The 5 Best Parks In New York
In a concrete jungle like New York, the last thing you might be expecting to stumble across are hidden parks, oasis amongst the hustle and bustle and truly tranquil green spaces. But the city is home to more of these secretive spots than you might have thought; you just have to know where to look.
By Denise Foley
Carl Schurz Park
Upper East Side
One of NYC’s best concealed secrets, Carl Schurz Park is truly a local gem, hidden just off East End Avenue in Yorkville. Known for its cultivated gardens, woodland areas, playgrounds and dog run; this beautiful 15-acre public park is a place where locals relax with family and friends. The most tranquil location is Peter Pan Garden, a hidden cul-de-sac framed by trees and anchored by a beautiful sculpture of Peter Pan, it’s the perfect spot for reading. Along the edge of the park you’ll find the esplanade, which offers sweeping views of the East River and bridges. A great place to sit and watch the boats go by. If you visit on a Monday, be sure to reserve one of the guided tours of iconic Gracie Mansion. The mansion is one of the oldest surviving wood structures in Manhattan, and the official residence of the Mayor of New York City.
Photo: NYC Parks
Madison Square Park
There’s nothing more striking than the juxtaposition of art and nature; you’ll see plenty of both in Madison Square Park. This large open space commissions rotating public art pieces, ranging widely in practice and media, on a regular basis. Madison Square Park is a busy, lively space; offering events that cater to kids, music fans, art enthusiasts and horticulture lovers. Join locals and tourists alike to line up at one of the food trucks parked nearby along Fifth Avenue and Broadway or stop by Eataly for Italian treats; while naturally snapping photos of the iconic Flatiron building, which anchors it all. For a bird’s eye view of the park and surrounding area be sure to visit the Eataly rooftop, a perfect spot to choose the area you want to go and explore next!
Chinese Scholars Garden
Just a 10-minute bus ride from the Staten Island Ferry is the Chinese Scholars Garden, where you’ll be transported to another world. This authentic scholar’s garden was built by Chinese artists and craftsman, and is one of only two in the US. The landscape features a magnificent rockery that resembles the mountains which inspired the poetry and paintings of Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist monks, amongst other scholars. With a design inspired by the Ming Dynasty, this hidden gem is breathtaking. A truly peaceful place to relax and reflect while enjoying the scenery and historic architecture. Located inside Snug Harbor, within a complex that houses the Staten Island Botanical Garden, its open days and times vary by season.
Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
Leave the chaos and traffic noise of NYC behind you upon entry to this six-acre formal garden inside Central Park. The entry to Conservatory Gardens is framed by impressive gates which belonged to the Vanderbilt family. The grandeur of the entry gives you an indication of what’s inside: manicured gardens, beautiful fountains and a pergola are some of the highlights in this calm, tranquil oasis. Located along upper 5th Avenue at 105th Street, the gardens are definitely off the beaten path, but are very well worth the trip uptown. While you’re in the neighbourhood be sure to visit the Museum of the City of New York. The museum’s focus is on the history of NYC, illuminating its past and highlighting its present. Exhibitions are rotating and opening times vary, so do check the website for most recent showings, as well as any cultural events.
Photo: Untapped Cities
Hallett Nature Sanctuary
Don’t miss the opportunity to experience a place that New Yorkers could not see for almost a century! The Hallett Nature Sanctuary offers a woodland escape just off busy Fifth Avenue. Located inside Central Park, this is truly a place for nature lovers. Enter on a stone path, which quickly progresses to rock formations and winding dirt trails. You are literally surrounded by a forest, which has views through to The Pond below. There is the smell of pines, the sounds of birds chirping and once you arrive to the top of the hill there’s hand carved benches to sit on, relax, and take it all in. Access is very limited, check the opening days and times on the website before visiting.
Photo: Central Park