8 Best Parks in NYC (Besides Central Park)
New York City is a massively urban landscape, with tons of lights and buildings, but not much greenery. It doesn’t take a lot for vegetation to be official, all around New York you will see small triangles of grass labeled as an official city park. New Yorkers take whatever nature we have very seriously, and as a result, hidden throughout the metropolis of the city are a number of wonderful park spaces. Of course, almost everyone already knows about Central Park- it’s probably one of the most famous in the world. But not everybody knows about these equally beautiful and historical parks, all located throughout the boroughs of NYC, and serving as a backyard to many of its locals.
1. Prospect Park
Designed by the same minds who crafted Central Park, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s answer to the more famous of the two. With Prospect Park, Olmstead and Vaux were able to have a second shot at designing the park of their dreams. Free of the limitations of Manhattan’s grid layout, the two were able to create a space that felt more organic, resulting in less man-made and more natural plant life. But that didn’t stop them from adding an artistic touch, choosing this time around to add an official, regal entryway- seen at Grand Army Plaza. Like Central Park, it is quite large in size, but not impossible to see all in one go, as long as you’ve got on your walking shoes. The main attractions include Prospect Park Lake (Brooklyn’s only), the 90-acre Long Meadow, the Picnic House and Litchfield Villa.
2. Washington Square Park
Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park is known for it’s famous grand arch and for being a top spot for people watching. Simple in its’ layout, you can walk from end to end of the park in about 15 minutes at a casual pace, but many who visit choose to lounge on one of many benches, in the greenery, or even on the edge of the illustrious fountain. A hot spot for dogs and young children, the Washington Square Fountain is a highlight in the summer for anyone looking to cool down. Plagued with a bit of dark history, the park was formerly the site of a massive burial ground for the indigent, poor and unknown victims of various epidemics throughout the city’s history- most notable yellow fever. But don’t be scared away, the history of the park gives it depth and character, and is fascinating to learn about while visiting. If you’re interested in learning more, join NYT1 on our tour of Greenwich Village, and get to know all the secrets of this lovely space.
3. The High Line
New York’s first elevated park is a secret no more, attracting more and more visitors every single year. Situated on the remnants of the West Side Elevated Freight Railroad, this posh and stylish park combines the old and the new in order to give New Yorkers something different and intriguing. The park features beautiful views, over 210 species of plant life, shallow pools, lounge chairs, art installations, food stands, shopping and various historical points of interest. The park is different in that the purpose isn’t so much to escape the city, but to give you a new perspective, to see New York in a new way. Wanna find out more? Join the High Line and Chelsea tour to learn everything there is to know about the park and the one-of-a-kind neighborhood that surrounds it.
4. Battery Park
Originally home to Castle Garden, the world’s first ever immigrant depot, Battery Park has played an integral role in New York City history since its creation in the 1850s. Before Ellis Island even existed, millions and millions of immigrants arrived to America through Battery Park, planting the seeds that would later transform America into the nation of immigrants that it is today. The park is a wonderful place to stroll and wander around, with great views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. You will also get a glimpse as various memorials, including the American Merchant Mariner’s Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the East Coast World War II memorial. If you’re looking to learn more, book a spot on the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour, which commences inside Battery Park and gives you a chance to learn more about its’ incredible history.
5. Brooklyn Bridge Park
Another of New York’s more modern innovations, Brooklyn Bridge Park has taken what was once a lifeless chunk of Brooklyn’s waterfront and transformed it into a delightful expanse full of energy. The highlight is by far the spectacular views of Manhattan, which will accompany you as you navigate the various sections and unique attractions. The over 80-acre expanse houses Jane’s Carousel, the restored merry-g0-round from the 1920s, sports fields, playgrounds, basketball courts and skating rinks. The summer season also features outdoor films, free kayaking and literary readings. The area is still under construction, as it continues to grow and change. But each development brings more excitement, curiosity and with it, an eagerness among visitors who are both new or returning to Brooklyn.
6. Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Definitely the farthest trek on the list, but absolutely worth it for Flushing Meadows. The highlight of the park is the large Unisphere, a remnant of the 1964 World’s Fair, which was famously held at the park’s location. Also home to the Queens Botanical Garden, Citi Field, The New York Hall of Science and the Queens Zoo, the area is always brimming with activity even in the dead of winter. With a legacy greater than any other park in the city, the hour on the subway is nothing compared to the sights that you will see and the memories that you will relive upon exploring the park.
7. Inwood Hill Park
Home to Manhattan’s last remaining forest lands, being in Inwood Hill Park feels like the edge of the world. Walking amongst the trees and the brush, one forgets that they’re even still in a city. As the name suggests, the space is very hilly, situated on a ridge that rises 200 feet above the Hudson river. The park is very historical as well, being the site of one of the last farms in Manhattan, and utilized by many wealthy New Yorkers as a country retreat, to escape the hustle of the city. On your visit, be sure to make some time to stop by Fort Tryon Park, home to lush gardens and the beautiful Cloisters Museum.
8. Pelham Bay Park
Located in the farthest reaches of the Bronx, Pelham Bay is New York City’s largest public park at 2,772 acres, more than three times the size of Central Park. The entire area takes many hours to explore, with miles of hiking trails and bridle paths. The park was originally home to an abundance of deer, turtle and sturgeon, which attracted the large Siwanoy Native American population that once inhabited the area. Rich in history and greenery, Pelham Bay Park is absolutely worth the long ride on the 6 train. Among the various sights to see, the highlights include Orchard Beach, the two golf courses, the Bartow-Pell Mansion and the amazing shoreline that juts into the Long Island Sound.