for sunbathing: Battery Park City

This lower-Manhattan idyll offers multiple green spaces where you can catch some rays. To take in stunning views while you bake, lay your towel on a bench along the Esplanade and gaze upon the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island or, for extra motivation to oil up, the Jersey shoreline¬. If a mini meadow suits your mood, bring a blanket to the South Cove, or the wide lawns of Nelson A. Rockefeller Jr. Park. And for a quiet place to curl up with a book, there are Rector Park’s gardens. • (batteryparkcity.org).

  1. West St to the Hudson River between Battery Pl and Chambers St

Best for strolling: Governors Island

  • Critics choice
  • Free

No place captures the staycation vibe quite like this car-free oasis, just a short ferry ride away. Enjoy a leisurely ramble around the perimeter for killer views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, lower Manhattan and the Red Hook docks. The island’s interior is also worth exploring: Meander through the leafy, shaded Colonels Row, admiring the 19th-century houses. • (212-440-2202, govisland.com).

  1. Governors Island
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Best for snacking: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6

Nothing says summer like consuming a hot dog in the sun, so we’re stoked to nosh on Bark’s artisanal wieners on a rooftop terrace overlooking lower Manhattan. The menu at this concession includes the cornerstone Classic dog ($4), alongside the more substantial Nueske’s smoked cheddar brat ($7). Wash it down with Gotham Project wines ($8) on tap or a selection of Sixpoint beers ($6) on draft—including the bespoke red ale—or in cans. • (718-802-0603, brooklynbridgepark.org).

  1. Atlantic Ave at Furman St, Brooklyn Heights
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