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
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
This park gets its name from the city's oldest standing bridge. It features a historic water tower, waterside views and a pool.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Located between Brooklyn and Queens, Highland Park offers excellent views of the surrounding neighborhoods, cemeteries and the Atlantic Ocean.
This park, named after the nearby Queensboro Bridge, hosts the occasional dance performance.
This lovely Queens park also hosts SummerStage music shows and theater events.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.