Kissena Park
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:Rose Avenue and Kissena Boulevard, Queens, NY
Hours:6 A.M. to 1 A.M. daily
Fee: Free
Bathrooms: Tennis courts (on Rose and Oak Avenues); the lake (on Oak Avenue and on 104th Street)
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at restrooms and at playgrounds at 164th Street and Lithonia Avenue, at Booth Memorial Avenue and 160th Street, and at Rose and Oak avenues

The rich horticultural history of this lovely and spacious park is very much visible today.

Kissena Lake at dusk.
Photo by: Wikimedia Commons/Jim Henderson

In full bloom or draped in snow, Kissena Park is a confection. The park’s natural geography is that of a two-tiered cake, with an elevated centerpiece surrounded by thick woods on three sides. Graceful willows bow down to Kissena Lake below, and whether covered in leaves or snow, these mature trees give this park the air and feel of “a wilderness of sweets,” to borrow from the poet John Milton.

This atmosphere no doubt stems from the park’s history as an internationally acclaimed horticultural nursery in the nineteenth century. Many of the original trees were moved to Central and Prospect parks, but today more than 100 species grow in this 230-acre park, with community-led efforts expanding the diversity of bushes, flowers, and trees.

Entering at Rose and Kissena avenues, follow the marked bike path to the right, behind the baseball fields. Where this splits, stay to the left to connect with the paved path that circles the lake. Walking clockwise, thick reeds and trees are between you and the lake, but these give way to scenic overlooks and a wider open stretch where people fish and watch the abundant marine life, including snapping turtles, ducks, herons, egrets, and gallinules.

After passing the boathouse, which is no longer in operation, you will come to the 14-acre historical tree grove on your left. In the 1870s, this plot was developed as a nursery of exotic trees and was one of the first to grow Japanese maples and cultivate rhododendron. It is well worth wandering around this area.

Continuing back around the lake, you will cross a bridge and return to the starting point. You can leave the way you came, or go up the stairs embedded in the thickly wooded hill to your left. The Charles Emerson Wildlife Garden is here, along with memorials to local veterans of the Korean War and World War I.

Remember: Kissena Park is also home to the city’s only bicycle raceway, which was built for the 1964 Olympic trials. Mountain bikes are not permitted, and minors cannot ride without signed parental permission.

Plan B:

The Queens Botanical Garden (Trip 46) and Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Trip 45) are all within a vast Y shape of parks in central Queens.


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