You don’t have to look far to see that NYC is full of iconic parks, piers, and other open spaces that are ideal hangout spots in warm weather. And now that the city (and our social lives) are thawing out for spring, you might be looking to spend less time watching Love It or List It reruns inside and more time out in the city. That’s why we’re sharing six of our favorites places to take a scenic walk, plus where to eat nearby. Think of this as the path of least resistance to bacon-topped pizza near a lake, lobster rolls by the water, and birria tacos overlooking the Manhattan skyline.
Suggested Restaurant Nearby: Wheated
It’s 60 degrees out and you’ve got plans to meet a few friends for a picnic in Prospect Park. On your way there, you realize you’ve only eaten a granola bar and four blueberries today. Instead of whimpering at passing geese and staring at your reflection in Prospect Park Lake all day, head to Wheated. This pizza spot is just 8 minutes south of the lake, has a takeout window, and serves thin-crust Neapolitan pies topped with combinations like garlic, black pepper, and bacon. Double back to the picnic with a few pies in tow and your friends won’t even care that you’re about an hour late.
LOUIS VALENTINO, JR. PARK AND PIER
Suggested Restaurant Nearby: Red Hook Lobster Pound
Don’t let all of the factories and warehouses fool you - there is actually some green space in Red Hook. Specifically Louis Valentino, Jr. Park, which has the best view of the Statue of Liberty you’ll find anywhere in the city. Take a walk down the pier or hang out on one of the waterfront benches until sunset. When you get hungry, stop by Red Hook Lobster Pound for mayo-coated lobster on a buttery bun. It’s a few blocks from the park, and it’s one of the best spots to get a lobster roll in the city. Even though the rolls are fairly small, they come with delicious thick-cut fries and a pickle. Sit at one of the restaurant’s first come, first served outdoor tables, or get something to go and eat on a bench on the waterfront.
Suggested Restaurant Nearby: Daily Provisions
Stretching four miles from 72nd to 158th Street, Riverside Park is the best place to hang out along the Hudson River and take in the beautiful views of New Jersey. If walking the entire way sounds a little overwhelming, know that there’s an excellent bike path that weaves between the waterfront and the tree-lined walkways here, too. The benches and patches of grass near the roundabout at W 79th Street Boat Basin are perfect for a picnic. And since Daily Provisions has a location on Amsterdam Avenue 15 minutes away, you might feel the urge to consume a delicious cruller. We suggest you trust your intuition on this one. They’re rich and lightly fried on the outside, yet somehow fluffy and light on the inside. Daily Provisions also has excellent sandwich options chicken milanese with a perfectly-fried cutlet on fresh focaccia, and a club with juicy rotisserie chicken, thick bacon, and avocado.
Suggested Restaurant Nearby: Pastrami Queen
There are a ton of reasons you might want to walk through Central Park this spring. Between all of the historic landmarks, amazing spots for bird watching, and tons of open pastures, this is where you can safely hang out with your friend and talk about your fascination with animated soup dumplings. And while all of these are pleasant activities on their own, they’re made a whole lot better with the addition of a pastrami sandwich from Pastrami Queen. This Jewish deli in the East 70s has been around since 1956, and it’s where you should go to get excellent (but not overwhelmingly giant) sandwiches with pickles on the side.
HUNTER’S POINT SOUTH PARK
Suggested Restaurant Nearby: Chinelos Birria
This new-ish park in Long Island City runs along the East River and offers incredible views of the Manhattan skyline. It’s an excellent spot to visit for everything from a scenic and socially-distant picnic to an extremely competitive race with your dog. Conveniently, one of our favorite birria trucks is usually parked nearby on 49th Ave & Center Blvd. So after you take a few photos with your finger touching the top of the Empire State Building, head to Chinelos Birria Tacos for some of the most tender birria we’ve had in NYC. The tacos, mulitas, and consomme at Chinelos all taste deliciously cilantro forward, with heavy hints of warming spices like clove, star anise, and cinnamon. You might feel giddy and childlike after eating birria tacos this good, so feel free to blow off some steam at the playground after your meal.
Suggested Restaurant Nearby: Rolo’s
At the Ridgewood Reservoir (right across from the Union Field cemetery), you’ll find a very easy hiking trail that offers a peaceful nature preserve and some skyline views of Manhattan. Depending on how much you trust the traction on your shoes, you can either stay on the paved path or venture onto the dirt that runs around the reservoir to experience more greenery. Once you make your way back into Ridgewood proper, walk over to Rolo’s, a counter-service spot serving great sandwich options like grilled porchetta with spicy broccoli rabe, fluffy grape and olive focaccia, and homemade coconut lime sorbet. They’ve got some outdoor patio tables, but they don’t have any heaters, so you can always take everything to go if it’s too cold out.