Beyond Central Park: NYC's Green Spaces
Many first-time visitors to New York City get their urban park fix with a visit to the granddaddy of them all: Central Park. To be sure, this behemoth is a must-visit. But city-dwellers know there's much more green space to be explored and enjoyed across the great island of Manhattan and the other four boroughs. From rolling green fields and winding paths to waterfront greenways and even an elevated park, this city is home to many excellent -- and sometimes lesser-known -- spaces. Here's a look at our top 5 New York City park picks beyond Central Park.
1. Prospect Park
Though it hardly has the notoriety of Central Park, Prospect Park -- a sprawling, 585-acre oasis in the heart of Brooklyn -- is another must-visit New York City green space. The two massive parks share the same designer and to be sure, have similar features. Visitors exploring Prospect Park will encounter the 90-acre Long Meadow, a honest-to-goodness forest, a 60-acre lake, a zoo and even the first urban Audubon Center in the United States.
Music lovers will obsess over the park's enormous Bandshell, which hosts live acts throughout the summer, including Jack Johnson, Wilco, Nick Cave and The National. History lovers should head to the 18th-century Lefferts Historic House, an interpretive space focusing on Brooklyn's environmental history from pre-Colonial times through the present day. Insider tip: If you fancy a ride, pay a visit to the park's Kensington Stables, where it's possible to rent horses.
2. Brooklyn Bridge Park
Partially tucked beneath the bridge after which it's named, Brooklyn Bridge Park has transformed the 85-acre swath of land adjacent to the East River into a green space complete with the best views of the Manhattan skyline from, well, pretty much anywhere; a restored 1920s carousel; a playground and sandbox; athletic fields and volleyball courts; concessionaires and more.
In the hipster haven that is Brooklyn, the park has also become a cornerstone of trendy events, concerts and activities like sunset pilates, hip-hop aerobics and Smorgasburg -- a weekly food truck extravaganza. Plan to visit the Civil War-era Tobacco Warehouse; now roofless, the space has morphed into a popular outdoor concert venue.
3. Riverside Park
Stretching 4 miles along the Hudson River's edge on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Riverside Park is a mecca for joggers, runners, walkers and bicyclists. From 75th Street to 158th Street, the park is chock-full of activities and amenities for parkgoers.
Visitors will find bicycle rentals, biking lanes along the Waterfront Greenway, walking paths, a skate park, sports courts, free kayak rentals, outdoor concert venues (with many summertime shows and events scheduled) and plenty of grassy knolls. Wannabe mariners can peek at boats docked at the 79th Street public marina while stopping for a drink or meal at the waterfront Boat Basin Cafe.
4. The High Line
Easily New York City's most unique park, The High Line exists entirely above ground. The 1-mile-long park was developed across an elevated section of a historic former freight rail line and runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. Indeed, the one-time gritty rail space has been transformed into a vibrant greenway, inspired by the self-seeded landscape originally growing out of the rail tracks.
The park's many walkways and benches offer an unusual vantage point for viewing the city's high-rises and buildings, and its riverfront proximity makes it ideal for a sunset stroll. Arrive to The High Line hungry; trendy food vendors include Delaney Barbecue, L’Arte del Gelato and People’s Pops. Crave a drink? Terroir serves up a good selection of wine and beer.
5. Battery Park
Head downtown to tiny Battery Park on Manhattan's southernmost tip to appreciate some of New York City's most classic views. From your perch along this park's 25-acre waterfront it's possible to see the Statue of Liberty and views of the shimmering city skylines in both downtown Manhattan and across the Hudson River in New Jersey.
You'll find flower gardens, concert and event stages, and plenty of green space here, but be sure to explore the park's storied history. Take a stroll to find Castle Garden; built in 1855, it was the city's first immigrant depot, decades before Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty welcomed immigrants to our shores.