Even New York City has National Parks — Gateway National Recreation Area
Yesterday, April 16th, marked the start of National Park Week which runs through April 24th and is about celebrating a centennial of America’s best idea by exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, and enjoying affordable get-aways in our national parks. Throughout National Park Week admission to every unit in the nation is free so there’s really no excuse not to find some of the parks nearest you and visit.
Even residents of NYC have an abundance of options for visiting a National Park Unit — Manhattan alone has 7 sites:
- Hamilton Grange National Memorial
- General Grant National Memorial
- Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
- Lower East Side Tenement Museum
- African Burial Ground National Monument
- Federal Hall National Memorial
- Castle Clinton National Monument
For anyone in Manhattan willing to venture a bit further afield Gateway National Recreation Area has sites in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey that offer an incredibly wide range of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Get outside, do and see more, and enjoy the places that move you; Gateway National Recreation Area is one of mine.
Official Name: Gateway National Recreation Area
Location: New York and New Jersey
Fee: No fees but parking is charged Memorial Day through Labor Day at Sandy Hook ($15 daily) and Jacob Riis Park ($10 daily).
- Gateway is comprised of 3 units and eleven sites in all.
- Sandy Hook contains 7 beaches, including Gunnison Beach, a nude beach by custom
Jamaica Bay Unit (New York)
- Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge — The only wildlife refuge in the national park system (refuges are usually the responsibility of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, a separate Bureau of the Department of the Interior), Jamaica Bay is the largest bird sanctuary in the northeastern United States with over 325 species of birds. Covering 9,155 acres, visitors can walk nature trails, explore woodlands, and bird watch.
- Canarsie Pier — Built in 1926 the pier was originally the site of an amusement park but today offers one of the best fishing spots on Jamaica Bay as well as a children’s playground and family picnic areas.
- Floyd Bennet Field — New York City’s first municipal airport was dedicated in 1931 and was later converted to a naval air station during World War II. Renowned pilots from the early days of aviation like Howard Hughes, Jacqueline Cochran, and “Wrong Way” Corrigan used the field to launch their flights.
- Breezy Point — at the tip of Rockaway Peninsula, Breezy Point provides nesting habitat for many threatened and endangered bird species as well as one of the best recreational fishing spots in the area.
- Fort Tilden — The fort was a key military site in the early 1900s overlooking the approach to New York Harbor. Today, the fort’s grounds provide athletic fields, public gardening, and hiking trails. Several of the former post buildings serve the community as a center for the arts on Rockaway Peninsula.
- Jacob Riis Park — Created in the early 20th Century to give New York City residents a new seaside recreation area, today, the site features the famous 1932 Art Deco bath house and a pristine beach, considered one of the finest in the City.
Staten Island Unit (New York)
- Great Kills Park — Located on the southeastern tip of Staten Island, the park is a fine location for walking, jogging, in-line skating, cycling, fishing, boating, summer beach activities, and bird watching.
- Fort Wadsworth — The “Guardian of the Narrows” is one of our nation’s oldest military sites and the staging area for the start of the NYC Marathon. Strategically located at the entrance to New York Harbor, the fort stood watch over the City for more than 200 years. Ranger led tours are available.
- Miller Field — Originally built to serve as a landing field for military aircraft, this 187-acre open space now hosts almost one million children and adults each year who participate in organized athletics. Picnic areas and public gardens are also available.
Sandy Hook Unit (New Jersey)
- Sandy Hook — Located in Monmouth County, New Jersey, the Sandy Hook Peninsula includes six miles of ocean beaches, saltwater marshes, the waters of Sandy Hook Bay and historic Fort Hancock. Visitors can enjoy fishing, hiking, and biking along a 5-mile long pathway.
- Fort Hancock — Built at the end of the 19th Century as the outermost defensive point for New York City, the fort comprises abandoned coastal defense batteries and a collection of period buildings that recall a time of elegant, refined military architecture. Also located on the fort, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest active lighthouse in the country, guiding ships since 1764.
Other stories in my park series
- Acadia National Park
- Cape Cod National Park
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
- Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Morristown National Historical Park
- Jefferson National Expansion Monument
- Monocacy National Battlefield
- Prince William Forest Park
- You can run America’s Parks
- Gateway National Recreation Area