7. Alley Pond Park Preserve

Alley Pond Park lakeAlley Pond Park

Spanning 655 acres, Alley Pond Park in Queens is one of the borough’s best-preserved parks. It is considered one of the city’s most ecologically diverse parks, and it was home to the first nature trail in the city, founded in 1935. The park is home to “the Queens Giant,” the oldest and tallest tree in New York City believed to be over 450 years old, and a historic windmill. There have been many concerns recently that the park’s shoreline is eroding, yet conservation efforts are underway to clear away debris and combat erosion. Today, the park hosts the city’s first challenge adventure course, in a vein similar to Kiddy City, an amusement park in Alley Pond Park that was destroyed in 1964.

The Alley Pond Park Preserve is a mix of forests, salt marsh, and freshwater wetland. The park lies on a glacier-formed moraine with features like kettle ponds, and the preserve is considered one of the most ecologically diverse since it hosts both a freshwater and saltwater environment from Little Neck Bay. The preserve and park get their names from The Alley, an 18th-century commercial and manufacturing center formerly located at the park. Rare plants like bloodroot and Christmas fern are found at the preserve in addition to two-lined salamanders and wood frogs.