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Picnic Town

Our favorite green acres from the Battery to Washington Heights, plus what to put in those wicker baskets.

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FOR MAKING BELIEVE YOU'RE AT THE BEACH
Go here: A shady spot on the grass of secluded Rockefeller Park (located west of River Terrace at the north end of Battery Park City).
Pack this: The Protein salad ($9.95), a summery mix of papaya, strawberries, and blueberries from nearby Pan Latin Café. You can mop up any excess cilantro-lime dressing with your pan de queso ($1.50).
Pay $5 extra for: A flaky croissant-shaped pan dulce ($2) or an iced Columbian hot chocolate ($4.25).


FOR RELIVING FRESHMAN YEAR
Go here: The lawn behind the Garibaldi statue in Washington Square Park.
Pack this: A crispy rava masala dosa ($5) from the N.Y. Dosas food cart along the park's southern edge.
Pay $5 extra for: One scoop of vanilla from the Otto gelato cart ($5).


FOR USING PUBLIC ART AS A BACKREST
Go here: A patch of green next to the silver boulder sculpture by artist Roxy Paine near 24th Street in Madison Square Park.
Pack this: A half-dozen pork dumplings ($4.95) and an icy green-tea milk shake ($3.50) from Rickshaw Dumpling Bar.
Pay $5 extra for: Chocolate Shanghai Soup Dumplings, chocolate-filled sesame mochi balls ($3).


FOR PEOPLE-WATCHING ROMAN STYLE
Go here: The tables on the fountain terrace in Bryant Park.
Pack this: The ten-piece tuna nigiri ($6.50), fried pork katso don ($4.95), or salmon teriyaki ($5.75) from mini Japanese grocery–come–lunch counter Yagura on 41st Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenues.
Pay $5 extra for: A box of the addictive chocolate Pocky sticks ($2.85), or intensely sweet sesame rice balls ($2.49). (Bring cash and arrive before 2 p.m. to avoid picking from the detritus left by the office hordes.)


FOR PRETENDING YOU'RE IN A SEURAT
Go here: The lush green triangle right by the Pond on the southeast corner of Central Park.
Pack this: A customized tote ($20; price includes an inflatable beach ball) from superchef Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery. Go for the tuna-niçoise sandwich ($9.25) or spiced chicken on semolina ($8.75) then chase it down with a cranberry Gus soda ($2.25).
Pay $5 extra for: If you're too late for the pecan sticky bun ($2.75), which is often sold out by noon, opt for a large oatmeal-raisin cookie ($2.25) or a chocolate bouchon ($1.75).


FOR HAVING AN ILLICIT RENDEVOUS
Go here: The slope on Central Park's Cherry Hill (west of Bethesda Fountain near 72nd Street). For something more private, stroll further west to Wagner Cove's rustic wood shelter.
Pack this: Truffle mousse ($5.99), lobster salad ($9.99 per quarter-pound), rustique rolls (79 cents), and Spanish layered fig cake ($7.99 per pound) from the 75th Street Citarella.
Pay $5 extra for: A half-pound of phyllo-encrusted apple strudel ($6.99 per pound), or a petite flourless chocolate torte ($4.99).


FOR HOSTING A BONA FIDE BANQUET
Go here: The cordoned-off parts along the promenade in Carl Schurz Park.
Pack this: An Italian feast from Agata & Valentina; the focaccia ($2.00), mini pizzette ($3.25), and antipasti—hearts of palm salad ($9.99 per pound), mini crab cakes ($24.99 per pound), and mozzarella ($8.99 per pound)—are prepared daily. Added bonus? A pleasing selection of wicker baskets ($5 and up).
Pay $5 extra for: A tiramisu cupcake ($2.95) and a mini cannoli ($1.25), or some panna cotta ($4.50).


FOR BONDING WITH THE FAMILY
Go here: The wooden tables around the Little Red Lighthouse, right below the George Washington Bridge.
Pack this: Dominican specialties from El Presidente like mofongo con pernil (mashed plantains and garlic with chunks of pork, $8.65), arroz con pollo ($11.65), and avocado salad ($4.30).
Pay $5 extra for: Not one, but two sides of sweet plantains ($2.45 each).


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