Around 35 million visitors head to Central Park every year to see the zoo, ride the carousel, and chill out in the quiet zones of Strawberry Fields and Sheep Meadow. However, it’s just one of the many great parks in New York City. If you prefer to avoid the crowds on your next picnic, check out some of these local gems.
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Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Made by Central Park Creators
It’s not surprising that Prospect Park feels a little like Central Park on a smaller scale because Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux also designed it. Long Meadow is thought to be the longest stretch of unbroken grass in any American park, so it has plenty of space for a picnic lunch. On a hot day, families with children might prefer to set up near one of the five themed playgrounds with sprinkler systems, or Lakeside, which has the park’s first water playground.
The High Line, Manhattan, for a High View
Opening in 2009, the High Line is one of New York’s newest parks, and it’s also one of its most unusual. This outdoor park revamped an elevated infrastructure build on Manhattan’s West Side in the ‘30s. Today, the manicured gardens, outdoor sculptures, and views of the iconic Hudson River make the space one of the city’s most beautiful places to enjoy a picnic. And if you’re time-poor, grab one of the boxed meals at the nearby Chelsea Market restaurants.
Fort Tyron Park, Manhattan, for Art Lovers
Visitors flock to Fort Tyron Park to see the medieval art at The Cloisters, but most of them leave before they can soak up the park’s atmosphere. Their loss is your gain, as you can enjoy some rare peace while you picnic. Fort Tyron Park lies at the highest point of Manhattan, and its views of the borough and the Hudson River are pretty spectacular. It also has a dog run, complete with a gazebo, so don’t forget to bring Fido along.
Pelham Bay Park, The Bronx, for Wide Open Spaces
Central Park might be New York City’s most famous park, but Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx is more than three times larger at 2,772 acres. That leaves plenty of space for picnicking and working off your lunch with a leisurely hike, run, or football game. Nature-lovers should keep their eyes focused on the 13-mile saltwater shoreline. It’s a favorite hunting ground for one of the animal kingdom’s most skillful predators: the osprey.
MacNeil Park, Queens, for Sunshine in the Shade
Take refuge from the bite of the summer sun at MacNeil Park in Queens. This beautiful waterfront park is packed with free shade trees that offer respite from those harsh UV rays. It’s easy to while away the hours under a tree with gourmet picnic food and a good book, but if you’re feeling more energetic, get some buddies together for a game of basketball or frisbee.
MacNeil Park takes its name from a renowned sculptor who lived in the area for many years, which is fitting because this park is a real work of art.
Central Park might get most of the attention, but New York’s boroughs have plenty of great parks just waiting to be explored. So step off the crowded tourist path and start embracing the gems in your backyard.