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    That Can Help You Escape City Stress

5 Awesome Astoria Parks
That Can Help You Escape City Stress


If you don’t love Astoria, it’s only because you’ve never lived here. 

The area was named ‘New York City’s Best Neighborhood’ by Time Out: New York in 2019, and let’s just say that’s no surprise to the residents. With a hot cultural and social scene, a plethora of diverse and delicious restaurants, and NYC’s most beautiful subway station (Broadway, we said it), Astoria was hoppin’ before COVID, and will be hoppin’ again. Quarantine may have put a lid on this baby, but underneath we’re still simmering.

One of the greatest parts of this beautiful Queens neighborhood is the accessibility of gorgeous and unique outdoor spaces. Yeah, we’re not quite as packed as Manhattan, but several roommates sharing space due to that WFH life can get old quickly. 

So when you find yourself passive-aggressively retweeting a “no touchy” gif from The Emperor’s New Groove, having a local oasis to which you can escape can make all the difference.

Our countdown of these awesome Astoria parks is subjective, obviously, and when you’re craving some open air and green space, these are all excellent choices. That said, here are the top five parks in Astoria that can help you lower those shoulders away from your ears, tear your eyes away from a screen, and de-stress — all in one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world.

parks in astoria ny

#5: Ralph Demarco Park

Though it’s one of the smaller parks on this list, Ralph Demarco Park is a sweet, peaceful place to commune with nature along the water, and much calmer than its southern neighbor, Astoria Park. 

With a well-maintained, if short, walking, running, and biking path, and plenty of grass, this is an excellent location to BBQ with family and friends, or grab some delicious authentic Greek food at Niko’s and make a picnic of it.

The park has cinematic views as you look southward through the juxtaposed architecture of the Hell’s Gate and RFK Triborough Bridges. If you’re looking for an iconic selfie spot, this is it. But no, put down your phone, you heathen. We’re supposed to be de-stressing. 

With plenty of benches along the water, it’s also a prime romantic spot to sit with a loved one (Valentine’s Day is coming up, nudge nudge) and watch the sunset as the sparkling lights of Manhattan’s skyscrapers slowly flicker on. 

If you’re looking to connect with nature, Ralph Demarco Park may not be fancy, but it’s pretty, peaceful, and clean: a hidden haven alongside our bustling boulevards. 

parks in astoria ny (2)

#4: Ward’s Island Park/Randall’s Island Park

Before you get all geographically high-and-mighty, yes, this one is cheating just a bit. That’s why we bumped it down the list: you gotta go a teesny bit out of Queens to get there. But the location—a mere jaunt over the Hell Gate or RFK Triborough Bridges — is too convenient, and the park too awesome, to leave off our list. 

Ward’s Island Park (connected to Randall’s Island, and it’s respective park) has beautiful views of the mid-Manhattan skyline and East River as you walk, run, or bike around the literal miles of well-maintained paths. With a ton of green grass and BBQ areas to choose from, this is an excellent location for a socially-distanced get-together. Public bathrooms are available, and the parking is free! Nope, not a typo. Free.

If you decompress with group sports, there are a bunch of fields available for soccer, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee, or football. Or simply bring your dog, a tennis ball, and one of those plastic arm-extender throwy-things and go at it!

If you have kids, there’s a playground and an Urban Farm to explore. Though things may be closed right now, (keep checking their website!) they provide an incredible array of digital activities, puzzles, coloring pages, and learning opportunities for youngsters.

If you can catch the south side of the island at sunset, the view of Manhattan is unbeatable. The grounds here are extensive, meaning you’ll never feel crowded, and biking is safe for families and beginners. With the cool wind blowing off the water, and the tranquil feeling of fresh trees and grass, this is the perfect place to engage in your favorite type of relaxation, whatever it may be.

Randall’s Island Park

#3: Socrates Sculpture Park

When we mentioned “unique” up top, this was one of the places we had in mind. We remember quite distinctly the first time we saw the Sculpture Park. It was a cold day in late March, and as we trudged around the gravel paths, we were tickled and delighted by the quirky art on display. 

At the time, the ever-changing sculpture park was home to a herd of metal goats. The goats are gone, but the park is still home to sculptures ranging from the majestic and political to the straight-up weird. 

Socrates Sculpture Park is an excellent balance of greenery, art, and stunning views of Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. If you’re looking for an afternoon to decompress and appreciate the creativity of the human spirit, this is the place for you.

Current exhibitions include Monuments Now Parts I, II, and III. Through March 2021, this three-part piece, with contributions by the Park’s 2020 Artist Fellows and community high school students, will seek to “address the role of monuments in society and commemorate underrepresented narratives such as diasporic, Indigenous, and queer histories.” 

There’s also a three-section pyramid by Jeffrey Gibson, with an accompanying plaque explaining its intentional construction with nods to indigenous culture, as well as artist Paul Ramírez Jonas’ “Eternal Flame” monuments, which involves actual working grills and is open for public use every day from 9AM to sunset. 

Art plus food? That’s the literal dream.

Socrates Sculpture Park

#2: Astoria Park

Astoria Park is, of course, an amazing escape with countless activities to offer… not the least of which is the gorgeous 330-foot-long pool, which locals will tell you is the oldest and largest in the city. We hope it will be back open, safely, this summer. The hugely popular park also has outdoor tennis courts, a skate park, basketball courts, running trails, and a dedicated track if breaking a sweat is your way of chilling out.

And the attractions don’t stop there! There’s a dedicated off-leash area with plenty of room to run for those with energetic fur-babies. For those with energetic baby-babies, there’s also a great playground. The RFK Bridge goes directly overhead about a third of the way up the park, so if you’re looking for somewhere quieter you can head up to South Hill (ironically in the northern part of the park) for a spectacular view of the bridges, Randall’s Island, and Manhattan.

Astoria Park is one of those borough treasures that you just can’t take for granted. That said, it can be busy on weekends. Amble along the water and you may run into the geometric stone WWI memorial monument facing the river. Or walk ten minutes over to order some authentic Greek food from Stamatis to go, then grab a bench to appreciate the scenery. When in Astoria… eat Greek.

Astoria Park

#1: Rainey Park

Known by some locals as “That Park Behind the Costco,” Rainey Park has so much more to offer than its proximity to dollar hot dogs. 

Though it’s not nearly as splashy (get it?) as Astoria Park, this isn’t a list of fanciest or biggest; it’s a list of the best places to chill, and for that, Rainey Park pulls slightly ahead. While Astoria Park has the amenities, Rainey Park has the *vibes*. Ya know what I mean?

Just south of Socrates Sculpture Park, Rainey is a bit more out of the way, while still offering stunning East River views. With bridge views north and south, as well as lovely vistas of Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side, Rainey Park combines the eye candy with the isolation. 

In the spring, enjoy the lush, delicately blooming cherry blossoms as they drift down to cover the well-maintained paths along the riverfront. Or bring a picnic and park yourself under a shady tree during the summer. 

For the young (or young at heart), the park does offer a few amenities. There are some slides and play structures for the kids, as well as a unique rock-climbing wall, basketball courts, and a baseball diamond. Grab a bench and count “one boat, two boat, red boat, blue boat,” or take a newbie bicyclist along the safe, car-free paths.

And exciting news: it looks like in the next couple years, $7.5 million has been budgeted to update and renovate the park. Watch out, Astoria: our green spaces are gonna be fresh.

Having these beautiful parks is a privilege.

In the city that never sleeps, finding a quiet, green corner of the world can be the difference between sanity and becoming that guy from Taxi Driver. And in Astoria, we’re lucky to have an abundance of places to go relax, reconnect, and appreciate our neighborhood. 

So stay safe, have fun, and enjoy Astoria’s lovely parks while we sit over here mourning the passing of the sculpture goats.

Rainey Park