Your site selection will influence your choice of food and decor. Read on for sanity-saving ideas...wherever the party takes you.


Weather permitting, you can party in a public park for free (or almost). City and state rec areas are full of ball fields, skate parks, esplanades, picnic areas and playgrounds. Plan some old-fashioned activities like relay races, red rover, Simon says and kite flying. Be sure to pick a location with restrooms, and to enlist enough adults to help keep an eye on the kids and organize games. For decor, Kaye suggests using soccer cones to outline your alfresco party space; Anderson recommends buying cheap blankets (like Ikea's bright Polarvide throw, $4) in the same color to lay down on the grass, set off with balloons.

New York City generally requires a permit for groups of 20 or more or if you plan to set up tables or equipment. Fees start at $25; contact the Department of Parks and Recreation (212-360-1311, In addition to mainstays like Central Park and Prospect Park, consider some of these green acres, many of which are serviced by their own nonprofit conservancies:
* Battery Park City (212-267-9700,
* Brooklyn Bridge Park Dumbo. (718-802-0603,
* East River Park Below 12th St.
* Flushing Meadows--Corona Park Queens. (718-760-6565,
* Randalls Island (212-830-7722,
* Riverside Park UWS. (212-408-0209,

Permits and fees vary; visit for details.
* Empire--Fulton Ferry Dumbo, Brooklyn. $25 permit fee for up to 25 people; $75 for 26--50; $125 for 51--100. (718-858-4708)
* Hudson River Park (212-627-2020,
* Riverbank State Park Riverside Dr at 145th St. $25 permit fee per picnic table. (212-694-3654)
* Roberto Clemente State Park Bronx. $55 permit fee for up to 50 people.

Make a picnic lunch, or pick up one from your grocer's catering department. Fresh Direct supplies boxed lunches of sandwiches, organic carrots, yogurt squeezes and juice boxes for $6 each. You can also "order in" to the park from an adjacent pizza joint or sandwich shop. Some options:
* Central Park Nanoosh (2012 Broadway between 68th and 69th Sts; 212-362-7922,, Artie's Deli (2290 Broadway at 83rd St; 212-579-5959,
* Tompkins Square Park Life Caf (343 E 10th St; 212-477-8791,, San Loco(151 Ave A; 212-982-5653,
* Washington Square Park Spice (60 University Pl; 212-982-3758), Peanut Butter and Co. (240 Sullivan St; 212-677-3995,, Johnny Rockets (42 E 8th St; 212-253-8175,

Next: Mini museum outings