Socrates Sculpture Park
In the summer, Socrates hosts a a free outdoor cinema featuring international films and sometimes live music. All are invited to bring a picnic and a blanket, and watch the film starting at dusk. Also throughout the summer, Socrates offers sculpture and art classes for all ages, tai chi and yoga on Saturday mornings until September 30 (all which are also free).
The park foundation awards several artists a residency each year. They may work on site, and have the opportunity to display extremely large scale work, the only location like it in New York. The sculptures change about every 6 months. Visitors are invited to look, play, climb, learn, photograph and let their dogs run around the sculptures and park.
The stats aside, the park is totally amazing. Not only is it an actual grassy space with trees, but it has a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline and East River. There are a few meandering paths and river overlooks that SOME people might deem "romantic" (yes, there are stupid kissing couples everywhere). A walk through the park really creates a sense of detachment from the hustle and bustle of New York. The sea smells like the sea, the trees are thick in areas and private, the space is open and lush. How can this be New York?
Not to mention the amazing sculptures! Currently, a giant larger-than-life sasquatch is caught mid-saunter, an oversized photo sculpture of a clenched fist celebrates black power, dumpsters and scrap metal are reworked and intricately carved by artist Cal Lane and a table like structure decoupaged in scrap book memories echoes the shape of the skyline across the river. I was checking my photos and accidentally backed into what I thought was a giant muppet, only to discover it was a fur covered actual tree! (yeah, I screamed, ok? I admit it.)
In other words: go there. Year round. There are trees with leaves (a.k.a. autumnal leaves) changing without 1000 other people watching it (which would be the case if you went to Central Park). In fact, they have a Halloween festival on October 14.
To get there: Monday through Friday take the N or W train to the Broadway stop in Queens and walk eight blocks along Broadway toward the East River. On Saturday and Sunday take the N train to the Broadway stop.