1 at Van Cortlandt Park-242nd St.
Big, broad and inspiring, Van Cortlandt Park is New York City's fourth largest park. Named after Jacobus Van Cortlandt, Mayor of New York from 1710-1719 and owner of the parkland, the site became city property in 1888. These days, the 1,146-acre park offers countless options for nature lovers: a lake, created when Van Cortlandt damned a nearby brook; a nature center featuring displays about the environment and the park's woods and animal life; and many nature trails through the oak forests, including a National Historic Landmark trail, which follows the route of New York's original water tunnel. Sports fans flock to the park in great numbers. Golf enthusiasts tee off at Van Cortlandt Golf Course, the oldest municipal golf course in the United States, or at the other nine-hole course or driving range. Team sports are well represented too, with 18 baseball fields, seven football fields, seven basketball courts, eight tennis courts and 13 cricket pitches. There are also four playgrounds for kids spread throughout the park. Van Cortlandt Park is perhaps most well known for its cross-country facilities. People come from all over the U.S. to run it, and it's where the national cross-country championships are held.Van Cortlandt House Museum
Frederick Van Cortlandt, Jacobs's son, built Van Cortlandt House between 1748 and 1749. The three-story Georgian house opened to the public in 1897, and its well-appointed rooms are worth a visit, as is the small herb garden. Tue.—Fri., 10 a.m.—3 p.m.; Sat.—Sun., 11 a.m.—4 p.m.; Mon., closed. Adults, $5; seniors and students, $3; children 12 and under, free.
John Muir Nature Trail
This two-mile-long trail takes hikers through peaceful and cool deeply-forested areas.
Van Cortlandt Lake
The biggest freshwater lake in the borough. Fishermen bring their rods to fish (catch-and-release only), while bird-watchers wait for a peek of Great Blue and Green herons, egrets, and the more pedestrian ducks and geese.
Group tours can be prearranged through the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park. Call 718-601-1460.
Urban park rangers also lead irregular public tours. See website for details.
Classes & Lectures
EcoCrafts is arts and crafts for children, using natural and recycled materials. Each Tuesday in July and August, 11 a.m.— 2 p.m. Van Cortlandt Park also offers ecology, nature awareness and foresting workshops for schools year-round.