Ah, Central Park in the spring! Along its pathways and lawns, you can feel the city pulsating with life again after the harsh New York winter. The trees burst into bloom seemingly overnight. I love lying on the grass or a rock, my face to the sun, listening to the birds singing on tree branches, insects buzzing over my head, and children laughing at a nearby playground. I recommend renting a bike and riding around the entire park, stopping wherever you see sights of interest. Don’t miss the trees behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fifth Ave and 82nd Street), the Conservatory Garden (Fifth Ave between 104th and 105th Streets), and the trees on the west side of the Reservoir (between 86th and 90th Streets).
The High Line is a must see in any season. I love how it snakes in between buildings and over streets and avenues, the ultimate urban park. In the spring, you can catch the bushes and trees in bloom and the wild flowers just as they are starting to blossom. My favorite time to stroll the High Line is late in the afternoon with the setting sun shimmering off the Hudson River to the west, the brownstone façades in the east glowing with the light, and the yellow taxis speeding below you fighting the rush hour traffic. There are fewer people at that time too.
Hiding in the shadows of midtown’s office buildings is my favorite New York garden, Bryant Park. Everything about this jewel, nestled in the middle of Manhattan, is special: the flowers, the green lawn, the gravel paths, the metal chairs and tables, the twin promenades bordered by London plane trees, the New York Public Library’s neo-classic façade that flanks the east side of the park, and, of course, the carousel.
At the first hint of spring, people flock here to eat their lunch or soak up the sun. It’s a great place to people-watch, suntan or read. Don’t worry if you didn’t bring a book; you can borrow one from the open air Reading Room located on the northwest side of the park. Hard to believe you’re only a block away from Times Square.
Riverside Park stretches for four miles from 72nd to 158th Street along the Hudson River. There, you can find beautiful flower gardens, azalea bushes and trees in bloom. I recently discovered the Cherry Walk between 100th and 125th Street. It follows the bicycle path and, if you are not up for walking, you can always rent a bike.
There are very few people around here and with the highway on one side and the river on the other, it feels like you have left the city.
Every spring, Park Avenue blushes with color, its center malls featuring bright patches of tulips and cherry trees. A 10-member crew, under the supervision of the Dutch-born gardener, Peter Van de Wetering, plants some 70,000 bulbs along a mile-and-a-half stretch from 54th to 86th Street. At the end of the season, when all the petals have fallen, residents are allowed to dig up the bulbs and plant them in their own gardens. The center malls are always well maintained but the bright band of color in the middle of the gray canyon of buildings is particularly gorgeous at this time of year.
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
This is one of the best places to see New York in bloom. I’m ashamed to admit it but I’ve only come here in the spring (and one of those times was for the wedding of a friend). This is a beautiful sanctuary to get lost in, especially when the cherry trees are in bloom—a spectacular five-week extravaganza. But it’s not a park and you need to pay an entrance fee. Here is a map of the status of the cherry blossoms, updated each week.