Summer Guide: Best beaches, parks and more
You have three months to head outdoors and explore all of the area’s seasonal recreation, but it may not be enough. If you're looking for the best places to begin your al fresco adventures — and there are more beyond Central Park — check out these spots to keep cool ...
Sandy Hook, N.J.
Route 36 and Ocean Avenue; sandy-hook.com
It’s just a 35-minute ferry ride to this seven-mile beach that hooks around for both oceanfront and bayfront options — you can even see the Manhattan skyline in the distance. This Gateway National Recreation Area also offers fishing, hiking, biking, birding, boating and camping. And with park rangers set to enforce a statewide ban on public nudity in New York this year, it has the nearest nude beach. Sandy Hook can be reached by the Seastreak ferry.
Cedar Grove Beach, Staten Island
Ebbits Street and Cedar Grove Avenue; nycgovparks.org/parks/greatkillspark
This quiet, clean beach — one of four in Great Kills Park — is often mistaken as being private. But the Parks Department began managing it a few years ago, and it now offers lifeguards and restrooms. As the city develops the area, plans include a new concession stand, bike path and playground.
Coney Island, Brooklyn
Surf Avenue, from West 37th Street to Ocean Parkway; coneyisland.com
This iconic city seaside resort really does have it all — convenient public transportation, a wide beach, a boardwalk filled with trinkets and treats, an amusement park, an aquarium, a minor league baseball stadium and three miles of Atlantic Ocean beachfront.
Rockaway Beach, Queens
Beach 9 to Beach 149 streets; nycgovparks.org/parks/rock awaybeach
Expect to share Rockaway Beach with a community of surfers, as this is the city’s only legal surfing spot. Designated surf beaches are between 67 and 69 streets and 87 and 92 streets. If you’re not into surfing, stay young at the volleyball courts, roller hockey rink or skate park.
Orchard Beach, the Bronx
Shore and Orchard Beach roads; pelhambaypark.org
This one-mile, man-made beach (part of Pelham Bay Park) is the only public beach in the Bronx. Originally conceived as the “Riviera of New York,” the crescent-shaped stretch of sand along Long Island Sound is flanked by a wide promenade perfect for a stroll. There are also shops, playgrounds, picnic areas and numerous sports courts adjacent.
Robert Moses State Park, Long Island
600 Robert Moses State Pkwy., Babylon; nysparks.com/parks/7
It’s worth the trip to Long Island’s South Shore to kick back at this serene state park. If lying on the peaceful five-mile beach at the western end of Fire Island is just too uneventful for you, though, try your hand at windsurfing or stand-up paddleboarding. There’s also a boat basin for daily use, a pitch-and-putt golf course and fishing.
Jacob Riis Park, Queens
Beach 149 to Beach 169 streets; nyharboparks.org/visit/jari.html
This mile-long beach has the nickname “The People’s Beach,” and you’ll notice its diverse community of visitors. Concessions here are limited, so bring a picnic lunch and enjoy all this Gateway National Recreation Area has to offer: paddle tennis, baseball, basketball and volleyball courts.
Ft. Tryon Park
Riverside Drive to Broadway, 192nd to Dyckman streets; forttryonparktrust.org
You can’t beat the view from this park, which contains one of the highest points in Manhattan. In fact, when John D. Rockefeller began developing the park, he went as far as buying the property across the river to preserve it. Today, visitors enjoy promenades, terraces, a heather garden, wooded slopes and eight miles of pedestrian paths. At the north end is The Cloisters, a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Park West, Brooklyn; prospectpark.org
It may have taken them 30 years to build, but the creators of Central Park scored another home run in Brooklyn with Prospect Park. Within its 585 acres of greenery, you’ll find horseback riding trails, a wheelchair-accessible carousel and the first urban-area Audubon Center in the United States. One of the most relaxing features to explore is the network of wetlands called the Watercourse.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
Grand Central Parkway, Whitestone Expressway, between 111th Street and College Point Boulevard, Queens; flushing meadowscoronapark.com
The largest park in Queens is perhaps most well-known for hosting two World’s Fairs, the U.S. Open and the Mets. But year-round it continues to entertain with almost every public sports facility imaginable, including cricket. There is a large recreation complex, a zoo, an art museum, a botanical garden, a science museum, model aircraft fields and six playgrounds.
Hudson River Park
West Side Highway, the Battery to 59th Street; hudsonriverpark.org
Once a desolate strip of empty piers and waterfront property, Hudson River Park is now the nation’s longest waterfront park. There’s nothing like a breeze off the water to refresh you during a run or bike ride along the five-mile greenway, or to cool you down while sunbathing in the grass.
Van Cortland Park
Westchester County Line, Van Cortlandt Park South between Broadway and Jerome Avenue, the Bronx; vcpark.org
More than 1,000 acres of parkland occupy the northwest corner of the Bronx. Here you will find the country’s first public golf course, horseback riding and hiking trails, including the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. Take a bird walk with an expert or head to the bocce courts and cricket fields for some entertaining sportsmanship.
Clove Lakes Park
Victory Boulevard between Clove Road and Slosson Avenue, Staten Island; nycgovparks.org/parks/ CloveLakesPark
If you’re interested in natural history, you’ll appreciate this park’s lakes and ponds, serpentine rocks and 300-year-old tulip tree. But you don’t need to know much about ecology to enjoy the fitness paths and hiking trails, paddleboats and a plethora of sports facilities.
MORE OUTDOOR ACTIVITES TO ENJOY
IF YOU LIKE… MINI GOLF
Randall’s Island Golf & Sports, 1 Randall’s Island, randallsislandgolfcenter.com; $9 adults, $7 children under 12
Why settle for 18 holes when you can putter away a whole afternoon on 36? This mini golf course has its challenges but is fun for everyone. The nicely landscaped grounds are complemented by a view of the East River toward Manhattan.
IF YOU LIKE… CITY SPONSORED RECREATION
Summer Streets (three Saturdays in August, exact dates TBA) Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park; nyc.gov/summerstreets, FREE
Take back the streets this August when nearly seven miles of pavement are temporarily reclaimed for the simple pleasures of walking, biking, playing, relaxing and maybe even zip lining! Follow the route, which generally runs along Lafayette Street and Park Avenue, and enjoy activities at rest stops along the way.
IF YOU LIKE… EXERCISING OUTDOORS
Central Park Circuit (Tuesdays and Thursdays, July 9-Aug. 15) Tuesdays on the Great Lawn (meet at Delacorte Theatre, mid-park and 80th Street), Thursdays on Great Hill (meet at plaza at Central Park West and 106th Street), Central Park; centralpark.com/events; FREE
Put some nature back into your workout. Use rocks, trails, stairs, hills and open lawns to build strength, agility, flexibility and muscle tone. Tuesdays focus on strength and cardio; Thursdays feature yoga-inspired moves. Space is limited in the one-hour classes, but exercises are also available on the Central Park website.
IF YOU LIKE… NATURE
(daily through Oct. 5)
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, Central Park; nycgovparks.org/events; FREE
Make your way to Harlem Meer for some catch-and-release fun. Stop at the Discovery Center to borrow a fishing pole and pick up your bait. Then cast your line to lure some largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill sunfish, carp and chain pickerel. Don’t forget your picture ID and your fishing license if you are over 16 years old.
Pop-Up Audubon Fishing Clinic (Saturdays and Sundays through August, 1 p.m.)
Wellhouse Drive, near the Lincoln Road entrance, Prospect Park, 718-287-3400, ext. 303; prospectpark.org
Kids aged 15 and under can feel like they’re in the country by learning to fish in this Macy’s sponsored clinic. Head to Brooklyn’s largest park and learn aquatic ecology and fishing safety, and even collect your own bait. Kids must be accompanied by an adult. First come, first served.
IF YOU LIKE… GROUP RELAXATION
Solstice in Times Square June 21, Broadway between 42nd and 47th streets, timessquarenyc.org, FREE
This Athleta-sponsored event is probably the only day of the year when you’ll find peace of mind in the middle of Times Square. Register online to enjoy five free outdoor classes. The first 1,200 people in each class will receive a Solstice gift bag and a free yoga mat.