Among its skyscrapers, chaotic streets and neon lights, there are some incredible green spaces in New York and we’ve had lots of fun exploring the best parks in NYC. The cities parks are the perfect place to relax, meet friends, have a picnic, exercise and take some time out in a city with 8 million residents. New York’s green spaces are highly coveted and, for when you crave some park time, this is our guide to the best parks in NYC!
The Best Parks in NYC
From the world famous Central Park to the beautiful waterfront Hudson River Park to the hidden gems of Elizabeth Street and Alice’s Garden, here are our 15 best parks in NYC!
1 | Central Park
It is the largest green space in Manhattan and, with 843 acres to explore, there is an incredible variety of things to do in Central Park. From quirky sculptures to magnificent architecture and vintage carousels to rowboats on the lake, Central Park is a magical escape from the hectic New York City streets.
Gaze in awe at the Bethesda Terrace where the ceiling is comprised of 1,600 colored tiles, stop by the Alice in Wonderland Statue for a tea party, pack a picnic for Sheep’s Meadow, row a boat at the Loeb Boathouse, pay tribute to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields and admire Belvedere Castle.
The park is awesome for families and there are lots of fun things to do in Central Park with kids. Our family favorite activities include the Turtle Pond under Belvedere Castle, the park’s 21 playgrounds and the Delacorte Music Clock where nursery rhymes play every hour.
Location: Central Park runs between North 110th Street to Central Park South at 59th Street, and from Central Park West at 8th Avenue to 5th Ave.
Where to stay in New York
We’ve stayed all over the city during our trips to NYC. Here are some of our favourite hotels:
- Courtyard Soho: for its downtown location and price. – click here for latest prices
- Pod 51: an awesome and funky option close to the Rockefeller Center – click here for latest prices
- Renaissance Times Square: for its Times Square location, spacious rooms and the stunning R Lounge bar. You can have breakfast overlooking the iconic Times Square and enjoy cocktails in the evenings overlooking the lights! – click here for latest prices
- Hi NYC: on the Upper West Side is a great hostel option – click here for latest prices
2 | Washington Square Park
Surrounded by Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park has a real neighborhood feel and is one of our favourite parks in NYC. The vibrant park is always full to the brim with people and activity and you’re likely to spot a mix of artists, sunbathers, chess players, musicians and cute dogs.
Some days, you might even catch a pianist recite scores on his grand piano! The park’s dancing fountain is the perfect spot to sit back with a coffee and enjoy the park’s atmosphere.
3 | Brooklyn Bridge Park
With its waterfront location on New York’s East River, the Brooklyn Bridge Park has amazing views of the Brooklyn Bridge against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic and the beautifully restored Jane’s Carousel is a treat.
The park’s two piers are home to sports areas, a playground and a lawn garden.
Best parks in NYC tip: Make sure to stop by the intersection of Water and Washington Street. Washington Street aligns perfectly to give a beautiful view of the Washington Bridge with the Manhattan skyline in the background and the Empire State Building framed perfectly by the legs of the bridge. It’s one of our favorite skyline views of New York.
4 | Bryant Park
Surrounded by giant skyscrapers, Bryant Park is the perfect contrast of city and park life. Given its location in the heart of midtown, it attracts an interesting mix of office workers, locals and tourists.
The park is usually action packed with intense chess games, open air movies, exercise boot camps and even juggling classes! Bryant park is also home to Le Carousel, Bryant Park’s resident carousel which revolves to French classical music!
During the holiday season, the park transforms into a winter wonderland with a ice skating rink and Christmas market stalls.
Best parks in NYC tip: pop into the neighboring Whole Foods for some treats and have a mini picnic in the park!
5 | High Line
The High Line is an elevated public park and walkway which meanders up the West Side of Manhattan. Spanning almost 2.5km, the High Line starts in the Meatpacking District, passes through Chelsea and finishes up at Hudson Yards and the Vessel, a recent addition to New York’s landmarks.
Some of the best views of the New York skyline can be seen from along the walkway. There are lots of quirky seating areas and creative landscapes with fun art installations dotted along the walk. One of the highlights is reaching the Vessel, a 16 story gold honeycomb structure in Hudson Yard, and one of the most incredible photo spots in NYC.
6 | Hudson River Park
The Hudson River Park is a waterfront park which runs from Battery Park to 59th Street. It passes by Tribeca, Greenwich Village, the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, Hudson Yards and Hell’s Kitchen.
There’s a 5-mile running and bike path, playgrounds, basketball courts, a skate park, tennis courts and beach volleyball as well as many piers along the way: Pier 25 and Chelsea Piers are among the most popular. The historic Lilac, Intrepid, and Frying Pan boats are docked in the waters alongside the park.
Best parks in NYC tip: Once a floating lighthouse, the sunken Frying Pan was salvaged and is now docked close to Chelsea Piers. It is the ultimate New York sunny day destination!
7 | Battery Park
Best known as the departure point for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ferry, Battery Park is also home to the awesome SeaGlass Carousel. Riders sit in giant fish illuminated in neon lights on this aquarium themed carousel, one of our favorite among the NYC carousels!
Battery Park also boasts breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn.
8 | Brooklyn Botanical Garden
With 18,000 plants from across the globe, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is set over 16 parks in 52 acres of park land. An oasis of calm away from the concrete buildings, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is home to beautiful Japanese Gardens, a lovely herb garden, a colorful rose garden and Shakespeare Garden. The park is popular in Cherry Blossom season when the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the Sakura Matsuri festival takes place.
Best parks in NYC tip: for kids, make sure to check out the dedicated Children’s Garden and the Discovery Garden, both of which will capture their imaginations.
9 | Madison Square Park
An oasis of calm in the heart of the Flatiron and Nomad, Madison Square Park is located at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street. With a playground and a dog run, Madison Square Park is popular with families and NYC’s cutest canine residents! The park is famous for its art installations which are a mix of rotating exhibits and permanent fixtures. There’s also a branch of Shake Shack where the burgers and milkshakes are among the best fast food offerings in the city and the queues are often around the block!
10 | Elizabeth Street Garden
The Elizabeth Street Garden is an acre of bliss in Nolita and one of the loveliest parks in NYC. The garden originated in the 1970’s when a local gallery owner leased the land, created a green space and used it as a storage space for sculptures.
It’s a beautiful place to hang out with lots of seating and quirky sculptures dotted throughout.
Best parks in NYC tip: New York’s City Planning Commission recently approved a proposal to build affordable senior housing on the site of the garden and a lawsuit has been filed against the city to prevent this happening.
11 | Gramercy Park
Manhattan’s most exclusive park, the tree lined Gramercy Park is only accessible to a chosen few. With just 383 keys in existence only those who live directly on Gramercy Park or are members of a select few clubs or religious organisations are granted access. The locks are changed every year to ensure it remains one of the most exclusive keys in town.
Best parks in NYC tip: For visitors to the city, a stay at the very hip Gramercy Park Hotel will provide a glimpse into Gramercy Park.
12 | Paley Park
The tiny Paley Park, with its 20-foot waterfall in the heart of Midtown, is one of the most unique and best parks in NYC. The soothing sounds of the gushing water surrounded by honey locust trees and ivy-covered walls make it easy to forget one is the middle of Manhattan!
13 | Alice’s Garden
Local resident Alice Parsekian cared for this Port Authority plot for over 20 years, visiting every day from her apartment across the street. The garden fell into disrepair after her passing but reopened after a community clean-up operation. it was named Alice’s Garden in her memory.
he garden has 17 plots adopted by local residents who grow plants and vegetables. The little garden is filled with lush vegetation, flowers and statues. Visitors can rent a key for $2 from the community office.
14 | Flushing Meadows
Nestled between the Queens’ neighborhoods of Flushing and Corona, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is NYC’s second-biggest park. The huge park has a variety of sights including a zoo, the New York Hall of Science museum, the Queens Museum of Art, a skate park, an Olympic sized swimming pool and an ice hockey rink. For baseball fans, the Mets play at its CitiField Stadium and the US Open is held annually at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Best parks in NYC tip: Flushing Meadows is home to the iconic Unisphere, a steel globe which was erected for the 1964 NYC World’s Fair expo.
15 | Stuyvesant Square Park
The picturesque Stuyvesant Square Park is the perfect spot to grab a coffee, read a book and watch the world pass by.
The downtown park is split by Second Avenue and each half of the park is surrounded by a cast iron fence, the oldest in the city. A fountain sits in the center of the park and a dog run brings in the canine residents.
The park is surrounded by some amazing historic buildings including St. George’s Episcopal Church, the Friends Meeting House and a collection of beautiful town houses. Stuyvesant Park is one of our favorite spots to catch a glimpse of NYC neighborhood life.