In New York City, great weather comes just three months a year, so New Yorkers take full advantage of being outside when the sun shines bright. Over the summer months, the city pops with life and activity, from public concerts and theater to restaurant patios, buzzing rooftop bars and packed bike lanes. The biggest love for the season is recognized in Manhattan’s wonderful parks, where locals and travelers alike sack up their lunches (and dinners) for a picnic. We rounded up our five favorite, most atmospheric picnic spots in the city that never sleeps – and, more famously, always eats.
There’s never a dull moment atBryant Park. This midtown park gets tons of foot traffic thanks to its prime and convenient location just steps from iconic attractions:Rockefeller Center to the north, Grand Central to the east, Penn Station to the south and Times Square to the west, all within walking distance. Bryant Park is known for its many free shows – from theater to music – held on the sprawling lawn that serves as a stage, but it also moonlights as the perfect picnic spot during lunch and early dinner hours. There is even free wifi (!), a huge bonus for international visitors. Despite the amenities, it’s the serenity of this 4-acre urban oasis that keeps visitors returning time and time again. Plenty of restaurant stands in the park offer great bites, whileBryant Park Grill and Bryant Park Cafe also pack meals to go.
Sprawling 843 acres fromMidtown to Morningside Heights,Central Park is the crème de la crème of NYC picnic spots. The urban oasis is globally renowned for good reason: it’s a travel destination in its own right. In fact, once you immerse yourself in the green, meticulously detailed landscape with verdant trees and towering boulders, you feel worlds away from the city’s hustle and bustle. Picnic areas abound along the 153 square blocks so there’s elbow room for everyone – the Great Lawn behind the Met Museum is a favorite spot. Grab an award-winning burger at Shake Shack, a packed lunch from the fantastic restaurants at Columbus Circle (Bouchon Bakery offers pre-made lunch boxes) or stuff your picnic basket with organic eats from Whole Foods and set off for an fun afternoon at this historic park.
The High Line
Manhattan’s most contemporary park has been garnering much deserved attention as of late. Not only did the 1.5-mile linear park recently expand and add a hotel to its lush oasis, it also received a new neighbor last month: theWhitney Museum of American Art, which relocated next door, is bringing tons of foot traffic to this vertiginous slice of park heaven. The High Line is an aerial greenway (transformed from an abandoned, elevated railway) equipped with benches, stadium-style seating and other lovely areas where visitors can enjoy a comfortable picnic. There’s great bakeries and sandwich shops to be found nearby, many in the celebrated Chelsea Market. After your picnic, take advantage of the wealth of activities available on the High Line, including public tours, public meditation, live musical performances and lectures.
Madison Square Park
This spacious, family-friendly park in the Flatiron District – at the intersection of Fifth and Broadway –is popular among locals (particularly office workers who sprawl out during their lunch breaks). Over the summer, the park hosts public art installations, food festivals and even a summer concert series, so picnicking on the verdant lawn that’s embellished with beautiful hydrangeas has its perks. Most visitors make a beeline to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese for a gorgeous cheese plate, sandwiches and salads, or take away highbrow meals from famous restaurants nearby like Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park and Craftbar. Madison Square Park is dog friendly, so you can bring Fido, who will find his own personal sanctuary at a separate, open-area dog run.
East River State Park
If there’s a reason to cross the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn, it’s for the East River State Park. This seven-acre lush oasis is one of the most tranquil parks in NYC and, best of all, it has breathtaking, commanding views of the East River and Manhattan skyline. East River State Park was seemingly built with the picnic in mind: there is a barbecue platform, picnic tables and even a children’s playground for a fun family outing. Nearby eateries like Rosarito Fish Shack and Baglesmith make it easy to pack a picnic basket and Smorgasburg brings hundreds of food vendors to the park on Saturdays. During the summer, the park features myriad activities, from music events to public film screenings.