Many visitors put Central Park on their list of must-see sites, and while strolling this legendary landscape is never a bad idea, there are lots of other spectacular parks in or near the city that are also worth a meander:
1. Known for hosting the US Open each summer, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens was also the site for the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. The majestic layout of the fairgrounds is still visible from above, and visitors can gawk at other worldly remains like the 12-story-high Unisphere globe and the bizarre, UFO-like observation towers of the decaying New York State Pavilion. Another relic from the fair, a scale model of the entire City of New York featuring 895,000 individual buildings, can be seen in the nearby Queens Museum of Art.
Get there by taking the number 7 subway train from Times Square to the Mets – Willets Point station.
2. A hospital and wellness center for weary sailors during the 1800s, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden sprawls across 83 acres on the north side of Staten Island. The whole place has a Washington-Mall-on-the-Hudson feel to it: Colonnaded Greek revival playhouses look out over the water. Victorian-era sailors’ dwellings line Cottage Row. The themed Chinese Scholar’s Garden and newly-opened Tuscan Garden could have been pulled from Marie Antoinette’s backyard. That this park is so grand and yet feels so hidden makes it an all-the-more appealing place to go.
Get there by boarding the Staten Island Ferry from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island and then transfer to the S40 bus.
3. Designed by the same landscape architects that laid out Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn is often trumpeted by locals as the more refined version of that famous greensward. With 585 acres of gentle hillocks and babbling brooks, Prospect Park boasts Brooklyn’s only forest, the pre-Colonial Lefferts Historic House, and a working carousel with carved horses from 1912. On the north corner of the park is Grand Army Plaza, a statue-draped gateway that recalls Paris’ Arc de Triomphe and hosts a green market every Saturday morning.
Get there by taking a Brooklyn-bound 2 or 3 subway train to the Grand Army Plaza station.
4. While the above suggestions require a quick hop over borough borders, more adventurous travelers will reap the biggest reward by heading one hour north of the city to Storm King Art Center. A sculpture park as commanding and dramatic as its name, Storm King looks like a playground for giants, where towering steel artworks tumble like enormous toys over 500 acres of picturesque Hudson Valley terrain. Celebrating 50 years of merging art with nature, the park showcases landmark works from renowned sculptors such as Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson and Andy Goldsworthy.
Get there by booking the Short Line bus company’s Storm King package, which includes admission to the park and roundtrip transportation from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan. The park opens April 1.