New York City Experience

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New York City's Waterfront Parks

If Central Park makes you think, "been there, done that" head to one of the several waterfront parks to get your greenery. Many New Yorkers are just discovering some of these green getaways, too. And with those helpful city bike lanes, doing a tour from one to the next is a great full-day outing, with one-way bike rentals available at key spots along the route. If biking isn't your thing, just hit the park to walk, kayak, watch stunning sunsets, or try to catch a free event from spring to fall.

The Hudson River Park

This 5-mile greenway park hugs the Hudson River from 59th Street to Battery Park. Although the park has a unified design, it's divided into seven distinct sections that reflect the different neighborhoods just across the West Side Highway. Along with refurbished piers with grass and trees, there are also attractions like the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum at Pier 86 across from 46th Street. A few blocks south, the Circle Line and World Yacht offer boat tours of the Hudson. At piers 96 and 40, the Downtown Boat House (www.downtownboathouse.org) offers free kayaking. There's a mammoth sports center, Chelsea Piers, between piers 59 and 61, and a mini golf course and beach volleyball court at Pier 25. At Pier 66 Boathouse, you can take a two-hour $80 introductory sailing course with Hudson River Community Sailing (hudsonsailing.org). The park also sponsors free tours and classes, including free fishing. For a calendar of events and activities, go to www.hudsonriverpark.org. North of Hudson River Park is one of Manhattan's more well-known parks, Riverside Park.

Getting Here

Hudson River Park is on the far west side of the city, adjacent to the West Side Highway. Crosstown buses at 14th, 23rd, and 42nd will get you close, but you'll still have to walk a bit. It's worth it.

Governors Island

A recent addition to the city's parks scene, this little island feels like a small town just 800 yards from the tip of Manhattan. Tourists love the unparalleled views of the harbor and Lower Manhattan, and locals love the out-of-the-city experience. The 172-acre park, built in part from landfill from subway excavations, was a base for the U.S. Army and Coast Guard for almost two centuries. Until 2003, it was off-limits to the public, which could be why the 19th-century homes here are so well preserved. The island is open to the public from May to October, with weekend programs, including art showings, concerts, and family programs. Bikers can take a bike over on the ferry or rent one on the island. For more information, including updated ferry schedules and a calendar of activities, go to www.govisland.org.

Getting Here

A free seven-minute ferry ride takes passengers to Governors Island from a dock at 10 South St., next to the Staten Island Ferry. Get to the ferry by subway: 1 to South Ferry Station; 4, 5 to Bowling Green; or R, W to Whitehall St. Station. By bus: M1 (weekdays only), M6, M9, and M15.

The High Line

Once an elevated railroad track that serviced the long-ago factories along the lower west side, the High Line was converted into a park (really more of a promenade) that integrates landscaping with rail-inspired design and provides a fresh perspective on the city. Vegetation here includes 210 species of plants, trees, and shrubs intended to reflect the wild plants that flourished for decades after the tracks were abandoned in 1980. The park—30 feet above street level—is open between Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 30th Street, with another section extending up to 34th Street expected to open in spring 2012. Sweeping views of the Hudson River and an extended sight line of the Meatpacking District are the highlights. For information on tours, public programs, and a calendar of events, go to www.thehighline.org or call 212/500–6035.

Getting Here

The High Line is accessible at Gansevoort and every two blocks between 14th and 30th streets with elevator access at 14th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th streets (no bikes allowed). It's two blocks west of the subway station at 14th Street and 8th Avenue, served by the L/A/C/E. You can also take the C/E to 23rd Street and walk two blocks west. The 1/2/3 stops at 14th Street and 7th Avenue, three blocks away. By bus: M11 to Washington Street, M11 to 9th Avenue, M14 to 9th Avenue, M23 to 10th Avenue, M34 to 10th Avenue.

Battery Park City

Built over on landfill jutting out into the Hudson River, Battery Park City is a high-rise residential neighborhood split in two by the World Financial Center and its marina. The Hudson River Park promenade borders BPC along the West Side Highway. In South Battery Park City, you'll pass by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, at 36 Battery Place. Nearby are several reasonably priced outdoor restaurants with stunning views of the Statue of Liberty. There is some interesting public art scattered throughout BPS, too. In Wagner Park, Louise Bourgeois has created Eyes, two large balls that represent oversize, ahem, body parts. At Vesey Street is the Irish Hunger Memorial by artist Brian Tolle, which includes an Irish cottage dismantled stone by stone and reassembled here. And in Rockefeller Park at Chambers Street, Tom Otterness has created The Real World, a popular collection of whimsical—and dark—bronze sculptures, including tiny workers rolling giant pennies.

Getting Here

By subway: South Battery Park: 1, R to Rector Place; 4, 5 to Wall Street. North Battery Park: 1, 2, 3, A, C to Chambers Street; E to World Trade Center. By bus: M9, M20, M22.

The East River State Park

Stretching along the East River in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, this seven-acre-park has stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. Locals come here to fly kites, picnic, take in the expansive waterfront views, shop the Brooklyn Flea next door, eat at Smorgasburg (Brooklyn's food market), and attend free and ticketed concerts. Skip the subway and arrive via the East River Ferry to really make a day of it. Check www.nywaterway.com for schedule and stop information.

Getting Here

By subway: L to Bedford Ave. and walk toward the water to Kent Avenue; East River Ferry to North Williamsburg stop.

The East River Park

This recently landscaped waterfront park, stretching from Montgomery Street to 12th Street along the East River, is one of the Lower East Side's best-kept secrets, with ball fields, bike paths, tennis courts, playgrounds, gardens, and picnic areas—along with impressive views of the Brooklyn skyline and Williamsburg Bridge. Either way, it's a cool spot to chill by the river. You have to cross a footbridge over the FDR to get to the park.

Getting Here

By subway: J, M, Z to Essex St.; F to 2nd Ave.

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