Basket Place: The Best Picnic Spots in NYC

Clay LeConey via Unsplash
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It’s Goldilocks time in NYC. Not too hot, not too cold, just right for spreading out and having a picnic. Of course, there are dozens of places to picnic in the city, but why not dine at one of the best? Read on for the classics, new parks, and even under-the-radar picnic spots worth a look. While you’re outside, consider one of our fave urban hikes, bike rides with kids, or NYC playgrounds.

central park picnic spots

Best Picnic Spots in Manhattan

Picnic Spots in Central Park
There is no shortage of spaces to spread out and enjoy a picnic here. We recommend these wide open, classic spots below.  Pro-tip: In a hurry and no time to pack your own lunch? Central Park offers a to-go package suitable for families and kids.

The Great Lawn
Measuring 55-acres it’s clear how this green expanse got its name. Great Lawn. Check out the turtles in the nearby pond then visit The Diana Ross or Ancient playground. If you need more activity, the  Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art is right here.

Mid-park between 79th Street and 85th Street
Online: The Great Lawn

Great Hill
Travel to the northern part of the park where it feels a bit less urban thanks to numerous great elm trees. This is the only spot where picnic tables are available, and a bathroom is located nearby. Take a short hike to find the Loch and discover three waterfalls. Another option is to explore the North Woods to experience the Ravine and learn about history at the Blockhouse. If the tots need a place to climb, head over to the Tarr Family playground.

Between W. 103rd Street and W. 107th Street. Enter at W. 106th Street
Online: Great Hill

people walking in Fort Tryon Park
Wikimedia CC

Fort Tryon Park
This lush green oasis is next door to the Cloisters, home to The Metropolitan Museum of Arts’ 5,000 medieval artifacts.(FYI: admission is donation-based) Be sure to walk through Heather Garden to see what’s blooming.

Fort Tryon Park
99 Margaret Corbin Dr.
Online: Fort Tryon Park

Bryant Park
If you like to picnic in the hustle and bustle of it all, Bryant Park is a great choice. Steps from Times Square,  and the main branch of the New York Public library, it still provides a lovely oasis with its open lawn, ample shade along the perimeter, carousel and ongoing programming and free events. (And if you don’t feel like packing your own picnic, food vendors are here to help with that.) Bonus: there are public bathrooms here.

Bryant Park
42nd & 6th Ave.
Online: bryantpark.org

Hudson River Park
The green lawn bowl between Pier 63 and 64 in Chelsea is huge. (It’s also the largest open space in Hudson River Park. Watch the bikers and runners breeze through and enjoy views of the Hudson River. In the summer, stop by Chelsea Waterside playground to cool off in the splashpad.

Hudson River Park
Online: Pier 63

The Elevated Acre 55 Water Street
Picnic in a hidden gem in the financial district. To access this secret spot, look for the elevator tucked between two office buildings. The SeaGlass Carousel is a short walk away, as is the National Museum of the American Indian. The museum is free and offers an interactive kid-friendly exhibit. Pro-tip: This is also a great place to use the bathroom if someone needs one.

Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily May 1-Sept 30th (hours may change based on events)
Online: 55 Water

girl on picnic blanket in NYC park
Wai Sze Sara

Madison Square Park
Picnic in the center of the action in the Flatiron District’s Madison Square Park. Grab an Italian lunch from Eataly. Little ones can climb and swing at the playground within the park, which also has a water feature. Got some LEGO builders and wizard enthusiasts? Schedule a reservation to visit the new Harry Potter store or swing by the LEGO store.

Historic Pier 57 in Chelsea
Be one of the first to visit Google’s two-acre rooftop public park in Chelsea with unobstructed views of the lower Manhattan and nearby Little Island. Seating is available throughout the open space, and you can grab good eats to go at the food hall on the ground level. (The vendors are curated by the James Beard Foundation.) Bathrooms are located on the eastern end, and if you’re around during dusk, look for the circular light fixtures that illuminate at night.

Rooftop Park at Pier 57
Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m daily.
Entrance at south perimeter walkway. Look for the signs.
Online: Rooftop Park at Pier 57

picnic on little island nyc

Little Island
Find a spot on the rolling hills of this diminutive public park in the Hudson. Food is available on-site, and warm weather brings lots of events, performances and art. It’s free, but you’d be wise to reserve a timed entry ticket, as there can be lines.

Pier55 in Hudson River Park
West 13th Street
Online: Little Island

Governors Island
There is so much to do here including a real-life adventure playground for your school-aged kids to build using real tools and materials. Bring your own food or buy some from one of the food trucks serving the island.

Governors Island is accessible by a short ferry ride from Battery Maritime Building or from Wall Street/Pier 11 to Yankee Pier and costs $3 round trip but may be waived. Advanced reservations are strongly encouraged.

Govenors Island
Online: Governors Island

Randall’s Island Park
Head on over to Randall’s Island park where you can see views of Harlem River and East River. There are picnic areas on either side. View map for location. There’s 10 miles of paved road for kids to run, walk or bike. These pathways are free from cars so it’s safe for your children to roam free. Check out the calendar for kid events before visiting. Farm exploration days, Story Time at the Urban Farm and Birding Adventure are some fun options. Enjoy art installations throughout the park starting now.

Randall’s Island Park
Accessible by foot, bus, car or ferry
Picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooke Cagle via Unsplash

Best Picnic Spots in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Bridge Park
Visit the Picnic Grove at The Empire Fulton Ferry if you would like to sit at a table. Otherwise, there is plenty of green space around for you to set down your picnic blanket. Enjoy the views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, ride on Jane’s Carousel, throw some pebbles at Pebble Beach or play at the Main Street playground.

Empire Fulton Ferry
Online: Brooklyn Bridge Park

Marsha P. Johnson State Park
Formerly East River State Park, this seven-acre Williamsburg green space was renamed in 2020 for Johnson, a transgender woman of color who was a pioneer in the LBGTQI movement and a prominent figure in the Stonewall Riots. (Plaques in the park provide information on her contributions.) The park is known for its stellar views of Manhattan, and there’s a lawn for your blanket as well as benches for seating. Additionally, there’s a small beach, a playground and a dog run. Saturday is a good day to go, because food truck heaven, AKA Smorgasburg is on-site with almost infinite options.

90 Kent St.
Online: parks.ny.gov

Prospect Park

Long Meadow
It’s accurately named because it is the longest unbroken meadow in an urban U.S. park. It’s a popular spot for picnicking, flying kites, playing sports and more.

Prospect Park Long Meadow
Grand Army Plaza entrance
Online: Long Meadow

Nellie’s Lawn
Nellie’s Lawn is a great spot for families with smaller kids. Explore the Donald and Barbara Zucker Natural Exploration (perfect for energetic sprout) then take a 10-minute walk over to the Prospect Park Zoo.

Prospect Park Nellie’s Lawn
Flatbush Ave, Zoo, Arch, East Dr.
Online: Nellie’s Lawn
picnic in Queens Upper Alley pond park
Wai Sze Zara

Best Picnic Spots in Queens

Upper Alley Pond Park
You can relax on the lawn or secure a picnic table here, and there are also BBQ grills for use if you feel like cooking. Meander through the easy walking trails and make a stop at Wildflower Meadow playground. FYI: kids agess 8 and up can register for a chance to climb for free on Sunday mornings this summer into Fall at the Adventure course.

Alley Pond Park
Enter at Douglaston Parkway beneath Grand Central Parkway
Union Tpke, Oakland Gardens
Online: Upper Alley Pond

Queens Botanical Garden
Pay a reasonable admission fee to access the QBG. (IDNYC members can take advantage of free admission on Wednesdays) A lot is happening at this green space in the middle of Flushing, so check the calendar to see the latest events. Good news: Movie nights are returning this summer.

Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main Street
Online: Queens Botanical Garden

Picnic spots at Clove Lakes Park

Clove Lakes Park via Wikimedia CC

Best Picnic Spots in Staten Island

Snug Harbor Culture Center & Botanical Garden
This Staten Island institution has been around for over 180 years! It’s free to enter and it’s huge. Picnic spots are available in designated areas, in Cottage D, along Gazebo Road and by the Staten Island’s Children’s Museum in Building M. Bathrooms are on-site.

Snug Harbor
1000 Richmond Terr.
Online: Snug Harbor

Wolf’s Pond Park and Beach
Wolf’s Pond Park and Beach is one of Staten Island’s largest parks. Here you can choose your adventure: park, beach, wildlife, nature or playground. Bathrooms are on-site.

Wolf’s Pond Park and Beach
Holton Ave., Chisolm St., Luten Ave., Arbutus Ave. and Raritan Bay
Online: Wolfe’s Pond Park

Clove Lakes Park
This popular park is beautiful and has a rich natural history. It is part of the Forever Wild’s initiative to preserve valuable land. There are easy trails for little adventurers, a pond, playground and rowboat rentals too. It is also famously home to Staten Island’s largest living tulip tree that is 300 years old. Picnic tables and bathrooms are on-site.

Clove Lakes Park
Forest Ave., Victory Blvd., bet. Clove Rd. and Brookside Ave., Royal Oak Rd.
Online: Clove Lakes Park

Mother and daughter on blanket at Wave Hill for Mother's Day
Joshua Bright

Bronx

Wave Hill
You must pay admission to enter Wave Hill, but it is a spectacular and beautiful place. (It is also free on Thursdays.) On weekends, the garden hosts free family art activities, nature walks, bird-watching and more. The designated picnic area is adjacent to Glyndor Gallery and visitors may bring their own food. However, blankets and outside chairs are not allowed, except on special occasions like Mother’s Day.

Wave Hill
4900 Independence Avenue
Online: Wave Hill

Pelham Bay Parkway
Did you know this is NYC’s largest park? It has BBQ grills and designated picnic table areas, and you can picnic anywhere on Orchard Beach North or South lawn. Enjoy beautiful water views of the Hutchinson River, then head over to the Bronx Equestrian Center for a $5 horse ride. Nearby playgrounds are the Playground for all Children or the Sweetgum Playground.

Pelham Bay Park
Bruckner Blvd, Eastchester, Hutchinson
Online: Pelham Bay Park

Orchard Beach
Picnic in “The Riviera of New York.” Play in the sand, visit the Pelican Bay or Orchard beach playgrounds nearby, or get cooking on a grill. Plus: You’re just a bridge away from City Island where you can grab a fresh seafood meal to go.

Orchard Beach
On Long Island Sound in Pelham Bay Park
Online: Orchard Beach and Promenade

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