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Park barbecues: Where to grill in NYC this summer

The park barbecue is a great Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day standby. Gather your friends and fire up the grill in one of these park barbecue areas.

By Ashley Hoffman |
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Riverside Park
 (Photograph: Anna Simonak)
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Photograph: Anna SimonakRiverside Park
 (Photograph: Anna Simonak)
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Photograph: Anna SimonakEast River Park

If you're like us, you've gazed wistfully at the park barbecues in Prospect Park, admiring the BBQ and plentiful sides that line the picnic tables. Well, stand on the edges no longer—it's summer in NYC and there's a spot in NYC parks just waiting for you. Consider this your go-to guide for nabbing a great spot on Memorial Day and other long weekends.

RECOMMENDED: Get outdoors in NYC

Grilling 101

1. All parks prohibit open fires, ground fires and propane.
2. Keep grills at least ten feet away from trees and overhead branches.
3. Parties of 20 or more in city parks must obtain a special-events permit for $25 (processing takes approximately one month) (Manhattan: 212-408-0226; Brooklyn: 718-965-8912; Queens: 718-393-7272; nyceventpermits.nyc.gov/parks).
4. Dispose of coals in the marked drums, or extinguish with water and wrap in foil before putting in a nearby Dumpster.

For permits and other information, call 212-408-0226 or visit nycgovparks.org

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Riverside Park

icon-location-pin Upper West Side

One of Manhattan’s more scenic areas, this four-mile stretch of waterfront has perhaps the city’s most idyllic grilling hangout. Cookouts are permitted anywhere north of West 145th Street, affording you and your friends plenty of room to spread out. And you’ll need your pals to help lug the equipment; it’s BYOG (bring your own grill).

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Attractions

East River Park

icon-location-pin Kips Bay

The six grills and picnic tables at this barbecue spot are in high demand, and for good reason. The park provides panoramic views of Brooklyn and a riverfront promenade perfect for walking off those calories. Don’t just show up and expect to nab a spot, however: You need a permit no matter the group size, so be sure to book your party early. Enter at FDR Dr and E 10th St

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Morningside Park

icon-location-pin Morningside Heights

Past the masonry wall and down the stairs lies a tucked-away world of winding, flower-lined pathways that you would normally encounter in a storybook. Since you'll have to BYOG (bring your own grill) to this party, you might want to delegate the sausages to someone else.

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Sports and fitness

Thomas Jefferson Park

icon-location-pin Lenox Hill

It's only a few blocks long, but they've packed this park with features: It has a swimming pool, a large playgrounds, full recreation center and picnic area to boot. Again, you need to provide your own grill (though there are some on site) so bring a few friends to help you carry it all. If there are enough of you, you might even work your meal off with a soccer game afterward.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Inwood Hill Park

icon-location-pin Inwood

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.

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Highbridge Park

icon-location-pin Washington Heights

This park gets its name from the city's oldest standing bridge. It features a historic water tower, waterside views and a pool.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Fort Washington Park

icon-location-pin Morningside Heights

Measuring almost 160 acres, this green space is home to the Little Red Lighthouse, the star of a popular children's book (not to mention Manhattan's only lighthouse). Children also frequent the park's baseball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts and playground.

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Randall's Island Park

icon-location-pin Randall's Island

Located on the East River between East Harlem, the South Bronx and Astoria, Queens, this park offers waterfront views of the East River along its western shoreline, which also features bicycle and pedestrian trails.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

St. Nicholas Park

icon-location-pin Harlem

This slice of Harlem greenery, designed by Calvert Vaux associate Samuel Parsons Jr., is home to outdoor affairs, including the late-summer old-school hip-hop jam Digger's Delight.

For permits and other information, call 718-965-8912 or visit nycgovparks.org

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Prospect Park

icon-location-pin Prospect Park

With seven grilling areas spread over 585 acres, this Brooklyn hot spot is the borough’s undisputed barbecue mecca. We like the shaded area just north of the Picnic House: The building offers restrooms and soft-drink vending machines, and it’s a short walk if you need to grab extra treats from the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket (Sat 8am–4pm). Though patrons are welcome to bring their own barbecues, four grills and 12 picnic tables are available first-come, first-served. If you’re rolling 20 or more deep, you’ll need a permit from the Prospect Park Alliance. • (718-965-8951, prospectpark.org)

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Fort Greene Park

icon-location-pin Fort Greene

Shady walks overlook the grassy lawns, and thick-trunked trees populate this former site of a Revolutionary War fort. If you're feeling active, there are basketball and tennis courts available; otherwise BYOG.

Attractions, Beaches

Manhattan Beach Park

icon-location-pin Manhattan Beach

Tote your own grill to this beach on Brooklyn’s southern shore, where you can work up an appetite bodysurfing in the North Atlantic before retiring to one of two designated areas. Skip the concrete expanse attached to the northeast parking lot and head for the esplanade that stretches from the beach’s eastern edge all the way to Hastings Street (between the beach and the athletic courts). There are plenty of picnic tables, and with borough residents packing the beach during summer weekends, something interesting is always being cooked nearby.

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Red Hook Park

icon-location-pin Red Hook

This neighborhood park is known for its large public swimming pool and many food vendors, who serve traditional Latin fare in the ball field between Clinton and Court Streets. But if you're set on grilling your own meat, then bring your own grill, stake out a spot in the recreation area on the other side of the park, and fire 'er up.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Coffey Park

icon-location-pin Red Hook

Super kid-friendly, this 8.27-acre park has a spray shower, play equipment with safety surfacing, swings for children, benches, game tables, picnic tables, basketball courts, handball courts, an asphalt baseball diamond with a backstop, two flagpoles with yardarms, bathrooms, hippopotamus animal art and crocodile-shaped benches.

For permits and other information, call 718-393-7272 or visit nycgovparks.org

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Flushing Meadows–Corona Park

icon-location-pin Queens

Queens’ largest green space has so much to offer that the two barbecue areas, located on either side of picturesque Meadow Lake, can often be overlooked. Both zones boast grills and lots of space, but we advise sticking to the east side, which lies slightly farther from the nearby expressways. Consider pregaming there during the US Open, held at the park’s USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, or before Mets games at neighboring Citi Field.

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Alley Pond Park, Queens Village

icon-location-pin Queens

Brimming with wetlands and meadows, the picturesque park reveals glimmers of sunshine through a canopy of trees. Its small, mostly blacktop barbecue area has only three grills, so get there early to claim a flame, or at least a place in line for one.

Sports and fitness

Forest Park, Woodhaven

icon-location-pin Queens

This is the largest continuous oak forest in Queens, slightly marred by two roads that run through an otherwise all-natural backdrop. You should be okay if you just face away from the traffic and get all Iron Chef on the five grills available.

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Sports and fitness

Baisley Pond Park

icon-location-pin Queens

Sprawling across more than 100 acres, this park is home to eateries, fitness equipment, athletic fields, tennis courts, bicycle paths, spray showers, running tracks, dog runs, barbecuing areas and restrooms.

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Cunningham Park

icon-location-pin Queens

Among the largest parks in Queens, Cunningham frequently hosts family-friendly events. Its facilities include playgrounds, bicycling greenways, basketball courts, baseball fields, bocce courts, dog runs, tennis courts and more.

Highland Park

Located between Brooklyn and Queens, Highland Park offers excellent views of the surrounding neighborhoods, cemeteries and the Atlantic Ocean.

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Things to do

Queensbridge Park

icon-location-pin Long Island City

This park, named after the nearby Queensboro Bridge, hosts the occasional dance performance.

For permits and other information, call 718-430-1890 or visit nycgovparks.org

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Pelham Bay Park, Pelham Bay

icon-location-pin The Bronx

It'll take just a moment of gazing at the Long Island Sound in a reclined position to adjust your manic urban self to the stillness of the city's largest park. Unfortunately, you're not the only one with that idea. Arrive at 10am to lay claim to one of the 20 grills in the north picnic area or ten in the south.

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Attractions, Parks and gardens

Crotona Park

icon-location-pin The Bronx

Every summer, this slice of Bronx open space reverts back to the early glory days of hip-hop: The Crotona Park Jams feature such iconic names as Grand Wizard Theodore and Kool DJ Red Alert.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Van Cortlandt Park

icon-location-pin The Bronx

The 1,000-acre green space is the fourth largest park in the city and offers live concerts, horseback riding, an outdoor pool, hiking and cross-country trails, a historic house museum and two public golf courses.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Wolfe's Pond Park

icon-location-pin Staten Island

Find refuge at the beach or wildlife preserve, or get in touch with your inner child on a tire swing. The barbecue site is well stocked with ten grills, but if there's a wait you could always hit the sand on the beach before you start the cook-up.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Clove Lakes Park

icon-location-pin Staten Island

This is an impossibly authentic country experience that's just a ferry ride away from Manhattan. But it's a hike to get there, especially when lugging raw meat and your 54-quart Coleman cooler. At least you don't need to haul a grill too; there are six to choose from.

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