While New York City is best known as a concrete jungle, the city actually has dozens of lush green parks sprinkled throughout the five boroughs. While Central Park is, of course, known and loved by many, other beautiful green sanctuaries like Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Alley Pond Park in Queens, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn also have wide-open spaces, hundreds of trees, panoramic views—and amenities like golf courses, carousels, and swimming pools.
NYC’s most famous park is undoubtedly Central Park, taking up 51 blocks of Manhattan and serving as a nature-filled divider between the Upper East and West sides. There are walking and biking trails galore, plenty of meadows and lawns to stretch out in, and some of the city’s best playgrounds. And of course, it’s also home to the Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Carousel, Wollman Rink, Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Fountain along with many sculptures like Balto the sled dog, Hans Christian Andersen, and Alice in Wonderland. Head to the northern end of the park to see the meticulously landscaped Conservatory Gardens and Harlem Meer lake and catch Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theatre each summer. Be sure to stop at the little known Shakespeare Garden nearby before or after the show.
The pride of Brooklyn is Prospect Park, designed by the same man who created Central Park—Frederick Law Olmsted—and he is said to have fixed everything he didn’t like about Central Park when he made the 526-acre Prospect Park a few years later. Within the park are trails, lawns, athletic fields, playgrounds, the Prospect Park Zoo, LeFrak Lakeside Center with a winter ice rink, a carousel, an Audubon Center, and a bandshell that hosts free and paid summer concerts. On Saturdays, a farmers market takes place at the Grand Army Plaza entrance.
Forest Park is another Frederick Law Olmsted creation, this time in Queens. Bordered by the neighborhoods of Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Glendale, and Woodhaven, the park features a thick, rolling forest (Forest Park Preserve) with some of the city’s best hiking and biking trails among 165 acres of trees—it is the largest continuous oak forest in Queens. Horseback riding is also popular here. Also in the park are athletic fields, a carousel, a bandshell for concerts, and even a golf course.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
This 1.3-mile-long waterfront park along the East River in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn is framed by the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and features six piers converted into parkland. Relatively new, it opened its first segment in 2010 on the site of a former cargo shipping complex. Ten years later, the park is home to lush green lawns, native plants and gardens, waterfront promenades, and epic panoramic views of lower Manhattan across the river. It also has inventive playgrounds, a much-loved water park, the glass-enclosed Jane’s Carousel, athletic fields and volleyball courts set on piers, and the historic Fulton Ferry Landing, which is home to Bargemusic. Various restaurants and food stands operate inside the park, including Fornino, Luke’s Lobster, Estuary, and PILOT.
Inwood Hill Park
Wild and untamed, the 196-acre Inwood Hill Park is located at the northern tip of Manhattan and features the last natural forest and salt marsh in the Borough. Expect meandering trails, hidden caves, and even dramatic cliffs. Lenape Native Americans are known to have inhabited the land in the 17th century and it’s also reportedly the site where Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from them in 1626 (the site is marked with a plaque). Ride along the Hudson River Bike Trail or check out various playing fields, playgrounds, and marinas. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, they’ve been spotted here before.
The largest park in Queens (and the fourth largest in NYC), the 897-acre Flushing Meadows Corona Park is famous for hosting the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. It is home to some of Queens’ best attractions: the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Zoo, the Queens Museum of Art, the Unisphere, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (where the U.S. Open is held), and CitiField (home of the Mets). Bordered by the Van Wyck Expressway, Grand Central Parkway, Union Turnpike, and Flushing Bay, the park also has trails, lakes, athletic fields, playgrounds, skate parks, and an indoor pool.
The High Line
One of New York City’s most popular parks is also one of its newest. The High Line opened to visitors in 2009, after years of discussion on how to preserve the historic elevated rail line on Manhattan’s West Side. Today, the narrow, 1.45-mile-long park runs from Gansevoort Street up to 34th Street, just west of 10th Avenue. The final northern section was completed in 2019. Access to the park is by steps or elevators, which are spaced out every few blocks. Visitors can walk along wooden slats accented by native plantings, artworks (some permanent, some rotating), benches, and bleacher seating that allow for unique vantage points. There are also food and drink kiosks and vendors along the way.
Pelham Bay Park
Pelham Bay Park is the city's largest, covering 2,772 acres of the Bronx. The park has miles of hiking and biking trails and bridle paths for horseback riding and there are two golf courses. A highlight is the 13-mile long shoreline, which includes Orchard Beach, the only public beach in the Bronx. The Bartow-Pell Mansion dates back to 1842 and is on land purchased from Siwanoy Native Americans; today it is a museum. Be sure to find the famous American Boy statue and keep your eyes peeled for osprey birds hunting for prey
Great Kills Park
The oft-forgotten borough of Staten Island has several parks worth visiting and Great Kills Park, on the island’s south shore, is one of them. With no less than four beaches (New Dorp Beach, Cedar Grove Beach, Oakwood Beach, and Fox Beach), the park is a vital part of the Gateway National Recreation Area of New York and New Jersey. The park boasts views of Brooklyn and Verrazano Bridge as well as several marinas, fishing areas, kayak/canoe launch sites, and playgrounds. There’s also a multi-trail hiking area at Crooke’s Point that highlights the wooded and salt marsh areas of the park.
Fort Tryon Park
Located in northern Manhattan in Hudson Heights, Fort Tryon Park includes parkland acquired by John D. Rockefeller and gifted to the city. Rockefeller hired Olmsted Brothers Firm, let by Frederick Law Olmsted’s sons, to design the park in the 1930s. The park has 8 miles of pathways, Manhattan’s largest dog run, two playgrounds, epic views of the Hudson River and Palisades, and several lawns and gardens, including the Heather Garden. The crown jewel is the Cloisters, the uptown branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that houses impressive medieval works in a building made from several structures brought over from Europe.
Formerly known as Battery Park, the Battery is at the lower tip of Manhattan. The gateway to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the park unsurprisingly has epic views of NYC’s most famous monument. There are also diverse gardens, bike paths, an urban farm, and the enchanting SeaGlass Carousel. Pause for reflection at the Battery Labyrinth with seven circular rings. On hot summer days, bring the kids to run through the 35 jets of the Bosque Fountain. Grab a snack at one of the Table Greens kiosks, or sit down at the Battery Gardens Restaurant for a full meal.
Originally built as a home for retired sailors, today Snug Harbor offers 83 acres of gardens and cultural centers in the northern part of Staten Island. It’s home to the Staten Island Children's Museum, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Connie Gretz Secret Garden, the Tuscan Garden, and the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden, one of just two authentic outdoor Chinese gardens in the U.S. Take photos of the 120 curved trees that form a green tunnel in the Allée, see more than 100 varieties of roses in the Rose Garden, and check out which veggies are in season at the Heritage Farm.
This small but mighty park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, opened in 2018 on the site of the former Domino Sugar Refinery. The park’s 6 acres stretch across the East River waterfront, offering spectacular views of Manhattan. This one-of-a-kind park incorporates artifacts rescued from the refinery and used in creative ways, like the screw conveyors, syrup tanks, and hoist bridge that have been repurposed into the park’s design. There’s an elevated walkway, seating steps, spraying fountain, volleyball courts, and fog bridge that allows visitors to see the pier and water below, while cooling down in the spritzing mist. A highlight is the playground, modeled after the factory to bring kids through the interactive Sugar Cane Cabin, Sweetwater Silo, and Sugarcube Centrifuge with tons of slides and climbing apparatuses. After all the fun, grab some tacos and cool drinks at Tacocina to enjoy on the brightly colored tables and chairs along the water.
Alley Pond Park
The Queens Giant—a tulip poplar that is the tallest, and quite possibly the oldest, tree in NYC—resides in Alley Pond Park, a 655-acre park in Bayside and Douglaston, Queens. The park has New York City’s first ropes adventure course open to the public, which includes a zip line and climbing wall. There are also athletic fields, trails, playgrounds, a nature center, and a golf course.
This hidden gem of a park is in the Brooklyn neighborhood of the same name, so-called because it happens to be an amazing spot to watch the sunset over Manhattan’s skyline. At 164 feet above sea level, Sunset Park on one of the highest points in Brooklyn, affording epic views of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and even New Jersey on a clear day. Inside the park are an Art Deco-designed swimming pool, lush green fields, a sand volleyball court, a recreation center complete with a workout room, playground, and a living memorial commemorating 9/11.