The Upper West Side is home to a multitude of parks. Here are the best Upper West Side parks for kids, dogs and adults to get out in nature amid the hustle and bustle of the city.
Although New York City is so densely populated that it doesn’t have as much green space per resident as other U.S. cities, there are parks in every neighborhood. The Upper West Side is no exception. Several parks dot the landscape. Some are tiny, while others sprawl out across several city blocks.
Here are the best Upper West Side parks for kids, dogs and adults to get out in nature, have some fun or relax in the middle of the city.
1. Central Park
Central Park is probably the most famous of the Upper West Side parks. It’s not the biggest, but it might be the favorite. More people visit Central Park each year than any other park in the U.S. There is so much to do in Central Park that we could write a book about it.
When you visit, you feel as though you’re getting out of the city. You can catch and release fish in Harlem Meer, Central Park’s second-largest man-made lake. Climb to the viewing deck in the Belvedere Castle to scope out the park from above. If you’re up for some romance or adventure, rent a boat or a gondola to explore the waterways. You can also just bike or stroll around the park’s many paved roads and walkways.
There’s a lot of culture in the park too. Cleopatra’s Needle is an ancient Egyptian obelisk that was gifted to the U.S. The Bethesda Terrace Arcade features an intricate ceiling that includes 16,000 handmade tiles. Don’t leave without riding on the carousel, which is more than 100 years old and was moved to Central Park from Coney Island in 1951.
2. Theodore Roosevelt Park
Theodore Roosevelt Park has been named one of the five best small parks in New York City. It’s located next to the American Museum of Natural History and gives visitors to the museum and city a dose of nature.
Although the park has been around for about two centuries, it went under disrepair. It was renovated in the 1980s and now features one of the largest dog runs in Manhattan, gorgeous gardens and plenty of soft, green grass.
3. River Run Park
If you want to spend a hot day by the water, check out River Run Playground. It’s located in Riverside Park, which offers scenic views of the Hudson River. Kids can cool off in the fountain or play in the huge sandbox. The pavement near the fountain is shaped like the Hudson River and fills up with water when the fountain is running. The park also features swings, a jungle gym and a public bathroom.
4. Hippo Playground
Hippo Playground is also part of Riverside Park. The park is maintained by volunteers and is truly a community venture. This is the place to go for free children’s activities throughout the year, such as Summer Art in the Park and a children’s concert series in July. Hippo Playground also features a Parkhouse that can be rented out for birthday parties and other events.
5. Lincoln Towers Park
Lincoln Towers, a modern and luxurious residential community, features a 5-acre park on the Upper West Side. The Lincoln Towers apartments have a rich history. They stand on the location where the movie “West Side Story” was filmed.
The Lincoln Towers park is fully enclosed and gated. It features a roller rink, playground and basketball courts. Kids can enjoy the playground, and any of the residents can play games or picnic on the grassy areas.
Apartment owners can purchase a parking spot, which allows for easy access to the on-site park as well as Central Park and Riverside Park, which flank the towers. This is a perfect location for families, couples and individuals to live in the thriving Lincoln Square neighborhood.
6. Carl Schurz Park
Carl Schurz Park overlooks the East River. It’s tucked into a plot of land near the FDR. Therefore, many people don’t know that this hidden gem is one of the best Upper West Side parks.
The park may be one of the best Upper West Side parks for dogs. It features two dog runs and lots of open space for Fido to run around. People and dogs can stroll along the promenade and enjoy the views of the river and skyline beyond it.
While you’re at the park, visit Gracie Mansion. It’s the official residence of the Mayor of New York City and the last remaining elegant home of the many that used to stand along the shore of the East River. Gracie Mansion became the first Museum of the City of New York in the mid-1900s. Visitors can book a tour of what is now known as “The People’s House.”
7. Bloomingdale Playground
Bloomingdale Playground was renovated in June 2018 and is an excellent place for adults and children to spend their time. The play equipment for kids is impressive. It features a variety of structures and is universally accessible for kids who have special needs or mobility challenges. This playground also features adult fitness equipment. There is something for people who encompass every level of physical and mental ability.
8. Morningside Park
Morningside Park is a narrow stretch of land that spans 13 city blocks. It is built on a hillside and features several playgrounds. Visitors can stroll or cycle along the incline of the park to enjoy the picturesque views. The paths meander through beautiful gardens and make their way to a breathtaking waterfall.
The same people who designed Central Park originally designed Morningside Park. You can see the resemblance in the water features and tree-lined paths.
9. Damrosch Park
Damrosch Park is part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. You can head here to listen to live music or just enjoy the fresh air. The highlight of the park is the bandshell. This park hosts many festivals throughout the year, but you don’t have to wait for a special event to visit the area. You can take advantage of the park whether you’re attending a Lincoln Center event or just strolling through the neighborhood.