Revealing New York City’s Secret Parks
A Quick Low-Down on a New Yorkers Favorite City Parks
We collaborated with Expedia to share some of New York City’s most interesting parks.
By Olivia Gilmore
Out of all the glamorous things New York City is known for, (visit Expedia to see them all) people often overlook the vast variety of hidden parks the city has to offer. Whether you’re looking to stroll through the scenery, have a picnic, or kick a soccer ball around, there are several different green spaces that allow for a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
It’s not uncommon for city-goers to get fed up with the stuffiness of the city, and all the crowds of people that come with it. Parks in NYC are plentiful, believe it or not, there are over 1600 parks and gardens within New York’s five boroughs.
Picking the perfect park to spend a lazy Sunday at can be quite intimidating, with the tremendous amount of options. But we’ll make it easy for you by giving you the list of our top 10 favorite parks.
1. The High Line
If a unique park with epic views sounds intriguing to you, it’s probably in your best interest to stop by The High Line.
The 1.45-mile 30-foot high strip is NYC’s only elevated park and it located in the ever so popular Hudson Yards.
Formally a freight railroad track, the old rail area was brought back to life in 2009 and quickly became one of NYC’s favorite parks.
The green playground can be enjoyed by all ages, as it has impeccable wild flowers, scenery, and outdoor art exhibits. Not to mention, the view of the city’s skyline is breathtaking, no matter where you are in the park.
Despite being owned by the city of New York, the park is maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line.
Community members of Friends of the Highline have been fighting for the preservation and transformation of the park since 1999. When the organization was founded, the park was under threat of demolition. However, it is now a non-profit conservancy that works alongside the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to make sure the park is functioning at its best.
2. Sutton Place Park
A hidden gem located in Manhattan, Sutton Place Park is a secluded getaway with exceptional views of the Queensboro Bridge. The bi-level park, created in 1938, includes a sandbox and playground equipment.
The park is accessible via a staircase down to the water from Sutton Place, directly behind a cluster of townhouses. This little gem acts as an oasis for busy city folk, somewhere people can go to relax and take a breather.
3. Inwood Hill Park
A little off the beaten path in the northernmost corner of Manhattan is the sweet solitude of Inwood Hill Park.
The park can be accessed by taking the A train to the end of the line, it is home to the borough’s oldest and last natural forest.
The park itself is not only huge but also includes a 2-mile hiking trail. You don’t even have to leave the city to experience the fresh feeling of nature (or see a bald eagle).
The park is a living piece of history and has prehistoric caves, valleys, and ridges, all available for the public to explore. The park dates back to the Pre-Columbian era and was once occupied by Native Americans.
The 196-acre park is made of dense forestry and is home to a rather large salt marsh. The park is conveniently equipped with athletic fields, playgrounds, dog runs, and a barbecue area. If you really want the city out of sight out of mind, then Inwood Hill Park is the perfect place to connect with nature and all of its surroundings.
4. Elevated Acre
Located in Southern Manhattan, Elevated Acre is a lesser known park that offers a quick breath of fresh air.
Found two flights of stairs off the street, the park is a perfect place to stop on a lunch break, as people are always quickly coming and going. The concrete steps and wooden benches make for the perfect place to recoup and just take a minute to relax.
Beautiful greenery and flowers create shady areas and the Brooklyn skyline is guaranteed to be in sight. The pleasant little meadow is accessible by escalators at 55 Water Street, however, the entrance is fairly hidden.
The hidden park features a lawn, an amphitheater, a beer garden, and paths of Brazilian hardwood. Elevated Acre is one of the city’s perfect little secrets.
5. Mosignor McGolrick Park
This quiet little park is located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn between Driggs Avenue and Russell Street. The 9-acre neighborhood park is equipped with spacious lawns, grand arches, and two World War I and Civil War monuments.
A playground makes the park a perfect place to bring little ones to, it even has a ginormous whale in the center for them to slide down. Picnic tables and benches are spaced throughout the park, and best of all, it has a dog park for all of your furry friends.
The pavilion in the park, one of New York’s Landmarks, is used for multiple events throughout the year. The expansive park is surrounded by beautiful old trees and chirping birds, an ideal place to pack a picnic lunch and just enjoy the view.
6. Highbridge Park
Highbridge Park is an urban park that derives its name from New York City’s oldest standing bridge called High Bridge.
Located in Washington Heights on the shore of the Harlem River, the park has come out of abandonment and is a nice addition to the newly restored bridge. However, Highbridge Park remains one of the most neglected parks in the city despite its major reforestation project.
It can be said that the park has come a very long way though, but it still has a way to go before it becomes fully functional. It is still a great place to visit, a new skate park was even built beneath an overpass in the park. Many trails are open to travel upon throughout the park, making for a nice mini hike with a view of the Harlem River.
“There is a park on the east side above 155th St. with a trail that looks over the Harlem River, a nice walk. It connects with a Greenway and newly-restored aqueduct to the Bronx. A deer actually ended up in Jackie Robinson Park and city and state fought over whose responsibility it was!” said Tom George, a resident of Chelsea MA.
7. Morningside Park
Sarah Hartshorne, who lives in Harlem, loves Morningside Park because it’s uptown and quiet and hilly. She also enjoys Prospect Park because it’s HUGE and has a great pond.
“Madison Square Park has amazing art installations but gets pretty crowded, and there isn’t anywhere to sit down and relax,” she said.
Morningside Park is a locals favorite, as it is a narrow strip that runs for 13 blocks through the neighborhoods of Harlem and Morningside Heights. The community park has picturesque landscapes and is extraordinary to the eye in the fall season.
Nestled at the bottom of a steep incline are multiple playgrounds. Pleasant wildflowers grow freely around winding paths, one of which leads to a cascading waterfall.
Saturdays are outdoor market days, so it’s not a surprise to see local farmers selling their goods throughout the park. Morningside Park is a suitable park for wanderers, or those looking to take in the beauty of nature on a nice long walk.
8. Corlears Hook Park
On Manhattans Lower East Side, this waterfront park features impressive views, baseball fields, a playground, and dog-friendly areas. The park is most remarkable for its outdoor movie screenings that occur under the stars during the summer months. The park is simple and never crowded, mostly because it is tucked away from the city.
The park is located along the FDR Drive, and interestingly enough, in the early ’50s Eleanor Roosevelt spoke there in the open air theater. Corlears Hook Park is connected to the East River Park through footbridges and winding paths.
Together, they offer softball fields, tennis courts, skateboarding areas, and performance spaces. Both parks are a part of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, which is a 32-mile route of connected parks along the shore of Manhattan.
9. Wave Hill
The Wave Hill estate of Riverdale is over a century old and is one of New York City’s most beautiful and flourishing public gardens.
Experience the glory of nature through more than a dozen of different gardens filled with flowers, plants, and trees. There is a designed picnic area and a cafe available to buy food. Multiple events are always being scheduled throughout the year, including concerts, cooking classes, and even Spider Day.
Art exibits are common at Wave Hill, in fact many artists display their work in the estate. Every Wednesday during the summer the estate features “Sunset Wednesday”, which are outdoor concerts on the Great Lawn.
More prim and proper concerts are held Armor Hall in the fall. Gallery and Garden tours are also available to the public, in fact there are always new ones becoming availble on the Wave Hill Website.
10. Paley Park
Paley Park is a pocket park, also known as a parkette. It was originally a prototype for a brand new kind of public space in 1967. The 1/10th-acre park has a magnificent 20-foot high waterfall on the back wall.
“Vertical Lawns” of English ivy cover the two side walls, literally entrapping its guests in a mini green den. There are 17 honey locust trees spuratically placed throughout the central seating area.
Mesh chairs and granite tables offer a place to relax, and a food kiosk is located at the parks entrance. Its best to visit Paley Park on an off-day, as it frequently reaches its maximum capacity. Paley Park is the perfect place to have a small intimate park experience.
Astoria Park in Queens
In Queens, NYC travel editor Joe Pike recommends Astoria Park. “It’s located along the East River, the highlight of the park. There are also views of the highway and the Queensboro Bridge, where the subway is above ground. And Laguardia Airport is 10 minutes away.
“If you were a travel writer who wanted to show all means of transport, this would be the perfect place to shoot a picture!,” Pike said.
“Every park bench in Astoria Park has a classic novel placed on it for anyone to read. The centerpiece is the track, where people either run or jog or stroll with their shirts off getting some exercise and some sun at the same time. This is also where the Astoria fireworks are held for the July 4th holiday.”
This post was written in collaboration with Expedia.com.
Olivia Gilmore is a travel enthusiast, writer, and cultural anthropologist who has traveled to West Africa and across the East and West Coast of the United States. As a member of Amnesty International, her interests include advocating for human rights, humanitarian volunteer work, and cultural immersion. She’s from Lunenburg, MA.