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Green Space in New York: Where to Take a Break

Stressed? Overworked? We have five perfect spots for you to relax and reset.

April 25, 2018 by Sheilah Ledwidge
A outdoor garden bed filled with blooming yellow tulips.

New York City is not all about skyscrapers and concrete. There are over 1,700 parks, recreational facilities and playgrounds across the five boroughs (according to the city's Department of Parks and Recreation), so you have plenty of options to take a break, recenter yourself and commune with nature. Below are some of the more popular parks near SVA and those worth a (quick!) trip by subway.

Yellow daffodils, red tulips, violets, blue flowers, on the sidewalk. People walking in the city.

Madison Square Park. Photo by Declan Van Welie.

Madison Square Park
Let's just call this SVA's quad. Halfway between the College's east- and west-side campus buildings, this oasis of green space is home to the original Shake Shack, art installations, lovely fountains, a dog walk and amazing views of the landmark Flatiron and Empire State buildings. With plenty of tables and chairs, it's a great place to gather with friends, people-watch, sketch and just take a break. If the line for Shake Shack is too long, head across the street to Eataly, the expansive Italian food emporium, for a sandwich or some killer gelato to go.

trees and flowers in bloom
Central Park. Photo by Jen Liang.

Central Park
Yes, New York City's most famous park is perpetually filled with tourists, but for a good reason—it's awesome! A six-mile path circles the park for cyclists, runners and walkers—in addition to spaces for every other type of sport: tennis courts, baseball diamonds, ice rinks. In the spring and summer, the park hosts a number of free and paid music events. There's Shakespeare in the Park, a puppet theater, a zoo with a penguin room, a lake where you can rent boats, and much more. It's filled with so many quiet and lovely nooks and crannies, as well as wide-open lawns where you and friends can lay down a blanket and relax.

Ducks sit peacefully on the edge of the water.
Prospect Park. Photo by Declan Van Welie.

Prospect Park
Designed by the same duo who brought you Central Park (Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux), this Brooklyn park is just as great—with many of the same amenities and events as its Manhattan sibling, but smaller crowds! Pro tip: Get a free boat rental on Saturdays from noon to 4pm. A skate facility hosts ice skating in the winter and roller blading in the summer. There’s even horseback riding available.

A man stadning in the side of a building by holding bag on his back

High Line. Photo by Jezneel Ross.

High Line
In 2009, a stretch of long-abandoned elevated freight rail line on Manhattan's west side was opened to the public as the High Line, instantly becoming one of the city’s best-known green spaces. Running from 34th Street to the Meatpacking District, its narrow paths can get crowded, but try to take a stroll just before the park's closing (7:00pm in winter, 10:00pm in spring and fall, 11:00pm in summer). It’s lit up and romantic, with gorgeous New York skyline views all around.

Washington Square Park
This quaint park in Greenwich Village is famous for its arch and central fountain. It’s a great place for people watching, attracting artists, college students, tourists, chess players, musicians, and more.