Gotham may be a concrete jungle, but it's home to lots of great green spaces, many of which welcome your canine companions. At these dog-friendly New York parks for families, Fido can have a romp through the grass or make new friends in a dog run while the littles burn off some steam on the kids' playgrounds. Best of all, enjoying these these outdoor oases is totally free. You can only watch so many funny animal videos—step away from the screen and get some fresh air at one of our favorite al fresco spots. (Not a dog owner but thinking of adding a four-legged member to your family? Check out our list of 10 awesome places to adopt a dog in NYC.)
RECOMMENDED: NYC pet guide for families
From the riverside promenade of this Upper East Side oasis, families can take in stunning views of the East River, the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse and Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence. The park also has two dog runs, a playground with water features and a roller hockey rink.
The ultimate backyard might not have any official dog runs, but Central Park offers dogs and their families an abundance of grassy knolls and sweet spots for wandering. A number of park areas hold off-leash hours in the early mornings and late evenings (6–9am, 9pm–1am), and even boast ankle-level drinking fountains for thirsty four-leggers. Central Park Paws, a dog-focused branch of the Conservancy, sponsors a number of pet-friendly park events; its annual My Dog Loves Central Park Country Fair happens every year in October. The legendary green space is also chock-full of kid-friendly offerings, from Belvedere Castle to Ancient Playground.
Located just off the West Side Highway, this renovated dog run features cement hills, a faux tree trunk and raised surfaces for dogs to play on, as well as running water and small pools for cooling off. Just a few steps away, kids have plenty of space to tire themselves out at Chelsea Waterside Playground, an outer space–themed area that matches the sleekness of the 'hood's taller riverside constructions.
Designed by landscape architect Ken Smith, this high-tech doggie heaven under the FDR Drive opened in July 2012, along with the rest of the newly extended East River Esplanade. Petite though it may be, this sanctuary has plenty to keep your pet busy: Dogs can scramble up a climbing bridge, frolic at the splash pad or lounge in a cozy doghouse. The run also offers creative canine playthings like fake tree trunks, bones and an oversize concrete squirrel.
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., Fort Tryon Park is 250 feet above the Hudson River and boasts three landscaped acres that look as if they were transplanted from an English country estate house, with sloping and dropping elms. (It's also the site of the Cloisters, the reconstructed medieval monastery that houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art's works from the Middle Ages.) The dog run boasts a gazebo to shelter owners from the elements, while in the northeast corner of the park, the Anne Loftus Playground features a large handicapped-accessible play unit, swings, animal sculptures, play houses and an open performance space.
A serious renovation in April 2011 resulted in a new and improved J.J. Byrne Playground that includes a revamped dog run. The space features cool interactive panels by Brooklyn sculptor Julie Peppito that share a theme of the farming and Revolutionary history of the Old Stone House, the playground's esteemed Washington Park neighbor. State-of-the-art play equipment, swings, new game tables and gorgeous perimeter gardens are sure to create instant fans of neighborhood kids.
Mutts are welcome to take a dip at Prospect Park's Dog Beach, which features a small faux-sand cement beach that leads into a fenced-off pool for splashing or swimming (or striking up a game of doggie water polo). The paddle spot can get crowded, but feel free to take advantage of canine-friendly areas at nearby Long Meadow (off-leash 5–9am and 9pm–1am) while you wait for the pack to thin out. Meanwhile, the urban oasis offers plenty of kid appeal, including a zoo, a 101-year-old carousel, the Audubon Center and Lefferts Historic House.
Boasting three dog runs and ample leashed rambling space, Riverside Park's got plenty of spots for Rover to get some exercise outside of your brood's cramped living quarters. The park's southernmost run at 72nd Street sits right on the Hudson River just a few blocks below the Boat Basin, offering dogs and their families a sweet view of the sunset during evening outings. The corral features a large pebbled off-leash space, along with a number of circular benches for families to sit and watch their pets romp around.
Dubbed First Run, the East Village park's off-leash dog area was a pioneer when it opened in 1990. Since undergoing a renovation in 2008, the pet spot features a sandlike surface, a wading pool, picnic tables, tennis balls and lots of room for dogs to ramble, with two separate enclosed spaces for large and small canines. The community-run Friends of the First Run organizes a number of dog- and owner-friendly events, including a Halloween Dog Parade that goes down in October (with prizes awarded for the top costumed pooches). Tompkins Square Park also offers plenty of attractions for your two-legged children, including playgrounds, basketball and handball courts, and a mini-pool open during the summer.