While it’s known as an urban jungle, there are lots of parks in NYC where you can relax, practice sports, and spend time in nature. So, if you find yourself craving some green space in NYC, don’t worry, because you have plenty of options.
In this article, I’ll share the 15 best NYC parks and the amenities that make them stand out. We’ll cover the obvious parks like Central Park and Riverside, as well as lesser-known parks in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Things in the Big Apple are grand, and the city parks are no different!
Keep reading to learn where to find the best picnic areas, nature trails, sports fields, and playgrounds in New York, then download the map at the end so you don’t miss any of these beautiful parks.
1. Central Park, the most famous New York City park
Central Park is one of the biggest parks in New York City, so it’s impossible to visit NYC without going there. Spending some time in Central Park is one of the best things to do in New York City, so carve out a few hours to explore this urban green space.
Here, you can find just about anything you’d want in a park, from playgrounds and picnic areas to public art and recreation facilities. There are way too many things to do in Central Park to list right here, but some of the highlights include the Central Park Carousel, Wollman Rink, and Belvedere Castle.
Throughout the day, the park is filled with people lounging in the North Meadow and congregating at the Bethesda Fountain, or simply passing through during their commute. If you have the time, stroll through the park, and check out the famous sculptures, like Balto the sled dog or Alice in Wonderland.
As one of the best parks in Manhattan for families, there are fun things to do with kids here, like boating on The Lake, scrambling up the rock structures, or visiting the museums lining the park. The plazas and green spaces are perfect for taking a break, while the sports fields and ball courts can help the kids release some energy.
You’ll also notice lots of walking and jogging paths throughout the park, and one of the best ways to explore this lush pocket of nature is by doing this bike tour. It’s included in the New York Pass, or you can rent a bike on your own.
2. Brooklyn Bridge Park, another iconic park in NYC
Switching boroughs, Brooklyn Bridge Park is a fantastic park in Brooklyn, NY that you should visit. It’s under the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, along the East River, granting you the best waterfront views in NYC and a variety of things to do.
The park is divided into different parts, each with unique landscaping, facilities, and features. For example, the sections at Pier 2 and Pier 5 are known for their sports fields and courts for basketball, bocce, handball, shuffleboard, lacrosse, and soccer. Also, Pier 5 has a marina that hosts community kayaking programs, sometimes for free.
Visiting Brooklyn Bridge Park is a good thing to do in NYC with kids and, if you’re traveling with younger children, I recommend going to Pier 6. It has several playgrounds and jungle gyms they’re sure to enjoy. If you’re with older kids or traveling with friends, and you want to explore the area a bit more, I recommend this walking tour. It goes to the Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO, one of the top neighborhoods in Brooklyn, which is known for its boutique shops, cafes, galleries, and river views.
3. Riverside Park, a lovely NYC park by the water
Riverside Park is another waterfront park in NYC; this one is along the Hudson River in the Upper West Side. It may be a smaller park, but it has no shortage of interesting sights and fun activities.
Like many other NYC parks, Riverside has several monuments and statues scattered about, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument, the Joan of Arc Memorial, and Grant’s Tomb, the final resting place of President Ulysses S. Grant. There are also walkways and bike paths winding through the park, such as the aptly-named Cherry Walk, which is lined with beautiful cherry trees.
In fact, Riverside Park is one of the best nature spots in New York City, and it’s particularly popular with birdwatchers. Over 170 bird species have been spotted at the park, including red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, kestrels, and mallards.
If you’re looking for something more active, Riverside also has three dog runs, a skatepark, soccer and baseball fields, and courts for basketball, tennis, and volleyball. There are a handful of playgrounds, too, with Hippo Playground being especially popular. It features jungle gyms, swings, sandboxes, and boisterous hippopotamus fountains.
4. Washington Square Park, a nice NYC park in Greenwich Village
Washington Square Park is one of the most beautiful parks in NYC, and one of the city’s most notable landmarks. Located in Greenwich Village, along Fifth Avenue, Washington Square Park stands out for its famous gateway arch, which was modeled after Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
In front of the arch, is the Washington Square Fountain, a focal point for activities and gatherings. On any given day, you can see locals and tourists hanging out around the fountain as well as street performers and buskers entertaining the crowds. The impressive fountain holds 32,000 gallons of water and features a large central fountain and smaller spray fountains around the perimeter. During the summer, kids – and maybe some adults – splash in the waters to cool off.
Further into the park, you can find dog areas, historic monuments, walking paths, picnic tables, and playgrounds. While it’s a lovely green space in NYC, the park is better known for its cultural activities. It’s not uncommon to see chess players or political demonstrations here.
5. Prospect Park, one of the best parks in Brooklyn, New York
Prospect Park is another popular place to visit in Brooklyn since it’s close to Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The park itself has been declared a New York Scenic Landmark and belongs to the National Register of Historic Places.
As one of the best parks in NYC, Prospect Park offers plenty of natural areas, green spaces, and historic landmarks. Its Long Meadow section is a hub for families since it has playgrounds, the Picnic House, and the Bandshell, which hosts free summer concerts, one of the best outdoor activities in NYC.
Moreover, the Ravine is a quieter section with old-growth forests and Lookout Hill. Some other gems in Prospect Park include the Binnen waterfall, Prospect Lake, and a series of arched bridges. There are also several historic structures here like Litchfield Villa, the Lullwater Boathouse, and the Parade Ground.
In addition, this place is an even better birdwatching spot than Riverside Park. Nearly 300 species have been recorded here, including green herons, great horned owls, yellow warblers, and red-tailed hawks. Of course, there are other recreational activities here, and the park has basketball courts, baseball and soccer fields, a Tennis Center, and the LeFrak Center, where you can go ice skating or boating.
As you can see, there is a lot to see here, so consider this guided tour, which will take you to some hidden places in the park as well as the Long Meadow, the Ravine, and other scenic spots.
6. The High Line, a free park in New York City you’ll love
The High Line is an elevated NYC park that extends from Chelsea’s Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards. It’s one of the most unique parks in the city, and while it’s untraditional, it still offers lots of cool features.
The High Line was once a railway that connected the city’s factories and warehouses. Today, it’s a repurposed public park, and walking all 1.4 miles of it is one of the best free things to do in NYC. In addition to admiring the horticultural gardens, you can see iconic landmarks in the distance, such as the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Chelsea Market.
During the High Line’s developmental stage, landscape designers and architects carefully selected meadow shrubs, trees, and perennials for the park. The plants and flowers were arranged to look like they were overtaking the elevated pathway. That doesn’t mean that walking the High Line is arduous; rather, it’s a serene place to stroll through. Plus, there are several overlooks and resting places along the High Line, as well as a children’s play area.
Another cool thing about this New York City public park is that it can get you from one part of Manhattan to the other, all while enjoying commissioned art pieces. Besides the art galleries and shops below the park, you can also see The Vessel, an avant-garde observation deck overlooking Hudson Yards.
7. Bryant Park, a pretty NYC park to visit as a couple
Bryant Park, also known as Manhattan’s town square, is a lovely NYC park located along Fifth Avenue. More specifically, it’s right next to the New York Public Library, which is also worth visiting.
This green space in NYC is a refreshing oasis among the other Midtown Manhattan attractions around it. The focal point of Bryant Park is its large, manicured lawn. It’s the perfect picnic spot and, during the summer, the site for community Movie Nights.
Besides this open green area, there are beautiful gardens throughout the park and various public art pieces. Among the memorials and sculptures here are statues of former Mexican President Benito Juárez, writer Wolfgang von Goethe, and poet Gertrude Stein. There is also an impressive fountain that collects thousands of dollars in coins each year, usually from many different currencies.
While you’re strolling through the grounds, you may hear the tinkling French music of Le Carousell Magique, an ornate merry-go-round in the park. Also, if you visit NYC at Christmas, you’ll see Bryant Park transform into the Winter Village. It’s a main holiday attraction in the city and features an ice skating rink, a Christmas market, food stalls, and a community Christmas tree.
8. Battery Park, another popular NYC park you can’t miss
Battery Park, also called The Battery, is another large park in Manhattan, New York that you must visit.
If you’re wondering where The Battery got its name, that’s a good question! The park was originally the site of several artillery batteries, which protected the developing 17th-century settlement behind it. Later, that military fortress became Castle Clinton, which processed immigrants even before Ellis Island. Today, you can see remnants of Castle Clinton and the batteries as well as a national monument commemorating the site.
Other significant landmarks at Battery Park include Monument Walk, the Hope Garden, the SeaGlass Carousel, and the Bosque Fountain. Plus, The Battery looks out onto New York Harbor, so it’s a beautiful waterfront park in NYC you can’t miss.
Along with its woodlands, urban farm, and main lawn, there is a ferry terminal here where you can hitch a ride to Staten Island or take a Statue of Liberty tour like this one. Even if you come here for the ferry, you’ll probably end up lingering in the park since it’s so nice!
9. Union Square Park, a beautiful park in New York City with lots to do
Union Square Park is one of the most famous parks in NYC, representing the intersection, or union, of Broadway, 4th Avenue, and 14th Street. It’s also a convenient halfway point between several Manhattan neighborhoods, like Greenwich Village, the Flatiron District, and the Bowery.
One of the things that make this New York City park stand out is its public art. From the public art and sculptures to the historic monuments, you can get a brief history lesson here. Among the public figures memorialized here are Marquis de Lafayette, Abraham Lincoln, and Mahatma Gandhi. If you prefer contemporary art, glance up at the LED art installation, Metronome, a huge digital clock above the shops at Union Square East.
Moreover, the park has two playgrounds, a dog run, and a multi-level plaza that serves as a popular meeting place for protests and political demonstrations. Also, lots of chess players have migrated from Washington Square Park to Union Square, so it’s not uncommon to see them setting up their games on overturned crates or boxes.
Perhaps the best part about this park is the Union Square Greenmarket, a year-round farmers market. It’s one of the best places in the city to get fresh, local produce, although if you’re hungry, surrounding Union Square are some of the swankiest restaurants in New York City.
10. Domino Park, one of the best NYC parks in Brooklyn
Domino Park is a newer park in Brooklyn, New York that’s quickly becoming a favorite among locals. Encompassing five acres along the East River, the park offers lovely views of the waterfront and the imposing Williamsburg Bridge.
Another feature is the Domino Sugar Refinery, which is characterized by its large syrup collection tanks, and explains the name Domino Park. Wood and materials from the original refinery were reclaimed during the park’s development stage and reused in areas like the children’s playground and the fountain steps.
The Domino Park Fountain is the hub of the park and is surrounded by wooden steps where you’ll always see people lounging and congregating. The fountain, which features 88 customizable water jets, also doubles as a performance space for community events.
Interestingly, the park was designed by the same architect who worked on the High Line, and Domino Park also has an elevated pathway from which you can see the East River, the Williamsburg Bridge, and the skyline. Other amenities in this beautiful NY park include a dog run, volleyball and bocce courts, a playing field, and the delicious Tacocina taco stand.
11. Hudson River Park, the best New York City park to visit with kids
A unique city park in New York that you should definitely visit is Hudson River Park. It’s a great place to go with kids, friends, or even by yourself if you want to enjoy some fresh air, waterfront views, and a variety of activities.
Hudson River Park is a long, narrow green space in NYC that runs from Tribeca to Chelsea’s Meatpacking District, one of the trendy neighborhoods in NYC. The waterside urban park is part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway and spans 550 acres along the Hudson River, making it the second-largest park in the borough. If you simply walk the length of the park, you’ll pass One WTC, Greenwich Village, Hudson Yards, and several other areas. Moreover, the park connects to Riverside and Battery Park.
Within Hudson River Park, you’ll find various amenities and recreational facilities, including walking and biking paths, tennis and basketball courts, beach volleyball, soccer fields, batting cages, and a skatepark. There is also a dog run for pet owners and a playground for the kiddos. Little Island, another great place to go in NYC with kids, is also part of the park.
At Pier 84, you can find free rowing and kayaking at the Village Community Boathouse, while the Chelsea Pier Sports and Entertainment Complex offers all kinds of sports and activities.
12. Astoria Park, the best NYC park in Queens
Astoria Park is one of the best parks in Queens, so if you find yourself in this borough, be sure to check out this popular attraction in Astoria.
The park is known for its pool, Astoria Pool and Bathhouse, which was used for the U.S. team’s Olympic Trials in 1936, 1952, and 1964. Today, admission to the pool is free, so it’s the perfect place to cool down from the summer heat.
There is another pool at the Astoria Play Center, a large rec center with various sports facilities. Outdoors, you can play sports like basketball bocce, and soccer. Moreover, the park’s tennis area, which is partly under the Triborough Bridge, is an impressive space with 14 courts and restrooms.
On any given day, the park attracts families who enjoy the park’s playground, skaters who meet up at the Astoria skatepark, and runners getting their laps in around the soccer field’s track. So, if you’re a fitness enthusiast, Astoria Park is a great addition to this list of NYC parks!
13. Pelham Bay Park, the most amazing park in The Bronx, NY
Pelham Bay Park is a huge park in the Bronx, NY that doesn’t get as much attention as Central Park or Hudson River Park. Even so, it’s one of the best places to visit in The Bronx and even the entire city.
Spanning over 2,700 acres, Pelham Bay is three times the size of Central Park and dates back to 1888. Its varied geographical landscapes and habitats include lagoons, woods, marshes, forests, meadows, and bays. This makes it a popular destination for nature lovers and bird-watchers, who can spot species like black-capped chickadees, willow flycatchers, loons, and ospreys.
As the biggest park in New York City, Pelham Bay offers enough things to do to last an entire day. If you like sports, you can play baseball, football, basketball, bocce, or tennis. There are also two golf courses, an equestrian center, and a running track. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the park’s nature trails, sanctuaries, and intriguing geological formations like Glover’s Rock and Split Rock.
If you want to focus on the park’s highlights, check out Orchard Beach, one of NYC’s best beaches, and Turtle Cove, a small freshwater cove with a mini-golf course. I also recommend visiting the Bronx Victory Column, a beautiful monument with a 70-foot statue of Nike, goddess of victory.
14. Flushing Meadows – Corona Park, another park in Queens you should see
Visiting Flushing Meadows – Corona Park is arguably one of the best things to do in Queens. It was created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, which it also hosted in 1964. The park became desolate after the fair, but revitalization efforts throughout the 1990s and 2000s have restored it, and you can still see some of the original layout, including the Boathouse and Queens Museum.
Also known as Flushing Meadows, it’s the fourth-largest park in NYC and is home to some of the city’s most famous landmarks. Perhaps the most iconic structure in the park is the Unisphere, a steel globe measuring 140 feet tall and 120 feet wide. Commissioned for the 1964 World’s Fair, it represents that year’s theme of “Peace Through Understanding”.
Some other significant sites in the park include Citi Field, Queens Botanical Garden, the New York Hall of Science, the Flushing Meadows Carousel, and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. If you’re craving some time in nature, take a walk through the park, and visit Meadow Lake or Willow Lake; both are home to dozens of fish species including American eels, largemouth bass, and northern snakeheads.
15. Van Cortlandt Park, a relaxing NYC park in The Bronx
Finally, Van Cortlandt Park is a beautiful park in the Bronx, NY that I recommend if you want to escape the city noise for a bit. This park is also the perfect place to go if you want to practice sports, do some outdoor activities, or go on a hike or nature walk.
While lots of NYC parks also offer facilities for baseball, basketball, soccer, and tennis, Van Cortlandt has additional spaces for cricket, football, lacrosse, and rugby. It also has playgrounds, golf courses, running paths, and stables with horseback riding trails.
If you’re visiting during the summer, check out the free public pool or do one of the hiking routes in the park, like the Putnam Trail or the Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway. As you walk through the park’s woods and old-growth forests, see if you can spot some flora and fauna. Some species to look out for include beech, hickory, and red maple trees, as well as bats, coyotes, groundhogs, great horned owls, gypsy moths, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys.
If you like to fish, Van Cortlandt Lake has bluegill, carp, yellow perch, and several other fish species as well as snapping turtles. Also, if you like history, check out the Van Cortlandt House Museum, the oldest building remaining in the Bronx, and Memorial Grove, which commemorates those who served in World War II and the Korean War.
With that, you have 15 awesome NYC parks that you can visit during your next trip! To help you keep track of all these places, here is a map you can download and keep on your phone.
Of course, if you have any questions about this list of NYC parks, or you’d like to add your favorite, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Have a great trip!