New York City's Unique Urban Green Spaces

For such an urban environment, New York has many green spaces, including Brooklyn Bridge Park
For such an urban environment, New York has many green spaces, including Brooklyn Bridge Park | © Dennis Fischer Photography / Getty Images
Andrea Crowley-Hughes

Late spring and early summer are ideal for enjoying parks and other green spaces in New York City. With more than 1,700 parks in the city to choose from, there are many options beyond the well-known Central Park. Here are eight of the best.

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Washington Square Park

This Greenwich Village landmark is recognizable by the Washington Square Arch and its huge, picturesque fountain. It’s an ideal space if you’re looking for a dose of culture along with your picnic lunch. The park’s proximity to New York University and the New School means you might hear musicians at play or witness an impromptu film shoot. You’re also likely to catch a glimpse of Paul, the Birdman, who has trained and befriended a large flock of pigeons.

Madison Square Park

Escape the Midtown bustle at Madison Square Park, a 7-acre (2.8ha) green space formed by the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street. Flowering, evergreen and deciduous trees line the paths, and a dog run, lawns and playground are available. Free wifi and a nearby Shake Shack make this a popular lunch destination. The Madison Square Park Conservancy hosts free programs, including contemporary art installations and concerts.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

The 85-acre (34ha) Brooklyn Bridge Park stretches for 1.3mi (2km) along the Brooklyn edge of the East River. On the Pier 3 Greenway, hills minimize the sound of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. You can catch breathtaking views of New York Harbor and Lower Manhattan from Empire Fulton Ferry Lawn, or see Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty and skyline from the Greenway Terrace. Notable attractions include a 1920s carousel and a Civil War-era tobacco warehouse turned concert venue.

The High Line

No list of New York City green spaces would be complete without the High Line; this unique public park was built on a former freight railroad line that towers above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. You can walk along the elevated path from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues. Flowering plants and trees fill gardens along the way and there are art installations to enjoy too. Stop by for events such as tours, meditation, stargazing and more.

Astoria Park

Astoria Park sits in the shadow of the Hell Gate Bridge, a Queens landmark on the edge of the East River. Its expansive lawn is a perfect place for a peaceful afternoon picnic, and the benches along the bank of the river are ideal spots for sightseeing or picture-taking. The park is also home to tennis and basketball courts, a running track, walking trails, a bandstand and the oldest and largest pool in the city.

Fort Tryon Park

Home to the Met Cloisters museum, Fort Tryon Park in Northern Manhattan provides glimpses of both historic architecture and natural scenes. The 67-acre (27ha) park is a national landmark originally designed by the Olmsted brothers for John D Rockefeller, Jr. From one of the highest points in Manhattan, visitors can see striking views of the Palisades and Lower Hudson Valley.

Tompkins Square Park

Before bar-hopping in Alphabet City or shopping in the East Village, Tompkins Square Park offers a quiet respite. True to its eclectic neighborhood, the park hosts outdoor events such as the Allen Ginsberg-inspired Howl Festival. The park includes flowering plants and lawns, the first dog run in New York City and diverse historical monuments.

Sakura Park

This public green space, between Riverside Drive and Claremont Avenues in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, gets its name from the cherry trees that grace a lawn between its two walks. The trees came from Japan in 1912, a donation from the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York. After the cherryblossom season ends, you can enjoy tulips and the foliage of linden trees from the gazebo or park benches.

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