Seven Stellar Outdoor Parks and Activities Near Midtown East

New York City is a skyscraper-studded architectural wonder of the world. So many flock to the shops, restaurants and myriad culture attractions…and who can blame them? But with warm weather upon us, it’s worth it to explore NYC’s exciting and often overlooked outdoor activities for a fun urban oasis

 

NYC’s Newest Park: Little Island

This 2.6-acre park floating 200 feet over the Hudson River is “eye candy" and "a charmer, with killer views," according to New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman. Opened in May and designed by famed architect Thomas Heatherwick, the island is comprised of 132 pods explorable through a sloping maze of paths, wooden walls and fauna. And it has a 687-seat amphitheater with sunset views.

 

Central Park and Its Hidden Gems

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Central Park. The 1.3-square-mile sanctuary in the middle of Manhattan is a fan favorite for a reason, offering views of the world’s tallest skyscrapers blended with beautifully maintained gardens, lakes and greenery. Some hidden gems on the North Side of the park include the Ravine Walk (featuring majestic waterfalls), the Swedish Cottage (a hard-to-find 19th century structure with a permanent marionette theater) and the Conservatory Garden (a trio of formal Italian, French and English garths).

 

Outdoor Reading Rooms at Midtown’s Parks

The annual outdoor ‘Reading Rooms’ have returned to Bryant Park, Herald Square Park and Greeley Square Park. Other outdoor programming coming to Bryant Park this summer includes Tai Chi classes, birding tours, piano, ribbon dancing, board games, ping-pong and an ‘Art Cart’. The board games and Art Cart can be found at the Fifth Avenue Terrace behind the library, while ping pong and the Reading Room are on the Park's 42nd Street side.

 

The Highest Sky Deck in the Western Hemisphere

The Edge, perched on top of the 30 Hudson Yards skyscraper in Midtown, offers bragging rights and makes you feel as if you’re floating above the city. It’s a one-of-a-kind observation deck stretching out 65 feet from the 100th floor of the building and providing unobstructed 360-degree views of every borough. If you’re feeling truly adventurous (and want a great Instagram photo), step on to the portion made of glass for a thrilling glimpse of the city below your feet. Then stop by the famed 150-foot-high climbable Vessel sculpture afterwards for more outdoor thrills. 

 

Sutton Place Parks

Walk 15 minutes from the Roger Smith Hotel and you’ll find five of NYC’s lesser known, but still miraculous, parks. Nestled in the tony and quiet Sutton Place between 53rd and 55th are a collection of five cozy parks. The surrounding townhouses and an oddly quiet atmosphere make for serene spots with excellent views of the East River, Queensboro Bridge and Long Island City.

 

Bryant Park Picnic Performances

Although Broadway isn’t open till September, you can catch premier performances from the city’s top art institutions, such as the New York Philharmonic, all summer long outdoors (and without Broadway ticket prices).

 

Madison Square Park

Although it’s often overshadowed by Central Park, this park in NoMad is definitely worth a visit. First opened to the public in 1847, this park underwent a complete overhaul and has a luscious green lawn, with public installations by artists like Sol LeWitt and William Wegma. Then stop by the nearby Flatiron District for amazing eats.