Van Cortlandt Park. In northwest Bronx, New York City’s fourth-largest park claims plenty of superlatives. It has the nation’s first public golf course (opened in 1895), the borough’s largest freshwater lake and New York City’s oldest house museum, built in 1748. The 1,146-acre park is a boon for outdoor adventures that require lots of space, like mountain-biking and cross-country running. The park also has outdoor pools for summer splashing, as well as tennis, bocce and handball courts.
Fort Tyron Park: Manhattan’s Highest Park. Overlooking the mighty Hudson River, Fort Tyron is also proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.—son of the renowned co-designer of Central Park—is the man behind Fort Tyron. The park experience is further enhanced by the The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that features five impeccably reconstructed European medieval cloisters, dating from the 12th to 15th centuries.
Governor’s Island. Governors Island features a two-mile promenade and peaceful shoreline parks. The island also has a robust arts program, with open-air sculpture gardens, summer concerts, theme days, and other public art initiatives. The Statue of Liberty. From Manhattan, you see the statue at an angle. On the island, it’s a face-on view. In fact, park officials say that the island is the closest point on land to the face of Lady Liberty (barring actually going there).
Bryant Park. The park features one of the city’s most diverse activity calendars, including summer movie nights, ice-skating in winter, juggling performances, ping-pong, petanque and a seasonal carousel. The park pays tribute to the adjoining New York Public Library with its open-air Reading Room. Modeled after Depression-era reading rooms, where books were made available to all, Bryant Park’s Reading Room has library carts filled with books, movable furniture and author readings.
The High Line. In this eco-aware era of recycling and sustainability, the High Line is one of New York’s greatest contemporary contributions. Stretching along the west side of Manhattan, the High Line is built on a former elevated rail line. Where freight trains once rumbled along tracks, there is now landscaped parkland, with walking paths, trees and shrubs—from pussy willows to grey birches—and plants and flowers like wild petunias and thimbleweed.
Hudson River Park. Hudson River Park is an ideal green getaway for all of lower and upper Manhattan, with easy access from many neighborhoods, including Tribeca, Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side. A variety of tours cover the park, including Bike and Roll and OnBoard Tours. As you trek the concrete canyons, it’s easy to forget that Manhattan is an island.
Prospect Park: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Inspired by the impressive bird population, the park is home to the country’s first urban Audubon Center, which has interactive exhibits on the park’s diverse natural abundance. This landscaped beauty covers 585 acres, with highlights like the Long Meadow, a freshwater lake, nature trails and a wild ravine. The park has tennis courts and baseball fields, a bandshell for concerts, and a carousel.
Central Park: The Granddaddy. This is where New Yorkers come to breathe, unwind and escape the city. Many tours explore the park, including Bike and Roll, the Central Park TV & Movie Sites Tour and Central Park Sightseeing. The park is dotted with food vendors selling everything from chewy pretzels to hot dogs.