The Picnic Spots Less Traveled
Now that snow days are becoming a distant memory, New Yorkers craving vitamin D and the great outdoors are heading into city parks for runs, strolls, and lazing around on the grass. Some may want to bring food along, which is a great idea. Some may also want to head to Central Park, which is a terrible idea. The iconic park of trolls and Holden Caulfield is really a cesspool of tourists, annoying musicians, and kids selling stolen candy, all things you can see on the subway. Avoid it and take your budget-priced goodies into one of the city’s 1,700 other parks.
If you want to keep that big, bustling park feel, go to Brooklyn's Prospect Park. While it is almost as squirrel plagued as Central Park, it’s much more peaceful and has great ball fields and playgrounds to indulge your infantile nature. You’re also more likely to see one of your professors walking their dog or playing with their kids. Take the F Train to Seventh Avenue and get some delicious banh mi from Hanco’s (350 Seventh Ave.), then grab a dozen hydrogenated bombs from Seventh Avenue Donuts & Luncheonette (324 Seventh Avenue), and walk a couple blocks over to the park. Make sure you find the tree marked 11 H-7, because it's easily the best tree in the whole place.
At the other end of the bustle spectrum is Inwood Hill Park, 196 acres of forest, marsh, and meadow that contains Shorakkopoch, the legendary spot where Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan in 1626. The park’s high, rocky hills and dense forests won’t make you forget you’re in Manhattan, but they will give you a sense of what it was like hundreds of years ago. There are refreshingly few people, but plenty of birds, including cardinals and egrets. Take the A to its last stop at the northern tip of Manhattan (did you know there’s a Vermilyea Avenue?) to get there. Picnic foods are lacking among the neighborhood’s tired Chinese restaurants and furniture stores, but Quick Fresh (542 W. 207th St.), with its bright green interior, stands out. Get some cheap, savory empanadas with surprising fillings, like crab, and spread out on a glacial rock overlooking the Hudson.
For a more distinctly urban picnic, head out to Maria Hernandez park in Bushwick, where loud dudes play wall-ball and people let their dogs poop all over the place with impunity. It’s awesome. Get off the J at Myrtle-Broadway, stop at Little Skips Café (941 Willoughby Ave.) for a Bushwick Egg Cream, an espresso-enhanced take on a Brooklyn classic, then pick up potato salad, cold cuts, and baguettes at Starr Deli (207 Starr St.) or tacos from Los Hermanos (271 Starr St.), one of the best Mexican restaurants in New York. If you’re really feeling adventurous, skip the park altogether, hop a fence, and picnic in one of the neighborhood’s many fine vacant lots.
If you don't want to go to any of these parks, NYC has more than a thousand others. So you have no excuse not to go outside and have fun, you jerks.