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The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and you already took your allergy medication. It’s time to get outside and enjoy New York’s many fresh air adventures! We’ve gathered a starter list of outdoor springtime spots to check out — all accessible from Hell’s Kitchen for the cost of subway fare or less! 

Hell’s Kitchen’s Parks, Gardens and Playgrounds infographic originally published in W42ST Magazine in July 2016. Illustration: Alisa Krutovsky

Hell’s Kitchen Parks, Gardens, and Playgrounds

Looking to stay extra local? Stop by one of the neighborhood’s many walkable parks, community gardens, and playgrounds, including Bella Abzug Park (W33rd to W36th St bw 10/11th Ave and soon to be further extended) for yoga, concerts and film festivals, Alice’s Garden (W34th St and 10th Ave), Bob’s Park (W35th St bw 9/10th Ave), Teresa’s Park (W39th St and 9th Ave), the McCaffrey Playground (W43rd St bw 8/9th Ave), Ramon Aponte Playground (W47th bw 8/9th Ave), the Marian S Heskell Garden (W48th St bw 8/9th Ave), Juan Alfonso Community Garden (W51st St bw 10/11th Ave), Balsley Park (W57th and 9th Ave), Dewitt Clinton Park (W52nd and 11th Ave), Oasis Community Garden (W53rd and 10th Ave), Clinton Community Garden (W48th bw 9/10th Ave), Gutenberg Playground (W49th bw 9/10th Ave), and the beginning of the High Line Park (W34th and 11th Ave).

Pier 84 is one of the many places you can find fun at sunset in Hudson River Park. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Piers! Piers! Piers!

If you’re a Hell’s Kitchen local, it’s likely you’re familiar with the many piers of Hudson River Park (HRPK). But whether you’re an HRPK regular or have never ventured all the way west, checking out the West Side’s piers is one of the easiest ways to get a little fresh air during “light jacket” season. Why not indulge in a round of mini-golf at Pier 25 (North Moore St and the river) or sip on a glass of Chardonnay at City Vineyard at adjacent Pier 26? Feel free to cast a line and fish at Pier 34 (Canal Street and the River), enjoy a happy hour at The Frying Pan (opening early April) at Pier 66 (W26th St and the river), or visit the tow-pound-turned public space at Pier 76 (W36th St and the river) — though there’s no word on whether the US Open Courts will return this summer!. Enjoy a lobster roll and a brew after April 14 at the North River Lobster Company at Pier 81 (W41st St and the river) or if you’re really ready to throw down, rent a yacht. Rent a bike or visit the community garden at Pier 84 (W44th St and the river) before hopping on a Circle Line Cruise or checking out the latest exhibit at the Intrepid Museum. And while it might not yet be warm enough for kayaking at Clinton Cove Pier 96 (W56th St and the river), it will still be worth a trip to check out Malcolm Cochran’s “Private Passage” installation (which will return after renovation this spring). And coming soon to Hell’s Kitchen — a new playground, activity field, picnic area, water spray and sloping lawn at Pier 97 (W57th St and the river), set to be completed this fall.

You can catch some of the best views of Manhattan (and the Statue of Liberty) from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Visit Staten Island via the SI Ferry or Pier 79 St George Route

Yes, there were rumors that the “SNL Ferry” could make its way to HK, but until that comes to pass, take the newly-minted NYC Ferry St George Route at Pier 79 for an afternoon of unparalleled lower Manhattan views, a visit to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens (100 Richmond Terrace), and locally crafted beers on the patio at the nearby Flagship Brewing Company (40 Minthorne Street, open Wednesday through Sunday). Already downtown? Hop on the always-free Staten Island Ferry. Maybe Pete Davidson and Colin Jost will be there scoping out a new boat.  

Arriving at Governors Island on the ferry. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Governors Island 

Governors Island, once seasonal, is now open year-round to the public every day from 7am to 6pm. Take advantage of the milder weather and hop on the ferry (only $3 and best accessed by the 1) to the public space with a long legacy of inhabitants stretching from the Lenape People to the Coast Guard. Enjoy plentiful walking and biking trails, lounge in the many hammocks, or wander through the lavender fields before checking out a rotating artist residency or sampling from one of the many artisan food trucks. 

Catch some live music at Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook

Free IKEA Ferry

If you’d like to go furniture shopping but feel guilty for spending a beautiful spring day indoors, why not combine your efforts and take the IKEA Ferry, departing every weekend from W39th Street at Pier 79 and terminating at the Red Hook IKEA? Be sure to check out the website for shuttle routes and times to the ferry. Swedish meatballs and Allen wrenches ahead!! And while you’re in Red Hook, wander down Van Brunt Street to its many vintage shops, bars, restaurants, or visit the closest thing NYC has to Surf Lodge, Brooklyn Crab (24 Reed Street).

Get ready to take the stage at Little Island’s amphitheater. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Little Island

Accessible from Hell’s Kitchen by walking or biking down Hudson River Park, the M11 Bus or the A/C/E to 14th Street, Little Island is one of the city’s newest public outdoor spaces on the West Side. Built from the remnants of Pier 54 (significantly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012), Little Island was conceived by the Hudson River Park Trust and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation with landscape design by Signe Nielsen. The park features 2.4 acres of gardens, elevated walking paths, playgrounds, and an amphitheater with seasonal performances and artists-in-residence. While seasonal food vendors don’t return until May, Little Island is still an ideal place to picnic among some of New York’s most uniquely designed gardens. 

Sunset at Riverside Park. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Riverside Park 

Just above the neighborhood and reachable by walking, biking, the M104, M11, 1/2/3 and A/C/E, Riverside Park is a peaceful, verdant extension of Hudson River Park that extends all the way up to 158th Street. In addition to the park’s many playgrounds, walking paths, and tennis courts (most of which open in early April), there are a few hidden-gem concession options if you left your lunch at home. Pier I Café (W70th St and Riverside Dr), also opening in early April, is an ideal place to grab a bite and catch the sunset over the Hudson. Further uptown at W105th Street is Ellington in the Park, another al fresco bar and restaurant opening in early April for drinks, New American pub fare, live music, and close to public beach volleyball, soccer, and softball courts. 

The view from Riverbank State Park up the Hudson River. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Riverbank State Park

Within Riverside Park at W137th St is New York’s very own state park and recreation center, Riverbank State Park. This 28-acre multi-level recreation center features a robust picnic area, lawns perfect for outdoor yoga, a roller skating rink, a 25-yard lap pool, basketball courts, an eight-lane running track, a football/soccer field, and resident restaurant Sofrito, featuring Puerto Rican cuisine with views of the river and the GWB. Riverbank State Park is best accessed by taking the 1 or the A/C train to W145th Street. 

Spring is already well underway in Central Park with daffodils, crocuses and blossoms out. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Central Park

Have you heard of it?! All jokes aside, Central Park remains one of the essential gems of New York City. The 843-acre space offers endless opportunities for walking, running, biking, boating, sporting, and lounging, but if you’re looking for something new to try, check out their Event Calendar to see what’s moving in and out of the various concert and theater spaces throughout the park. And besides, it’s never too early to line up for Shakespeare in the Park tickets. 

Movie nights will soon be underway in Bryant Park. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Bryant Park

Hop the M42, bike, or walk over to Bryant Park, now transitioned from winter ice skating and bumper cars to springtime ping pong and juggling sessions. While it’s not quite Movie Night season, why not have an outdoor picnic of Breads Bakery treats before working your way back to W42nd Street’s AMC or Regal to catch a flick? 

Views over the Hudson River from Fort Tryon Park. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Fort Tryon Park

Longing to visit upstate New York but not interested in paying for a rental car? Take the A train to W190th Street to the show-stopping Fort Tryon Park, a spectacular, pastoral space originally designed by the Olmsted Brothers and gifted to the City of New York by John D Rockefeller Jr in 1931. Two particular highlights are the Heather Garden (the largest unrestricted public garden in the city with over 500 species of trees, shrubs, and flowers) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Cloister Museum, a donation-based Met outpost composed of parochial European buildings and filled with over 5,000 works of medieval art, all overlooking the Hudson River. Fort Tryon is another ideal spot for enjoying the later sunsets of Daylight Saving Time

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