Carl Schurz Park on Manhattan's Upper East Side is a jewel of an urban green space. Nestled between East End Avenue and the East River, the 15-acre waterfront park runs six city blocks. While it can't match the UES' other big green space, Central Park, in size, Carl Schurz does feature lovely arched bridges; wide, paved pathways; flower-filled gardens; lush landscaping; an iconic statue and one perpetually busy playground.
It's not surprising that Carl Schurz has so much in common with Central Park: It was masterminded in 1902 by none other than Calvert Vaux (part of the duo that created Central and Prospect Parks). And Carl Schurz has one attraction no other NYC park will ever have: the historic Gracie Mansion, which is usually home to New York City's seated mayor. (Our current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, opted to stay in his swanky private residence.)
In addition to a wealth of amenities and attractions, the opulent park hosts a number of awesome annual family events like an Easter egg hunt, Halloween Howl and a holiday tree lighting, all organized by the hard-working Carl Schurz Park Conservancy. But you don't need to wait for a special event to visit: There are plenty of things to do in Carl Schurz Park on any day.
Roll or Walk Along the East River
The John Finley Walk is a glorious waterfront promenade on the East side of Carl Schurz Park. Cycle, scooter, Rollerblade or stroll along the path and enjoy fantastic views of the Triborough (a.k.a. RFK) and Queensborough (a.k.a. Ed Koch) Bridges, and the lighthouse on Roosevelt Island.
Romp in Catbird Playground
This well-used playground was last overhauled in 2000, so it's more old-fashioned than the newfangled play spots popping up all over town. That said, it's still one of our favorites because it's got something for kids of all ages and abilities: baby and big-kid swings, a giant sandbox, sprinklers, hopscotch courts and three play structures, one for every age group, toddlers, little and big kids. There's also plenty of shade thanks to the trees, benches and a bathroom.
Tour Gracie Mansion
Originally built by a wealthy merchant named Gracie in 1799, the house and its grounds became city property in 1896. After being used as a concession stand and as the original home for the Museum of the City of New York, this beautiful country-style mansion became the official NYC mayoral residence in 1942 when Fiorello LaGuardia moved in. Visitors can tour the building most Wednesdays at 10am, 11am, 1pm and 2pm for $7 for adults and no cost for students. Occasional evening tours are offered so be sure to check the website.
Celebrate the Easter, Halloween and Christmas
The city's oldest volunteer park group, the Carl Schurz Park Conservancy, hosts free events for all ages throughout the year. But the biggies for kids are the park's annual Easter egg hunt, the Halloween Howl canine costume contest, and a lovely holiday tree lighting complete with caroling and free hot cocoa. Visit the conservancy's website for exact dates and times.
The park has basketball courts. You can swing by to see if you can join a game but leagues and groups are required to reserve a court in advance.
Check out the beautiful Peter Pan Statue
Charles Andrew Hafner's 1928 stunning bronze sculpture originally graced the lobby fountain at Times Square's Paramount Theater. The statue was donated to the city in 1975 and installed in Carl Schurz Park where he stood until 1999, when vandals dislodged him and threw him in the East River. But Peter Pan was soon back on his pedestal where he's stayed ever since.
Picnic or sunbathe on one of the park's lawns
Just don't bring your Frisbee! As signs indicate, most of the grassy spots in Carl Schurz Park are reserved for passive activities.
Bring your dog
With two separate dog runs, Carl Schurz is one of NYC's most canine-friendly parks. There's a tiny run for small dogs along the East River and a big space in the park's interior for larger mutts, plus the aforementioned Halloween Howl.
Browse the collectables at the annual Gracie Square Art Show
This art show is held in the park every fall. It's not just for adults; there are always special kids' activities to keep them busy while you peruse the items.
Read all of our posts about things to do on the Upper East Side. Or check out our Playgrounds & Parks Guide for other awesome NYC green spaces.
All photos by the author except the first photo, which was taken by Eden, Janine & Jim via Flickr.