New York; that endless blanket of urban space that spans out westward and northward from the Atlantic Ocean, covering nearly 470 square miles of the American land with steaming grids of concrete, high-rise towers and high energy cityscape. Visitors here could be forgiven for thinking that this enclave of action and exhilaration comes entirely without the recreational respite or taste of nature that’s found upstate, or perhaps for eliminating any possibility of finding quietude among the skyscrapers.
But this is a city full of surprises, because amidst the sprawling urban districts and sweaty sidewalks, countless pockets of greenery and parkland can be found lingering in every nook and cranny. The best of these bear the status of state park, and are really worth the visit!
Situated just 30 miles north out of New York City, the Harriman State Park is the perfect getaway for hikers and nature lovers looking to sample the fabled beauty of Rockland and Orange counties. At just under 50,000 acres, the park is one of the largest in the whole state, boasting a backcountry of undulating hills and a smattering of mirror-like lakes, all clad in a thick blanket of forested greenery that stretches as far as the eye can see.
From the green fields and shady groves of the East River State Park visitors are treated to one of the most dramatic broadside views of the Manhattan city skyline. North from the Williamsburg Bridge, the spires and soaring roofs of the downtown scrapers form the backdrop to this old 19th century harbor, where many of the remnants of its once industrious character can still be spotted, set in the concrete or lingering behind one of the many interpretive signs.
Strollers and park lovers flock to the Gantry Plaza to find their inner Zen. Amidst a patchwork of grassy lawns and cultivated flower beds, a web of boardwalk promenades weaves between the restored gantries and industrial cranes that once heaved cargo onto the fleets of New York’s merchant ships. It’s this curious intermingling of the old and the new that makes the spot one of the most intriguing and alluring in all of New York, not to mention the perfect spot for panoramas of Manhattan Island.
Without question one of the most innovative park spaces in all of New York, the iconic Riverbank rises sharply for nearly 70 feet out of the Hudson River, offering up a wealth of attractions and amusements on its various rooftop terraces as it goes. All through the year locals and visitors alike flock to the site for a spot of ice skating in the Riverbank’s own rink, some swimming in the on-site Olympic pool, to ride the merry-go-rounds or simply to kick back and relax with a healthy dose of people watching, New York style.
Erected in honor of New York’s own Franklin D. Roosevelt, this swish and swanky park formed the spearhead of the city’s urban renewal project for Welfare Island in the 1960s. Today it stands in monument to the so-called Four Freedoms that were proclaimed by the former president in one of his most famous speeches, making it a focal point for liberal values and a favourite gathering place of local freethinkers. Expect yoga classes on the lawn and ad hoc jazz bands during lunch!