one of my absolute favorite parks in all of manhattan is riverside park. it stretches from 72nd to 125th street along the hudson river.
new york is a very difficult place to live. so, i am always searching for places that take me out of "typical" city life, even if just for a moment. riverside park is one of those places. the pictures below really don't to it justice.
my best suggestion is to wake up early one morning and spend a good hour-plus enjoying the quiet, beauty, and waterfront views. if you still hope to get exercise in while on vacation, this is an excellent place to go. because it runs parallel to the hudson it is very difficult to get lost, whereas central park can be a bit of a maze for first-time visitors.
and also...if you rent a bike while you're here (which many people seem to do, but which i have yet to try) this would be the place to go.
ps: during spring and summer one can rent a kayak (no charge) at the southern tip of the park. but only on weekends and assuming the weather holds up.
pps: the second collage down--that's the garden where meg ryan met tom hanks at the end of you've got mail. but don't try to walk around in it (as they did), that's not allowed.
the pictures really just can't convey the size of its beauty. i think this is a must-experience for visitors.
and a great picnic location!