Equal in beauty to the more famous Central Park (also designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux), Prospect Park in Brooklyn receives less foot traffic and is not hemmed in by skyscrapers. A short walk and the congestion and commotion of the city fade away.
And what better way to commune with nature than over a meal with family and friends? Dust off that basket and pack a picnic, or plan an outing on Saturday and pick up food at the Grand Army Plaza GreenMarket. A fresh baked loaf of crusty bread, a wedge of farm-made cheese, and a locally produced bottle of wine (or grape juice) from an upstate vineyard is all you need.
The expanse of grass known as Long Meadow presents numerous spots for picnicking. For the best vantage point, avoid the rugby matches and pick-up football games (unless you want to join them, that is) near the park's main entrance and spread your blanket in front of the Picnic House. The building offers bathrooms, vending machines, and even a coffee bar. The surrounding hills see action all year long, from soccer and Frisbee in the summer to sledding in the winter. Don't forget the hamburgers and tofu pups! Grilling is allowed at the picnic tables nearby.
For a great walk, head into the Ravine, an actual forest growing in the middle of Brooklyn, albeit a manmade one. Leaf peepers will find this the best place for fall foliage, but the area, secluded and shaded, is magnificent year round. Birders should have their eyes peeled for migrating species. Red tailed hawks circle above, and chipmunks scurry across the paths. You're not in New York City anymore!
Follow paths past rushing waterfalls and around placid ponds to the Prospect Park Audubon Center at the Boathouse. Here, you can learn about some of the wildlife you saw on your jaunt while munching on a snack from the café. Bring a rod and a reel and cast off from the bridge, or simply sit on the sun drenched steps and watch the ducks, swans, and even occasional heron.
History buffs can visit The Lefferts Historical House to get a glimpse of life in pre-colonial Brooklyn. If that sounds too much like homework, then take a spin on the Carousel. The menagerie of animals, carved in 1912, will make you feel like you stepped back in time, as will the cost of a ride—only a dollar fifty! Or rent real live horses from Kensington Stables and canter through three plus miles of trails. Prefer your animals at arm's length? Observe the baboons, kangaroos, and almost four hundred other creatures living at The Prospect Park Zoo.
From the thunderous drum circles on Sunday afternoons to the quiet Quaker cemetery along Mount Prospect, Prospect Park offers a variety of outdoor adventures that make it a picnicker's dream.