Escape the City and Explore Nature in NYC
For all of its high reaching skyscrapers, congested streets, and crowded venues, New York City still has a surprising amount of green space. The most notable outdoor setting is Central Park, but even beyond this famous piece of nature, there are plenty of landscaped squares and tucked away gardens that offer a nice retreat from the crowded chaos of the city. Below are several nice places to escape in to nature without leaving the city.
The heart and lungs of New York City, the famous, expansive, and huge Central Park is an iconic destination in the city featuring a variety of smaller attractions and features within itself. From ball fields and jogging paths to botanical gardens, concert spaces, cafes, ponds, playgrounds, and more, the park offers something for everyone. Don't forget to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park - one of the quintessential tourist activities in the city.
New York City, New York
Bryant Park, located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan, is situated next to the Main Branch of the New York Public Library. Featuring a large field in the summer, and a very popular ice skating rink in the winter, this community park is a nice spot to relax, enjoy a quiet setting, have a picnic, or go for a walk.
6th Ave at 41st Street, New York, New York, 10018
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan is one of the city's most famous public parks. Visitors here can find the huge Washington Arch which is a large, marble triumphant arch which serves as a landmark and honors the nation's first president. In front of the arch is a nice fountain. The arch also serves as the terminus for 5th Avenue. Also located in the square is a monument to Alexander Lyman Holley, along with some walking paths, benches, and shaded tree areas which make for a nice and relaxing picnic spot.
Washington Square Village, NYC, New York
Prospect Park is located in Brooklyn and is a family-friendly place to explore with a carousel, a zoo, and Greenmarket. There's plenty of grassy areas and green space where you can enjoy a picnic or meet some friends at the ball fields for a pick-up game. During the warmer months you can also catch some outdoor music or even a show at the Prospect Park Bandshell.
Ulysses S. Grant's Tomb
Formally known as the General Grant National Memorial, this is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), the 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia Dent Grant (1826–1902). Construction was completed in 1897, and the tomb and monument is located in Riverside Park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood.
501 Riverside Drive, NYC, New York, 10024
New York Botanical Garden
Located in the Bronx, this 250-acre site is on the list of historic landmarks in addition to housing a huge and gorgeous collection of flora and stunning landscapes. Open every day except Mondays, this destination in of itself draws large crowds, especially in the warmer months. It also operates molecular labs, educational programs, cooking classes, kid-friendly events, art exhibitions, and other events to bring in crowds. The building itself is architecturally significant, as it combines a historical beauty with a practical approach to protecting and growing the plants. (Admission on Wednesdays is free
Belmont, NYC, New York
This small "vest-pocket" park on E. 51st Street between 2nd & 3rd Ave is a nice spot to relax. While it's small, it features a beautiful waterfall surrounded by shade trees, tables, and benches. Locals use it for a place to escape the office and enjoy the outdoors in the busy city for a lunch break or a quick coffee.
225 East 51st Street, NYC, New York, 10022
Central Park Carousel
This vintage carousel located in Central Park (at the southern end of the park near East 65th Street) is the fourth carousel to run on this site, as a carousel has been here for many years. Kids love it, whether they are locals or visitors alike.
65th Street Transverse, NYC, New York, 10153
This is a public park that's located near the Brooklyn Bridge.
NYC, New York, 10000
Central Park Conservatory Garden
Flowers bloom across multiple seasons in this quiet area of Central Park located between 104th and 106th streets by Fifth Avenue. The Conservatory Garden spreads across 6 acres and opened to the public in 1937.
1230 5th Avenue, NYC, New York, 10035
This public park is in lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center.
211 North End Avenue, NYC, New York, 10282
Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden
On Staten Island this 83-acre garden and cultural center is home to not just gardens, but also historical buildings from the 19th century which were a home to retired sailors. Tudor and Victorian style buildings are mixed in with interesting garden areas representing different environments. A Chinese garden area has a koi pond and bamboo paths which make for a scenic walk. The cultural center hosts events and educational programs as well.
Cottage Road, West New Brighton, NYC, New York, 10301
Barrett Park Staten Island Zoo
This suburban zoo is located in West New Brighton on Staten Island. It's a small, 8 acre zoo that has reptiles, spider monkeys, donkeys, foxes, cows, and more. It's also the home of the famed Staten Island Chuck, a groundhog who predicts the Groundhog Day forecast yearly for New York City. Admission is normally $10, but it's free
on Wednesday afternoons.
614 Broadway, West New Brighton, NYC, New York, 10310
Washington Market Park
This urban park in the Tribeca neighborhood has a large playground and community gardens.
308 Greenwich Street, NYC, New York, 10013
This is a one acre elevated park at the World Trade Center.
NYC, New York
Irish Hunger Memorial
This memorial and park is dedicated to raising awareness of the Great Irish Famine, also known as "The Great Hunger", during which more than one million people starved to death.
NYC, New York, 10282
Once a private estate with a beautiful garden dating back to 1843, this home is now owned by the city and is open to the public, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour both the gardens and the house for a small admission fee. The gardens consist of a variety of flora along with a few spots with magnificent views over the river. Also on the premises is an art gallery and gift shop. An entry fee is normally charged, but it's free before noon on Saturdays and Tuesdays.
665 West 252nd Street, Riverdale, New York, New York, 10471
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden was created in 1910 and is situated in the Prospect Park neighborhood. Here you can find a number of special plant collections a s well as the Steinhardt Conservatory which is home to the Bonsai Museum. Also in the Conservatory are several themed areas featuring various climates, a glass aquatic plant house, plus an art gallery. While admission is not free, a huge number of visitors enter every year making this a popular and well-visited destination. They host events, children's activities, and classes, too. While an admission fee is usually charged for entry, it's free
on Tuesdays, Saturday mornings, and a few other days of the year, too.
1000 Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights, NYC, New York, 11238
This small park is found in the Tribeca neighborhood.
168 Duane Street, NYC, New York, 10013
Queens Botanical Gardens
Located at 43-50 Main Street in Flushing in Queens, the 39 acres of the Queens Botanical Gardens features rose, bee, herb, wedding, and perennial gardens, as well as an arboretum, art gallery, and more. They also host seasonal events, children's activities, and community classes.
13598 Elder Avenue, Murray Hill, NYC, New York, 11355
Fort Tryon Park
Fort Tryon Park, in Hudson Heights, has 67 acres of forest area that overlooks the Hudson River and George Washington Bridge. A certain 3-acre section resembles an English estate garden. Other areas have a unique collection of trees which bloom during various seasons.
63 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort George, NYC, New York, 10040
This is one of the first two historic buildings to be located on Wall Street. It once served as New York's City Hall and after the American Revolution it was the meeting place of the Congress of the Confederation.
Pine Street, NYC, New York, 10005
Hamilton Grange National Memorial
The Hamilton Grange National Memorial is the home and burial site of U.S. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. The mansion showcases the restored historical rooms of the house, along with an interactive exhibit showcasing the history and life of Hamilton.
160 Convent Avenue, NYC, New York, 10031
This monument, previously Fort Clinton and Castle Garden, is a sandstone fort that is found in Battery Park. It once served as the first immigration station between 1855 and 1890 before Ellis Island.
NYC, New York
Liz Christy Garden
This was the first and oldest community garden in New York City.
111 East Houston Street, NYC, New York, 10013
Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
This historic house dates back to the mid 1800's, and was built on the land which Thomas Pell purchased from the Siwanoy Native Americans in the 1700's to form the Bronx. Now the estate and its gardens are owned by the city and are open to the public. Visitors can tour the house which features a Greek-Revival style, as well as the beautiful formal-style gardens which are home to a variety of sculptures, sculpted landscapes, flower beds, and more. Events, children's activities, classes, group trips, and other festivities can be experienced here, too.
1 Orchard Beach Road, NYC, New York, 10464
Gantry State Park
This 12 acre park runs along the East River and has a unique mix of industry and nature. There are abandoned steel structures, but also natural green spaces, a playground, a water play, area, and a concession stand.
4-09 47th Rd, Queens, NY, 10007
Roosevelt Island is a great place to hang out with a family. There are two miles of waterfront that you can explore with impressive views of Manhattan and Queens. There is also plenty of green space, parks, and a playground. For a picnic, head to the southern tip of the island and grab a spot at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, which has views of both Manhattan and Queens.
Silver Lake Park
This park spreads out over 200 acres and it offers an excellent spot to run, bike, or explore. There's a large lake that's perfect for bird watching, and several great spots where you can enjoy a picnic. There's also a nearby 18 hole golf course. Kids will love the playground and scenic bridge.
In Chelsea, this small "secret" garden on 34th St and 10th Ave hosts a variety of flowers in a cozy and beautiful environment.
34th and 10th Ave, New York City, New York
Pier 6 Playgrounds
Kids love these playgrounds at Brooklyn Bridge Park. There are variety of playgrounds to choose from including the Water lab, which has a spinning water wheel, splash pools, and more. There's also Sandbox Village, Slide Mountain, and Swing Valley. Don't forget to stop by the nearby Ample Hills ice cream for a refreshing treat.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Head to this island between the months of May and October (it's closed other times of the year). In addition to fountains where kids can play, there's a zip line, rock wall, and even a mini golf course. The national park service also offers educational programming, so it's fun and informative. The island spans 172 acres and it's the perfect place for walking, running, or cycling. There's also a lot of history here. As you arrive on the island, the first thing you'll likely notice is the breathtaking views of the city. Bring your camera and enjoy your day!
New York Harbor
Queens County Farm Museum
This fun and family-friendly museum lets kids and adults explore everything about life on a farm, including getting to know the animals. They have pigs, alpacas, sheep, goats, and chickens, as well as hay rides, a bush maze, and a variety of education events. They also have seasonal activities such as pumpkin picking in the fall and more. Most days are free, except during special events.
73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Queens, Floral Park, New York, 11004
St. Vincent's Triangle Park
This triangular plaza is in the middle of Greenwich Village and is the location of the New York City AIDS Memorial. The park also has beautiful vegetation and plenty of seating where wanderers can rest their weary legs. Whether you want to watch the people passing by or just take a moment to reflect to yourself, this is a nice space to spend some time.
Battery Park is most notable for its beautiful views that look out over the water towards the Statue of Liberty. This is a larger park that can offer a quiet retreat from the chaos of the nearby Financial District. But it also serves as the departure point for the ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, so there can be crowds of tourists in certain areas. Street performers are common in the park as well, but be prepared because watching for too long will likely come with a high price tag.
This is Central Park's oldest playground, and it continues to bring thrills to kids who enjoy climbing, running, jumping, and playing in the water. There's a separate little kids section where the young ones can dig in the sand or play on small climbing equipment and simple slides. For a blast from the past, head to the old-school section with its metal slides, swings, and monkey bars. The classics never lose their fun.
Piggybacking on the Egyptian Art collection found at the Met, this playground offers climbing equipment, slides, swings, and water features that inspire kids of all ages to become explorers and archeologists. This playground, in Central Park, is the perfect place to pass some time before heading out to see more sites in New York City.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Sitting on the edge of the water between DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, this park offers a number of great facilities and recreational activities. There's a bouldering wall, a roller skating rink, a pop-up pool during the summer months, and bocce courts. This is the perfect park to enjoy a run or a bike ride. The park also offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline as it meanders along the waterfront, with the most spectacular spot being by Jane's Carousel, between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.
This creative playground inspires kids to use their imagination. At the heart of the playground are foam blocks that kids can use to build structures or control the flow of water. They can even build their own boat for the wading pool. This playground is designed perfectly to get kids working together to come up if fun ideas and engineer their very own projects.
158 John Street at Burling Slip
The climbing equipment on this playground is a blast, but there's also a sandbox, swings, and, as the name implies, hippo statues that give the park a bit of personality. During the summer months they also offer a refreshing spray to cool everyone off.
Riverside Park at 91st Street, Upper West Side
Chelsea Waterslide Playground
Located in Hudson River Park, this colorful playground is fun for all ages! There are water features, fun fish shaped climbing equipment, a sand area, and shaded seating that's perfect for a parent to who needs to rest their legs. After a busy day exploring, everyone will feel refreshed after a stop at this fun playground.
Hudson River Park
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
This beautiful park has many flowers, green spaces, outdoor art, and cultural institutions. There's also a lake, historical walks, sports fields, a skating rink, marina, and carousels. It's the perfect place for a family to hang out and there's entertainment here for kids and adults of all ages.
Union Square Park is a popular place to tourists and locals alike. The park is a hub of activity and there always seems to be something going on. Locals are often in the park playing chess, and there are performers that entertain tourists and those passing by. The park also has lots of public artwork as well as the Metronome and Countdown Clock, which shows 24 hour time from left to right and also counts down the time that's left in the day. Various markets are also held here at different times of the year, such as Christmas.
Riverside Park 91st Street Garden
The curated garden at 91st Street in Riverside Park was made famous from a final scene in You've Got Mail
starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Located right by the water, this small but scenic garden hosts a variety of flowers blooming throughout the warmer months.
Riverside Drive at 91st St, New York, New York, 10024
Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway
From Greenpoint Park to Sunset Park, this 26-mile route follows greenway paths around and on the East River so you don't have to worry about traffic. The views are also quite nice as you'll see greenery as well as the New York City skyline. It passes by Red Hook and the Bay Ridge neighborhood, too.
Brooklyn, New York City
The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
This museum was built in the style of a hillside Tibetan monastery. It maintains the largest private collection of Tibetan art in the country, and the complex offers a peaceful and beautiful setting where you can explore, sit bay the goldfish pond, or look out at the water. There are often Sunday programs and shows with music, dance, and art, that are perfect for families.
338 Lighthouse Ave, Staten Island, NY, 10306
Hudson River Park
Stretching from Battery Park to 59th Street along the river, this is a nice grassy spot with bike and running trails. You can bike or jog along the waterfront looking at the river and across to the NJ side. You'll also find a playground here as well as some nice picnic spots in the grass.
Battery Park City to 59th St, Manhattan, New York City, NY
The Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium
This unique Long Island museum combines a grand mansion, a beautiful park, and a marine and natural history museum, as well as a planetarium. In addition to shows in the planetarium, there is also a rooftop observatory viewing every Friday night.
180 Little Neck Rd, Centerport, Long Island, NY, 11721
How much does it cost?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $35 to $461. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $147. A few of the best options are below.
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