Ask the Expert: Top NYC Parks

Manhattan may be known as a “concrete playground,” but it's still home to a handful of picturesque parks. Gramercy Park Hotel's chief concierge Aisha Thomas shares her recommendations for New York's best parks.

Although the presence of (what seems like) wall-to-wall skyscrapers and miles upon miles of paved streets has earned Manhattan a reputation as a “concrete playground,” it’s still home to a handful of world-renowned, picturesque parks—from sprawling landscapes in the Big Apple’s northern reaches to popular green spaces peppered throughout the rest of town. Aisha Thomas, Chef Concierge at Gramercy Park Hotel, uses her 19 years of experience as a New York City concierge to recommend her top picks for the best parks and scenic spots in NYC.

Aisha Thomas, Chef Concierge at Gramercy Park HotelNestled in Manhattan’s hilly northern neighborhood Washington Heights, Fort Tryon Park offers awe-inspiring vistas of the surrounding area. “I love this park because of its beautiful view of the Hudson River,” Thomas says. While enjoying the park, she suggests grabbing modern American fare at New Leaf Restaurant & Bar and taking a trip to The Cloisters—a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art that’s home to almost 5,000 medieval masterpieces in a reconstructed medieval monastery. While there, “make sure to go on a Garden Tour,” Thomas suggests. Both the restaurant and museum are located within the park grounds.

Resting on 843 acres, the famed Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed Central Park has been a major attraction for locals and visitors since its opening in the mid 19th century. “With ice-skating rinks, lake with boat rentals, restaurants, a zoo, puppet theater and much more, one can spend the whole day just in Central Park,” Thomas says. Warm-weather entertainment options include the concert series SummerStage and Shakespeare in the Park. “It’s a wonderful place to get lost in or maybe take a bicycle tour for an in-depth look at the historic grounds.”

In the Flatiron District, Madison Square Park, named after President James Madison and the namesake for the famed Midtown arena, “always has changing art installations and a plethora of activities for families, including the kids’ concert series during the summer,” Thomas says. Josiah McElheny's "Prismatic Park" is showing from June 13-October 8, 2017, and foodies can head across the street to Worth Square to enjoy an eclectic mix of cuisine at Spring Mad. Sq. Eats 2017 from May 13-June 9 or visit “Eataly or Shake Shack if they need a pick me up during the day.”

Visitors and locals alike should check out the High Line, a park that was created from the remnants of an abandoned elevated railroad that spans from Gansevoort Street up to West 34th Street. "The beautiful views and stunning gardens are one draw," Thomas says, "but below you also have access to some of New York's hottest restaurants, art galleries and shops." She points out that there are many free activities along the High Line, ranging from themed tours (public art, design and wildlife, to name a few), yoga, tai chi and more!

Katie Labovitz
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