Posts Tagged ‘park’

Staten Island Greenbelt

September 27, 2013

The Staten Island Greenbelt is a large network of wooded trails situated in a what is undoubtedly the greenest borough in the city. Rather than being one cohesive park, it is comprised of patches of existing park and newly acquired parkland cobbled together by the Greenbelt Conservancy. Unlike regular parks in the city, this one includes a golf course and a country club, with numerous trails intersecting and running askew like a subway map. The shortest trail is 4 miles, while the longest is 12 miles one-way.

My initial reason for coming here was to visit the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge. If it was anything like the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, we were in for a treat. Unfortunately, the only trail they have there was not well-maintained, with the vegetation at some point threatening to swallow us up. So we doubled-back and decided to do a different trail towards the ruin of a colonial-era home on Heyerdahl Hill. The woods in that area is supposed to be haunted with the 200-year old spirit of a child on a pale horse. We didn’t spot any ghosts, but we did find the ruin with a surprise geocache!

This was the first weekend with temperatures in the 60s, and we were quite happy to see signs of fall approaching.

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

There are a few areas that are designated swamps, but the two swamps that we passed by were more like open fields that showed their swampy nature only around the edges.

Staten Island Greenbelt

The Heyerdahl ruin is not too impressive, once you find it. I was more interested in the geocache that was hidden there. My first one! If you want to see this place, make sure you have a map with you – it is a detour off the red trail, so you need to keep your eye out for a very narrow and unmarked trail. Because the red trail is a loop, you can access the unmarked trail from two different points on opposite ends of the loop.

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

We then headed towards another part of the Greenbelt called High Rock Park. We saw a garter snake and several frogs.

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

The park borders a lake and two ponds – all very nice to walk by with no danger of mosquitoes at this time of year.

Staten Island Greenbelt

Staten Island Greenbelt

Because the Greenbelt is smack in the middle of Staten Island, the only way I would recommend getting here is by car. When I stopped off at the Nature Center, I overheard some poor woman say she took two subways, the ferry, and then a bus to get here. That is insane! Entrance to the park and parking is free. Dogs are welcome, but no bikes are allowed on the trails. Ticks are an issue, as many of the signs are happy to point out. Wear light-colored clothing and knee-high socks.

FDR Four Freedoms Park

September 20, 2013

This relatively new park is dedicated to one of our great presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The “Four Freedoms” bears some explaining because most people alive today probably were not around when it was first introduced. In a nationwide speech that Roosevelt gave in 1941, he imagined a world based on the following four attributes – freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. It is sad that 72 years later, these freedoms are still lacking in much of the world.

Dropped onto the southern end of Roosevelt Island, the park has views of both Manhattan and Queens. Aside from the views, the park itself is what I would call “earnest,” with a symmetrical severity punctuated by cold concrete. The park was designed 38 years ago, when the city budget didn’t allow for it.  Some might say it resembles a Soviet-era monument.

FDR Four Freedoms Park

FDR Four Freedoms Park

FDR Four Freedoms Park

FDR Four Freedoms Park

A nice view of Long Island City!

FDR Four Freedoms Park

Despite all that open grass, you are not allowed to picnic on it.  No food is allowed.  It doesn’t really give off the vibe of a casual place to hang out.  Given that, I would only recommend coming here if you happen to be on Roosevelt Island anyway.  The park is a 15 minute walk from the train station if you’re coming by subway. If you’re driving, you will need to park near the station. (The only parking closer to the park is limited to visitors and staff of the nursing facility nearby.) The park is open from 9 to 7 every day except Tuesdays.  No bikes or dogs are allowed.

Planting Fields Arboretum

September 13, 2013

I seem to find more and more places to explore in Long Island these days. I had never heard of this place until I caught sight of a sign while passing through Oyster Bay one weekend. Planting Fields is considered a State Historic Park, but definitely not a place that I would normally think of as a park. It is more of a horticultural center that happens to be on a vast tract of grassy fields, complete with a mansion to drool over. The property was founded by English tycoon William Robertson Coe, a maritime insurer whose company happened to do the insurance for the Titanic, among other ships. His wife was an heiress of the oil industry.  Certainly, this kind of money allowed for a very impressive abode on the historic Gold Coast of Long Island.

The grounds are 409 acres, but much of what you want to see is a walkable distance from the estate. There are two greenhouses. The main one has various wings that lead you through a sensory overload of colorful vegetation.

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

The other greenhouse, called Camelia House, houses camellias, of course. Sadly, they are not in bloom this time of year so all you see are just the green parts of the plants.

Nearby, there are a number of gardens to stroll through. One garden that was particularly beautiful was the dahlia garden. They come in so many different colors – more than I would have imagined!

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Coe Hall, the mansion on the property, is a stunner with a dark, gothic interior and beautiful plasterwork everywhere. The various kinds of glass panes on the windows are also worth noting from room to room.  There are only two guided tours per day. We made do without a tour and wandered at leisure.  In some of the rooms, a staffer kindly told us about the history of the items within.

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Oh how I would love to live in a place where I can summon a butler (or maid) with the press of a button!  These were in one of the bedrooms by the door.

Planting Fields Arboretum

The park is open from 9 to 5 every day. There are two separate fees – the entrance fee is $8 per car, while the fee for the house is $3.50 a person. Admission to the grounds is free in the winter. If music concerts are your thing, they host  the occasional  concert on the grounds – visit their events page for specific dates. No bikes are allowed.

Socrates Sculpture Park

June 21, 2013

This park used to be an illegal dumping ground before a group of artists and people from the community saved it and molded it into what it is today. While I wouldn’t call this a destination, this park has a few things going for it that merit a look if you’re in the area, say, picking up that 3 gallon jar of peanut butter at Costco or visiting the Noguchi Museum nearby. As you can guess by the name, the park has art. Large art. Installations come and go, and sometimes the art is fascinating, and other times it’s just weird and maybe a little uncomfortable. Regardless, there is plenty of lawn space to showcase the creative spirit with the Manhattan skyline as backdrop.

Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates Sculpture Park

Some other things that weigh in its favor for a visit are the movie screenings in the summer and the greenmarket on Saturdays. There is also the occasional crafts fair. I don’t visit this park often, but stop by from time to time to see the changing exhibits. Here are a few pics from prior visits.

Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates Sculpture Park

This unusual visitor in the water is not a piece of art – I’m not sure what he was looking for, but due to the park’s history, there may very well be buried treasure in the water!

Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates Sculpture Park is at the intersection of Vernon Boulevard and Broadway in Long Island City. You can take the N or Q to the Broadway stop and then walk 8 blocks west to the river. By bus, the Q103 and Q104 will drop you off at the entrance. The park is open every day from 10am to sunset.

Rockland Lake State Park

May 17, 2013

Through much of the 19th century, Rockland Lake was a hub for ice harvesting.  The spring-fed water was ideal for creating clean ice, and many ice houses lined the lake. Today, people enjoy the lake for other reasons. There is a 3-mile bike and jogging path that circles the lake, with multiple vantage points and benches from which to commune with nature. You can also go fishing or boating on the water. My main enjoyment came from spotting the various birds that migrate here – Canadian geese, swans, egrets, and your run-of-the-mill ducks.

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Geese crossing

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Beautiful birds by the Nature Center

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

 

Rockland Lake State Park

The park is west of the Hudson River in Rockland County – about a 45 minute drive from Manhattan. Admission is $8 per car. Dogs are not allowed in the park during the warmer months.

Kissena Park

May 10, 2013

Out of all the parks in Queens, Kissena Park is probably my favorite. I don’t think too many people know about it, and I’m including Queens residents in this count as well. It’s also hard to get to by public transportation, so that definitely factors into the equation. The park lays claim to a huge lake with ducks and turtles aplenty taking advantage of the water. There are wide expanses of lawn for a picnic or an afternoon siesta. For the sports-minded, there are also tennis courts, basketball courts, and even a golf course next door. The park in general seems to be more carefully maintained than other Queens parks. I wonder why?  It’s a shame Flushing Meadow Park couldn’t be this nice.

Kissena Park

Kissena Park

Kissena Park

Kissena Park

Kissena Park

The best way to get to Kissena Park is by car. It’s located in what I call “deep Flushing” – far enough away from the Main St # 7 subway station that you will need to catch the Q17 bus after you arrive by subway. The bus ride takes about 20 minutes down Kissena Boulevard. Dogs and bikes are welcome in the park. I suggest you bring a picnic blanket, grab some take-out at any number of Chinese restaurants in Main St, and have a picnic here!

Randall’s Island

June 15, 2012

Randall’s Island is a formidable chunk of land in the East River wedged between Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.  It was opened up as a park in the 1930’s by Franklin Roosevelt.  Since then, it has undergone many uses, the most current being a recreational area for a variety of sports. The concentration of sports fields in this park is unbelievable – well over 50! Name a sport and the park can probably accommodate your team. There is also a golf center, a tennis center, and a track and field stadium.  Not to be remiss, bikers, joggers, and casual walkers get plenty of pavement along the shoreline. Fishermen can also be found lined up along the shore looking for a good catch.

The park recently hosted an arts and music exhibition called Flow.12, featuring the works of five artists. The pieces are site-specific and will be around all summer. This one, called Meters To The Center, is by Laura Kaufman.

Randall's Island

This island is by no means the next Governors Island, but it does have expansive views of Manhattan, large fields of grass and trees for picnicking, and the  East river rushing by on either side.

Randall's Island

Randall's Island

We shared a brief moment with this little fella.

Randall's Island

For those of you who like bridges, the southern part of the island has not one, not two, but three vying for your attention!  This is the footbridge that connects to Manhattan on 103rd Street.

Randall's Island

Here is the Triboro Bridge (you will need to torture this diehard NYer before she uses the new name!)
Randall's Island

…and in the distance you get a view of the Hell’s Gate Bridge.
Randall's Island

There are many ways to get to the island.  From Manhattan, you can walk or bike across on the newly opened footbridge at 103rd St.  If you prefer public transportation, you can hop on the M35 bus at the NW corner of 125th Street and Lexington Ave.  Folks from the Bronx can use the pedestrian ramp at Cypress Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard, which deposits you at the northern end of the island. The ramp in Queens is at Hoyt Avenue and 28th Street, adjacent to the Astoria Boulevard N/W station.  It deposits you mid-island. By car, access is off the Triboro Bridge. Be aware that there is a $6.25 toll to enter the island.

Catamount Aerial Adventure Park

June 1, 2012

This outdoor spot is not for the faint of heart.  It is meant to challenge you – mind and body.  Everyone knows the formula for an obstacle course.  Lay out a course with a start and end point, then add in some obstacles to make it challenging along the way. At Catamount, the “adventure” comes in the form of multiple obstacle courses spread out in the treetops, with ropes and wooden walkways suspended over the air and tree platforms to hug for dear life in between.  There are courses for all levels, from those afraid of heights to brazen warriors.  To get the most out of this place though, you should not be completely scared of heights.

IMG_5266
Photo credit: Laurie Husted

Sadly, I have none of my usual pictures for you, but the above  shows you part of the layout.

So what is this place about?  You are first strapped into a harness and given two ropes with hooks at the ends called caribiners. Then they provide instructions on how to use them so that you don’t become a foolish casualty.  When you do the courses, no staffer is watching to make sure you are hooking and unhooking yourself to and from the proper lines, so you are pretty much on your own.

Each course is marked with a color that indicates its difficulty level.  If you are somewhat scared of heights like me, you will probably get through maybe 3 of the 5 levels.  The easiest course is only 10 feet off the ground, while the most difficult appears to be more than 30 feet high with the most precarious situations imaginable to test your balance.  Almost all the courses have a zipline for you to practice your Tarzan holler.

I recommend this place for those of you who are looking for something challenging, gets the adrenaline going, and doesn’t necessarily require that you be in top shape.  All you need is some agility and brain matter for problem-solving.  Did I say it was fun? It was most definitely fun.

Catamount is about a 2.5 hour drive north of the city, at 2962 State Highway 23 in Hillsdale.  You can find the directions here. Right now, it is open only on weekends and holidays, from 9:00 to 5:30. From June 16 to September 3, it will be open daily.  In the fall, it goes back to being open only on weekends, plus Columbus Day. The park fee is $51 for adults 12 and older, $42 for kids 10 to 11, and $33 for kids 7 to 9.  There is free parking onsite.

Washington Crossing Park

October 28, 2011

We visited New Hope this past weekend in hopes of seeing the start of some fall colors. We were lucky to have good weather and we did manage to see some changes in color. New Hope lies next to the Delaware River and is a small town that seems to know what a good thing it has going for it. It is surrounded by nature, most notably the huge Washington Crossing Park that is located on both the PA side and NJ side of the Delaware River. In PA, it is called Washington Crossing Historic Park. In NJ, it is called Washington Crossing State Park. For this post, I am treating them like they are one large park with the river running through it. As you can guess, George Washington crossed from one side of the river to the other in the vicinity.

If you are interested in making a day trip of it, you may want to strategize beforehand where you want to go in the park because there is a lot of ground to cover. The park on the NJ side is much larger, but the PA side has a tall tower called Bowman’s Hill Tower with amazing views of the surrounding area.

Bowman's Hill Tower

Bowman's Hill Tower

Before you cross over to the NJ side, take a pause by the bridge for a spectacular view of the Delaware River.

Washington Crossing Park

We did not do as much exploring as we would have liked on the NJ side because it was getting late. Here is one shot I managed to get before the sun set.  This is a great place to have an afternoon picnic!

Washington Crossing Park

If you find yourself with some free time, you may be interested in doing a self-guided tour of the 12 covered bridges in the area around New Hope. We started to do the tour but ended up changing our minds. The Van Sant Bridge below is supposed to be haunted.

covered bridge

If you are interested in seeing New Hope, take a stroll down the canal towpath that parallels the river. It is normally a true canal with water flowing, but due to the hurricane, I believe they put in a dam upriver as they make their repairs. Still, it is something to do if you are in town. A lot of folks walk their dogs and bike down the path.

canal towpath

I do not recommend staying in New Hope overnight. The town itself is very touristy with shops that cater to those who like antiques or are into what I call travel shopping. It is also extremely crowded during this time of year with masses of people waiting to cross the street at every corner.  We visited Lambertville on the NJ side as well and it is less touristy but still very crowded.

To get to Bowman’s Hill Tower, take I-95 to Exit 51. (This exit is between the Newtown/Yardley exit and the Trenton exit.) When exiting the ramp, turn onto Taylorsville Road toward New Hope. (From the south this will be a left turn and from the north a right turn.) Follow Taylorsville Road to Route 532. There will be a traffic light at this intersection. Proceed through the traffic light, remaining on Taylorsville Road. When Taylorsville Road ends, turn left onto Route 32. Proceed 2 miles to Lurgan Road to the tower. Travel time from NYC to New Hope is about 2 hours.

Fort Greene Park

October 21, 2011

Fort Greene Park was the first designated park in Brooklyn.  One can easily miss the significance of this given its more well-known sister Prospect Park to the south. As can be guessed by the name, Fort Greene was indeed a location for forts centuries ago. The forts were created for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Today, the park is a nice hilly 30-acre neighborhood oasis. If you happen to be in the area, you should also explore the streets to the east and south of the park. They are lined with gorgeous brownstones!

Fort Greene Park

There are 6 tennis courts, but you will need a permit to play.
Fort Greene Park

The park is easily accessible from almost all the subway lines: the B, D, N, Q, R on Dekalb Ave to the west, the 2,3,4,5 on Nevins St to the southwest, the G at Fulton St to the south, and the A, C on Lafayette Ave a little further south. Some other things to note: the park also has basketball courts and barbecue areas. If you like to support your local farmers, there is a year-round farmers market in the southeast corner of the park every Saturday.