Central Park (Sheep Meadow)
Central Park is the most commercial of all NYC picnic spots, but its manicured lawns are just too beautiful to not mention. If you forgot to bring food, don’t worry! The perk of picnicking in the middle of Manhattan is that there are many food carts around for whenever you feel peckish. Bring a football or frisbee so that your kids can run around and play while you sunbathe in the middle of the famous of the Sheep Meadow. If you plan to picnic in August, make sure to come later in the day and stay for the Central Park Film Festival that takes place between Sheep Meadow and 72nd Street. Stay tuned for this year’s lineup! 1802 65th St Transverse, 212-310-6600, centralparknyc.org.
Prospect Park (Long Meadow)
This spacious Brooklyn establishment is the ideal place for a picnic. The Long Meadow in the north of the park is almost a mile of undisturbed grassland (the longest stretch of any U.S. urban park, actually) where you and your family can play volleyball, hacky-sack, or hot-potato. If you get tired of basking in the sun then you can go boating and explore the park’s 55 acres of waterfront on a selection of single or double kayak and pedal boat rentals. Prospect Park, 70 West Drive, Brooklyn, prospectpark.org.
Tompkins Square Park
If your family is full of basketball fans, then this is the place for you. Visit the north area of the park and play ball on one of the basketball courts. After everyone is sufficiently tired, head to the central area of the park and unfold your blanket for a well-deserved break. Grab some bagels from the adjacent Tompkins Square Bagels or some hot dogs and ice cream at Ray’s Candy Store. Maybe after the quick bite your kids will even have the energy to play in the park’s playground. They’ll be asleep early that night after all the activities: We promise. East 10 Street, 212-639-9675, nycgovparks.org/parks/tompkins-square-park.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park is known for its magnificent views of New York Harbor, Brooklyn Bridge, and Lower Manhattan. Now imagine that as the backdrop of a family summer cook-off. Brooklyn Bridge Park offers you hibachi-style grills where you can prepare your own meals at their Picnic Peninsula on Pier 5. If that’s too crowded, go to the picnic tables on Pier 6 alongside Liberty Lawn where you can catch a great view of the sunset. A freshly made meal off the grill with a view of the sun setting over Manhattan? Yes please! 334 Furman Street, Brooklyn, 718-222-9939, brooklynbridgepark.org.
Inwood Hill Park
Unlike Central and Tompkins Square Park, where nature is never that far away from urban living, Inwood Hill Park is closer to a forest rather than a Manhattan park since it features the island’s original vegetation and dramatic caves, valleys, and ridges left as the result of shifting glaciers. For those who want to completely immerse themselves in nature, but not venture out too far from the city, this is the perfect place. For a steady workout, visit the park’s hiking and bike trails in the northern part of the park. For maintained lawns and picnic tables, go to the peninsula part of the park and relish in the sunshine. Payson Avenue and Seaman Avenue, 212-639-9675, nycgovparks.org/parks/inwood-hill-park.
Fort Washington Park
For a fantastic view of the George Washington Bridge and the New Jersey Palisades, look no further than Fort Washington Park. Known as the location of Manhattan’s only lighthouse—the Little Red Lighthouse—the park is a great place for a family BBQ. Bring your own food and prepare it on any of the grills found on the south side of the park. With its numerous tennis, basketball, and baseball fields, the park invites athletes of all ages to play and maybe enjoy some friendly competition. Hudson River Greenway, 212-639-9675, nycgovparks.org/parks/fort-washington-park.