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Lounging on the grass at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City

New York

New York City’s Parks: 5 Ways to See Nature in the City

By: Idoia Gkikas

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  • States:
    New York

New York City is known as a bustling, diverse metropolis, but it’s also a great city for enjoying nature.

Spend a day on the water, have a picnic under the trees and marvel at the seasonal blooming flowers – with a New York twist, of course. These green spaces provide a relaxing respite from the high energy of the city.

Browse Botanical Gardens

Find an array of beautiful botanical gardens across New York City. Take in the small, lovely Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing, where visitors can follow a walkway that winds through unique floral gardens. On Staten Island, at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, visit the popular Chinese Scholar’s Garden, where the landscaping is inspired by Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist poetry. In the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden is a can’t-miss stop for its stunning and expansive flora – the narrated tram tour is a great way to see it all. Try to schedule a spring visit to the historic Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is absolutely glorious during Sakura Matsuri, the annual cherry blossom festival.

Garden and lake exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden

Garden and lake exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden
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Picnic in the Park

A picnic in one of New York City’s parks is practically a rite of passage for all New Yorkers. When the weather is nice, head to the Great Lawn in Central Park. Dotted with sunbathers, picnickers and families, this iconic green space is Manhattan’s own version of the great outdoors, complete with a backdrop of gleaming skyscrapers. Farther downtown on a scenic stretch of elevated railway, the High Line in Manhattan is a popular pedestrian park with casual cafés and fantastic views of the city. Over in Brooklyn, plan for an afternoon barbecue at Prospect Park, visiting the zoo and the Audubon Center while you’re there.

Blooming flowers on the High Line in Manhattan

Blooming flowers on the High Line in Manhattan
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Walk the Bridges

Walk the city’s unique collection of bridges for a different perspective. Make sure you have plenty of storage on your camera for a stroll across the famous Brooklyn Bridge – this is a great spot for picture-taking. Cars and trucks rumble underneath while pedestrians can take gorgeous photos of the cityscape and the East River below. Crossing from Manhattan into Brooklyn, you can easily spend several hours exploring Brooklyn Bridge Park’s playgrounds, outdoor sports, kayaking, bicycling and a small beach. On a smaller scale, walk across Gapstow Bridge and Bow Bridge in Central Park. Snap some photos, and get inspired by lush views of the park with the city skyline in the background.

Walking the pathways at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Walking the pathways at Brooklyn Bridge Park
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Take to the Water

New York is a coastal city with water in all directions. Rent a rowboat at the Loeb Boathouse to cruise the lake in Central Park from April through October. In Queens, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is where the U.S. Tennis Open is held. It’s the site of two World’s Fairs and a hub of outdoor activity. Rent a paddleboat and enjoy the scenery. Beachgoers can head to Midland or South Beach on Staten Island for canoeing, kayaking, sunbathing, swimming and fishing.

Getting There

To reach New York City from international destinations, fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in nearby Newark, New Jersey.