It’s a total cliché to say something is a hidden gem, but in the case of Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, it’s hard to find a description that’s more apt. For years, I drove right past the park, which is somewhat concealed behind a tall fence on Vernon Boulevard and Broadway, on the way to my daughter's school. Finally, my family decided to investigate.
We weren’t expecting to find a five-acre, open-air art park with amazing views of the East River and Manhattan. The artwork on display changes regularly, and visitors can easily spend a day here wandering among the sculptures, sunbathing, reading, or strolling the gardens.
Best of all, Socrates Sculpture Park is totally FREE, and is open year-round for amazing waterfront views, public art, and cool family-friendly programs and events. Read on for even more reasons why you should go.
The annual LIC Bike Parade is an all-ages affair.
Not only is admission FREE—everything is free. Socrates offers an impressive education series for kids, teens, and adults. Some, like Saturday Sculpture Workshops, are drop-in, while a few require registration. There are lots of family-friendly events, like the Halloween Lantern Workshop, the Summer Solstice Celebration, and Queens Green Day. If that’s not enough, there are fitness classes, like yoga and tai chi, and in the summer, there’s kayaking in the East River (fine for accompanied kids with a waiver) plus after-dark film screenings.
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Socrates offers free farm-to-table food workshops for kids on Saturdays.
But wait, there's more! On October 26, you can experience much-loved fall traditions with Haitian Festival of the Ancestors at the Halloween Harvest Festival. Plus, on Saturdays the park hosts Roots Saturdays, featuring fresh produce, drop-in workshops, food demos, and activities for kids.
Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again. Photo by Katie Denny Horowitz/courtesy of the park.
As for the art, Socrates Sculpture Park has traditionally displayed works by multiple artists that are switched out after a few months, so there's almost always something new to see. The current exhibits include a mirrored cubic kiosk with sliding wall-doors and a sculptural “book” project.
All in all, a visit to the Socrates Sculpture Park has something for everyone—art, performances, classes, amazing Manhattan views, and if you're so inclined, plenty of green space to spend a lazy day. Picnicking is allowed, although groups of 20 or more need a permit, and alcohol is banned. Bonus: It's open every day, 9am to sunset!
Only street parking is allowed, but my family has never experienced a problem, although we may have to walk a block or two. Or take the N/W to the Broadway stop, and you'll have just a few blocks to walk. You can even take the ferry! A ride via the Q103 or Q104 buses will help you reach the park quickly too, and maybe a few other nearby sites like the Noguchi Museum or MoMA PS1. Leashed dogs are allowed (and add to the charm). The park is fully accessible to those with disabilities.
Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of the park. A version of this post was originally published in 2017; it has been updated for 2019. Katie Nave Freeman contributed additional reporting.