One thing that has really surprised me since moving to New York is how much I LOVE spending time outside here! I was always the inside kid, preferring to read a book indoors while the other kids were splashing in a pool or pelting snowballs at each other. But here in New York, I spend as much time in the great outdoors as possible.
I think it’s a combination of factors. For one, the weather here definitely isn’t always conducive to being outdoors. In the winter, it’s entirely too cold and requires too many layers of clothing just to make it to the office. And in the summer, it’s hot and humid and if you go outside for fifteen minutes you need another shower. I’ve never really lived in a place where being comfortable outside was really a rare and special occurrence (except summers in Texas and Arizona, but even those were just a couple months out of the year, not six or seven), so I take advantage of it here.
I also love the outdoors in NYC because you can go to a park, not see the city for all the trees, but still be a stone’s throw from a cup of coffee or a subway station. As in, I can sit outside with a book and as soon as I hit my personal limit on being outdoors, I can just… go inside. No long car rides required.
With that said, here are my favorites of the more than 1700 parks in NYC!
Prospect Park – designed by the same people who did Central Park in Manhattan – is about a 30-minute walk from my apartment, so I try to treat it like my backyard! Long Meadow is my default for picnics and hanging out with a book.
McCarren Park is tucked between Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, and is a great spot to kill time before plans in either of those neighborhoods. It also has great softball fields we use for kickball games!
East River State Park
This is probably my favorite spot for views of Manhattan (big words, I realize!) East River State Park is also home to Smorgasburg on Saturdays, so how can you go wrong?
Brooklyn Heights Promenade & Brooklyn Bridge Park
Lumping these two together because they’re super close. (The photo above was taken from the promenade, looking down on the park). There are great views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge (duh!) and – hint hint – a great spot to watch the Fourth of July fireworks!
The only Queens park to make the list, but only because it’s the only Queens park I’ve been to! Though it’s a bit of a trek from Brooklyn, Astoria Park is a great spot to picnic and watch the sun set over the East River.
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park is still my top choice for lunch breaks. It’s gorgeous year round, central to my office, and prime for people-watching – especially now that NYU students are back in town!
The High Line was built on an abandoned elevated railroad track on the west side of Manhattan. You can still see the tracks between the plants and the walkway! It’s a great spot to relax, watch the tourists, and enjoy being literally above the insanity for a bit.
Elevated Acre is built in between office buildings in the Financial District. I’m sure it’s crazy during the week with office workers milling about, but it’s a very relaxing spot on the weekends! It also has unique views of Brooklyn and Governors Island.
Riverside Park is a trek for me, but always worth it! Nestled between the Upper West Side and the Hudson River, it’s such a peaceful oasis away from the city.
Bryant Park is pretty much the opposite of Riverside Park, but just as awesome. It occupies a couple city blocks smack in the center of midtown and as such is always filled with office workers taking breaks, but only because it’s a great spot to take a momentary break from the chaos of New York City.
Hudson River Park
I love Hudson River Park, especially around Houston Street. It’s got great views of downtown and New Jersey, is close to a lot of bars and coffee shops, and is usually pretty calm and peaceful. I’ve heard it’s a popular spot to work out, but uh, I wouldn’t know anything about that.
How could I not include Central Park? Its size and scope is truly mind-boggling. Even after a year and a half, I see something new every time I visit!
What’s your favorite park in New York City?