Our 10 Best Legal and Sort of Legal Picnic Spots

Viewed from Inwood Hill Park, New Jersey is beautiful.
Viewed from Inwood Hill Park, New Jersey is beautiful.
Robert Sietsema

Despite this week's sodden weather, spring really is upon us, which means that picnic season is, too. New York harbors untold numbers of excellent picnic spots, be they in Midtown pocket parks, an empty soccer field, or your friend's tar roof on East 7th Street. Last year, we rounded up our 10 favorites; such is the abundance of options that we're doing it again this year. Some are perfectly legal, while others require a little bit of craftiness and possibly wire cutters. And no, neither Central Park nor Prospect Park is among them: If you require a list to tell you that either offers some of NYC's best outdoor dining, then you probably don't live here, or need someone to tell you that the Empire State Building is tall.

The Red Hook Grain Terminal: rooftop dining at its finest
The Red Hook Grain Terminal: rooftop dining at its finest
Rebecca Marx

10. The Williamsburg Bridge. The bridge presents some unique and rather versatile picnicking opportunities. For those seeking ambulatory liquid consumption, we can attest to the pleasures of traversing its span at night while sharing a bottle of whiskey with someone you love, or at least want to date for the next hour or so. For those with a hankering for solid foods and someplace to sit, we recommend the open spot next to the pillars on the bridge's Williamsburg side. You may get harassed by graffiti artists or the gentlemen who always seem to be urinating nearby, but the breezes are lovely.

9. The Pace University High School track. Located at the foot of Sara Delano Roosevelt Park between Forsyth and Chrystie streets, the track is bordered by a lush, gently sloping grassy knoll shaded by large, graceful trees. It's a good place to take your Xi'an lamb face noodles or Prosperity dumplings, particularly if you enjoy watching 50-yard dashes and small children running wild.

8. Inwood Hill Park's Indian Rock Shelters. A word of warning: These are hard as hell to find. But if you persevere, you will reap the untold pleasures of feasting in or near an actual cave. Your best bet for finding them is to either stop at the park's Urban Ecology Center, where the rangers can direct you, or to access the park at the main entrance at Seaman Avenue and Isham Street, then walk straight toward the big rock and veer left so that you're going south. Keep walking, and you'll find the shelters on the right. Or just ask the rangers.

7. Carl Schurz Park. The nice grassy knoll around East 88th Street provides some of the city's best waterfront dining: Think of it as Riverpark, without the pharmaceutical reps and pin lights. Non-budget-minded types can take advantage of the relative proximity to Eli's, an excellent a source for achingly expensive provisions. There are playgrounds for children, paths for the athletically inclined, and Gracie Mansion for those given to contemplating a mayor who would probably turn New York's parks into high-rise condos if he could. East End Avenue and East 86th Street

6. The Red Hook Grain Terminal. Sure, the nearby Red Hook Ball Fields are an excellent picnic spot -- thanks to the food trucks, you don't even have to pack a lunch -- but they're also just so, well, earthbound. Much more interesting is the immense and long-abandoned Red Hook Grain Terminal, which towers over the fields like a gloomy old ghost. It is admittedly difficult (and completely illegal) to access, thanks to the concrete boulders and fence that line its periphery, but once you're inside, the terminal's massive roof beckons with the promise of some of the best high-altitude dining in the city. On a clear day, you can see halfway to France. Go now, before someone decides to turn it into luxury lofts.

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