Five of the Best Small Parks in New York

Brooklyn Bridge Park by m_ke.jpg

Central Park is not to be missed, but there are many more manageable green spaces to explore. From major Midtown office-worker retreats to tiny community gardens, here’s five of our favourite places to sit back and smell the roses…

Bryant Park

Located just behind the main branch of the New York Public Library, Bryant Park is your best best for a sunbathing session in Midtown, though in the height of spring and summer you might have to fight for your patch of green. That said, this is a glorious urban park, with film festivals, tai chi and other events in the warmer months and seasonal shops and ice-skating in the winter. Citi Pond – the 170ft x 100ft ice rink – remains open until 13 March 2013.

Bryant Park © kjarrett.jpg
Bryant Park © kjarrett

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park offers fantastic views of lower Manhattan, so set up your tripod on the waterfront for some cinematic late afternoon shots. The new park – which has opened in phases over the past few years – draws a good mix of locals and tourists, who come to walk along the boardwalk and enjoy a picnic. Special events like the popular (and free) Movies With a View season take place during the summer months.

Brooklyn Bridge Park © @NYCphotos-flickr.jpg
Brooklyn Bridge Park © @NYCphotos-flickr

Washington Square Park

One of New York’s most beloved public spaces, Washington Square Park is like the city in microcosm, known for its cultural claims to fame and as a centre of political activism. There may be a lack of large green spaces to spread out on, but we love how the park’s many pathways encourage you to explore: there’s more to see and do than it seems at first glance, with chess tables, playgrounds, street performers and musicians stealing attention from the large central fountain and stately Washington Arch. Our favourite place to people-watch in the city.

Washington Square Park © laverrue.jpg
Washington Square Park © laverrue

Greenacre Park

That over-used phrase hidden gem could genuinely be applied to Greenacre Park. This 60ft x 120ft ‘vest pocket park’ in the middle of Midtown East (East 51st Street, between 2nd and 3rd Aves) is a tiny oasis in the city, characterised by a 25ft granite-faced waterfall cascading over boulders. Emerald green foliage creates a cocooning effect from the outside world, and there’s ample room to stop and grab a bite to eat from the small snack bar, or even fire up the laptop if you really must. The park was named as one of the best in the world by the Project for Public Spaces.

Greenacre Park © bettyx1138.jpg
Greenacre Park © bettyx1138

Creative Little Garden

Ok, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call this a ‘park’ as such, but we’re including this amazing little community garden in our list because it’s just so serene and lovely and deserves to be seen. We stumbled upon it on a recent walk around the East Village (on Sixth Street between Avenues A and B) and were bowled over by the peacefulness and attention to detail: little birdhouses, a porch swing, benches, fountains and the non-stop sound of birdsong. Creative Little Garden is open every day between 11am and 6pm – check it out!

Creative Little Garden, East Village © 2013 Creative Little Garden.jpg
Creative Little Garden, East Village © 2013 Creative Little Garden

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Header photo © m_ke

About Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.
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