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The Best Parks In NYC To Play And Relax In

No one does dog parks quite like New York City.

A huge part of New York City’s appeal is Central Park, and it is an amazing park, but if you visit it frequently, you’ve likely discovered how crowded it becomes, especially during tourist season. As with everything else about New York City, however, we do parks better than most, and there are plenty of smaller, less packed options to enjoy during the warmer months. Whether you’re looking for a romantic picnic spot, a family day of fun, or a place to take the pooch so it can run around, NYC has the perfect park to play and relax in.

Love Is in the Air

It doesn’t matter which borough you call home; there’s a park for the perfect romantic picnic in all five. From the Bronx to Staten Island, NYC city planners have always understood the need for adequate outdoor space in our busy concrete jungle, and not just for the kids. Couples can enjoy a hand-in-hand walk along these places of greenspace, followed by a relaxing picnic in the fresh outdoors.

  • Brooklyn’s Lullwater Bridge at Prospect Park: Set your blanket down near this park’s boathouse and enjoy a beautiful waterfall as you munch on your picnic fare. You’ll feel as if you’ve been catapulted out of the city and into a lush work of art.
  • Manhattan’s Carl Schurz Park: Built in 1799, the elegant Gracie Mansion offers visitors a glimpse into NYC’s past and access to its glorious greenspace called Carl Schurz Park. Wander the gardens, and then steal a kiss on one of the many benches.
  • Queens’s Kissena Park: You might think I chose this park because “kiss” is part of the name, but that’s not the only reason. You and your significant other won’t realize you’re in NYC anymore once you see the glorious lake surrounded by weeping willows.
  • Staten Island’s Willowbrook Park: What makes this park special is its carousel. What’s more romantic than snuggling on a carousel bench or riding horses side by side as the machine turns? You can even steal a kiss or two; just be careful!
  • The Bronx’s Orchard Beach: Another park to transport you from the hustle and bustle that defines NYC, Orchard Beach will leave you thinking you’re in New England… old New England. Wander this rocky shoreline hand-in-hand and enjoy the beauty and fresh air.

For the Kids

Now it’s time to get the kids away from the video games and head outdoors. Fortunately, New York City has you more than covered with a ton of playgrounds. It’s hard to pick the best ones, but notables in each borough include:

  • Brooklyn’s Imagination Playground: Not only can your kids play amongst a towering dragon and storybook characters throughout the park’s statuary, but they can also enjoy summer performances put on in the park that are perfect for all ages.
  • Manhattan’s Hudson River Park: Head over to the playground at this beautiful revamp of Tribeca’s Pier 25 and watch your kids go crazy over the climbing walls and nets, out-of-this-world play equipment, skate parks, miniature golf course, and more. You’ll find it all here.
  • Queens’s Elmhurst Park Playground: Climbing structures, rock piles for exploration, and manmade hills to buffer the nearby Long Island Expressway noise and pollution make this Queens playground the perfect place for kids to explore, climb, and imagine to their heart’s content.
  • Staten Island’s Seaside Nature Wildlife Park Playground: Located beachside, you’ll find all sorts of sea-themed playground equipment upon which your kids can play pirates and get lost in their imagination. You get to lay down a towel and enjoy some relaxation in the sun.
  • The Bronx’s River Park Playground: Imagine your kids playing in a park just outside the Bronx Zoo! It will be a day of excitement they’ll never forget. This dream-come-true location is filled with swings, slides, and climbing structures.

Bring the Dog

We cannot forget human’s best friend when talking about the best NYC parks, and the city offers plenty of dog park options that allow Fido to be off the leash and running rampant with his doggy friends. Some parks go all out; others simply offer a clean, safe exercise space.

  • Brooklyn’s Hillside Dog Park and Run: This dog park is open 24/7 all year long and offers plenty of space for your dog to blow off some steam (two acres to be exact). There are hills, wooded areas, and recycled wood chips to give Spot a chance to roll around in something other than dirt.
  • Manhattan’s Tompkins Square Dog Park Run: Regardless of your dog’s age, there’s something for it to do at Tompkins Square. There are pools, dog runs, a “puppy patch” for the little ones, and, yes, a dog wash area. At Halloween, dress up your dog and join the costume party and parade.
  • Queens’s Cunningham Park Dog Run: This dog park in Queens has the ever-important reputation of being friendly, not to mention clean. Let your dog run and play with other dogs while you take a break and visit with other fun and friendly dog owners.
  • Staten Island’s Wolfe’s Pond Park: Take your pet on a walking trail designed just for dogs at Staten Island’s Wolfe’s Pond Park. During on the of park’s many special events, you can test your dog’s agility at a trial or enjoy watching other canines amaze you with their abilities.
  • The Bronx’s Canine Court at Van Cortlandt Park: This dog park has it all, including teeter-totters for your dogs. You’ll also find agility playgrounds, hurdles, tunnels, and a puppy swing made out of a specially designed hanging tire.

New York City is filled with parks, and these are just some of the ones I feel are worthy of a visit. A great spring and summer activity for the whole family is to check out as many parks as possible throughout the season. That way, you get plenty of outdoor time and the opportunity to find your favorites among the mix.

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