Springtime in the city is a wonderful experience, but sometimes New Yorkers can miss the best the season has to offer, like fresh air, trees, wildlife, and animals. For a great way to see the splendor of Mother Nature without leaving the five boroughs, here’s a list of prime parks in the area.
ALLEY POND PARK
No other New York park can boast the same rich, geological treasures that Alley Pond Park holds. With glacier-formed landscapes, fresh and saltwater wetlands, and plentiful meadows, this is a must-see spot for all nature lovers!
Can’t miss playground: For playtime with an educational twist, Alley Pond Park’s Adventure Course has both low ropes and high ropes challenges that are perfect for building teamwork and problem-solving skills. Across the soccer fields near the parking lot
Big spring event: The park’s Pets and Pals Day is a free event that is sure to be a kid favorite with giveaways, games, rides, craft projects, pet adoption, pet walks, and more! May 4; 76th Avenue and Springfield Boulevard
Nature tip: With a height of over 134 feet and a circumference of over 18 feet, the Alley Pond Giant tulip tree, also known as the Queens Giant, is one of the oldest living organisms in New York. While the location of the tree isn’t widely publicized (to protect it from potential harm), families may see it on an Urban Park Rangers tour
Hidden gem: The park’s many scenic walking trails take hikers through the native hardwood forests and kettle ponds, and even provide views of the salt marshes in the northern tip of Alley Pond. Primarily behind Ballfield 6 near Winchester Boulevard
Park location: Near Little Neck Bay in Queens, bordered by the Long Island Expressway, between Springfield Boulevard, Douglastown Parkway, and Hanford Street.
The Battery Park City Parks are a network of smaller areas that contain gardens, playing fields, playgrounds, and a fantastic view overlooking the water. Note: this park area is not to be confused with The Battery Park, which is on the very southern tip of Manhattan, or Hudson River Park, which occupies neighboring areas near the waterfront
Can’t miss playground: Teardrop Park houses a unique play spot for children. Some kid-favorite facilities include a large slide, sand boxes, a water play area, and spots for kids to “rock hop.” Between Warren Street and Murray Street, east of River Terrace
Big spring event: Little ones who like to play in the dirt will love the Early Spring Children’s Gardening series taking place in Rockefeller Park. Kids can work in the dirt to dig, plant, and learn about composting and green practices. Tuesdays throughout April; Children’s Garden in Rockefeller Park
Nature tip: In Wagner Park, a public rooftop at the Parks Pavilion provides a picturesque view of the Statue of Liberty and Hudson River waterfront. North of historic Battery Park, off of Battery Place
Hidden gem: For the best place to relax in a quiet environment, families can visit Rector Park, a quiet area where active recreational activities are frowned upon. There, guests can enjoy a peaceful lunch or naptime while soaking in the fresh air. South End Avenue at Rector Place
Location: Various spots around Battery Park City
BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK
Under the Brooklyn Bridge, next to the waterfront, lies this neighborhood staple. The park provides children and families with spectacular views, extraordinary playgrounds, and bountiful water activities.
Can’t miss playground: Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 is home to many playground areas with catchy names and fantastic equipment. One in particular, the Swing Valley playground, has traditional tot swings, twin swings, Tarzan ropes, and six-seated post swings. Pier 6
Big spring event: A great series of spring events, the Celebrate Brooklyn! Dance Parties, are free and feature dance lessons, a beer garden (for mom and dad), and even a bike valet. May 8, 15 & 22; Pier 1
Nature tip: The perks of being located along the East River include fascinating aquatic creatures. The park hosts a “Seining” catch and release program on May 10, which has revealed critters like the Oyster Toadfish, Lined Seahorse, and Horseshoe Crab in the past. Empire Fulton Ferry
Hidden gem: One unique feature of this waterfront park is its accessible beaches, where families can walk along the shore. Recommended spots are Pier 4 beach, Pebble Beach at Main Street, and the Spiral Pond
Location: Brooklyn’s East River bank, from Atlantic Avenue to John Street
CARL SCHURZ PARK
A small patch of nature on the Upper East Side, Carl Schurz Park spans 15.2 acres in the Yorkville community. It is known for its close-knit, local vibe and dog-friendly atmosphere.
Can’t miss playground: The Catbird Playground is named after a fanciful piece of artwork depicting a cat with wings. Some great highlights include challenge climbers, slides, and overhead ladders and rings. Near Gracie Square at East 84th Street and East End Avenue
Nature tip: Carl Schurz Park is right on the East River. The bordering esplanade, also known as the John Finley Walk, provides a poignant view of Queens across the water. Bordering the eastern length of the park
Hidden gem: One of the most iconic characters from children’s literature is the one who “never grows up.” Take the kiddos to see the bronze Peter Pan monument, who sits in the center of the Park Plaza. Near the center of the park
Location: Yorkville neighborhood, on the East River between 84th and 90th Streets
One of the greats, Central Park is the first place most New Yorkers think of when they hear the word “park.”
Can’t miss playgrounds: The East 110th Street Playground was newly rebuilt last year; the area boasts several circular spaces (each with their own theme or structure) interconnected by a wooden walkway. Central Park’s Ancient Playground is also a contender, just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and inspired by its Egyptian Art exhibitions. The fun-filled attractions include climbing pyramids, sundials, and obelisks. The Robert Bendheim Playground is a space designed for all children, providing sand boxes, sound-generating play components, and wheelchair-accessible ramps. East 110th Street, East Side at 85th Street, East Side at 100th Street
Big spring event: Join Central Park for their Family Fishing and Water Celebration! The all-ages event will explore living aquatic organisms, catch and release fishing, storytelling, crafts, water walks, and more! June 28; Charles A. Dana Discover Center at 110th Street between Lenox and 5th Avenue
Nature tip: For bird lovers, the park offers personal birding adventure kits, which are available at Belvedere Castle to borrow, free of charge. Each kit includes binoculars, a guidebook, a map, and sketching materials (adults must accompany children under 12 years of age). Belvedere Castle is mid-park at 79th Street
Hidden gem: Pathways on the northern end of Central Park are a serene and gorgeous way to introduce children to the magic of tumbling cascades, dense woodlands, and intriguing wildlife. Tours, led by volunteer conservancy members, are available at various dates and times. Meet for the tour at Charles A. Dana Discover Center
Location: The middle of Manhattan, from 59th Street to 110th Street, between 5th Avenue and Central Park West
FLUSHING MEADOWS CORONA PARK
Queen’s largest park is famous for its tie to the World’s Fairs of olden times. A handful of iconic features include the Unisphere, the Rocket Thrower statue, buried time capsules, and the New York State Pavilion.
Can’t miss playground: The Playground for All Children was the first play area for both able-bodied and disabled in the United States. It incorporates innovative utilities, including play equipment with safety surfacing, the Interpretive Trail with plaques in both English and Braille, a racing track, and a water wheel. The upper western side of the park, near Saultell Avenue and Corona Avenue
Big spring event: Flushing Meadows Corona Park holds its World’s Fair every spring, taking families through the culture of historic New York. May 24; Meet at the Unisphere
Nature tip: The Unisphere isn’t exactly a natural occurrence, but it is a must-see aspect of the park, and nature does take its prevalence once neighboring trees sport their seasonal cherry blossoms. Near Queens Museum at the intersection of the Avenue of Americas and Avenue of Africa
Hidden gem: Flushing Meadows Corona Park surrounds Meadow Lake, the largest lake in the city spanning 93 acres. Center of the park
Location: Bordered by Union Turnpike, Grand Central Parkway, Van Wyck Expressway, and Perimeter Road in Queens
HUDSON RIVER PARK
Hudson River Park, with a focus on environmental conservation and five miles filled with recreational and educational facilities, is the longest waterfront park in the United States.
Can’t miss playground: The park’s Pier 25 play area is perfect for children aged 2-12. Offerings include a sandbox, eight seasonal water features, two full swing sets, and climbing walls and boulders. Pier 25
Big spring event: For youngsters ages 5 and up, Big City Fishing teaches families to fish while educating them about environmental science and the river. Various dates and times starting June 1; various piers
Nature tip: Hudson River Park is the only designated urban estuarine sanctuary, home to over 200 species of fish. Families can witness these species via series like Big City Fishing, River Tots, and Science on the River. Various piers
Hidden gem: Take the family for mini golf at Pier 25, a massive 13,000-square-ft course full of sand traps, waterfalls, streams, ponds, footbridges, and even a cave!
Location: On the bank of the Hudson River, from 59th Street to the lower tip of Manhattan
MADISON SQUARE PARK
In the heart of the Flatiron District lies Madison Square Park, a 7-acre oasis in the midst of the urban jungle with deep roots in historical New York City.
Can’t miss playground feature: The park’s Police Office Moira Ann Smith playground (dedicated to the only fallen female NYPD officer during 9/11) houses cooling sprinklers, a 15-ft water wheel, and free arts & crafts activities from May-October. Entrances at Madison Avenue and 25th and 26th Streets
Big spring event: The inaugural Madison Urban Club for Kids (MUCK) workshop, led by Gardener Steph, will teach kids the wonders of the water cycle. April 12; Various locations
Nature tip: Madison Square Park is home to a wide variety of Warblers, and don’t miss their lilac grove, featuring ten specimens of the rare “Primrose” lilac. 25th Street and Madison Avenue
Hidden gem: Right next to the park, and cared for by its conservancy, is Worth Square, an ideal family lunch spot with tables and benches. The area holds a unique Manhattan crypt, the second oldest monument in New York, and depicts sabers and cannonballs in its wrought-iron fencing. The western side of the park, between Broadway, West 25th Street, and 5th Avenue
Location: Between Madison Avenue and 5th Avenue, East 26th Street and East 23rd Street
Located in Brooklyn, this 535-acre park is home to breathtaking landscape architecture, the Prospect Park Zoo, and the borough’s only forest.
Can’t miss playground: The Donald and Barbara Zucker Natural Exploration Area, which newly opened in October, uses “recycled” trees damaged in recent storms to create a unique, natural play spot for children. Nellie’s Lawn in the park’s northeast portion.
Big spring event: Enjoy the park’s annual New York Philharmonic concert under the stars! This free event lets families unwind while enjoying the orchestra, an evening fireworks display, and park concessions. July 9; Long Meadow Ballfields
Nature tip: In Brooklyn’s only forest lies Prospect Park’s ravine, a restored, narrow gorge featuring a diverse tree population and nearby flowing water! Near the center of the park, between the Long Meadow and the Nethermead
Hidden gem: Though typically highlighted for winter, Prospect Park’s walking route through Lookout Hill, the Maryland Monument, and the Wellhouse provides spectacular views at one of Brooklyn’s highest points and a glimpse at budding spring trees. Begins at the Boathouse, inside the Lincoln Road/Ocean Avenue entrance
Location: Bordered by Prospect Park West, Prospect Park Southwest, Ocean Avenue, and Washington Avenue
On the Upper West Side, Riverside Park is a delightful area overlooking the Hudson, complete with a scenic esplanade, multiple playgrounds, and a distinct character.
Can’t miss playground: The Hippo Playground is a children’s favorite, featuring various-sized hippo statues that spout water during the hotter months. 91st Street
Big spring event: Presented by the Irish Arts Center, Riverside Park will host the New York City Irish Dance Festival, an annual celebration featuring hundreds of the best performers in the field. May 4; Between 68th and 70th Streets
Nature tip: Originally owned by famed naturalist James Audubon, Riverside Park’s bird sanctuary is an ideal place to experience all the joys nature has to offer. Don’t miss spring offerings for bird walks from Riverside Park Fund Grassroots Volunteers through the protected area. 116th Street
Hidden gem: The Amiable Child Memorial is a special New York City monument that commemorates a small boy who died in 1797 and was buried in the area long before it became Riverside Park. Across the southbound Riverside Drive from Grant’s Tomb and slightly to the north
Location: On the Hudson River, from 60th Street to the northern tip of Manhattan
UNION SQUARE PARK
This town-square-turned-city-park is home to many festivities and celebrations in the Union Square area. It’s also a popular spot for families due to their wonderful playground offerings!
Can’t miss playground feature: The coolest aspect of Union Square Park’s playground holds three outdoor “rooms” in the 15,000-square-ft area. Each play space is designed for children of different ages. Northern end of the park
Big spring event: Summer in the Square, an annual children’s series, highlights StoryTime Yoga with Karma Kids Yoga and fabulous performances from favorites Rolie Polie Guacamole and Hot Peas n’ Butter. Starting June 12; South Plaza
Nature tip: Union Square Park’s playground is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, so kiddos can take in a dose of nature while they’re enjoying the play equipment! Union Square Park Playground
Hidden gem: For wee whisperers, the park’s multi-colored talking tubes allow children to carry on conversation from across the playground. Union Square Park Playground
Location: Between Union Square West and Union Square East, East 14th and East 17th Streets
VAN CORTLANDT PARK
Multiple playgrounds, great golfing areas, and Van Cortlandt Lake are just a few of the reasons to visit this park in the Northwest Bronx.
Can’t miss playground: Little golfers will go wild for the Sachkerah Woods Playground, a golf-themed children’s area with a spray shower in the form of a 19th-hole-flag, oversized golf balls that double as climbing equipment, and colored concrete to mimic putting greens and sand traps. Around the corner from Montefiore Hospital and Mosholu Golf Course
Big spring event: Van Cortlandt park is hosting a Kids Week, led by Urban Park Rangers. The free event series, perfect for kids ages 12 and under, include a variety of outdoor activities. April 17-18; Van Cortlandt Park Nature Center
Nature tip: Van Cortlandt Park contains a few noteworthy geological finds, including Fordham Gneiss, one of the oldest rock formations on Earth, which can be seen from a short hike up Vault Hill. Vault Hill, Van Cortlandt Lake
Hidden gem: The oldest building in the Bronx, the Van Cortlandt House Museum has rich history. Even George Washington slept there! The park offers free tours of the museum on Wednesdays. Southwestern part of the park, near Broadway and West 246th Street
Location: Bordered by Broadway, Forest Avenue, Van Cortlandt Park East, Bronx River Parkway, and West Gun Hill Road in the Bronx