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
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.
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)
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.
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.