I’m always a little aggravated when people say “I can’t believe people raise children in New York City, it’s so dangerous”. Granted, I don’t want to have children (I knew this since I was 13 years old), but I get a little upset that someone is bad mouthing my city. Especially since it comes out of ignorance and fear.
New York is an amazing city. Not just for business people, but also for singles (unless you’re a single woman, since 53% of the population is female which puts you at a disadvantage), and for families with AND without children. NYC’s parks are one of the reasons which make NYC such a good city for so many types of people, and Riverside is one of my all time favorites.
It’s huge: According to the NYC Parks website, Riverside spans 4 miles starting at 72nd Street all the way to 158th Street and covers 323 acres. I’ve re-mapped the park to my liking. For me, it goes all the way from 158th Street to the Financial district (this is considered the Hudson River Greenway). I love to get on my bike and drive all the way downtown, have a nice caloric meal, and bike back up to burn the calories.
The site where Riverside Park is situated was once made up of glaciers and rocky areas. Before the initial European migration, it was barely populated by Native Americans. In 1846 it got its first railroad, and by 1854 there was already talk of adding a scenic drive. The park was commissioned in 1873, and it took a little over 25 years to get the initial park settled. The park was inspired by the English pastoral style, it had a retaining wall and paths for walking.
- 79th Street Boat Basin – this is where everyone who is more affluent than I am keeps their boats. It is also home to the Boat Basin Cafe, a great spot to hang out in the Summer. The food is not so great, and the drinks are meh, but you’re not going there for this. You’re going because you can bring your dog, get together with friends, and check out the view. The rotunda was a commission from Robert Moses for the firm McKim, Mead and White.
- 91st Street Garden: To me, this garden just shows the beauty of New Yorkers. The garden is maintained by volunteers, and I enjoy its beauty on a daily basis. The garden was started in 1977, and it is full of flowers such as tulips, irises, and roses.
- Eleanor Roosevelt Monument: (Riverside Drive and West 72nd Street) This is a fairly new addition to the park. Eleanor joined us in 1996 and is the work of the sculptor Penelope Jencks. Each time I walk past Eleanor, I feel a sense of calm, of quiet. Eleanor is the first monument commissioned by the City of New York to an American woman AND the first statue of an American woman in the NYC that was designed to be a public monument.
- Grant’s Tomb: (Riverside Drive and West 122nd Street) This biggest mausoleum in the US is the final resting place of President Ulysses Simpson Grant who is kept company by his wife, Julia.
- Joan of Arc Statue: (Riverside Drive and West 93rd Street) If you’ve ever taken an art history class, you’ll know that equestrian statues were left for only the most admired warriors. This is the case in Anna Hyatts’ Joan of Arc. Hyatt engendered Joan while in Paris. The sculpture was so successful that replicas were erected in Blois.
- Riverside Park South: (Riverside Park bet 72nd & 59th St). This is my hood. You’ll find me at Pier I Cafe at least 3 times a week, sipping on wine and watching the sunset. Antonio plays basketball every Saturday with his Meetup League (there are 3 basketball courts). If basketball is not your thing, you can play handball, soccer, and even baseball. Over at Pier I, there are lots of activities including concerts, movies, and more.
- Robert Ray Hamilton Fountain: I had always wondered what this gorgeous sculpture was. Turns out it was a watering hole for horses designed by Warren and Wetmore. It is actually the only decorative horse watering through that still exists in NYC. As horse traffic declined, the city got rid of these. I wish there were more, they could have easily converted them for puppy use.
- Soldiers and Sailors Monument: (Riverside Drive & 89th Street) This gorgeous neoclassical temple-like monument by Charles and Arthur Stoughton was built for Union Army soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War. It was inspired by the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens and features Corinthian columns. If you make it here, look accross the street. There are some gorgeous homes on Riverside Drive.
- (Riverside Park & 69th Street) This ruin was a part of the West Side Line of the NY Central Railroad. It served as a spot for transfering of railroad cars from Weehawken Yards. It was no longer used and was almost demolished, but it is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places and makes for a gorgeous view.
There are no amazing places along Riverside Park. I’m always wishing Danny Meyer would take over the spaces and hook us up with some Shake Shacks. Until then, these will do. The food is not bad, it’s just not great. But what they lack in food, they make up with gorgeous views.
- Pier I Cafe: f you eat there, I recommend the burger, and the corn (delish). Skip on the edamame. They have wine and beer. Get there early, this place gets packed. I’m usually there at 4pm on weekdays working on my laptop saving a table for my group of friends. This restaurant is very family friendly. You’ll see puppies and strollers everywhere. They sell pastries and coffee in the am (if they sold eggs, I’d be there every morning).
- 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe: (Riverside Park & 79th Street) Slightly more “fratty”. This is a really good spot for bachelorette parties. They carry food, wine, beer, and cocktails.
- Hudson Beach Cafe: (Riverside Park & W 103rd Street)
- PD O’Hurley’s at Pier 84: (12th Ave & 44th Street) I don’t frequent this spot. It tends to be too touristy and there are just too many good spots in NYC. But if you happen to be in the area, you can grab wings, chicken fingers, and a beer.
I mentioned the basketball courts, the baseball field, and a few goodies the park has to offer on a daily basis. There’s a lot more that Riverside Park offers. Take for example”
- Kayaking on the Hudson: If you’re brave enough to risk the waters of the Hudson, you can Kayak for free on Sundays.
- Concerts: There are concerts all Summer long at different venues in the park. Free music is always a win.
- Tai Chi: Each year, there’s a new schedule for free Tai Chi in the park
- Plays: You’ll run into impromptu performances at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
- Art: Each year on Riverside Park there are art installations for each season. Currently, the Art Student’s League of New York has taken over and the exhibits are gorgeous.
- Sitting areas: There are plenty of areas to sit back, relax, picnic, and have fun.
- Birding: I’m not a birder, but I think I soon will be one. I find myself googling birds on a daily basis. And I love my baby hawks.
How to get to Riverside Park
I’m assuming you’re already in NYC.
Subway: Take the 1/2/3/B/C train to 72nd Street. Walk West towards the water until you hit the park. You can get off at numerous other spots, but this one will do.
Bus: Lots of buses go to Riverside: M4, M5, M50, M57, M66, M72, M79, M87, M96, M116. Walk towards the Hudson River. Buses are nice because you get to see the city, but they take forever. I recommend the subway.
By Car: Take Riverside Drive, get off at 72nd or an exit above. This will increase your chances of finding parking.