Manhattan Parks


10 Manhattan Parks You've Never Visited

Name a park in New York. No, not that one. Central Park makes its way onto the itineraries of most visitors, and rightly so. It offers wide-eyed scale and diversity - glacial outcrops, fountains, statues, lakes and lost trails - and that quietly surreal juxtaposition of calm open fields framed by the metropolis beyond.

If you're on a second or third visit to the city and want to explore other green spaces, then take your pick of these ten Manhattan parks:

Columbus Park, Chinatown 

A favourite spot of mine for so many reasons. A century ago this was the territory of the Dead Rabbits; the southern end of the park marks where the infamous Five Points neighbourhood was located. Now you're in the heart of Chinatown, so you'll see countless games of Mahjong and elderly ladies singing singing Chinese opera. Fried Dumpling is on Mosco Street (five freshly-cooked dumplings in hot sauce for a dollar) and the location is a great springboard to explore the restaurants of Chinatown. If you're here in the evening, check whether Winnie's Bar is open at the park's northern end, a dive well known among locals for its karaoke. 

Septuagesimo Uno, Upper West Side 
From Central Park, the largest in Manhattan, it's only a couple of blocks west to the smallest. Septuagesimo Uno is a 'pocket park' squeezed between buildings on 71st St, between Broadway and West End Avenue.

Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island 

Most New Yorkers have never visited this neighbourhood in the swells of the East River; fewer still have even heard of Southpoint Park. It only opened in August 2011, so don't be surprised to find yourself alone with postcard views of Midtown Manhattan. There's more to come, too; the FDR Four Freedoms Park opens just beyond Southpoint Park in 2012. While you're there, you can explore Roosevelt Island's other sights.

Lighthouse Park,
 Roosevelt Island 
Sticking with Roosevelt Island, head to its northern tip to find Lighthouse Park, with cracking views of Manhattan's Upper East Side and the gothic Blackwell Island Lighthouse.

Highbridge Park, Washington Heights

Manhattan is over 13 miles long; most tourists travel less than seven miles along that length, from Battery Park to Central Park. You'll have to venture a little further to find Highbridge Park. The main point of interest is New York's oldest bridge, the High Bridge (not The High Line, which is a park in its own right). It's a footbridge across the Harlem River that links Manhattan and the Bronx. Although closed in the 1970s, there are plans to open it again in 2013.

Gramercy Park
Plenty of people have seen this immaculate park tucked away behind Park Avenue, but only through the iron rails that surrounds it. Gramercy Park is the most exclusive, and only private park in Manhattan, with keys to the gates held by residents. The only realistic way for a visitor to gain access is to book a night at the Gramercy Park Hotel for $500. Historically the hotel has always held 12 keys, and 'key to private park' is listed as standard when booking a room - but then some say your face has to 'fit' too.

John Jay Park, Upper East Side

As you pick your way through the herds of tourists, it's easy to forget that parks are built and maintained for the communities around them, not for camera-packing foreigners. So here's a neighbourhood park adored by the locals during the summer months - on account of its full-length outdoor swimming pool. 

Inwood Hill Park, Inwood 
One of the more surreal experiences I've had in New York City involved emerging from the subway at 207th and Broadway to be surrounded by the expected traffic, horns and hubbub of the city - to then walk two blocks west and discover a wall of rock ten storeys high. 

Inwood Hill Park is one of my favourite places in Manhattan. Before the Dutch arrived in the 17th Century, Manhattan was all swamps and forests, rivers and marshland. The park is a time capsule preserving that chapter of island life; a low cut meadow looks out across Spuyten Duyvil Creek at the northern point of Manhattan Island, sweeping up into the last its forests; a natural wilderness of marshes, valleys and woodland. 

Robert F Wagner Jr Park, Battery Park City 
If the packs of tourists at Battery Park are too much, this is another sprawling park on the riverfront just around the corner, offering views across to the Statue of Liberty but without the crowds.

Carl Schurz Park, Upper East Side 
The Upper East Side is poorly served by the subway, meaning Carl Schurz Park is still 15 minutes walk from the nearest station at 86 Street and Lexington Avenue. It's worth the wear on your soles because you'll find Gracie Mansion, a Federal-style home built in the embers of the 18th century. It's the official residence of the city's mayor (although current mayor Michael Bloomberg lives elsewhere in the Upper East Side) and there's a tour and a museum for visitors.



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