By William Beavers
New York City has scores of lovely parks where you can find something fun, entertaining and healthy to enjoy year round, but the best season is starting right now. April is the perfect time for a stroll through your neighborhood park, or for a visit to one of these six great New York City parks, to check out what programs they have to offer.
Two-and-a-half miles long by a half a mile wide, Central Park’s 843 acres contain 60 miles of pedestrian paths, 21 playgrounds, 26 tennis courts, 26 baseball diamonds, a swimming pool, a first-rate zoo, running tracks, and more. Yet these are only the do-it-yourself activities in the park. Scheduled events abound, too. Here are a few of interest this month.
Art of the Park Tours
Discover Central Park’s most artfully designed landscapes and vistas during afternoon tours on Tues. Apr. 11 and Tues. Apr. 18. The starting point is the Dairy Visitor Center (mid-park at 65th St.). Tickets are $15 and $10 for Central Park Conservancy (CPC) members. Click here for tickets and start times.
This is the 12th annual Half-Marathon to be jointly sponsored by More and Fitness magazines. The run brings together thousands of women of all ages and backgrounds for a day of joy, fitness, and fellowship in New York City. Whether you’re coming from Addis Ababa or just around the corner, join the event in Central Park on Sunday, April 19. Click here for more details.
For those bringing children to the park, you might want to borrow a Discovery Kit from the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center for an in-Park adventure. These rugged backpacks are filled with kid-friendly binoculars, field guides, a hand lens, and sketch paper. Click here for more information.
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Brooklyn’s Prospect Park features 90-acre Long Meadow, a zoo, 7 baseball fields, the Tennis Center, basketball courts, soccer fields, and the New York Pétanque Club on the Parade Ground. Here are a few of our favorite events.
Nature Exploration at Audubon Center
Every day between Apr. 3 and Apr. 12 explore nature at the Audubon Center. At 1 pm there’s a demonstration called “Blooming Naturalist,” during which you can join educators to make your own nature journal and learn how to use binoculars and field guides. Then at 3 pm, during “Nature on the Go,” a naturalist leads children and families to areas where they can learn about the nature that is all around us and participate in a citizen science project. At 4 pm there’s “Animal Encounter,” during which participants meet the animals at the Audubon Center and learn what it takes to care and feed those amazing creatures. For more detail, click here.
Shape Up NYC: Cardio Toning
Every Friday throughout the Spring and Summer from 12-1 pm this exercise class focuses on a combination of strength, balance and toning exercises that raise the heart rate, burn calories, and strengthen the cardio-respiratory system generally. Be sure to bring a workout mat. Click here for more information.
The High Line was once a rusty, disused, elevated freight line on Manhattan’s West Side. Now it’s been transformed (some would say miraculously) into a linear public park for all who wish to visit. Inspired by Paris’ 3-mile Promenade plantée, the High Line runs from Gansevoort Street – three blocks south of 14th St. – through Chelsea to the north side of the West Side railyards on 34th Street, near the Javits Convention Center. Click here for the calendar of events and directions. A few of the scheduled events we plan to attend include:
Stroll the High Line at sunset and encounter a series of poetic performances along the park. Offered in celebrate of National Poetry Month with 10 blocks of traditional readings, spoken word, and American Sign Language Poetry. Sat., April 25, 6:30 to 9 pm.
You don’t have to leave New York City to see the stars. Gaze at the stars, planets, and moon through the high-powered telescopes of the Amateur Astronomers Association, and talk with the experts about what you will see. Offered every Tuesday, April – Oct., from dusk to 9:00 pm.
The NYBG contains 50 different specialty gardens and plant collections. Visitors can spend the day admiring the 40-acre tract of original, old-growth forest, never before logged, and which is more than 200 years old. In addition, there is the 1890s-vintage, crystal-palace style greenhouse, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, with 11 different climatic zones; the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden; a stunning rock garden; and more. Click here for more details. Some of the events scheduled in April include:
The Orchid Show: Chandeliers
Explore an expanded showcase of hanging orchid designs in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory before stepping outside to enjoy a complementary schedule of events and activities. Inspired dance performances, poetry readings, hands-on orchid care demonstrations, and shopping fill the daylight hours. Also look into the popular Orchid Evenings. Open through April 19. Click here for more information.
The Edible Academy
From April through October this program provides hands-on gardening activities for children and adults alike. The gardening take place every afternoon, with topics changing monthly. Mario Batali’s Kitchen Gardens opened April 1st, while Cooking Demonstrations run throughout the summer on select days in the Whole Foods Market Family Garden Kitchen. For more detail, click here.
This sustainable waterfront park runs 1.3 miles along Brooklyn’s East River shoreline. It encompasses former Brooklyn shipping piers 1 through 6 and proceeds from Atlantic Avenue in the south, under the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and past the Brooklyn Bridge, to Jay Street north of the Manhattan Bridge. There are playgrounds, basketball courts, sports fields, and Brooklyn’s newest roller skating rink, not to mention Jane’s Carousel. For general information about the park click here. During April you may also wish to explore the following scheduled events:
Walk across the gangplank from the Fulton Ferry Landing to a renovated coffee barge for a one-hour, family friendly concert. Offered every Saturday through May at 4 pm. Doors open 15 minutes before the performance. No reserved seating is available. Visit bargemusic.org for general information. For the more extensive concert calendar, click here.
Waterfront Walks: Guided Tours of Brooklyn Bridge Park
Learn about Brooklyn Bridge Park’s unique history, sustainable design, and diverse ecology on these guided tours led by Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy docents. Offered every Sunday from April 12 to Nov. 8, 11 am–12 pm. Click here for more detail.
Like many of New York’s public spaces, Bryant Park is chockablock with history. In the late 19th century, for example, this was the site of the famous Crystal Palace. It is only 9.6 acres, but its optimal design creates an expansive central lawn and rambling outer walks under soaring sycamores that provide much cool shade in summer. There are numerous food concessions, and during the summer movies are shown on the lawn to large, happy crowds. Fun fact: under the lawn are the New York Public Library’s extensive subterranean book stacks housing some 2 million volumes.
Tartan Week Lunchtime Concert
Do you like bagpipes? The American Scottish Foundation brings a bit of Scotland to the park with a series of lunchtime musical and cultural performances every day between April 6 and 10, from 12:30–1:30 pm in celebration of Tartan Week. For more information, click here.
You can test your coordination and dexterity with free juggling lessons every weekday from April 2 to Oct. 30, from 12–1 pm. All skill levels are welcome to join in the fun and equipment is provided. For more information, click here.
William Beavers is a New York writer and author of the “New York City Culture Catalog” (Abrams/Alliance for the Arts). Contact email: email@example.com