As soon as the days are warm and mild enough to eat outdoors (whether or not summer has officially kicked off), dining al fresco is hard to beat. If your kids can't sit still for a restaurant meal even in a kid-friendly backyard, consider packing a picnic or picking up some portable eats and striking out for your nearest greenspace. Here are our 10 favorite parks to picnic, with bonus points for entertainment during or after your meal.
Battery Park City – Lower Manhattan
This Lower Manhattan greenspace is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. We're huge fans of Nelson A. Rockefeller Playground, which even houses some pergola-sheltered picnic tables, but its hard to beat the water views from the grassy spot outside the playground gates. We also love the nearby Park House, which loans sports equipment and games, or lets you play on its ping-pong tables and even sponsors family-friendly craft projects all for FREE.
Brooklyn Bridge Park – Brooklyn Heights
Much like Central Park, this greenspace overflows with entertainment options, from the over-the-top playgrounds, to the Dumbo Boulders, roller skating rink, carousel, and more. A jam-packed events calendar includes kid-friendly entertainment like the Unplugged Music Series. Picnicking here gets major bonus points for the fact that an entire pier is dedicated to the activity, with plenty of grills to use. Other picnic tables are located throughout the park, and the expansive lawns are great for a blanket spread.
Central Park – Manhattan
There's so much lush greenery in Central Park (plus a wide variety of cool playgrounds) that it's hard to pick a bad picnic spot here, but we'll offer a few of our favorites. The Great Hill (enter at 103rd Street and Central Park West) is bordered by soaring shade trees, has a well-kept restroom, and an oval-shaped grassy area with a path around it, perfect for scooter races while mom and dad enjoy a 360-degree view. It also hosts the summertime Great Jazz on the Great Hill, which provides a lovely soundtrack. Speaking of which, another annual, picnic-friendly (if you arrive early enough!) event is the New York Philharmonic's Concert in the Parks, on the Great Lawn with its classical soundtrack and booming ending. SummerStage always offers a jam-packed schedule, too, though many events will be too crowded for a picnic blanket. Beyond the stages, some of our favorite spots to spread our spread include the Arthur Ross Pinetum at mid-park near 84th Street, the grass near Hecksher Playground, and Umpire Rock on the south end at mid-park, with the Children's Corner activities (carousel, and Victorian Gardens Amusement Park nearby.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park – Flushing, Queens
Entertainment options abound on the shady green grass located between the New York Hall of Science and the Queens Zoo, which is just a stone's throw away from the fun-for-little-kids Fantasy Forest Amusement Park. The lawns surrounding Meadow Lake are also charming, and kids will delight in a picnic near the Unisphere, especially if you hand out pennies to toss into its waters.
Fort Greene Park – Fort Greene, Brooklyn
This 30-acre greenspace is one of the oldest in New York City. Its towering trees, tiered lawns, and ample opportunities for recreation are reason enough to visit, picnic in tow. Summer season means the popular Music in the Grove concert series caters to kids. There are barbecue areas here, plus plenty of room to relax or roam.
Madison Square Park & Union Square Park – Lower Manhattan
These two land-locked greenspaces are perfect for picnic goers who can't be bothered to pack a basket. A visit to Madison Square Park can be fueled with a visit to the nearby Eataly or the original Shake Shack. Beyond the eats, there's always cool public art and a kid-friendly summer concert series. At the nearby Union Square Park, a journey through the booming farmer's market can fuel a fresh meal, while the Citi Summer in the Square concerts return this summer, too. Both parks have fun playgrounds to boot.
Prospect Park – Brooklyn
This sprawling Brooklyn park allows barbecues in designated areas and offers more than 500 acres of green oasis to explore. We love to picnic near the LeFrak Center at Lakeside and the Children's Corner, with its carousel, zoo, and the beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival offers a lovely soundtrack when you park yourself near the Bandshell.
Socrates Sculpture Garden – Long Island City, Queens
This waterfront park hosts a rotating array of larger-than-life sculptures giving your picnic plenty of eye candy. There are shady nooks to spread your blanket, and the park is pretty enclosed, so you can lounge while the kids explore. The events calendar overflows with fun happenings, including yoga, meditation, art workshops, and more. Just north of the park, you'll find Hallets Cove, where you can jump aboard a kayak for FREE.
Staten Island Greenbelt – Staten Island
This chain of parks on Staten Island's interior stretches for more than 2,800 acres, linking park after park and providing plenty of space for recreation. Willowbrook Park may be the most kid-friendly spot, with its playgrounds and carousel providing the entertainment. Families with older kids can take their picnic on a trek, covering the six hiking trails, or visiting the Greenbelt Nature Center in LaTourette Park.
Van Cortlandt Park – Riverdale, the Bronx
Want to dip some chips and then take a dip? One of Van Cortlandt Park's most popular picnic areas is located just outside its FREE public pool, which is also near one of our favorite sandboxes. While Van Cortlandt lacks some of the passive entertainment of other picks on our list, there's still plenty of fun to be had, from the out of the ordinary horseback riding, to golf, hiking trails, and fun in the nature center.