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15 NYC Parks That Are Hidden Gems

New York City is 25 percent green space, but you probably haven’t seen it all. Grab your Metrocard and let's go!

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1. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Jeffrey Zeldman / Flickr: zeldman / Creative Commons

What it is: A bird sanctuary and wetland estuary with over 50 species of butterflies and 325 species of birds. It's also the only wildlife refuge in the National Park system and part of both Brooklyn and Queens.

What to do: You can go birding, hiking, go on a sunset tour, and even see some turtles nesting.

How to get there: Take the A to Broad Channel Station or the Q21 to the refuge stop.

2. Mosignor McGolrick Park

Erin / Flickr: erin_can_spell / Creative Commons

What it is: A small urban park near McCarren Park in Greenpoint. It's home to a beautiful shelter pavilion that was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1966. There's also a dog park and farmer's market on Sundays.

What to do: Everything! Have a picnic, take a stroll, bring your dog — it's filled with benches so grab a book and just enjoy the trees and summer breeze.

How to get there: Take the G to Nassau Avenue and walk over about eight blocks to the park.


3. Floyd Bennett Field

lulun & kame / Flickr: kamekame / Creative Commons

What it is: Floyd Bennett Field was once an airport and naval air station and has now existed for 83 years in New York City. Named after Floyd Bennett, a Medal of Honor recipient and aviator, the park is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and is owned by the National Park Service.

What to do: You can bring your own kayak or canoe and launch off from here or picnic and hike. Make an early reservation and you can camp here and sleep under New York City's stars.

How to get there: Take the Q35 Southbound and get off at the Floyd Bennett Field stop.

4. Forest Park

Mark Garbowski / Flickr: mgarbowski / Creative Commons

What it is: The third largest park in Queens filled with hiking trails, horses, free concerts, and even a carousel.

What to do: If you like being active this might become your new favorite spot since there are many recreational spots for golfing, basketball, baseball, soccer, running and more. Barbecuing is allowed and you can also rent a horse from one of the on-site stables.

How to get there: Take the J or Z to 85th Street/Forest Parkway or the E or F to Union Turnpike. The buses Q11, Q23, Q37, Q53, Q54, and Q55 also stop in the area.

5. Idlewild Park

Neil R / Flickr: islespunkfan / Creative Commons

What it is: Right by JFK, this park is similar to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, filled with wetlands and woods — it's another place where you'll forget you're in New York City.

What to do: Another place to kayak within city limits! You do need a permit, so fill out the application. For all non-kayakers, you can also hike and explore the area.

How to get there: Take the LIRR to Rosedale and walk over a half a mile to get to the end of 235th Street and 149th Ave.


6. Rainey Park

saitowitz / Flickr: saitowitz / Creative Commons

What it is: This is for all of you who love Manhattan but need a quick getaway to something more quieter. Rainey Park is a mid-sized park with playgrounds, baseball fields, complete with an incredible view of Manhattan.

What to do: Though the area gets a little busy with families on weekends, the park is a little quieter on the weekdays. Have a picnic, go for a run or bike on the new trails.

How to get there: Take the the N or Q to either the 36th Avenue or Broadway stop or the F to the 21st Street - Queensbridge and walk about a mile to Vernon Boulevard.

7. Sutton Place Park

Phil Davis / Flickr: eastsidephil / Creative Commons

What it is: Facing the Queens waterfront, this is a little escape for those who want a place to read a book or be a little more relaxed.

What to do: Bring a book or a friend and have a conversation while admiring the Queensboro Bridge. Or bring your kids — there's a sandbox to play in. And if you're a romantic, bring your significant other and have a moment like Woody Allen and Diane Keaton did in Manhattan — it was filmed here.

How to get there: Take the E or M to Lexington Avenue/53rd Street or the F to Roosevelt Island.

8. The Elevated Acre At 55 Water Street

Shawn Hoke / Flickr: shawnhoke / Creative Commons

What it is: An acre plaza park in between two skyscrapers, with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Hudson River.

What to do: Sit in the amphitheater and enjoy the view, read, or take any out-of-towner for a new view of the city. The River to River Festival also hosts numerous programs here, so check out their schedule and join.

How to get there: Take the N or R to Whitehall Street, the 1 to South Ferry or the J or Z to Broad Street. Then take an elevator at 55 Water Street up to the acre.


9. The Gardens at St. Luke in the Fields

Natalie Maynor / Flickr: nataliemaynor / Creative Commons

What it is: Flowers, gardens, and lawns await you in the private gardens of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields. Open to the public, food is allowed and it's become a quiet place for New Yorkers to come and unwind.

What to do: Just relax and unplug. For those of you who want to really disconnect, come here — there's no cell-phone use allowed.

How to get there: Take the 1 to Christopher Street.

10. Seton Falls Park

Matt Green / Flickr: imjustwalkin / Creative Commons

What it is: In between Van Cortlandt Park and Pelham Bay Park, lies Seton Falls Park. Playgrounds are available but what you'll come here for is the manmade waterfall located in the west side of the park.

What to do: Bring your kids for the playgrounds or for a nature walk. There are wetlands as well to explore.

How to get there: Take the 5 to Eastchester - Dyre Avenue.

11. Hackett Park

Bridge & Tunnel Club / / Via

What it is: While most people visit Riverdale for Van Cortland Park, very close by lies Hackett Park. This park is full of tree-lined paths that bring you to a dog run in the center.

What to do: Bring your dog to let 'em off the leash for a bit while you read and relax in this wooded oasis.

How to get there: Take the 1 to 231st Street and take the BX 7 towards Riverdale 263rd Street and get off at Riverdale Avenue at 254th Street.


12. Barretto Point Park

Matt Green / Flickr: imjustwalkin Creative Commons

What it is: Located in the South Bronx, this place still remains a local gem. Barretto Point Park has a floating pool, a kayak launching site, fishing dock and an incredible East River view.

What to do: Bring a kayak and head over to Long Island City or swim in the floating pool. You can also picnic, play baseball or volleyball and catch a film part of the Parks Summer movie series.

How to get there: Take the 6 to Longwood Ave and then there's a 20 minute walk to the park.

13. Staten Island Greenbelt

Andy Cross / Flickr: andyinnyc / Creative Commons

What it is: More than 2,000 acres of forests, wetlands and over 35 miles of hiking with various parks to go as a starting point.

What to do: You can go fishing, birding, hiking, and anything your heart desires. It's a perfect place to go for a walk and revel in nature while catching views of the Jersey Shore and the New York Bay.

How to get there: Take the S62 bus to the entrance of Willowbrook Park, one of the parks within the greenbelt.

14. New York Chinese Scholar Garden

Dean Ayres / Flickr: deano / Creative Commons

What it is: A beautiful garden based off the gardens in Suzhou, China. A koi pond, eight pavilions, and moon gates really make this a place to escape the city life. A $5 entrance fee is required.

What to do: Reflect on your life or share a moment with your significant other. This is also a place to take a newcomer and show them a different side of New York.

How to get there: Take the S44 to the Botanical Gardens stop.


15. Clove Lakes Park

Matt Green / Flickr: imjustwalkin

What it is: Two ponds, one lake, barbecuing areas, soccer fields, paddle boats, hiking — Clove Lakes Park is full of nature and activities to do.

What to do: Play, barbecue, run, hike, rest, relax — really anything you want to do, this is the place to do it. Keep an eye out for fun Summerstage events at the park.

How to get there: Take the S48 to Forest Avenue/Clove Road. A 10 minute walk on Martling Avenue leads you to the park.

The picture in #12 originally showed the floating pool in Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is also an excellent floating pool.