Looking for the best parks in New York City to enjoy a bit of serenity and peace in the concrete jungle? We’ve got you covered. New Yorkers cherish their parks and urban green spaces and if you spend a considerable amount of time in the city you can easily see why. There is nothing like living in the city, both good and bad, but sometimes you need some fresh oxygen from good ole Mother Nature and thankfully there are plenty of places to do that in the city!
We’ve curated a list of the best parks in New York including some of the most famous parks in New York City as well as some suggestions of what to see while you’re there, especially if it’s your first visit to the park!
Whether you want to find one of the best picnic spots in NYC, go on a scenic walk, sunbathe, or play with your kids at the playground, we have you covered! Not to mention some of these parks also have a few of the secret waterfalls in NYC!
If you’re looking for more outdoorsy activities be sure to check out our guide to the best hikes near NYC for more ideas.
This guide to the best parks in New York is organized by borough, so be sure to check what’s near you or what’s near the area you’re hoping to explore.
Best Parks in Manhattan
Manhattan’s most well-known and one of the most famous parks in New York City! Central Park is full of surprises and space! And honestly, this park is so big that you could actually spend days here and not see everything. It’s no wonder this is one of the best things to do in NYC not only for visitors but for locals too.
Head to the Ramble, a 38-acre wilderness section on the park’s west side, to feel transported outside the city. The location has a long history and was used as a leisure area for budding couples in the mid-1950s for its scenic views and private lawns that feel detached from the rest of the park. The meandering pathways, boulders, and streams are still there, waiting to be discovered.
Spread out a blanket in Sheep’s Meadow for lots of sunshine or visit the Bethesda Terrace. The Bethesda Terrace is located in the center of Central Park and is one of the park’s main attractions thanks to its magnificent architecture and breathtaking vistas. The open-air arcade, which is flanked by a grand staircase, is known for its vibrant ceiling, which is made up of 16,000 mosaic tiles.
At the top of the list for best parks in NYC, visit the adjacent Bethesda Fountain, one of the city’s largest fountains. The magnificent ‘Angel of the Waters’ statue atop the fountain symbolizes health and serenity, everything we feel when we visit this iconic NYC location!
Another favorite area to check out while you’re in Central Park is the Belvedere Castle. Yes, that’s right there’s a castle in Central Park! You can climb the castle, but the best view is from across the pond near Delacorte Theater (bonus is that there are bathrooms here too) and this is one of the best secret spots in Central Park to check out!
If you’re lucky enough to have timed your visit during the right time in the spring, Central Park is also one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in NYC.
The possibilities of what to do here are endless, there are so many places to explore, bridges to be crossed like the Bow Bridge pictured above, and the famous Boathouse where you can rent a boat and paddle on a romantic little jaunt with your partner. If this is your first visit to this famous park in NYC, you’ll want to map out where you want to go and what you want to see!
Quick to become one of the most famous parks in New York, Little Island at Pier 55, next to Hudson River Park, is a newly opened artificial island park in the Hudson River west of Manhattan.
It is located near West Street and 13th Street in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and Chelsea districts and was designed by Heatherwick Studio.
The seemingly floating park is situated on Hudson River Pier 55 and is linked to Hudson River Park in Manhattan through footbridges at 13th and 14th Streets. This exciting and eco-friendly park is one of the newest best parks in NYC and one of the best piers on the Hudson River.
If you’ve worked up an appetite they also have bites and sips available on Little Island too as early as 7 am!
Bryant Park, located behind the New York Public Library, is a well-kept oasis that presents a dizzying schedule of free summer entertainment, from theatre performances to daily concerts and even places to shop!
Find a quiet table and chairs secluded by trees or hang out on a spot on the lawn. Don’t miss their current programming either, they always have something going on from Tai Chi to yoga classes.
In the winter, during the Bank of America Winter Village, look for an ice-skating rink and pop-up businesses selling everything from delicious snacks to fun holiday gifts for the family. This is one of the most fun times to go while exploring all the best Christmas lights in NYC!
As an added benefit, the park offers free wireless Internet connection, making it the ideal location for working while enjoying the sun and fresh air, making it one of the best parks in New York.
And their bathrooms are some of the best in the city! Seriously, you have to go and see for yourself.
Last but not least, the Bryant Park Cafe is a great spot to grab drinks or a bite to eat whether you’re sitting outside on the patio overlooking Bryant Park or seated indoors.
Often overlooked, Governors Island is one of the top parks in New York City. You won’t want to miss this lovely and tranquil place, which offers excellent views of the New York Harbor and the city’s most iconic monuments, including views of the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center, and the skyline of Lower Manhattan.
The Hills of Governor’s Island offers some of the best views of Lady Liberty and the skyline too! Don’t miss weaving up the winding pathway or shortcut straight up the stone steps. On the backside of the hill is Slide Hill which has NYC’s longest slide!
To get to Governors Island, take a ferry from The Battery Maritime Building (BMB Terminal) at 10 South Street in Lower Manhattan or the Red Hook/Atlantic Basin Terminal at the intersection of Pioneer and Conover Streets in Brooklyn.
The ferries leave every 20 minutes or so. The Lower Manhattan ferry port operates daily boats, whereas the Brooklyn ferry terminal will only be operational on weekends.
And if you want to extend your visit to one of the best parks in NYC you can stay the night by glamping on Governors Island at one of their luxury yurts overlooking the New York Harbor with not only skyline views but unobstructed Statue of Liberty views from your bed!
This is absolutely one of the best parks in New York and believe it or not, this was the location of the first immigration port/depot in the United States before Ellis Island!
Located in Lower Manhattan near the Financial District and the oldest areas of the city, Battery Park offers places to run or jog, walk, and picnic. Not to mention you’re located on the scenic waterfront with great views of the Statue of Liberty.
There are also a few monuments here including the Korean War Memorial, East Coast WWII Memorial, and American Merchant Mariner’s Memorial.
One of the newer additions and structures at this popular NYC park is the ethereal SeaGlass Carousel. This enchanting carousel is an under the sea themed ride that is even mesmerizing to just watch from the outside.
Washington Square Park
One of the most popular parks in NYC to check out, albeit it’s not filled with open stretches of lawn and green space, but trust us, this is a fun place to be! The iconic Washington Square Arch, reminiscent of Arc de Triomphe in Paris, will let you know you’ve made it to the right spot.
Popular every day of the week, but especially on the weekends with live performers and entertainers, this is a popular gathering spot for the old and young students as NYU is nearby.
Hang out by the fountain, come during the holidays to see the giant tree, and if you get hungry there’s not only plenty of places to pick up a quick bite to eat nearby but vendors in the park selling refreshments and treats. This is the perfect park to grab a seat along the fountain or on a bench and sit back and people watch.
Best Parks Brooklyn
Landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who are well known for designing Central Park, left their mark on Prospect Park too.
Long Meadow and Nethermead amenities provide plenty of space to pull up a piece of grass and conduct some people-watching, while the Ravine’s wooded expanse is a towering forest amid the hustle of surrounding Brooklyn; making this one of the most famous parks in New York!
Be sure to check out the newly restored Endale Arch and Concert Grove Pavilion, the zoo, and the Prospect Park ice skating rink at Lakeside, which hosts decade-themed skating parties throughout the summer!
There are plenty of things to do in Prospect Park, just like Central Park, which is why it’s one of the most famous parks in NYC!
Don’t miss taking a hike passing the waterfalls through the Ravine, visiting the Prospect Park Boathouse, and if you’re with young ones a trip to the Prospect Park Zoo is always a fun time too.
Opened in 2018, Domino Park quickly became not only one of the best parks in Brooklyn but one of the top famous parks in NYC. Domino Park is located immediately north of the Williamsburg Bridge and is part of a massive rehab project involving the former Domino Sugar Refinery site.
An elevated promenade provides views of the surrounding city skyline and unparalleled views of Manhattan across the East River. One of the best parks in New York, Domino Park boasts two water features perfect for relief from the heat and is a great day if you have kids or little ones. Kids will especially love playing on the factory-themed playground.
There’s also a taco shop, sand volleyball, and bocce courts, plus some well-placed historical signage that teaches park visitors about the park’s history as a once massive industrial manufacturing complex.
You can’t really beat the views here which is why so many love this waterfront park!
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Amongst the best parks in NYC, Brooklyn Bridge Park turned a decent portion of the Brooklyn waterfront into an 85-acre park with distinctive attractions, including Jane’s Carousel, a restored 1920s merry-go-round, and a riverfront promenade with spectacular Manhattan vistas.
Besides being one of the most famous parks in NYC, Brooklyn Bridge Park is an excellent date spot or day trip with the little ones. A playground can be located on Pier 5, and basketball courts and a skating rink can be found on Pier 2. In the summer, there are free outdoor programs such as live theatre and music events to enjoy.
Over on the Brooklyn Heights area of Brooklyn Bridge Park, you can find the different piers which offer various sports courts and secluded green lawns to relax.
Head over towards DUMBO and you can find more of the best things to do at Brooklyn Bridge Park including food options like Luke’s Lobster, Ample Hills ice cream (one of the best places for ice cream in Brooklyn), Time Out Market New York, and the best views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, and the best Brooklyn views of Manhattan!
Fort Greene Park
Another one of the best parks in NYC is located in Fort Greene near the heart of Downtown Brooklyn. Fort Greene Park is most distinctively recognized for the towering The Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument in the center of the park which commemorates the American prisoners of war who lost their lives during the Revolutionary War.
The park is over 150 years old and has been a significant part of the lives of many notable Brooklyn heroes like Walt Whitman and Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed many of the most famous parks in NYC with Calvert Vaux.
Walk up and down the steps to the monument or find a green patch of space to picnic.
Best Parks in Queens
Gantry Plaza State Park
The vistas from Gantry Plaza State Park are incentive enough to visit; the Manhattan cityscape across the East River is stunning. Inside one of the best parks in NYC, you’ll find a fantastic playground complete with a rope spider web for climbing. A tot lot with additional playgrounds for the little ones is located near 48th Avenue and 5th Street, while the adjacent Hunters Point South Park’s playgrounds and splash pads are also within walking distance of the central park’s entrance.
But what makes this one of the most famous parks in NYC is the Pepsi Cola sign! The park is actually located at the former site of a dockyard and manufacturing district on the Long Island City waterfront. Like Domino Park in Brooklyn, you can see remnants of the industrious past that still remain in the park.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
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This iconic park is recognized as one of the most famous parks in NYC for making cameo in iconic movies filmed in NYC; Flushing Meadows Corona Park is also one of the best parks in NYC for including within the park and within reasonable walking distance: the Queens Zoo, Queens Museum, Queens Botanical Garden, The New York Hall of Science, Flushing Meadows Golf Center, and a year-round ice-skating rink all located within the park.
Flushing Meadow Corona Park is historically rich for being the site of the 1934 and 1964 World’s Fairs. At the Unisphere, take a tour around the world and be sure to stop for a snap at the New York State Pavilion, made famous for being featured in the movie Men in Black.
Best Parks in the Bronx
Pelham Bay Park
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Pelham Bay Park, located on the Bronx’s lowlands, is one of the most famous parks in New York City. More than three times the size of Central Park in Manhattan, Pelham Bay is home to several attractions, including the Bartow-Pell Mansion and Orchard Beach, boasting its own riviera and one of the best beaches in NYC not to mention one of the best secret gardens in NYC.
Considered one of the best parks in New York, Pelham Bay Park also offers miles of walking/biking routes and hiking trails, two golf courses, and a 13-mile beachfront that encircles the Long Island Sound. It doesn’t get much better for those seeking a reprieve from bustle of New York City.
Van Cortlandt Park
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Van Cortlandt Park, New York City’s third-largest park, making this one of the best parks in NYC! Visit this lush green paradise that has something from everyone. With it’s vast space, Van Cortlandt serves the bulk of the northwest Bronx between the communities of Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Woodlawn, and the city of Yonkers in Westchester County.
There are several hiking paths and trails within Van Cortlandt, and if that isn’t enough, cool off and pop into the Van Cortlandt House Museum.
The Park is also home to the country’s first municipal golf course, as well as one of the city’s few equestrian centers, the Riverdale Equestrian Centre. With so many alternatives, Van Cortlandt Park is easily one of the best parks in New York!
Best Parks in Staten Island
Silver Lake Park
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Our list of the best parks in NYC would not be complete with one of the most famous parks in New York: Silver Lake Park in Staten Island.
Designed and created to compete with Manhattan’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Silver Lake Park offers plenty of space for recreation, trails, and open space to explore or relax. With an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, sports fields, and various other amenities, there is always something to do at Silver Lake Park.
The park’s natural highlight is the lake, which has served different functions over the previous 150 years, including providing a backdrop for a casino and saloon, serving the city’s demanding ice harvesting business, and hosting a national skating competition.
Did we miss any of your favorite parks in NYC? Let us know in the comments below! If you found this guide helpful be sure to bookmark for later or share the love below on Pinterest! And for the young ones, check out our guide to the best things to do in NYC with kids!