No matter your need, NYC parks offer plenty of fresh air, scenic walking paths, and relaxing environments.
Central Park is an icon among these destinations, featuring sprawling meadows, rugged cliffs, ponds, lakes, and historic castles.
Flushing Meadows Park hosts two World Fairs annually, boasting the world’s most giant globe (the Unisphere).
1. Central Park
Central Park offers something for everyone – from sprawling green meadows and serene bodies of water to breathtaking vistas, lush meadows, tranquil bodies of water, stunning vistas, and peaceful oases like this 843-acre urban oasis. Whether hiking, jogging, ice-skating, or simply lounging with a picnic blanket, Central Park provides the ideal refuge from New York City bustle.
Central Park’s Mall promenade, lined by towering elm trees that form an expansive canopy, is one of its most beloved destinations. You’ll find statues honoring literary authors and benches to sit and soak up the scenery here. Bethesda Fountain also stands out as an attraction, boasting its iconic “Angel of the Waters” statue for exceptional views across Central Park.
Hallet Nature Sanctuary is excellent for hikers and wildlife watchers seeking peace and solitude. Nearby, you’ll find Sheep Meadow, where New Yorkers come to picnic and play frisbee, while Strawberry Fields still hosts flowers placed by John Lennon fans who still visit today.
2. The High Line
The High Line is an elevated park, greenway, and rail trail built along a former New York Central Railroad spur above Manhattan’s West Side. A revolutionary public space and urban revitalization project, its 1.45-mile walkway is a walker’s paradise, offering unparalleled city views from 30 feet up.
Walk along the High Line and encounter stunning architectural designs, historic buildings, and public art. Its horticulture was inspired by self-seeded plants that thrived for 25 years on abandoned railroad tracks, while its famous planting designer Piet Oudolf selected hardy species that provide sustainable solutions.
Don’t miss 14th Street Passage for an oasis of shade and a daily video series. Or head to Chelsea Market Passage for an open-air food court and a stroll along remnants of an old train track!
Children will love exploring the Pershing Square Beams, where concrete decking has been removed to expose steel beams and girders coated in the safe rubber surfaces and transformed into an interactive playground when visiting the High Line on a pleasant evening stroll through The Spur, where monumental art pieces will be featured from time to time above 10th Avenue.
3. Battery Park
Named for the battery of cannons used to defend Manhattan for centuries past, Battery Park offers breathtaking vistas and activities that make it one of NYC’s premier parks. You can sit on one of its benches in the park’s center to gaze upon “Lady Liberty” or stroll along Battery Park City Esplanade for scenic waterfront views.
This serene 92-acre neighborhood provides the ideal retreat from city chaos. Once home to shipping and seaport traffic, today it is a residential community featuring modern high-rise apartment buildings. Weekday workers from the nearby Financial District occupy this neighborhood; on weekends, it offers visitors quiet respite.
Take a ferry ride from Battery Park pier and experience its oceanic breeze while approaching this iconic landmark. Additionally, visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Irish Hunger Memorial or shop at Brookfield Place, an upscale mall offering food courts from some of New York City’s leading chefs.
4. Bryant Park
Bryant Park is more than just a place to stretch your legs; it is also an urban cultural hub with year-round free events. Bryant Park hosts concerts (26 total this season!), yoga classes, ballet performances, theater productions, and one of NYC’s best Christmas markets with an ice skating rink and holiday shops – making Bryant Park an indispensable NYC outdoor space.
For daytime fun at Bryant Park, picnickers often head for the lawn. Surrounded by several popular eateries like Bryant Park Grill and Cafe and kiosks offering bread, coffee, ice cream, and sandwiches, picnicking here can be relaxing and rejuvenating!
Bryant Park offers an ideal respite from busy New York, situated between the New York Public Library and skyscrapers in Midtown Manhattan. Renowned for its scenic lawn, free programming offerings, and fascinating history – Bryant Park should be visited by everyone living or visiting NYC.
5. Pelham Bay Park
Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx offers residents and visitors much to see and do, boasting more than three times more area than Manhattan’s Central Park. Boasting miles of bridle paths and hiking trails, two nature centers, Orchard Beach, Bartow-Pell Mansion (Greek Revival style), and 13 miles of saltwater shoreline embracing Long Island Sound, this expansive park can keep any Bronx resident or visitor occupied for days on end!
Anne Hutchinson founded a settlement here in 1638; today, its rugged New England-style shoreline draws sun worshipers who come for its sandy “Riviera of New York.” A glacial boulder called Split Rock still serves as a shelter and stands nearby.
Nature enthusiasts can explore the park’s various ecosystems through guided nature walks. Hunter Island Zoology and Geology Sanctuary provides an excellent location for wildlife watching when northwest solid winds push distant flocks of waterfowl closer to shore. At the same time, bird of prey enthusiasts will appreciate finding an excellent viewing spot along its lagoon’s green salt marsh lagoon.
6. Flushing Meadows Park
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, just minutes away from Citi Field, is renowned for its world-renowned landmarks – among them is the Unisphere constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair – as well as attractions like Queens Zoo, New York Hall of Science, Queens Botanical Garden, and more. Furthermore, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is home to significant national and international sports venues like Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Visitors to Meadow Lake can take a scenic stroll or rent rowboats and paddleboats for an enjoyable experience. Additionally, this area is popular among runners and cyclists, and golf courses, ice skating arenas, soccer fields, and picnic areas are nearby.
This park is an excellent destination for families, offering playgrounds, a Zoo, and plenty of open space to run and play. Culturally diverse areas can often be seen here with people from various countries and languages gathering. Many attractions also feature multilingual signage – take, for instance, the Colombian Independence Day Celebration, which draws thousands every year, or the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, which honors ancient Chinese patriot poet Qu Yuan with beautiful boats racing on Meadow Lake to commemorate his memory.
7. Prospect Park
Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same team responsible for Manhattan’s Central Park’s signature look, designed Brooklyn’s Emerald Park in five eighty-five acres of space, including Long Meadow – often filled with walkers, picnickers, sportspeople, kite-fliers, kite-flyers – hilly woodlands; expansive lakefront with neoclassical gates and arches – to form this vast 585-acre space.
Prospect Park’s natural beauty is only part of its attraction; in addition, there are also remarkable entertainment experiences here, such as its 1912 carousel, world-class Prospect Park Zoo, 1905 Beaux Arts Boathouse, and Lefferts Historic House (18th-century Dutch farmhouse and interactive museum of local history).
Prospect Park features seven children’s playgrounds, such as Harmony Playground and Imagination Playground, with nature-themed equipment and structures. While you could spend only an afternoon here to get a complete sense of its beauty and offerings, we suggest dedicating at least half a day or more. Don’t forget admission is always free!
8. Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park is an expansive waterfront playground for the whole family, boasting gardens, sports fields, beaches, and picnic areas with breathtaking views of Manhattan. It was first opened for use as early as 2010, with additional sections opening since.
Attractions at Empire Fulton Ferry include a beautifully restored 1922 Jane’s Carousel, and amazing views of the Brooklyn Bridge framed against Lower Manhattan skyscrapers. You can also learn about local ecology and sustainability at the Environmental Education Center’s touch tank featuring starfish, shells, plants, and more!
Pier 6 Meadows is another fantastic discovery area, offering winding pathways through wildflower meadows. For an idyllic walk away from city noise, visit Granite Terrace at Pier 3. At the same time, for something different, try exploring Pier 3 Labyrinth: an interactive maze made up of paths featuring artwork made out of salvaged materials.