As the summer heats up, many New York City residents head for the hills (or the Jersey Shore) for a weekend getaway and fun in the sun. But for those of us staying in the city, there are still plenty of summertime vibes to be found. Strolling the boardwalk at Coney Island, sipping frosé at a sidewalk cafe, rowboats on central park lake and our favorite past-time: Grilling meats in the open air!
An outdoor bbq with friends and family is the quintessential American summer activity. Luckily for New Yorkers, there are 1,700 parks stretched across the five boroughs! Large, small, wooded, or oceanfront, here are just a few of the parks that allow public grilling:
Inwood Hill Park (enter at Dyckman Street & Hudson River)
Inwood Hill Park is a 196.4-acre slice of New York History with sweeping vistas, dramatic caves, valleys, and ridges. The park offers athletic fields, playgrounds, dog runs, and a barbecue area, in harmony with its natural assets and striking views of the Hudson.
Morningside Park (enter at Morningside Avenue & West 121st Street)
Close to Columbia University, the Apollo Theater and the northern tip of Central Park, Morningside Park stretches thirteen blocks through the neighborhoods of Harlem and Morningside Heights. This nicely landscaped community park has playgrounds, jogging and bike paths, ballfields, picnicking, cliff-like hillsides with unique views, and even a waterfall. And the bonus feature: there’s a farmers market on Saturdays.
Randall’s Island Park (enter at the waterfront near the south end of the park).
Randall’s Island Park is a recreation hub in the middle of the East River that has all things that make summertime a beloved New York season! With incredible flora, athletics, urban farming, and fantastic waterfronts, this is a great place to plan a large all-day get-together.
Queensbridge Park (enter at Vernon Blvd and 41st Avenue)
Conveniently located on the East River waterfront, Queensbridge Park is a community park with great views from the Queens side of life, and a couple of great spots to grill! This park has a seawall, playgrounds, handball courts, dog-friendly areas, and convenient bathrooms making it easier for the older and younger members of the family.
Manhattan Beach Park (enter northeast of the promenade, median adjacent to the parking lot)
This is a popular stretch of beach great for picnicking, swimming (yes, people do actually swim in the water. It’s warm!) and volleyball. Manhattan Beach is a good alternative spot for grilling because it isn’t allowed on the beach at Coney Island. And as a reminder, for better or worse, there is no amplified sound permitted.
Now for the bad news, here is a short list of the parks that do not allow outdoor grilling:
Central Park (with the exception of Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day)
Coney Island (but between the surf, the rides, and the iconic boardwalk, you’ll have plenty else to do)
Washington Square Park
East River Park also disallows grilling without a permit, so be sure to grab one if you’re looking to cook out in the shadow of the stunning Manhattan Bridge!
Don’t forget that there’s plenty more to do in NYC world-class parks system! For even more activity ideas, check out our Summer 2018 events that aren’t to be missed!
A day at the park doesn’t have to mean leisure time. Many New Yorkers, eager to make the most of their workouts, hit the city’s many parks to get and stay fit all throughout the year. These are four spots across the city where fitness freaks can get an intense workout while enjoying the city’s best green spaces.
Running Track – Van Cortlandt Park
The Bronx’s showcase (and third largest park in NYC), Van Cortlandt Park is home to a golf course, cricket pitch, bocce court, and even a Gaelic football field, but those looking to work up a solo sweat will find it in the park’s southwest corner, just south of the tennis courts. The Van Cortlandt Stadium on Broadway between 240 and 242nd street is the perfect staging area for cardio at any level, from marathoners to weekend warriors. Test out your speed on the 400 meter track, or run up the concrete stadium steps for a vertical element to your workout.
Swimming – Flushing Meadows Corona Park
If you’re looking to burn some calories and build muscle without getting drenched in sweat, the pool is where you belong. Queens’ biggest park is home to a state-of-the-art aquatics center with an Olympic-sized pool, with all levels of swimmers welcome. A nominal membership fee (much lower than typical gym fees) will get you in for swimming year-round and seasonal ice skating at the attached rink-the best of both worlds in recreation and fitness.
Hanging Bars – Tompkins Square Park
Alphabet City’s green oasis is also home to one of New York City Parks’ most well-known and tough public fitness areas. What at a glance might look like a garden variety jungle gym is, in fact, an adult-ready set of steel frames to test even the most accomplished pull-up champ. Bring your A-game to this array of multi-colored hanging bars in the northeast corner of the park, or risk getting squeezed out by the park’s ultra-toned regulars.
Watersports – Marine Park
If your interests tend a little towards the unexpected (for NYC, at least) a ride down to Marine Park for some kayaking and paddleboarding is well worth the trip. This far-flung Brooklyn neighborhood’s namesake park (reachable by car or bus, but not subway) features not only 530 acres of grassland, but the Gerritsen inlet, a purpose-built launching spot for small boats and watercraft. Bring your own or rent one from a nearby kiosk and get your blood pumping while enjoying a day on the water!
This might be the city that never sleeps, but we certainly know how to kick back and relax every once in awhile. For summer sun by the sea, there’s no need to leave the five boroughs. Check out these 8 great beaches and see what the city has to offer at the edge of the land.
Immortalized by the Ramones, you can take the A train, the Q35 bus, or the newly opened ferry line if you don’t feel like hitching a ride to Rockaway Beach. This surfer-friendly span runs adjacent to a beachfront community that wouldn’t look out of place further down the coastline, and the view of the Manhattan skyline on a clear day is the only sign that you’re still in NYC. Recent years have brought a wealth of DFD (Down For the Day-er, a local term for visitors)-friendly eating and drinking options right off the 5+ mile boardwalk.
Neighboring Rockaway Beach but featuring its own unique charms is Riis Park Beach, named for photojournalist Jacob Riis. For those on four wheels, this beach features a massive parking lot that gets remarkably close to full during summer weekends (parking on the streets in Rockaway is banned from May to September). New eating options at the Beach Bazaar right on the boardwalk have brought this beach into line with the other sandy shores of the area, and a pitch-and-putt golf course offers further reason to give this beach a look.
An oasis in the Bronx, Orchard Beach is the northern borough’s lone public beach. Usually bustling with activity during summer days, you’ll want to get there early for a prime spot near the water. On the weekend, be ready for blaring boomboxes to bring some rhythm to your relaxation. If that’s not your cup of tea, several nearby nature trails offer a quiet respite from the crowds and some enchanting views of their own.
NYC’s most famous (and crowded) beach, Coney Island has been a destination for New Yorkers since the 1830s. No longer the resort town it once was, this spot still is home to a wealth of entertainment options including the longtime favorite Cyclone rollercoaster and many new parks and rides, as well as a newly opened amphitheater that hosts a diverse number of performers from the Beach Boys to Daddy Yankee to the Violent Femmes. For the quintessential NYC beach experience, joining the crowd is well worth it.
For a less busy option just a few subway stops away from Coney Island, Brighton Beach has the boardwalk charm without all the noise. Food options nearby are mostly offered in Russian and Ukrainian, so many traditional favorites like borscht and potato dumplings can bring a touch of local (via Odessa) culture to your Brooklyn beach outing. The dense residential neighborhood connected to this beach makes this a unique place to spend your day by the shore.
Called the “Riviera of New York City,” South Beach on Staten Island was given a facelift after suffering extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Now home to brand-new fountains, playing fields, and a spectacular view of the Verrazano Bridge, South Beach has become a destination for those who make the trip. Anglers can also take note, as the beach is home to an 835-foot fishing pier, one of the longest in the area.
Don’t let the name fool you, this sandy spot is one of the furthest points from Central Park in the NYC area. This quiet, crescent-shaped beach at the bottom of Brooklyn, accessible by the B1 and B49 buses, is a destination mostly for locals and is a great spot for a picnic or barbeque. Adjacent tennis and basketball courts are open all year, so don’t hesitate to bring a ball and get a game started.
To be fair, this one isn’t within the five boroughs, but it merits mention as one of the premier oceanfront spots in the NYC area. The six-mile-long beach on Long Island (accessible by car and the Long Island Railroad) is a fully-fledged destination, featuring golf, restaurants, and Renaissance-inspired architecture just off the sand. Memorial Day weekend brings the Bethpage Air Show to the beach, one of the largest in the United States. There’s so much to do here, you might want to get a room at one of the many nearby hotels and make a mini-vacation out of it.
New York City boasts 28,000 acres of parkland; from an aerial view, this greenery pops amidst a sharp grid of gray buildings and roads. The parks that characterize the Big Apple range greatly in size and shape, from Staten Island’s sweeping Greenbelt to Septuagesimo Uno, an 140 square foot park in the Upper West Side.
NYC contains within its boroughs over 1,700 parks, some dating back to the 1600s. Parks have played important roles in New York City since America’s origin, and throughout the years have experienced periods of both neglect and rejuvenation. Today’s city parks are cleaner and safer than ever in no small thanks to a robust Parks and Recreation Department.
Here’s a look at three of the city’s most iconic parks, and how they have evolved over the years from colonial times to present day.
New York City’s oldest park has been in use for 400 years, beginning in the 17th century when Dutch and English settlers used it as a cattle market and parade ground. The area was made into a park in 1733, paved with cobblestones in 1744, and under the control of the British used as execution grounds for Revolutionary prisoners. A statue of King George III was erected there in 1770 before being toppled (and recast as musket balls) after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.
The park was improved with trees and grass in 1784, after which it quickly became a gathering place for public meetings and events throughout the 19th century. Presidential mansions were built there for George Washington to reside before the US capitol was moved to Philadelphia.
Though Bowling Green suffered neglect after WWII, the city restored it in 1970 and it’s since become one of the highest trafficked plazas in New York City. The tear-drop shaped park is a Historical Site and its Charging Bull statue a key fixture of the Financial District.
The most famous park in NYC hardly needs an introduction. Central Park, designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted with the help of Calvert Vaux, was the first public park to be built in America. Olmsted and Vaux won a design competition with a plan they called “Greensward Plan,” which profoundly shaped the most famous and frequently visited park in the world.
Central Park’s story dates back to New York City in the 1820s through 50s, when population quadrupled in a short period of time. When it became apparent that a public park would be needed for residents to escape the chaos of city life, the park was established in 1857. It was built on 778 acres of city-owned land, then expanded to its current 843 acres in 1873.
The park’s construction wasn’t immediately beneficial for all, however. The designated land had inhabitants at the time: free blacks and Irish immigrants who had built communities there complete with farms, churches and cemeteries. Some 1,600 people were evicted in the construction process overall.
Once built, Central Park would go through various phases of decline and revival. The park’s first decline came right after it’s construction and lasted through the turn of the 20th century before being cleaned up in the 1930s. In the 1960s Central Park became host for political and cultural events, and saw a second decline before undergoing renovation in the 80s, 90s, and early 21st century.
Also designed by Olmsted and Vaux, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park has a history far older than its creation in 1867. Mount Prospect, located in the middle of the park, was forged by glacial activity over 170,000 years ago in the region. Much of the area was forested before European colonization cleared out a significant portion of woods.
Prospect Park was also the site of the Battle of Long Island during the American Revolution. Though the Continental Army lost this battle, they were able to hold off the British long enough to escape to Manhattan. Plaques honoring this event are part of the reason it was chosen to be preserved as a large park area.
Between 1915 and 1980, budget cuts and maintenance cutbacks saw Prospect Park decline to the point at which it was more of a hazard than a boon to residents in surrounding neighborhoods. When the Prospect Park Alliance was formed in 1987, an extensive restoration project was launched to carefully rebuild the original architecture.
Today, the 778 acre park includes a zoo, Botanical gardens, ice skating rink, waterfalls, playgrounds, bandshell, and ball fields. These quasi-modern additions make Prospect Park a mixture of historic scenery, quiet greenery, and activities for parkgoers of all ages.
Stay tuned for more information on NYC neighborhood parks in future blog posts.