Pack a Basket and Head to New York’s Top 5 Picnic Spots

Whether it’s springtime, the air fragrant of earth; a sunny, languid summer afternoon; or the peak of fall colors, a picnic is an ideal way to pass the time. The good news is, New York brims with scenic settings — ones that go beyond Central Park. The next time you’re in need of fresh air, fill a basket, grab a blanket and take in idyllic surrounds at some of New York’s top picnic spots.

Prospect Park | Brooklyn

A 585-acre oasis of green bordered by the Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush and Windsor Terrace neighborhoods, Brooklyn’s Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Prospect Park (W, Parkside Ave., between Flatbush Ave., Ocean Ave. and Prospect Park SW) is an expanse of shady knolls, meadow and tree-lined pathways, offset by a duck-dotted lake and the placid Lullwater waterway. It’s also home to the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. Be sure to check out the three-acre Heather Garden, set on a series of slopes, more than 200 feet above the Hudson River. On Sundays, keep watch for the Smorgasburg vendors at Prospect Park's Breeze Hill — they’re there Friday, Saturday and Sunday from April through November.

Fort Tryon Park

Perched at the highest point in Manhattan, Inwood’s pastoral Fort Tryon Park — designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., son of the storied Central Park architect — offers panoramic views of the Hudson River, with verdant greenery extending 67 glorious acres. Virtually tourist-free, it overlooks the Cloisters, a re-created medieval monastery that holds 5,000 pieces from the Met Museum’s impressive art collection.

Socrates Sculpture Park

Set in Queens, reclaimed Socrates Sculpture Park (Vernon Blvd. bet. Broadway and 30 Dr.) is an open-air museum, where artists exhibit sculptures and multimedia installations that are rotated every few months. Situated at the confluence of the Harlem and East Rivers, it overlooks "Hell Gate," or "Hellegat." a moniker originally coined by Dutch colonists. While smaller than other city parks, it offers a real cultural immersion, with ample green space to linger over an al fresco meal.

Van Cortlandt Park

At Van Cortlandt Park (Westchester County Line, Van Cortlandt Park S. bet. Broadway and Jerome Ave.), you can explore Northwest Forest’s 188 acres of towering oaks and rainbow’s worth of wildflowers or traverse tranquil, 158-acre Croton Woods, intersected by babbling streams. Perched along the ridges and valleys of the northwest Bronx, the park also features a vast freshwater lake that’s a pitch-perfect panorama for picnics. Post-meal, consider teeing off at the city’s first public golf course.

Governor's Island

A 172-acre island in New York Harbor, Manhattan’s Governors Island (separated from Brooklyn by the Buttermilk Channel) is accessible by ferry, annually starting in mid-July. Board the daily passenger ferry service from the Governors Island Ferry Waiting Room in the Battery Maritime Building. Upon disembarking, find Hammock Grove, with its 50 red slings; Play Lawn, featuring two natural-turf ball fields; art-laden Liggett Terrace; and man-made hills, one of which soars 80 feet above the harbor, with 360-degree views of Manhattan’s skyline. 

Looking for more ideas? Be sure to check out our New York City Guide.

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