When people think of public parks and green spaces in New York City, the first things that come to mind are Central Park and the other major parks in Manhattan. However, there are parks in every borough of the city, and one of the most popular is Prospect Park, often referred to as the Central Park of Brooklyn. If you plan to visit New York quickly and feel tired of the crowded streets and concrete, this park is a great place to recharge your batteries and get some exercise in the great outdoors – without having to leave the city.
Brooklyn's green lung
Prospect Park is a 213-hectare park that has been open to the public since 1867 (10 years after the inauguration of Central Park). It was designed from 1865 to 1895 by the same landscape architects who designed Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. It is the fifth largest park in New York, but unlike its big brothers, it is a little less urban and wilder – which is a big part of its charm. It is home to the city's largest lawn, the Long Meadow, which is over a mile long.
What to see & do in Prospect Park?
One of the advantages of Prospect Park is that it is a relatively non-touristy area, especially compared to the parks in Manhattan. It can therefore be a very good idea to search in that area for a place to stay in New York during your stay. Prospect Park is obviously free, but don't forget to book your visits to the most touristic sites of the city in advance to make sure you have your tickets (it would suck if what you want to visit is sold out when you arrive to buy your entry), and don't hesitate to look into the New York CityPass to save on your outings.
Prospect Park is a perfect green space to enjoy the peace and quiet of a natural setting, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to discover inside! On the contrary, you will find many places of interest in Prospect Park:
- The Grand Army Plaza, a small elliptical park that serves as the main entrance to Prospect Park. At its centre is a large Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch, which celebrates the victors of the Civil War. Nearby, you can also see statues of Civil War generals, the Bailey Fountain sculpture, and a monument to John F. Kennedy.
- The Brooklyn Museum, the second largest art museum in New York after the Metropolitan Museum of Art, welcomes about half a million visitors each year.
- The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a botanical garden of more than 20 hectares containing numerous species of plants and flowers. It even contains a Japanese garden where a big Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year in spring.
- The main building of the Brooklyn Public Library is located right next to the park entrance. This Art Deco building, with an impressive gilded façade, houses over one million books.
- The landscapes, fauna and flora are very rich and varied, with lakes, very dense vegetation that grows quite freely, and a fairly well-developed wildlife (birds, squirrels, butterflies, etc.). The park is even home to a herd of goats that are responsible for eating weeds to improve the natural habitat of other animals.
- Prospect Park Lake, the largest lake in Brooklyn, around which many activities are organised all year round for all ages.
- The Peristyle, a beautiful historical and architectural site located at the very south of the park.
- Lookout Hill, the park’s highest point. From this 61-metre high hill, you can enjoy a beautiful view of Brooklyn, as well as Manhattan and Long Island.
- Prospect Park Dog Beach, a dog park perfect for letting your dog enjoy some freedom in Brooklyn.
- The Prospect Park Zoo, a small animal park opened in 1993, which occupies more than 5 hectares and houses about 125 species of animals (panda, seals, sea lions, dingoes...). It welcomes more than 300,000 visitors each year.
- The LeFrak Center at Lakeside, an ice rink on the lake, in the heart of a magnificent setting. It is open all winter and is often much less crowded than the Manhattan rinks!
To discover all these sites and make the most of Prospect Park, you can make your visit on foot or by bike. There is a large trail about 3 miles long that goes all the way around the park, passing by several sites of interest.
How to get to Prospect Park?
To get to Prospect Park from Manhattan, simply take the New York metro on lines 2 or 3 to Brooklyn, then get off at the Grand Army Plaza station, which is right next to the park's northern entrance.