The 10 Best Picnic Spots in NYC
Warm, sunny days were made for al fresco dining. From wildlife refuges in the heart of Manhattan to coastal escapes in the outer boroughs, here’s our roundup of the 10 best picnic spots that NYC has to offer.
1. Prospect Park
Prospect Park is the official flagship park of Brooklyn, and it’s no wonder why—clocking in at a whopping 585 acres, this natural oasis of forested trails and open fields truly delivers on its promise to provide an escape from city life. (The two primary architects behind this ambitious landscaping project were also responsible for Central Park, NBD.) In other words, it’s downright gorgeous and there are picnic spots aplenty. Pay a visit to this Brooklyn gem and you will have no trouble finding a grassy patch to lay down your blanket and set up your spread. Our recommendation? Make your way towards the park’s central lake, where you’ll find a spot that can accommodate snack sessions and sports games alike, with a beautiful view of the water to boot.
2. Socrates Sculpture Park
This outdoor museum occupies 5 acres of land on the Long Island City waterfront; the location—easily accessible by public transit—was once an illegal dumping zone until a group of local artists decided to clean it up and turn it into a community space with a mission of supporting arts and culture. Now an official NYC park, Socrates Sculpture Park is a space dedicated to the presentation of large-scale public art, which you can feast your eyes on for free, any day of the week. Aside from the captivating art exhibits, the grounds also boast flower-filled gardens, 90 varieties of shade-giving trees and an abundance of picnic-friendly patches of grass.
3. Clove Lakes Park
Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island is sure to be a breath of fresh air for anyone looking to escape the concrete jungle for a day. This 200-acre park features three bodies of water, lush foliage, hiking trails and sweeping lawns that are ideal for picnicking. Aside from the natural beauty of the landscape, Cloves Lake Park also has recreational opportunities galore: sports fields, barbecuing areas, playgrounds, paddleboat rentals, and even a skating rink. In other words, if you make the trek to Staten Island, you’ll be rewarded with a serene picnic spot...and then some.
4. Brooklyn Bridge Park
Sitting pretty on the Brooklyn side of the East River, this sprawling waterfront district boasts breathtaking views of Manhattan, along with numerous recreational areas and picnic spots—all connected by a picturesque promenade. If you’re planning a grown-up picnic, you’re sure to enjoy the scenic view, and perhaps even a romantic stroll through Dumbo afterwards. For family affairs, there’s a roller skating rink and numerous playgrounds where tots can romp around once they’ve lost interest in those PB&J’s you packed. Yet another one of the attractions on offer at Brooklyn Bridge Park is Jane’s Carousel—a meticulously restored and fully functional piece of history that visitors of all ages will appreciate.
5. Fort Tilden
Once a military base and now a national park, this coastal escape in Queens serves up stunning views of Jamaica Bay, New York Harbour and the Manhattan skyline to boot. Once you have appreciated the panorama from atop Fort Tilden’s observation deck, be sure to check out the maritime forest, freshwater ponds and sand dunes. After that, we suspect you’ll be ready to settle down for a picnic on the grass of one of the park’s large recreational fields or, better yet, on the beach, which is always blissfully quiet.
6. Fort Tryon Park
If your picnic plans include a pup, we suggest you hop a train uptown and pay a visit to Fort Tryon—a park that spans the neighborhoods of Hudson Heights and Inwood in Manhattan and boasts the borough’s largest dog run. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to pay this park a visit. For starters, this 67-acre landmark serves up spectacular views of the Hudson River, as well as eight miles of hiking trails, generous lawns and a gorgeous public garden (the city’s largest, in fact). If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even pack up your picnic and head to the Cloisters, also a part of Fort Tryon Park, to soak up the medieval architecture and artwork there.
7. The Hallett Nature Sanctuary in Central Park
When it comes to picnic spots in NYC, Central Park is kind of a no-brainer. That said, given the impressive size of this famous park—843 acres to be precise—it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the task of finding a spot to set up. Our suggestion? Seek out the Hallett Nature Sanctuary—one of Central Park’s relatively well-kept secrets and a surefire way to escape the crowds you’ll reliably find populating the Great Lawn. Step through the gate of this wildlife refuge and you, too, will find a safe haven, replete with winding paths, pretty gardens and plenty of places to enjoy a more intimate picnic experience.
8. Governor’s Island
Governor’s Island—a 172-acre piece of land that sits right in the middle of the New York Harbor between Brooklyn and Manhattan—is a picknickers paradise and a truly special escape. You’ll have to hop on a ferry to reach this destination, but it’s a quick ride with many rewards, beyond just the huge amount of open space available to set up your picnic. For starters, you can sleep off your food coma in the hammock grove or work it off with a bike rental tour of the island. (Be sure to cycle by the island’s two national monuments—Castle Williams and Fort Jay.) Visiting with kids and forgot to pack lunch? No problem, on both counts. Governor’s Island has food courts with crave worthy offerings and playgrounds your tot will be talking about for weeks to come.
9. Hunter’s Point South Park
A decidedly more urban picnic experience, this snazzy 30-acre waterfront development in the heart of Long Island City features numerous playgrounds and splash pads, a central green lawn for picnicking, and plenty of concessions (so you don’t even have to bring your own grub). Best of all, you can soak up those LIC views from every foot of the promenade.
10. Van Cortlandt Park
By far the largest park on the list, Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx occupies a whopping 1,146 acres of land. Needless to say, there are no shortage of places to enjoy a picnic here and the natural landscape—complete with ridges, sweeping valleys and oak forests—is nothing to shake a stick at either. In addition to the scenic hiking trails and numerous greenways, park-goers can also enjoy numerous recreation areas, providing an opportunity for activities ranging from bocce ball to horseback riding and everything in between.
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