Completed in 1868, Prospect Park is Frederick Law Olmstead’s second masterpiece – and easily the rival of his first, Central Park.
Located in Brooklyn, the 526 acres (2.1 square km) public park contains within its borders more things to see and do than many large cities.
The entrance at Grand Army Plaza alone is worth the trip. Looking very much like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the large arch topped by a magnificent bronze sculpture is a fitting tribute to the Civil War. The 80-foot arch even covers an art gallery.
Around the arch is a series of statues of historical figures, including one of John F. Kennedy. The entire display is well complimented by the nearby Bailey Fountain.
The Plaza also hosts the Green Market, where Saturday shoppers look for fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and a variety of other delights.
Beginning at one end of the Plaza is Long Meadow. Purported to be the longest unbroken meadow in any U.S. Park, there are kite-flying areas, baseball fields, and a bandshell that hosts the New York Philharmonic in summer concerts. There’s also swimming, horseback riding, soccer… even fishing along its mile-long stretch.
For visitors and residents, during winter there is ice skating in Wollman Rink. The 26,600 square foot area built-in 1960 even hosts amateur hockey teams. During the warmer months, the area offers inexpensive pedal boating.
For those who simply want a relaxing walking experience, there are numerous trails through the park, along with the area surrounding Prospect Lake. Boat rides across the 60-acre lake are inexpensive and especially pleasant since the completion of the $43 million restoration project.
Not far away there’s even a Quaker cemetery in the area called, appropriately enough, Quaker Hill.
The park also has a 146 acre (59 hectare) forest section known as the Ravine District. In restoration since 1996, the perimeter edges a 100 foot (30m) gorge around which can be seen waterfalls and surrounding woodlands. Through the Ravine is the famed Boathouse in its 19th century McKim, Mead, and White style, typical of the period.
Originally constructed for $5 million, in recent years the park has seen substantial new investments in upgrades. One of the largest beneficiaries has been the renovated Prospect Park Zoo.
Called The Menagerie when it first began in 1890, the zoo has evolved to house over 400 animals comprising more than 80 species. It’s currently home to meerkats, red pandas, Emerald Tree Boas, and many more.
Though not nearly the size of the Bronx Zoo, there’s ample hands-on activity available. Since its $37 million restorations, the Zoo has once again become one of New York’s finest animal exhibits.
The park is easy to reach via subway from Manhattan. Just take the Q to Flatbush Ave/Ocean Ave.