10 of the best New York City parks that aren't Central Park
Central Park is plopped right in the middle of Manhattan island, but there are so many other parks to explore in New York City. Branch out from the guide book and what you've seen on TV, venture into other boroughs, and check out some real local flair at these NYC parks that'll make you fall in love at first sight.
Washington Square Park
You've probably seen Washington Square Park in movies and on TV too, even if you didn't know it yet. Known for its joyous fountain and the landmark Washington Square Arch marking the very bottom of famed Fifth Avenue, Washington Square Park is a real neighborhood spot. Catch busking musicians, magicians, and jugglers, outdoor arts projects, festivals and music series in the summer and caroling under the Arch-framed tree at Christmas time. For you history buffs, read up on the land itself that dates back past the drug-laden late 20th century and way before the time of colonialism.
Stroll along the southern-most tip of Manhattan for a glimpse into the immigrant history of New York. Ferries still launch between Battery Park and Ellis Island, and a sprawling grassy area makes for perfect warm weather lounging surrounded by New York's waters. Monuments to US history are spread throughout what was once a seriously strategic part of the state's military efforts, and for some light-hearted fun you can take a ride on the newest addition to The Battery: an aquatic-themed carousel.
Hudson River Park
If you started out in Battery Park, Hudson River Park is a great way to extend your adventure up the West side of Manhattan island. A walk north from the Battery up the Hudson River promenade will bring you through some of the shiny new park's best attractions. Detour onto the piers for playgrounds, soccer pitches, basketball courts, beach volleyball pits, and even a mini-golf course. For the more water-minded, there's Hudson River kayaking, fishing, and ecology classes for kids and kids-at-heart. In the summer, check out the events schedule for arts, music, and theater events, and an outdoor movie screening schedule.
The High Line
Built over the old railroad tracks that once serviced the meatpacking factories that gave this west side neighborhood its name, the high line is an elevated, man-made park that delights any time of year. Glimpse breathtaking views across the river to one side, and to the other side, see a whole new perspective of Manhattan viewed from on high. Guided tours will introduce you to the plant varieties that thrive up here, or give you an insider's look at art installations that line the park. When you get hungry, beer gardens and restaurants of all kinds are to be found down at street level in the Meatpacking District and Chelsea neighborhoods.
Make your way to Brooklyn for another sprawling taste of New York history in Prospect Park. Long Meadow is a perfect spot to lounge outside with a picnic and your pals, or just watch the clouds spin through the sky on a lunch break. There's also the Prospect Park Zoo, and the Ravine for a peaceful forest escape from city life. Go ice skating in the winter or check out the Celebrate Brooklyn! schedule for summertime concerts and live music events.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
It's easy to lose yourself in this park full of wanders tucked along the Brooklyn waterfront. Ride the restored 1920s carousel, have a picnic at an outdoor movie screening, or go for a wander among the tangled green pathways and larger-than-life waterside art installations. Summer in the park hosts al fresco literary readings, dance events, and more. Brooklyn Bridge Park offers stunning views of Manhattan, and there's nothing quite like watching dawn or dusk splay out over that skyline.
Amongst New Yorkers, McCarren Park is infamously known as the local hipster hangout. But don't let the trendy factor scare you away—there's plenty of space to lounge on the grass with your friends or family, and sports areas from football fields to tennis courts make room for the more athletic-minded. Summer movie screenings cater to the more typical Williamsburg crowd with a selection of '90s throwbacks, but there's also a sweet dog run and a playground for kids to balance out the hipster vibes.
Fort Greene Park
Not to be dismissed as just another green space, Fort Greene Park is actually Brooklyn's oldest park. You'll find all your usual park amenities and plenty of quiet greenery in which to hide. Exercise is definitely a priority here, so keep an eye out for yoga classes, bootcamps, pick-up sports games and more. And Fort Greene Park is the place to be for a summertime Sunday afternoon packed with music, at the Soul Summit series hosted every year by the acclaimed DJ Collective.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
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You probably know Corona Park thanks to the globe fountain and the movie-famous "Men in Black" towers that look a little too much like spaceships. This spot was actually first famous for being home to the World's Fair, but today there's still plenty of draw to make your way into Queens for a day outdoors. There's a Corona Park Zoo to visit, barbecue areas to make your picnic perfect, and even lakeside fishing. And if you need a break inside while you're in the neighborhood, you're surrounded by museums, sporting arenas, and some seriously tasty restaurants.
Pelham Bay Park
Central Park may be the sprawling Manhattan green space that you know and love, but New York's biggest park is actually tucked away in the Bronx. History buffs can visit the New York landmark that is Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, or just wander through the park from the Bronx into Westchester County. Pelham Bay Park sits on the Long Island Sound, and it takes its waterfront location to a whole new level on Orchard Beach. It's the Bronx's only public beach, so spread out for a lounge in the sand or go for a dip in the Sound when the beach is open for the season.
Chloe Olewitz is a born and raised New Yorker. Her writing has been published in Format Magazine, Digital Trends, The Coffeelicious, and more. Find her work online at chloeolewitz.com.