Beyond Central Park: Our favorite picnic spots in NYC

By Former Agent

New York is known for Central Park, its most iconic green space. It’s beautiful, has a (controversial) history, and is reachable by a number of subway lines. There are beautiful bridges, trails, bodies of water for canoeing and boating, and even restaurants inside of the park. It’s a go-to for visitors and lifelong New Yorkers alike.

But Central Park gets a lot of attention in a large city that’s filled with a number of wonderful public parks. There are all kinds of green spaces for people with different preferences and needs. Many city dwellers live far from Manhattan, and the “outer boroughs” have a lot to offer.

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Forest Park

This Queens park is a beautiful oasis in the middle of one of the city’s most diverse (and in my opinion–most dynamic) boroughs. For anyone who wants to forget that they’re in the middle of a growing borough that’s inhabited by over two million people, this is the place to be. Forest Park has over 160 acres of trees. Its eastern half is filled with hiking trails and clearings that are great for picnicking. If there was ever an embodiment of an urban forest, it’s this.

The western half feels more like a regular NYC park with a bandshell for summer outdoor concerts and places to play sports like handball, bocce ball, and tennis. There’s also a carousel in Forest Park, which can bring some nostalgia into a picnic date. If that isn’t enough, there’s even a golf course (if you’re into that kind of thing).

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Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Anyone who wants to spend a full day in the heart of Queens should consider visiting this park. It’s next to the New York Hall of Science and is right by Citi Field where the Mets play. It’s also the site of the iconic Queens Globe and the World’s Fair. Spend the morning at the Hall of Science and have a picnic lunch under one of the park’s many lush trees or in a field. Then head to an afternoon or evening game at the stadium and root for the home team.

There are a number of buses that stop right outside of the park and there is a 7 train stop nearby as well. It’s perfect for a picnic and then some exploring with friends, or for a scenic walk with a significant other.

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Sunset Park

Prospect Park may be one of the better known patches of nature in Brooklyn, but there are other parks worth visiting for a picnic. Sunset Park is relatively small, but it is a great place to start your exploration of the neighborhood. True to its name, this park offers amazing views of the Manhattan skyline during sundown, making it a go-to for romantic picnics. There are also handball courts, an outdoor pool, and Wi-Fi hotspots.

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Saint Mary’s Park

The Bronx may be known for giving rise to two of the most viral forms of American folk music and art–graffiti and hip hop–but like the other boroughs, it also has great parks. This one in particular is the site of awesome summer salsa performances and other musical events that locals love attending. It’s especially great if you’re a picnicker who wants to feel the burn before or after your summery outdoor meal. Saint Mary’s has a large pool, a well tended running track, and fitness equipment.

If you would like to add some barbecue meats and veggies to your meal, there’s a grilling area, and there is a dog-friendly area if you’re bringing your fur baby along for the fun.

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Silver Lake Park

If you don’t live in Staten Island you will have to take a ferry to get there, but this lush park isn’t far from the docks. It’s worth making a day trip; because Staten Island is less inhabited than the other boroughs, it has plenty of green open space. Silver Lake is over 200 acres and has a woodsy feel. And
like the name suggests, it has a beautiful lake for another waterfront picnic option.

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Fort Washington Park

Don’t hesitate to venture to Uptown Manhattan–that’s what express trains are for. Fort Washington is right by Washington Heights, which is a great place to pick up the best Dominican food for your picnic. It may not be as big as other parks in the borough, but there is still much to explore. It’s along the Hudson River so there are beautiful views of New Jersey across the water. Fort Washington is also home to Manhattan’s only lighthouse, the Red Little Lighthouse, which was featured in a popular children’s book.

Despite being a Manhattan park, it’s far away from the hoards of tourists that tend to relegate themselves to Central Park and Midtown. This park, and the others on this list, are much more peaceful than those that are close to hectic hotspots like Times Square and Columbus Circle!

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Cover Photo by Ben Duchac on Unsplash

All other photos courtesy of NYC Parks