Best of NYC®

Best Of 2015


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Readers' Choice


Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Place to Pretend You're Not in New York City

It was once a Mafia dumping ground, then a kind of Wild West of the East — the kind of place where a guy in cowboy garb might ride by. On a horse. In Brooklyn. The Hole, a five-block expanse between Linden and Conduit boulevards, on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, has been a world apart for a generation. Its name comes from its elevation, or rather the lack thereof. Unsuitable for major development owing to frequent flooding, the Hole was until recently home to horse stables and just a few longtime residents. Now the place is mostly abandoned buildings and vacant lots overgrown with brush, making it look as if a piece of the Deep South has been transported to NYC. It's possibly one of the least developed sections of Brooklyn, right in the middle of thoroughly built-up neighborhoods; it doesn't hurt that the Federation of Black Cowboys, which used to maintain stables within the Hole, still rides through the area, giving it a small-town feel. The subject of an excellent ten-minute documentary a few years back, it remains a curiosity. You can access the Hole from the Grant Avenue station on the A train. Outside the station, head south, turn left on Conduit Boulevard, right on Sutter Avenue, and then left on Drew Street. That'll put you in the heart of this mini-neighborhood.

Best Bowling Lanes
The Gutter

Tourists and newbies might be dazzled by the Disney-fied charms of the neighboring Brooklyn Bowl, but locals know that The Gutter is the place to bowl in Williamsburg. Brought to you by the masterminds behind the Barcade franchise, the Gutter offers a massive main bar area with a Plexiglas window that looks out onto eight lanes reclaimed from a 1970s-era Iowa alley. Games run $7, or $40 per hour — a two-for-one happy hour deal kicks in after 1 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday and on Friday from 2 till 6 p.m. — and shoe rentals are $3. Serious keglers can avail themselves of the Gutter's bowling leagues, while the more cerebrally inclined might match wits during one of the liveliest trivia nights around. The bar is snacks-only, but they'll let you order delivery from nearby restaurants. Waits can get a little crazy, but with ample booze and seating, it's definitely worth your while. If you want to bowl like you're a kid again, the Gutter is your best bet. Actual little Lebowskis should stay with a sitter, though — these lanes are 21+. 200 North 14th Street, Brooklyn 11211, 718-387-3585,

Readers' Choice: The Gutter

200 N. 14th St., Brooklyn, 11249
Best Miniature Golf

When the Hudson Hotel launched Putt Putt Park, a pop-up mini-golf course atop its courtyard, this past spring, the only complaint was why it wasn't a permanent installation. The nine-hole course, which included the obligatory windmill and loop-the-loop, was open all April, priced at $10 a round, plus golf-themed snacks and cocktails. All this with the façades of Columbus Circle looming overhead! Backyard-style string lighting allowed games to continue safely into the night. Given that it was one of a precious few mini-golf courses in Manhattan, it's hardly a surprise that the pop-up's expiration prompted a public outcry. The Hudson promised an extended return — in April 2016. If you missed the initial tee-time, note that there's a movement to reopen Putt Putt Park this autumn. So keep an ear to the green and keep your short game sharp. 356 West 58th Street, Manhattan 10019, 212-554-6000,

356 W. 58th St., Manhattan, 10019
Best Public Tennis Courts

It's a schlep from the train, you generally have to wait for a court, and the only bathroom is a porta-potty. But the ten public courts in Riverside Park, painstakingly maintained by the nonprofit Riverside Clay Tennis Association, are worth the hassle. They sit on a glorious patch overlooking the Hudson River near 96th Street, with Jersey views to the west and pre-war apartment towers to the east. Best of all, the courts are ravishing red clay, a variety typically encountered in the private clubs of Europe, not the public parks of New York. The vibe is relaxed yet structured, avoiding both the rigidity you encounter at the Central Park Tennis Center and the chaos of many courts downtown and in Brooklyn, which often lack attendants. Weather permitting, the courts are open daily till dark, April through December. Reservations are welcomed and encouraged, and the RCTA also offers lessons and tennis clinics. Be sure to bring your city tennis permit (or $15 for the hour) and sweep the court when your time is up. West of the West Side Highway at 96th Street, Manhattan 10128, 212-978-0277,

475 Riverside Drive, New York, 10115
Best Place to Run
Pelham Bay Park

Pelham Bay Park feels nothing like most of New York City — and it almost isn't. The vast green space, three times the size of Central Park, inhabits the far northeast corner of the Bronx. For runners coming from other boroughs, the journey is rewarded with a stunning variety of nature to explore. Jog along the Long Island Sound shoreline from Orchard Beach or through wooded paths in the park's interior — or get on a riding trail for the chance to see some horses. There's good people-watching, too, thanks to basketball, bocce, and roller-hockey courts. As you exercise, consider the park's fascinating history: It was once home to Anne Hutchinson's dissident colony, which she formed after a dispute with Puritan leaders during the colonial period. Once you've worked up an appetite, head to nearby City Island for some seafood. Off Shore Road across the Pelham Bridge, Bronx 10464, 718-430-1891,

Readers' Choice: Central Park

Pelham Bay, Bronx, 10464
Best Place to Bike

We're lucky to roll deep in bike paths and parks in New York City, but extended rides along uncongested greenways can be hard to come by. Your best bet is to head out to the Shore Park Greenway, a two-segment, twelve-mile span of south Brooklyn that offers views of the Statue of Liberty, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Coney Island, the Manhattan skyline, and New York Harbor, plus lovely stretches through urban parks. Start at Owl's Head Park in Bay Ridge and hug the shoreline as you pedal around to Bensonhurst Park at Gravesend Bay. Pick up the trail again on the east side of Coney Island and head up toward the Canarsie Piers via the Brooklyn Marine Park to Spring Creek Park in Queens. There are plenty of places to picnic along the way, though you could also hop off the trail and head to a nearby restaurant or bar. It won't feel like it at times, but you are still in New York City, after all.

Readers' Choice: Hudson River Park


Best Place to Pretend You're Not in New York City: The Hole


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