Part of New York City’s draw is the incredible amount of things to do. From taking in the epic views from the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center, going on a luxury shopping spree or enjoying one of the top-rated restaurants seemingly found on every street corner, it is pretty much impossible to get bored in the Big Apple. But what about when the honking horns, thousands of pedestrians and bright lights of Times Square get to be too much? Fortunately, there are some fantastic parks where one can get away from it all, without ever leaving the city.
There is a reason this is one of the most famous parks in the entire world. Taking up a sprawling 843 acres right in the heart of the city, Central Park is a must-see no matter what season it is. In the spring and summer expect to enjoy live music, the chance to try activities like yoga or pilates or take in a play. Fall is a photographer’s dream when the foliage turns bright orange and red, and in winter there is an ice skating rink and holiday décor.
There are a number of different ways to enjoy the pathways which link the entire park, and are sectioned off with different lanes and even traffic lights. Some people simply walk or jog, but if you want to see the whole thing you’re going to need some wheels. Dozens of bike rental stands are set up right outside the park gates, with the option of adding on a guided tour. If you happen to have a voucher like the New York Pass you’ll be able to rent bikes for free—otherwise expect to pay $15-$25 depending on how long you want to keep the bike. Budget at least two or three hours to loop around the park, so you can stop at spots like the Belvedere Castle or grab some food at one of the restaurants or food stalls.
Horse carriage rides are also a popular option, and are a great way to up the romance factor if you’re travelling with your sweetie. The carriages can hold half a dozen people, and the driver will either let you enjoy the sights in peace and quiet or entertain you with stories and tips about New York. Rides cost $50 for the first 20 minutes, then $20 for every 10 minutes after.
Central Park is also a fantastic spot to soak up the sun on a hot day. Bring a blanket to lay on, and head to the Great Lawn which is about the closest thing to a beach you’ll find in New York City. Sure, there is no water or sand, but there are thousands of sunbathers!
The High Line
For some strange reason this spot is still not on the radar for many tourists, which makes it even more special!
The High Line used to be an elevated train line, which has since been converted into a park looking down onto the west end streets below. Winding through the Meatpacking district towards West 34th Street, there are several access points that will get you into the park, which features a long trail lined with gardens, picnic spots, leafy trees and foliage peeking out through the old train tracks. Despite being smack dab in the middle of an effortlessly hip area, this serene spot makes you feel a world away from it all.
About midway through there is a little market of sorts, which is a great spot to pick up a latte or a sweet ice cream cone, before heading back out to enjoy the view of surrounding Manhattan. Simply sit back and people watch, or grab a spot at one of the comfy couches and join the group offering ‘free conversations.’
The highlight of the High Line has to be the art, which is affixed to the side of the many apartment buildings lining the route. Here is one of my absolute faves:
If you time your visit right, you may also be able to enjoy a free concert or dance performance.
Top tip: Once you’ve finished walking the High Line, head to the nearby Chelsea Market at 75 9th Ave. This fantastic spot is home to dozens of gourmet food stalls, where you can find everything from vegan sushi, high-end wines, cupcakes that will satisfy your sweet tooth and everything in between.
I had the best sushi of my ENTIRE LIFE at one of the restaurants, called Lobster Place. The chefs will make your sushi to order, or you can just grab the pre-made offerings. Alternatively, nosh on one of their fresh lobsters—after all, that’s what their specialty is!
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