Morningside Park
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:West 110th Street and Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan, NY
Hours:6 A.M. to 10 P.M. daily
Fee: Free
Bathrooms: At West 123rd Street and Morningside Avenue; at West 117th Street and Morningside Avenue; at athletic fields and lawns
Water/Snacks: Water fountains in playgrounds and at restrooms; vendors on park’s perimeter

Morningside Park has a number of excellent playgrounds, barbecue equipped picnic spots, and a range of paved paths for easy strolling or more-vigorous uphill treks.

Morningside Park.
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

Morningside Park is set along a dramatic cliff that sits between Harlem to the east and Morningside Heights to the west. Owing to this unusual topography, the park is named for the stunning sunrise views over Harlem that can be had from its elevated western edge.

Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his senior partner, Calvert Vaux, the park’s landscaping and ornamentation pick up seamlessly where nearby northern Central Park leaves off. The rugged cliff that drops down from Morningside Drive is thickly wooded, and cut through with paved paths and several sets of stone steps that make for a rigorous walk. Morningside Avenue, which forms the park’s eastern edge, is, in contrast, a largely flat, easy stroll past well-manicured lawns and gardens. The park also provides easy paths for kids learning how to ride a bicycle.

Entering at West 110th Street and Morningside Avenue, you will first find an athletic field surrounded by a 470-yard fitness path that comprises a mile in 3.75 laps. The park’s sidewalk perimeter, which has no through streets to interrupt the loop, forms another good walk of about 1.5 miles.

Just north of the athletic field are a pond and waterfall that appear to have been part of the original park design, but were actually added more than 100 years later. This site owes its beauty—and existence—to Columbia University student protesters who, in 1968, stopped the school from building a gymnasium over the park. The project had proceeded as far of the digging of a crater which, after demolition of the park was halted, was converted into the pond and waterfall.

Continuing north, at West 117th Street, is a large playground. Beyond this, many picnic tables and grassy fields continue north. A designated barbecue area is at West 121st Street and Morningside Avenue.

Another large playground with nearby basketball and handball courts is at West 123rd Street, which is the park’s northern border. Smaller playgrounds are located at West 113th and West 110th streets. Remember: Barbecuing is allowed in designated areas only, and is not permitted under trees.

Plan B:

The northern section of Central Park is just one block east from the southern end of the park. Riverside Park is located four blocks west from the northern edge of the park.


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