Welcome back to Undiscovered New York. This week we’ll be taking a look at some of New York’s most famous public spaces – its parks. First time visitors are sure to spend a few hours getting to know New York’s most famous greenspace, Central Park. After all, this massive outdoor space tends to dominate both the geography and collective imagination of our city’s residents. And frankly, with all that Central Park has to offer, including a zoo, Shakespeare and ice skating in the winter, it’s not a bad place to start.
Yet Central Park is just the tip of the iceberg. If you truly want to understand New York, you could do worse than spending some time at the city’s many parks. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation maintains more than 1,700 public spaces set across all 5 of the city’s boroughs. And while they might not be as well-known as Central Park, New York’s parks are as diverse as the residents that come to visit them, boasting their own unique amenities and personality.
Want to enjoy one of New York’s best hamburgers al fresco? How about spending the afternoon at a beautiful recreation of a medieval monastery? Or perhaps a $3 rock concert is more up your alley?
Click on through below as Gadling takes a closer look at some of New York City’s lesser known public parks and presents you with a list of some of our favorites.
Park One: Fort Tryon and The Cloisters
Way up at the very top of Manhattan, the city’s typically dense urban grid begins to fade away. Expansive panoramas of the Hudson River open to view, and the city’s streets are increasingly punctuated by large clusters of trees. It’s right about then, around 190th Street, where you’ll come upon the urban oasis of Fort Tryon Park.
This former site of a Revolutionary War Battle now boasts a pleasant outdoor space with some of the best views you’ll find anywhere in Manhattan. But the best reason to make the trek up to Fort Tryon is for The Cloisters, an annex of the Metropolitan Musuem of Art that is home to thousands of priceless works. Even if you don’t like old tapestries, it’s a pleasant place to spend an afternoon strolling the site’s well-maintained grounds.
Park Two: Madison Square Park
Located in New York’s Flatiron District, Madison Square Park is probably one of our favorite parks in Manhattan. Though it tends to attract less attention than its better known park neighbors like Bryant Park and Central Park, Madison Square Park holds its own for several reasons. Most importantly, the park is surrounded on all sides by some of the city’s most beautiful historic architecture, including the graceful Flatiron Building and the soaring Met Life Tower.
While you’re busy drinking in the facades of these two majestic buildings, make sure to grab a milkshake and a burger at Shake Shack, located in a modern stainless steel building within the park’s confines. The business is run by New York restauranteur Danny Meyer, and the Shack’s reputation for great burgers ensures there’s always a healthy line standing outside throughout the year.
Park Three: Empire Fulton Ferry State Park
One of the most prominent architectural features of New York is its many bridges. These massive structures strut across the city’s landmass like steel and concrete monsters, dominating the views in all directions.
In the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO, you’ll find one of the best places to get a bird’s eye view of these enormous feats of engineering. The Empire Fulton Ferry State Park sits directly beneath both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, making for one of the more unique New York park-going experiences. In addition to a number of walking paths along the East River, the site backs up against several huge 19th Century warehouses and the ancient structure of a former ferry terminal that once moved New Yorkers between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Park Four: Prospect Park
If Central Park were to have a twin sibling, it would have to be Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Sitting on almost 600 acres smack dab in the middle of the borough of Brooklyn, Prospect Park is truly the green heart of this historic section of the city. Boasting an antique boathouse, its own zoo and enormous 90 acre Long Meadow, Prospect Park is truly a green gem for the citizens of New York.
Once you’ve had a chance to paddle around the lake and check out some animals at the zoo, make sure to stop by Prospect Park’s bandshell during the summer months for free concerts featuring some great up-and-coming rock bands.
Phew! We’ve taken you past four of New York’s best lesser known parks and we’re barely even started. We didn’t even have a chance to talk about other great parks like the Bronx Botanic Gardens or the enormous Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, home of the National Tennis Center and Citi Field. Did we miss out on your favorite New York City park? Leave us a comment below and tell us some your own picks.