Picnic might not be the first word that comes to mind when you think about iconic, romantic and highly scenic adventures in New York City. But in fact, a spring, summer or fall picnic in NYC is a splendid idea, as long as you choose the right spot. As part of our ongoing series of Gotham Guides to to the best hidden gems in NYC, our Brooklyn-based correspondent Abbie Martin Greenbaum has curated a list of where to find the top 10 New York City picnic spots.
where are the best spots for a picnic in New York City right now?
Believe it or not, the summer is already winding to a close. Where did the time go?
Before the days get too short, we are all scrambling to check those last-minute summer items off our bucket lists. Next up? A summer picnic.[white_box]
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Picnics might top the list of our favorite summer activities. They are a simple, seasonal way to catch up with friends while also soaking up some vitamin D (and some scenery). And especially in New York City, an afternoon spent in nature is a real luxury – something we can never seem to get enough of.
Of course, there’s much to consider when selecting your perfect picnic spot. Unless you’re bringing some of our recommended picnic essentials, you’ll need to pick a park with proximity to some delicious food. And easy access to transportation is also important! What about some local things to do, in case you get a little antsy? And if the surrounding views are lovely enough for a Tik Tok, even better.
These ten perfect NYC picnic spots have it all – whether you’re planning an outing in spring, summer or fall.
top 10 picnic spots in New York City (NYC) right now
1. Central Park
Are you even surprised? Central Park was always going to be number one.
Of course, Central Park is vast – you could write an entire picnic spot guide composed only of different locations within it (in fact, Central Park itself has done this) – so you’re probably going to want some guidance on where exactly to spread your picnic blanket.
And though you can’t really go wrong, we’re going to suggest The Great Lawn. It’s called The Great Lawn for a reason – it sits in the exact center of the park, making it equidistant from both the east side and the west side. It’s close to the Met, provides a lovely view of Belvedere Castle, and offers easy bathroom access through the Delacorte Theater. There are all your picnic problems – solved.
And if you don’t feel like packing a picnic lunch, pick up food from any of the park’s local vendors, and enjoy an afternoon surrounded by your fellow New Yorkers.[white_box]
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2. Prospect Park
As much as we love Central Park, Prospect Park might just be the park of our hearts. We know, we know. But Prospect Park is a worthy contender – it boasts a zoo, a roller rink, Smorgasburg, and of course, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, all within its 526 acres.
As in Central Park, Prospect Park has many potential picnic spots to choose from. But we have to suggest the Picnic House. As you might have guessed from its name, this is a popular spot for picnicking – and weddings, concerts, and other events – and it is made even better by the fact that Winner has taken over operations.
Winner serves some of the best pastries and sandwiches in the borough, and we can’t imagine a better picnic than one made by them.
3. McCarren Park
If you’re in North Brooklyn – or even if you’re not – it doesn’t get much better than McCarren Park. Cozied up between Williamsburg and Greenpoint, McCarren Park is home to baseball diamonds, a (lovely!) public pool, and yes – some prime picnicking spots.
As well as providing plenty of available grass for you to pop a squat, McCarren also recently opened Park House – a food hall with a treasure trove of favorite Brooklyn dining options. You’ll definitely want to incorporate a sandwich from the trendy new Club Club into your picnic lunch.
4. Fort Greene Park
We love Fort Greene Park. It’s a little bit quieter than some of the other parks on this list, but it still offers that same burst of Brooklyn energy. And it’s gorgeous.
If you’re looking for a local place to pick up lunch, try Dinner Party. That’s right – one of our favorite dinner-party-style restaurants offers picnic baskets to-go for lunch. Make sure to scoop the menu for the picnic of the week.[white_box]
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5. Van Cortland Park
Van Cortland Park is one of those special places that feels like a true oasis from the city’s chaos. This is one of the only spots on this list with actual hiking trails – twenty miles of them! – so if you’re really looking to be in nature, this is the place to go.
And of course you’ll want to pick up some treats at Lloyd’s Carrot Cake for your picnic lunch!
6. Socrates Sculpture Park
If you’d like some entertainment to go with your picnic, why not choose Socrates Sculpture Park? This much-loved destination in Astoria, Queens, is an outdoor art venue as much as it is a public park.
Choose a picnic spot by the water, and split your time between the view of the water and the view of the park’s latest installation. (Until next March, it’s an exhibit about the future of our climate).
7. Highland Park
If you’re looking for an extra-special backdrop for your picnic lunch, consider Highland Park. On the border of Queens and Brooklyn, Highland Park has some of the best vistas in the whole city.
Enjoy your lunch, then take a stroll around the Ridgewood Reservoir. You might even find a little serenity.[white_box]
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8. Hudson River Park
There’s no doubt about it – Hudson River Park is where it’s happening. Adjacent to many of our favorite Manhattan landmarks (including the High Line and Little Island), Hudson River Park encapsulates all of the best aspects of New York City itself.
It’s always alive, buzzing with people, with activities, and with events; and since it stretches all the way up from Battery Park, you know you’ll find the area that’s right for you. And if you forgot to bring a picnic basket? Just stop in at any of the park’s many eateries – we’ve got our eyes on North River Lobster Company.
9. Four Freedoms State Park
If you have an adventurous soul, why not take your picnic out to Four Freedoms State Park? This Roosevelt Island park – a memorial for President Franklin D. Roosevelt – is one of the city’s hidden gems, and is easily accessible via the 60th street tram or the 34th street ferry.
Since they do not allow pets, bikes, or scooters, this is one of the city’s most peaceful places to spend an afternoon.
10. Governors Island
And if you’d like to turn your picnic into a “day trip,” take the ferry to Governors Island. The current iteration of the island was practically designed for picnickers – there are tables, hammocks, and lounge chairs, as well as plenty of shady and secluded spots on the grass.
Bring your picnic with you, or pop by one of the island’s concessions. You’ll notice outposts of many of the city’s most popular dining spots.
where to go for the best picnic spots in New York City
That’s where those of us who live in the city would send you if you asked us where to go for the best most perfect picnic spot in NYC right now. What’s your favorite, dear reader?
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Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.