Inwood Hill Park: A living piece of old New York, with caves, valleys, ridges, forest, the last natural salt marsh in Manhattan, a hiking trail, the Hudson River Bike Trail, and the Dyckman Marina, which is part of New York State’s Hudson River Greenway Water Trail. Modern conveniences such as athletic fields, playgrounds, dog runs, and a barbecue area harmonize with nature. Directions: A train to 207th Street, walk northwest to Isham Street to Seaman Avenue
Crotona Park: Although dominated by a 300-foot pool, 20 tennis courts, and eleven playgrounds, the park also features nature in the form of 28 tree species and a 3.3-acre lake with turtles, ducks and fish. Free canoeing. Directions: Take the 2 train (red line) to 174th Street, then take Boston Road southwest past 173rd Street and Suburban Place to Charlotte Street, turn right on Charlotte Street toward the park.
Pelham Bay Park: New York City’s largest park, more than three times the size of Central Park, with miles of hiking trails and bridle paths, and a 13-mile saltwater shoreline along Long Island Sound. Directions: Take the E train to the 6 train to the Bx29 bus. (1 hour and 15 minutes from Penn Station)
Van Cortland Park: New York City’s fourth largest park, home to the borough’s largest freshwater lake, with more than 1,000 acres atop the ridges and valleys of the northwest Bronx. Playing fields and playgrounds on the park’s edges surround a richly forested heartland fed by Tibbets Brook. Directions: Take the 1 or 9 train or the Bx9 bus to the 242nd Street stop, walk north on Broadway, and enter the park at West 246th Street.
Prospect Park: With most of Brooklyn’s remaining indigenous forest, and a manmade watercourse (wetlands) and trees, the park’s 585 acres also include the first urban-area Audubon Center in the nation, a zoo, and more; designed and constructed (1865-1895) by Central Park masterminds Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Directions: Take the Q, S or B trains to Prospect Park station. Exit at Lincoln Road and follow Lincoln Road to park entrance on Ocean Avenue.