Connecting to Health

A Health and Wellness Blog

Back to Blog Home

July 11, 2016

6 Great Parks to Explore this Month

by Amanda MacMillan

Living in the New York metropolitan area, it’s easy to get the best of culture – and nature. You’re never more than a short drive or subway ride from good food, interesting events and (of course) top-notch medical care, but you’re just a hop, skip and a jump from incredible natural resources, too.

July is Parks and Recreation Month, which means it’s the perfect time to take advantage of all that parks can do for your health and wellness. Making parks a part of your everyday life can encourage exercise, help fight obesity, promote family bonding and boost your overall sense of well-being.

So instead of hunkering down in the great, air-conditioned indoors in your free time -- or visiting the same old beach you’ve made your standard weekend destination -- check out a park that’s new to you. Need some ideas? These nearby parks guarantee a good time:

To beat the city heat… check out Astoria Park, Queens

This urban oasis boasts New York City’s largest swimming pool (admission-free, it was designed to hold 3,000 people!) and stunning views of the East River and the Robert F. Kennedy bridge. The park also includes tennis courts, a track, nature trails and basketball courts. 

To do some birdwatching and commune with nature… check out Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Brooklyn

Part of Gateway National Recreation Area (managed by the National Parks Service), this remote and peaceful haven just north of the Rockaways is made up of undeveloped marshlands, beaches and woods. The area is home to more than 60 butterfly species, and more than 330 bird species have been sighted there over the past 25 years. 

To boat, picnic or hike with bowser… check out Belmont Lake State Park, North Babylon

Take the whole family to Belmont Lake for a day of hiking, biking, horseback riding or fun on the water. Paddle boats and rowboats are available for rent, or you can bring your own kayak or canoe. Dogs are welcome too, although they’re allowed only on trails (not in picnic areas or buildings) and must be leashed. 

To camp on the beach… check out Hither Hills State Park, Montauk

Overnight reservations fill up fast for this state park, so book early. It’s one of the only spots in the New York Metro area where you can legally pitch your tent in the sand and wake up to the sound of the ocean. Check out the unique walking dunes of Napeague Harbor, on the eastern end of the park, as well. 

To let the kids run wild… check out Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, Yorktown Heights

A giant swimming pool, a lake for fishing and boating, and a climbing wall are just a few of the amenities at this spacious Westchester recreation area, which also boasts basketball courts, soccer fields and even a disc golf course. 

To channel your inner Robin Hood… check out Willowbrook Park, Staten Island

Try your hand at bow-and-arrow at one of New York City’s only outdoor archery ranges, explore more than 7 miles of hiking trails or enjoy the lake. Kids will also love the Carousel for All Children, a handicap-accessible merry-go-round with hard-carved wooden animals.