Although New York is often thought of for its extensive development, it is also home to some 1,700 parks, playgrounds, and recreation areas spread over the five boroughs. While it's easy to choose one of the city's greats like Central Park, Prospect Park, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, or Pelham Bay Park on a sunny day, why not head out to one of the city's other, oh, thousand-some grassy knolls? To whom these parks are hidden is, of course, subjective. Incensed by an omission? Leave your favorite spot in the comments.Read More
Escape the City at 29 of New York's Awesome Hidden Parks
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
The criminally underrated Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is "one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the Northeastern United States." The park, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, is a hotspot for birdwatching and avian admirers, but its winding nature walks offer something interesting for all outdoors enthusiasts.
Baisley Pond Park
Baisley Pond Park has a little something for everyone, from a running track, to various athletic fields, and even WiFi hotspots for outdoors dissenters. Interesting fact: when dredging the bottom of the pond in the late 1800's, Brooklyn city workers discovered the fragmented remains of an American Mastodon likely from 10,000 years ago (which is to say, yes!, it's a real pond.)
Barretto Point Park
This Hunts Point park is located on the East River waterfront, and offers plenty of varied terrain: visitors can paddle kayaks and canoes around the river, fish from the park's waterfront points, swim in its "floating pool" on an old barge, ride its bike loop, or relax in its gardens.
St. Mary's Park
St. Mary's Park is the largest park in the South Bronx, and one of the borough's six original parks. The parkland was once part of the estate of Jonas Bronck, the settler who the Bronx was named after. Fans of the park have late-1800's journalist John Mullaly to thankMullaly created the New York Park Association in 1881 which lead to the creation of St. Mary's. As per the Parks Department website, "His efforts culminated in the 1884 New Parks Act and the city’s 1888-90 purchase of lands for Van Cortlandt, Claremont, Crotona, Bronx, St. Mary’s, and Pelham Bay Parks and the Moshulu, Pelham and Crotona Parkways." The park was named for a nearby church that was demolished in 1959. Visitors to the park these days can enjoy grilling, biking, ball games, and other activities hosted by the park's recreation center.
The Lotus Garden is a community garden of another kindthe sixth-of-an-acre park is planted on top of a parking garage on the Upper West Side. The strange locale is due to early 1980's negotiations with William Zeckendorf Jr., whose Columbia condo development rerooted the garden from the former acre lot to the Columbia garage's rooftop. The garden, which celebrates its 30th birthday in the fall, is open every Sunday afternoon between April and November from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Mill Pond Park
The relatively new Mill Pond Park availed its 15-acres of Harlem River frontage to the city in October 2009. The strip of green is a relief from the surrounding industrial and commercial area that includes the Bronx Terminal Market and nearby Yankee Stadium. If Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has his way, Mill Pond Park will, in the near future, adjoin another swath of riverfront park that stretches north along the Harlem River. The park has 16 tennis courts and an ADA-accessible esplanade where joggers and visitors can enjoy its riverfront views.
Crotona Park might be a good place to flock to in the warmer months: the 126-year-old park is home to the borough's largest pool and also has a 3.3-acre lake. Naturalists, do note: the park is home to some 28 different species of trees.
The 28-acre Wave Hill park is a public garden (albeit with an $8 admission) that overlooks the Hudson River and Palisades. The former Riverdale estate was first developed by William Lewis Morris and was later visited and lived at by Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt. In addition to hosting a slew of cultural events, the park is home to an array of themed gardens of the herb, aquatic, and conifer varieties, amongst others.
The Inwood Hill Park-hugging Isham Park is known for its bountiful marble outcroppings and scenic views. The elevated park looks out towards the Hudson and Harlem rivers. The park is named after leather-merchant-turned-banker William Bradley Isham, who in 1864 purchased 24-acres for a summer estate. Nowadays, the park's "rolling topography" is popular with families and children.
Roosevelt Island's Eleanor's Pier opened just a few weeks ago. The park has completely unobstructed views of Manhattan, and, taking a cue from Williamsburg's ever-popular destination, hosts a Smorgasburg-style food market on the weekends. The pier is operated by the Hudson and Related Companies.
The little piece of land that is Alice's Garden is a lesser-traversed lot above the Lincoln Tunnel at 34th Street between Tenth and Dyer avenues. The Port Authority-owned lot is named after its former caretaker Alice Parsekian, who passed away in 2010. The park is a green oasis in the midsts of the Midtown crowds.
The John F. Murray Playground park occupies a whole block in the rapidly-changing Court Square neighborhood of Queens. The newly renovated park is not just a place for tots, but also has lots of benches and meandering walkways for visitors.
Owl's Head Park
Bay Ridge's Owl's Head Park serves visitors and dogs faithfully with its premium snow-sledding hill, 150-foot-long by 40-foot-wide dog run, one of Brooklyn's only city skate parks, and views to New York Harbor. Image via Flickr.
The Garden at St. Luke in the Fields
The walled, two-third-of-an-acre park in the West Village is a space for quiet and introspection. The gardens, interspersed with winding walks, are open to the community between 8 a.m. and dusk.
Samuel Paley Park
Although not a park in the traditional, abundant greenery sense, Paley Park is still a respite from the hustle and bustle of Midtown. The East 53rd Street area is surrounded by buildings on three sides. The park's pièce de résistance is its 20-foot-tall wall of cascading water. Image via Yelp.
Similar to Paley Park, Midtown East's Greenacre Park is also an urban respite with a 25-foot-high fountain wall. It's been charming Midtown grazers and business men and woman since 1971. Image via Flickr.
Socrates Sculpture Park
The Astoria park on a former landfill and illegal dumping site is the largest park in the city dedicated to showcasing sculptures. The four-acre park where the Harlem and East rivers meet gained permanent park status in 1998.
Elizabeth Street Garden
The community garden in Little Italy which began accepting visitors last year sits partially on the former site of P.S. 106 (P.S. 21). Visitors can enjoy its curious variety of marble and cast sculptures, and take heed: the community garden is still vulnerable to development. Better get your lounging in while you can. The garden is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Image via Washington Square Park Blog.
Gil Hodges Community Garden
The small Gowanus community garden underwent a neat renovation in 2013 that turned the 32-year-old space into a water-filtering landscape. The renovation included the installation of bioswales, rain gardens and permeable pavers that filter water en route to the nearby Gowanus Canal. Scent-o-philes, take note: the park is sponsored by London perfumery Jo Malone, and includes a "fragrance walk" with textural and fragrant plants. Image via Facebook.
Similar to the High Line, the Elevated Acre is a lifted park that's entered via a nondescript elevator. While the park is certainly known to those who work in the areaa favorite spot for outdoor lunchit doesn't avail itself to the casual meanderer. Hang here for views of the Brooklyn Bridge. Image via Untapped Cities.
Erie Basin Park
Never heard of Erie Basin Park? Maybe that's because it's not owned by the city, but by the Red Hook waterfront-hugging Ikea. The park, which opened in 2008, is the result of a demand issued by the City Planning Commission when it allowed the mega-retailer to take over the former Todd Shipyard, which dated back to the Civil War. Visitors to the park can arrive via the Water Taxi to enjoy the park's lower Manhattan and Staten Island views.
Lt. Lia Playground
Schmul Park, a small piece of the larger Freshkills Park, opened in 2012 following a $6.5 million renovation. Although its a hike from, say, Midtown, the park has some architectural noteriety to it: the park itself was designed by James Corner Field Operations, and its new comfort station was designed by BKSK Architects. Unlike Freshkills, Schmul Park can be enjoyed nowthe rest of the 2,200-acre park will be in development, in phases, through 2036.
Septuagesimo Uno Park
Shore Road Park and Parkway
The park that stretches under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is an ideal place to catch the sunset and some sights, including the Statue of Liberty, Fort Wadsworth, One World Trade Center, and Fort Hamilton Army Base. Those looking to run, walk, or bike are welcome to move along the park's 4.5 mile shore-hugging path.
Alice Austen House
The grand home and these picturesque grounds were once the domain of early woman photographer Alice Austen. Austen lived and worked in the home until the Great Depression. These days, its grounds have been replanted to reflect the species present in Austen's photograph. The home is one of 17 historic houses under the jurisdiction of Parks and the Historical House Trust of New York City.
Fort Washington Park
Check out The Little Red Lighthouse, the only lighthouse on the island of Manhattan, in Fort Washington Park. The lighthouse is right under the George Washington Bridge, and is accessible by bike via the Hudson River Greenway. Views towards the Palisades are stunning, too.
Visitors to this neighborhood park can enjoy its bountiful foliage and benches.
Fort Totten Park
Fort Totten Park is nestled amongst a well-preserved Civil War-era fortress. Visitors can take advantage of the park's pool, lounge in its grass, or take canoes out into the Long Island Sound.