New York may be a concrete jungle, but it’s also hard to walk a few blocks without encountering a bustling park or a secret garden tucked into the folds of its endless streets and avenues.
Central Park is the mother of all urban green spaces, but between yoga in the city and free language lessons in Bryant Park and sculpture gardens and food trucks at Highline Park, there are plenty of other parks worth exploring. Here are the best ones:
Bryant Park (Midtown)
Just south of the world’s epicenter for bright lights, loud noises, and big crowds (Times Square) rests this beautiful oasis. Even though it’s right in midtown, it rarely ever gets overcrowded, except for a brief moment when the after-work crowd comes through.
My favorite thing about Bryant Park is the multitude of free events and classes they have every single day. These range from yoga, language lessons, and creative writing workshops to juggling classes, spoken word, and even weekly spelling bees. If you haven’t nerded out enough, you can also pass hours inside the New York City Public Library on site.
Highline Park (Chelsea)
Built above the city on old railway tracks, Highline Park is a brilliant way to get around the Chelsea and the Meatpacking district. While there may not always be fewer people, it is far more scenic than the street route.
Highline Park is packed with a variety of plants, sculptures, art installments, and food trucks. A local astronomy group also holds weekly stargazing events (believe it or not, you can actually see some stars in NYC).
Brooklyn Bridge Park (Brooklyn)
This park is on the Brooklyn side of east river, and it offers some of the best views of the lower Manhattan skyline.
Brooklyn Bridge Park also serves up all your summer fun favorites in one spot, from brand new green spaces, to movies in the park, to roller skating, to 4th of July fireworks, to fishing and BBQ grills, to a pop-up pool.
Governor’s Island (Governor’s Island)
Governor’s Island is basically a park that’s also an entire island. It’s just a 10 minute ferry ride from lower Manhattan, but it feels like it’s worlds away once you’ve stepped foot onto this historic military village.
The area is a New Yorker favorite for picnics in the spring and summer. You can tour the fort, have a picnic, lay in one of the many hammocks, or even attend the Pinknic Rosé and Music festival. Governor’s Island is also home to two of New York’s (and the country’s) biggest music festivals: Panorama and Governor’s Ball.
New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
You do (usually) have to pay an entrance fee to get in here, but it’s well worth it. This 250-acre botanical garden in the Bronx is a National Historic Landmark filled with over one million living plants. They’ve got plants of all shapes and sizes from all around the globe — last summer, they even hosted a corpse flower, a rare plant that only blooms once 10 years (and also smells like a corpse).
Washington Square Park (Greenwich Village)
This infamous rectangle in the middle of the Village has long been a gathering space for all kinds: hippies and eccentrics, performance artists and activists, SoHo millionaires, tourists, and NYU students alike. Regardless of the time or day, Washington Square Park is always filled with vivacious activity. It may not be a hidden gem, but it’s hands down my favorite place to people watch in lower Manhattan.
Tompkins Square Park (East Village)
If a park can be punk, this one takes the cake. Smack dab in one of Manhattan’s edgiest neighborhoods, you’re likely to pass by all manner of alternative folks and maybe even catch a metal show in this lovely but small green space. There’s also a dog park with Tompkins Square Park, and it’s right down the street from a plethora of pizza places and ice cream shops.
If you’re ready for a day at the park, bring some tasty treats and make a picnic out of it. Check out our article on the best places to grab the most classic NYC foods. If you don’t call NYC home yet, find an apartment within the city and hang up your hat.
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