Prospect Park is the second-largest park in Brooklyn, following Marine Park. The park is located at the intersection of several historic and affluent suburban neighborhoods and can be a bit out of the way for most New Yorkers. However, it would be a shame to miss out on what it has to offer, as a day spent in Prospect Park is a wholesome and enriching day indeed. Knowing a bit about the park's history and main attractions can add a layer of meaning and enjoyment to the experience, and this article will cover everything visitors might want to know.
- Place of interest: Prospect Park
- Address: 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11238, United States
- Size: 526 acres
The History Of Prospect Park
Prospect Park is comprised of a string of hills and plains. Prior to European colonization, the area was heavily forested and teeming with wildlife. Some clusters of forest still remain to this day, specifically in the Prospect Park Ravine, which is often referred to as 'The Last Forest of Brooklyn.'
During the American Revolutionary War, the area was the site of one of the bloodiest engagements in the region. The Battle of Long Island, also called the Battle of Brooklyn, was the largest battle in the war and also the first major battle to take place after the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Though the Americans lost the battle, they held the British back long enough to allow George Washington and his battalion to escape to Manhattan via the East River. This would of course have epoch-defining consequences, as Washington went on to become a Founding Father and the first President of the United States of America.
The process of converting the formerly forested plains into a park was kick-started by legislation passed in 1859. At this point in the history of Brooklyn, the borough was slowly transitioning away from being a production and trading hub as these industries moved inland with the popularization of the railway. As a result, Brooklyn was in the process of transforming into the residential hub it today is, and with this change came changes in governance. The people wanted more human-centric infrastructure and amenities, and that necessarily meant more green spaces.
The park was opened to the public in 1867, though it was not entirely complete. This crude version of Prospect Park proved popular nonetheless, and improvements and expansions continued well into the turn of the century.
- Fun Fact: Around the time Prospect Park was built, Brooklyn was the largest commuter suburb in the world
What To See In Prospect Park?
There is no shortage of things to see and do in Prospect Park and it would be impossible to do it all in a day.
Prospect Park Lake
Beginning with the most prominent landmark, Prospect Park Lake is a marvelous place to relax, boat, and fish. The 60-acre lake is home to over 20 species of fish and a diverse array of birds. Since 1947, the lake hosts the annual R.H. Macy's Fishing Contest, a beloved tradition among Brooklyn natives and wholesome family activity. Visitors should note that, though fishing is permitted, there is a strict catch-and-release policy to prevent the depletion of the lake's marine life.
Apart from fishing, visitors can rent out a pedal boat or kayak and spend a languid morning enjoying some tranquility and peace. Boating is an excellent way to explore the lake, as there are several little islands to check out and some fairly remote embankments to peruse. Boats can be rented at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside.
As previously mentioned, the Ravine is also called 'The Last Forest of Brooklyn'. This 146-acre wooded area is truly a marvel. It serves as a perfect escape from the concrete artificiality of the city. Days can be spent in these woods exploring the intricate ecosystem, and after the rains, mushroom hunters often coalesce in the forest to find rare species of fungi.
The watercourse cuts through the Ravine, which provides a constant source of life and movement to the environment, and, depending on the season, visitors can even boat through the forest.
Long Meadow is probably the most frequented part of the park. The 90-acre meadow is larger than Central Park's famous Sheep's Meadow, which is merely 15 acres in size. The meadow is flat and verdant to the point of being luminescent. In the summers, visitors have ample space and privacy to picnic on the grass and enjoy the natural light show of the fireflies.
Up until the 1930s, Long Meadow was grazed by sheep in order to maintain the meadow-like quality, but this was unfortunately phased out when it became cheaper and more efficient to use machinery and imported labor to perform the same task.
While the above-mentioned places are defining features of Prospect Park, they are by no means the only ones. The Prospect Park Zoo, for example, is a classic family outing destination, and the Concert Grove is a great place to check out for music lovers, as it is the site of many free outdoor concerts in the summer.
The Rose Garden is heavily perfumed by the scent of blooming flowers in the Spring, which can be a transcendent and restorative experience. Nearby, there is an infamous garden called the Vale of Cashmere, which served as a spot for illicit encounters among the more decadent and effete residents of the city.
In general, it is worth walking around the park, as there are a number of fairytale-like bridges and statues scattered throughout.
Where Is Prospect Park?
Owing to its size, there are many neighborhoods to enter the park from. The surrounding neighborhoods are as follows: Park Slope to the northwest; Windsor Terrace to the southwest; Ocean, Flatbush, and Parkside Avenues to the east and southeast; and Prospect Heights to the north.
For most visitors, the easiest way to get there is to take the subway to the Brooklyn Museum, which is adjacent to the park. The subway stop is called 'Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum' and can be found on the 2/3 line.