Best National Parks in New York City. There’s so much more to this exciting place than the Empire State Building and Yankee Stadium. In this article, we’ll familiarize you with the incredible national park sites that are actually within the city limits.
There are 10 national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the city that never sleeps.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Well, actually it does since I was born and raised in New York City. Not only that but I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing these article for More Than Just Parks.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to full-fledged national parks. To learn more about the difference between the various National Park Service designations check out our article that explains everything!
So, what are we waiting for?
Best National Parks In New York City
1. African Burial Ground National Monument
As a native New Yorker, I’m thrilled at the prospect of so many amazing national park sites in my old stomping grounds.
The largest and most important archeological discovery made was a 6-acre burial ground containing upwards of 15,000 intact skeletal remains of enslaved and free Africans who lived and worked in colonial New York. This became the African Burial Ground National Monument.
The Burial Ground, dating from the middle 1630s to 1795, is the nation’s earliest and largest African burial ground discovered in the United States.
There are two fascinating sites to explore. At the visitor center, you can learn about the history of this amazing place through exhibits and artwork.
You can also visit an outdoor memorial offering visitors an in depth understanding of how, when, and why enslaved and free Africans were using the African Burial Ground during the 17th and 18th centuries.
New York National Parks Featured in this Video
2. Castle Clinton National Monument
It’s located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island and it has an amazing story to tell. Castle Clinton was initially built to prevent a British invasion in 1812. It’s a medieval-looking fortress by the water’s edge that dates back to 1808.
It was nearly demolished on six different occasions, only to be finally rescued and restored by the National Park Service in 1946.
Today it’s used as a ticket office and information center for tourists heading to Liberty Island. Castle Clinton has been transformed to welcome theatergoers, immigrants, sightseers, and now, millions of visitors to New York Harbor.
Visitors can take a Ranger-guided tour of the Castle. Believe it or not, it was the first American immigration station, where more than 8 million people arrived in the United States from 1855 to 1890. So, what are you waiting for? An important piece of our nation’s past is waiting for you!
3. Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration
America is a nation of immigrants whose history often began at Ellis Island. Today it’s a historical site, but it opened in 1892 as an immigration station. It served this purpose for more than 60 years until it closed in 1954.
Ellis Island saw millions of newly arrived immigrants pass through its doors. It has been estimated that close to 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island, which is truly amazing.
Today visitors can explore the National Immigration Museum. You can walk the halls of the former processing station just as so many people did over so many years.
If you want to learn more about your own story then you can also visit the Family History Center to learn about where you fit in the continuum of American immigration. There’s an incredible collection of arrival records for people looking to retrace their ancestry and their family’s journey to the United States.
4. Federal Hall National Memorial
Once upon a time, the government of the United States operated out of New York City. Federal Hall is where George Washington took the oath of office as our first President. This site was home to the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch offices.
Located at at 26 Wall Street in the Financial District of Manhattan, the current structure is a Customs House, which served as part of the U.S. Treasury Department. Today the building serves as a museum and memorial to our first President and the beginnings of the United States of America.
While you’re there, check out the first inaugural bible, the rotunda view, the inauguration balcony slab, the view of Wall Street, the bank vault, the portrait gallery and the museum store. It’s an incredible place where you can learn so much about our nation’s earliest history.
5. General Grant National Memorial
Washington was the first victorious general to ascend to the White House. He would be followed by others among them Ulysses S. Grant. Grant (1822-1885) commanded the victorious Union army during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and served as the 18th U.S. president from 1869 to 1877.
The final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant is just one of the things to see at the General Grant National Memorial. It’s the largest mausoleum in North America.
At the memorial, you can see a 20-minute film about Grant’s life and achievements titled “A Legacy of Freedom.” There’s also a permanent exhibit gallery addressing some of the major events in Ulysses S. Grant’s life as well as a bookstore/giftshop. There you can find some fascinating historical works as well as other Grant memorabilia.
If you want to learn the story of the man who served as the Lieutenant General of the Armies (a rank previously held only by George Washington) and who was considered by many to be the most important general in our nation’s history after George Washington.
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6. Governors Island National Monument
Within the city of New York, Governors Island is a 172-acre island in New York Harbor. From 1794 to 1966, Governors Island was an integral part of the cultural, economic, political and social life of New York.
Today it’s an artistic and cultural center, but once upon a time it was one of the longest continually operated military bases in the country. It was run by the U.S. Army and later the U.S. Coast Guard until its closure in 1996.
Visitors can explore two forts–Castle Williams and Fort Jay. There you will step back in time and see historic fortifications from the Revolutionary Era. There’s also a National Parks Gift Shop & Bookstore, which is always worth a visit.
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7. Hamilton Grange National Memorial
With Lin Manuel-Miranda’s hit musical and movie Hamilton, America’s interest in its first Secretary of the Treasury has never been higher. What better time then to travel to Hamilton Grange National Memorial.
He was into obscurity in the British West Indies, but Alexander Hamilton went on to become George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War. Afterward, he became one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers.
He was an impassioned champion of a strong federal government, and played a key role in defending and ratifying the U.S. Constitution. He was America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, George Washington’s most influential cabinet advisor and the father of America’s banking system.
The Grange is believed to be the only home Alexander Hamilton ever owned. Located in Manhattan’s Hamilton Heights Historic District, visitors can tour Alexander Hamilton’s home. You will be treated to exhibit galleries containing historical information about Alexander Hamilton.
Guided tours as well as self-guided tours of the home’s three restored period rooms are also available. And, if that’s not enough, you can also view fifteen- minute introductory film on demand.
8. Lower East Side Tenement Museum National Historic Site
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum National Historic Site is an opportunity to travel back in time to a world of different cultures representing different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds.
New York City was the gateway to America. America is a nation of immigrants and these many tenements represent the heart of that immigrant experience.
The museum recaptures this experience through these historic tenements. You can experience the home to an estimated 7,000 people from over 20 nations between 1863 and 1935.
The tenement’s cramped living spaces, the lives of past residents, and the history of the Lower East Side, contribute to its representation of the immigrant experience.
9. Statue Of Liberty National Monument
The Statue of Liberty has come to represent freedom, democracy and justice that societies around the world have sought to emulate. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in both America and the world.
Just as the American Revolution became a joint effort between America and France so did the Statue of Liberty. The French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi created the statue itself out of sheets of hammered copper, while Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the famed Eiffel Tower, designed the statue’s steel framework.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of America. It was erected atop an American-designed pedestal on a small island in Upper New York Bay, now known as Liberty Island, and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in 1886.
The Visitor Information Station features brochures, maps and memorabilia, and also gives visitors a chance to watch a short documentary about the making of the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty Exhibit is located on the second floor of the pedestal inside the Statue. It features a vast collection of photographs, prints and artifacts that tell the story of the monument throughout history.
10. Stonewall National Monument
The Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, began on June 28, 1969. New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City.
The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar. This led to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets and in nearby Christopher Park.
Stonewall National Monument is a new national park unit. It’s located in Christopher Park and is a part of New York City’s Historic Greenwich Village. Visitors can the exhibit on the fence at the park and also virtually.
Map Of National Park Sites In New York City
List Of National Park Sites In New York City
- African Burial Ground National Monument
- Castle Clinton National Monument
- Ellis Island
- Federal Hall National Memorial
- General Grant National Memorial
- Governors Island National Monument
- Hamilton Grange National Memorial
- Lower East Side Tenement Museum National Historic Site
- Statue Of Liberty National Monument
- Stonewall National Monument
About the Folks Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for the More Than Just Parks website. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then sign up below!