Best Outdoor Spots in New York City

Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Daphne Thompson.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

334 Furman St.; (718) 222-9939; brooklynbridgepark.org; open daily 6am-1am

There’s no reason for anyone—save for those with severe grass allergies—to dislike Brooklyn Bridge Park. There’s plenty of things to look at: the titular bridge (for the engineers), the Manhattan skyline (for the urbanites), the East River (for the ferry fans), and the people making out on the lawns (for the voyeurs). There’s plenty to do, from rollerskating to kayaking to making out on the lawns. There’s plenty to eat, including rolls from Luke’s Lobster, fancy lemonades, and your partner’s face. What we’re trying to say is that there’s something for everyone at this public gem, stretching 1.3 miles along the Brooklyn waterfront. Get into some pickup handball at Pier 2 or take a spin on the lovingly restored Jane’s Carousel—you know, things you couldn’t do in the privacy of your own home.  

Free; wheelchair accessible

Bryant Park

Between 5th and 6th Aves. and 40th and 42nd Sts.; (212) 768-4242; bryantpark.org; open daily 7am-10pm

Bryant Park, the gorgeous 9-acre green space behind the public library in Midtown Manhattan, is New York City just showing off. A custom carousel with hand-painted animals? A public restroom to rival the Four Seasons, replete with fresh flowers and marble baby changing tables? A football field-sized field with grass grown in New Jersey, just because? The park fits right into its bougie surroundings, but you can visit for free any time of the year. In this summer, it’s a lunch spot for office workers and a lovely place to plop down with a book from the Reading Room; in the winter, it hosts a free ice skating rink and a twee, festive holiday market. Get a banana Nutella shake from the Wafels and Dinges kiosk, find a shady spot to sit, and muse on urban renewal gone right.   

Free; wheelchair accessible; Wi-Fi

Central Park

Between 5th and 8th Aves. and 59th and 110th Sts.;  (212) 768-4242; http://www.centralparknyc.org/; open daily 6am-1am

“So we’ve got this new park here. Right in the center of Manhattan. What should we call it?” someone probably once asked. “Central Park?” somebody probably once responded, half-jokingly. The name stuck. The 843-acre rectangular green space takes up a whole lot of super-valuable real estate, so it’s a good thing that it’s so damn pleasant: you’ll find trim gardens alongside hilly meadows, idyllic spots for picnicking and canoeing, and tourist hubs as well as secluded, quiet spots. We don’t have the space to list all the park’s attractions—though they include a zoo, an ice rink, a castle, several theaters, “one of America’s most pathetic boulders,” a John Lennon memorial, and a grassy knoll named for the many pugs that frolic there—so perhaps your best path of exploration is to spend a half-day just meandering the park. You can’t get too lost in the middle of Manhattan.

Free, wheelchair accessible

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