The great outdoors just feels a little greater in Kingston, a true accomplishment for an urban environment. Depending on how you define “park,” there are at least 17 of them in and around the city, more if you count nearby Esopus. Nobody believes me when I tell them this. To spite these doubters, I recently visited all of Kingston’s 17 parks over the course of two days, and ranked them from least to most impressive.
Some Kingston parks are smaller than the yard of a single-family home, while others span miles of trails. Some are almost always empty. Others have hundreds and sometimes thousands of daily visitors. On the whole, the quality, quantity and diversity of Kingston’s park operations are impressive. There’s something for everyone.
#17 — Kingman Park
Hidden drive off Moore Street
We start with a park I’m not even sure I was supposed to be in.
You’ll only find Kingman Park if you’re really looking, and even then it’s pretty hidden. GPS directions won’t get you there. You need to find what looks like a secret driveway with a Little League sign off of Moore Street, and then drive up a winding, single-lane path to a wide pasture with two baseball fields and no parking areas.
The only thing still maintained here are the lawns of the baseball field. The dugouts are covered in graffiti, weeds have overgrown the bleachers and there’s trash littered throughout. The boarded-up announcer’s tower and discarded signage are evidence there was once a thriving Little League scene here, but today it appears largely abandoned. Made me want to play some rogue baseball, but I also felt like I would be arrested for trespassing if I overstayed my visit.
#16 — Van Buren Street Park
Corner of Van Buren Street and Delmont Place
This tiny square isn’t so much a park as it is a city playground, and it’s not much of a playground, either. I drive by this park frequently on visits to the Kingston Library, and I have never seen a single adult or child in it.
There’s a scuffed-up gazebo and a few things for kids to play on, but that’s about it.
This “park” feels like an afterthought by the city, to provide the kids of the neighborhood with something to escape the surrounding homes, many of which are visibly falling apart. They don’t seem to be returning the favor, but who knows, maybe it fills up when school gets out.
If I ever see someone here, I’ll ask them if my appraisal was too harsh, but almost any park on this list is a better option.
#15 — Kingston Peace Park
Corner of North Front and Crown streets
This is probably the weirdest park in Kingston, and also the smallest. It takes up one corner of a block in Uptown, and the best way to describe its layout and features is “incoherent.”
Ringed by small flowers and a light dusting of garbage, the park’s most dominant feature is a giant double-sided display plastered by random flyers, abandoned by the city and the Kingston Uptown Business Association (despite a sign proudly proclaiming their stewardship). One can only imagine how many confused tourists looked at this for exactly two seconds before moving on.
When I arrived, there were two dudes smoking a joint at the end of the park’s diminutive central path, which abruptly ends in a barricade of bushes in the back corner. Tall trees on its far side block what once was the most striking feature of the park – local artist Matt Pleva’s multi-story masterpiece of a mural inspired by Kingston’s history, now shrouded in overgrown foliage.
Most of the park is exposed to the sun and uncomfortable to sit in. There is no escape from the city at all. With all the wealth and luxury saturating the area, this park is extremely confusing in context. Perhaps when The Kingstonian moves in, residents of the luxury apartment complex will be embarrassed enough to demand a much-needed upgrade.
I honestly don’t know what the city is expecting people to do in this park. It’s a hard pass.
#14 — Kingston Midtown Linear Park
Near the Catskill Railroad train in the Kingston Plaza
There’s nothing wrong with Kingston Midtown Linear Park. It’s a nice, wooded walk through the backyards of Uptown and Midtown residents. But it’s a paved walking path, and putting ‘linear’ behind ‘park’ doesn’t make it so. Nonetheless, this is one of the city’s newest parks, if you want to call it that, and should be experienced at least once. The various greenline trails that are slowly connecting together are a great feature of our area, but there are so many more interesting places to hang out.
I’m not sure if the adjacent baseball diamond where the carnival sets up is supposed to be part of this in the grand scheme of things, but nothing much happens there anyway.
#13 — Cornell Park
Within Spring, Wurts, Hunter and Post streets
This park puzzles me. On the one hand, it’s quite aesthetically pleasing, with its dramatically sloping hills and paths. On the other hand, it seems like the worst place to develop a park – you either have to hike up to it from the Rondout where all the action is, or somehow descend into it from the small neighborhood that surrounds it. Despite the elevated positioning there isn’t even much in the way of views.
Perhaps there are grand plans for the future, but there’s nothing to do here except take a short walk or sit on a bench. Most of it is out in the open, with only a few surrounding trees providing shade. I hardly ever see anyone here, and can’t think of any reason to visit except for nearby residents walking dogs, or maybe reading a book in peace, because no one else wants to come here.
#12 — Senate House State Historic Site
296 Fair Street
Another park on this list that’s not technically a park, the Senate House State Historic Site is nonetheless the best place to eat a packed or to-go lunch outside if you’re Uptown. It’s also a great place to meet friends or clients for a discussion in the fresh air, to chill with a book, or, on increasingly rare occasions, to hang out with Revolutionary War reenactors.
History hounds will love checking out the Senate House itself, where guides will enthusiastically transport you back several hundred years to the founding of the city.
Seating has been added, but there could be more. I get the sense the staff here are trying to keep this a quiet, respectful place. There’s nothing for kids to do, and nothing for adults to do but hang out and maybe appreciate history. But it’s the only patch of green in Uptown where one can get a break from the uber-hip comings and goings of the surrounding area.
#11 — Barmann Park
Within Greenkill, South Clinton, and Barmann avenues
The best part of Barmann Park is the squishy surface that underlies the playground. The play equipment there is basic and unremarkable, but the ground is so much fun to jump on for kids and adults alike. It’s like bouncing on a giant, firm marshmallow.
Otherwise, it’s a bit too exposed to the surrounding neighborhood, roads and nearby construction to feel serene. The central wooded area is miniscule. The baseball diamond seems okay, but there just isn’t a whole lot to do here. There’s a cool garden you can’t enter, and signs that future amenities are planned. As it stands, it’s a convenient option for folks in the area, but not much of a destination for anyone else. It’s got potential, though.
#10 — Academy Green
Within Albany and Clinton avenues and Maiden Lane
Some locals might be wondering why I put Academy Green so high up the list. After all, there’s no playground, no sporting fields, and usually nothing to do except sit or stand around.
Additionally, this park can be kind of sketchy sometimes, depending on your definition of sketchy. In the ten minutes I dropped by one afternoon, I saw two people drinking beer, an open-air drug deal next to a trash can constructed from a ‘corrosive liquid’ barrel, a man smoking a joint and arguing loudly on a cell phone, and a woman talking to herself at the bus stop. I personally feel at home amongst this kind of chaos, and I feel you should as well. It’s not like the atmosphere is threatening. These people are just hanging out and largely want to be left alone. We need a park for that.
While Academy Green may not be family-friendly, it is the people’s park. What do I mean by that? Most of the events held here are parades, protests or foot races, as it’s the perfect place for people to coalesce before moving down Broadway en masse. It’s also a site of community outreach and gathering for what little is left of non-bougie Kingston. The people own this park, and it exists as a commons for anyone to meet, even if their business is not your idea of fun.
And despite its relatively small size, this park is as majestic as it is historic. It’s a perfect rectangle of a grand lawn buffeted by tall trees and three towering, detailed, and weather-worn statues. They look cool, but I don’t really care who they are, and neither do most visitors. Some streets were named after them, and they seem prime candidates to be torn down in the future by a group vindictively applying today’s moral standards to people who died hundreds of years ago.
If you sit in this park and squint just right, you can see Kingston as it was in the decades between IBM leaving and NYC transplants turning it into a sixth borough. Don’t ever change, Academy Green.
#9 — Block Park
Corner of Abeel and Dock streets
If you’re the kind of parent and/or child that enjoys being the only people on the playground, Block Park is the spot. You’re not likely to be sharing the space with many others, and the playground, while not spectacular, does have some unique features that feel like throwbacks to a less safety-obsessed time. There’s also a tiny circular wooded area that feels like an organic sculpture one can hang out inside.
Block Park is also a great place to hold a gathering, with a nice pavilion, ample parking, and little competition for the space. A big baseball diamond making up half the park is almost always empty, so if you’re looking to practice you can often take the whole thing over. There’s a nice, large field between the diamond and the playground that’s canopied by a few ancient trees.
Nearby, there’s a strange paved circle perfect for learning how to ride a bike (at least until it fully deteriorates). Standing near it is a handball court with some awesome peacock artwork, mostly defaced by graffiti.
It’s not the most exciting park in Kingston, but its mere adequacy is transcended by the feeling of exclusivity and calm. The families in the neighborhood are lucky to have it, and park-loving visitors from outside the neighborhood will be lucky to find it.
#8 — Loughran Park
50 Charlotte Street
One of Kingston’s older recreation oases, Loughran Park dates back to the mid-1930s, and was upgraded in the Nineties. This is a sports-lover’s park, but also a family-friendly retreat away from the dense neighborhood that surrounds it.
Kingston’s youth and adult baseball leagues do battle on the diamond here, replete with concrete dugouts. There’s a single basketball court and two large tennis courts, one for adult play and a smaller-scale replica for kids with racquets.
The pavilion/playground area is welcoming for families, feeling shaded and secluded, with safe, modern hardware for kids to climb. Nature-lovers should look elsewhere for scenery and greenery, but as a neighborhood park for sports, kids and casual hangs, it checks all the boxes.
Loughran Park won’t knock your socks off, but it’s a solid workhouse for a community united in their pursuit of recreational activities.
#7 — Hutton Park
2-50 Sherman Street
Nestled in a neighborhood you’ve probably never set foot in unless you live there, Hutton Park is not an ordinary park despite initial appearances. What gets it this high in the ranking is its unique landscape and exclusive location.
This park is exclusive because, frankly, hardly anyone knows it exists, except for its surrounding residents. You’ll rarely find a crowd here, and if you do, it’s because there’s a shindig going on in the pavilion. And while the pavilion itself is fairly unremarkable save for an odd Game Of Thrones-length picnic table, it sits atop a wooded rock ledge that bisects the park. This provides an elevated perch from which to enjoy one’s hamburger or hot dog while surveying the environs with 360 degrees of freedom. The angular, sloping rock faces are perfect for kids to climb up and fall down as parents lord over the majesty of city planning gone right.
There’s a bunch of stuff to do here. The tennis court isn’t the biggest or best in Kingston, but it might be the least crowded. There’s a baseball diamond and adjacent basketball court, and the playground is a notch above average.
On paper, this park is pretty standard-issue. In person, there’s just something special and unique about the density of features amidst a dramatic landscape.
#6 — Hasbrouck Park
Hasbrouck Park Road off Delaware Avenue
Hasbrouck Park is literally a hidden gem. Google Maps is your friend here – there’s but a small sign on a traffic pole standing opposite the entrance, which looks like a driveway for one of the homes next to it. Entering for the first time, you’ll think, “This can’t be right.”
Any doubt disappears once you’ve ascended a steep hill to see the lush greenery of the park suddenly filling your field of view. Climbing further, you’ll reach a huge, hilly field with a nearby pavilion, next to some of the most gorgeous river views any Kingston park can offer.
The best way to describe this park is that it will make you feel like you’re standing on top of Kingston.
By design, there’s not a whole lot to do here. Part of its appeal is its dearth of distracting features, allowing one to fully soak in the surroundings. With little recreational support, this is the park to visit when you’ve got a mission. Having a large gathering but want it to feel private? This is the spot. Want to fly a kite, have a romantic picnic, walk a dog with no other dogs around, sled at top speed, make out in a car or throw objects great distances? Hasbrouck’s rolling hills and hidden splendor make it ideal. Just make sure to bring your own entertainment.
#5 — Wiltwyck Cemetery
145 Pine Grove Avenue
Wiltwyck Cemetery isn’t technically a park, but it is by far the most park-like graveyard in the city, and more like a park than some of the official parks on this list.
Don’t let the thought of all the dead bodies bum you out. This is a sprawling, maze-like walk through the history of Kingston, going back hundreds of years. The place is packed with small, weather-worn gravestones of American Revolution soldiers, towering monuments and obelisks, lovingly maintained sculptures, mausoleums hidden in the tree line or majestically standing atop hills overlooking vast lawns.
Be aware that the cemetery is a privately owned business that continues to offer burial services in the graveyards that extend beyond the vast historic section. You’ll often run into their friendly maintenance team keeping the grounds, but you’re not likely to interrupt a funeral by sticking to the main historic area.
Tours are often available and highly recommended. There’s simply so many things to look at here. Having an expert guide the way is immensely rewarding for history buffs and anyone curious about the history of Kingston’s most influential families.
As it’s not technically a park, you won’t find any amenities or anything to do besides walk around. This is not a park for a barbecue or baseball game, it’s for walking and quiet contemplation. But the experience is so entrancing, you may find yourself returning again and again to get lost in the slightly spooky beauty of one of the most impressive and historic graveyards you’ll ever visit.
#4 — TR Gallo Waterfront Park
30 Rondout Landing
When I visited TR Gallo Waterfront Park (known to locals as ‘The Rondout’ or ‘The Strand’), JK Rowling’s $19-million yacht was pulling up while a homeless person sat a few hundred yards away nursing a Coors beer. You just can’t get that kind of irony in any other Kingston park. This place is where all of Kingston comes to clash together, and yet somehow coexist in merriment.
This long, skinny waterfront park is perfect for a brief stroll, feeding the ducks, and ogling boats you probably can’t afford. The real attraction isn’t the park itself but the businesses that surround it, which include some of the city’s best establishments catering to tourists and locals alike. The eateries are mouthwatering and numerous, there are some great museums nearby, and boat tours launch from here. It’s isolated from the rest of Kingston because nobody wants to walk or bike up that long, steep hill once they’ve come down it.
This is where the Kingston Waterfront Farmers Market happens on Sundays, and where the city’s many cultural festivals explode with mirth for all ages, classes, and creeds. It’s truly Kingston’s melting pot, and you’ll see every kind of person in each visit. That’s a solid indicator that a park is succeeding in its mission, even if on most days it’s a very basic landscape with few things to do within but have a picnic and people-watch.
Downtown Kingston is now arguably the city’s most fun neighborhood, now that Uptown has been transformed into a high-end retail, tourism and wedding sector. As a central public square that anchors all the action, TR Gallo Waterfront Park overcomes its meager stature as a mediocre park by the sheer number of fantastic things to do in the vicinity.
#3 — Forsyth Park Playground & Nature Center
125 Lucas Avenue Extension
Forsyth Park is Kingston’s best children’s park, and one of the best children’s parks in Ulster County.
Near the entrance is the city’s coolest playground, a sprawling mini-city of metal, wood and plastic. It’s a psychedelic mash-up of styles, where themes from Kingston’s history juxtapose with Willy Wonka and an alligator one can play music on by hitting it with mallets (which are usually missing). Toddlers have their own playground-within-a-playground, elementary-school-age kids will love the maze of slides, poles, steps and swings. Middle schoolers can be found chasing each other frantically around the whole complex, or climbing up structures in ways they weren’t designed to be climbed.
At the other end of the park is the zoo/nature center. It’s hard to put into words how cool this place is. The density and diversity of animals contained within is truly a feat of zoo construction and maintenance. Few look unhappy to be imprisoned for our education and amusement – they are truly well-cared for, which is a must. Visitors are encouraged to feed most of the critters, and many of them have names, which makes repeated visits rewarding as you establish a long-term relationship with characters like Franklin the cow. There are all sorts of educational signs and activity areas, and the zoo hosts regular events that are well-attended by youngsters.
That’s already a lot of park, but there’s more. The center of the landscape is a huge open field perfect for kiting, playing catch or frisbee, or just running around screaming at the top of your lungs as kids are wont to do. There’s a baseball diamond perfect for softball and kickball, and the nicest public tennis courts in town behind the playground.
Further, there’s a fun, short set of trails that wind through the woods that buffer the park from Dietz Stadium and the Edson and Watson schools. Elevation changes make it a great spot for walkers looking to get in some quality steps.
While all ages can find a little something here, Forsyth is for the kids, exceeding many expectations of what a children’s park can be.
#2 — Sojourner Truth State Park
100 Sojourner Truth Way
Kingston’s newest park is also its biggest, with over 500 acres of widely varying landscape to explore. Sojourner Truth State Park is a choose-your-own-adventure wonderland of impressive views, winding trails, and the remnants of defunct Kingston industries that are gone but not forgotten.
Local urban ruin explorers have long known this is one of the coolest spots in the county to sneak around abandoned industrial buildings. Though Hutton Brickyards was largely lost to luxury glamping and schmoozing, it’s amazing to see the city and state take stewardship of the rest of the ruins. Even the graffiti-laden “Kingston Cement Graveyard” (which I may or may not have illegally played paintball in decades ago) has been left somewhat intact for folks to wander around in. It’s pretty wild to find these relics of history in a state park.
More traditional park-goers – especially runners, walkers and bikers – will get blissfully lost in the long and winding trails of asphalt, dirt and stone. If you want to see the whole park in one visit, it’s going to be a workout. The river views are pretty spectacular at points, and due to the sheer size, the environs are serene, particularly the trails.
Parts of the park are still under construction and unfinished, but the bones are there, and that’s really all you need when the outdoors are the star. Kingstoners are truly blessed to have such an incredible expanse of park land in their backyards.
#1 — Kingston Point Beach & Rotary Park
Delaware Avenue east of North Street
It sounds like hyperbole, but Kingston Point really does have almost everything one could want in a city park.
First up: A beach in the city!
Yes, it is patrolled by a pack of overly friendly seagulls (thanks, bread-tossers). Yes, this is where you’ll find some of the weirdest people in Kingston, sprawled half-naked and blasting music at top volume. Will there be oil runoff from passing boats and riverside storage facilities? Perhaps. But these charms are easy to embrace when you take in the formidable versatility of Kingston’s best park.
The beach is more sandy and beach-like than you’d expect for the Hudson River, and the swimming ain’t half bad (just don’t open your mouth and accidentally swallow a PCB-laden fish). You’ll find people here working on their tan from the moment it’s hot enough to the first frost. It isn’t the ocean, but as city beaches go, this one’s pretty impressive.
Dog owner? The Kingston Point Dog Park is giant, with a large fenced-in area for dogs to go nuts. A separate yet still-spacious pen is provided for smaller pups to avoid conflict with bigger ones.
Feeling sporty? There’s a surprisingly decent nine-hole disc golf course, a big BMX track with spectator seats and outbuildings, a full-size baseball diamond, and beach volleyball nets.
Time to party? There are several large pavilions scattered throughout the property, and they’re very often full of revelers. If you had a more intimate kind of party in mind, several smaller covered areas and gazebos are hidden amongst the Point’s maze-like wooded trails.
Looking for family fun? The playground is brand new, and there are numerous areas to run wild and explore.
Time-strapped tourist? Walk the Kingston Point rail-trail, or even ride a vintage train down it, enjoying spectacular riverside views. It’s also a prime picnic spot, with dozens of attractive areas to choose from.
Kingston Point is the city’s Swiss Army Knife of parks. Depending on the specific park activities you’re after, there may be a more suitable destination. The Point, however, has it all, and takes the top spot in this ranked list for consistently bringing our community together more than any other patch of green in the city.