Travel

Prospect Park in Brooklyn: 6 must-sees

John Weisz and Kaitlin Beansley sit outside the

John Weisz and Kaitlin Beansley sit outside the boathouse by the Lullwater. (May 11, 2013) Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The great 19th-century landscape gurus Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux considered Brooklyn's Prospect Park -- not their more famous achievement, Manhattan's Central Park -- to be their best-designed urban oasis. Both parks fell into decline in the mid-20th century, and Central Park has bounced back spectacularly, notably with a recent $100 million gift. Prospect Park's comeback has been slower but steady.

Parts of it still need to be restored, but it is again a beloved, safe and well-used public space, with 10 million visits a year across its lush 585 acres. The park is literally ringed with subway lines, making public transportation an easy choice. The best bets are the F to Prospect Park; the 2, 3 to Grand Army Plaza; and the B, Q to Prospect Park. Come December, look for the completion of the $74 million Lakeside project, featuring a year-round skating rink. For now, here are the park's top summertime attractions. --TED LOOS, Special to Newsday

AUDUBON CENTER AT THE BOATHOUSE: The country's first
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

AUDUBON CENTER AT THE BOATHOUSE: The country's first urban Audubon Center is a great first stop in the park. Not only are there exhibits and information about the natural beauty on hand (all gratis), but the boathouse also houses the visitor's center. The building itself -- a 1905 Beaux Arts beauty that is popular for weddings -- is worth a look from across the Lullwater. (prospectpark.org/visit/activities/audubon) (May 11, 2013)

Prospect Park's Beaux Arts-style boathouse, which dates to
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Prospect Park's Beaux Arts-style boathouse, which dates to the early 1900s, is on the northeast shore of the lake. (May 11, 2013)

John Weisz and Kaitlin Beansley sit outside the
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

John Weisz and Kaitlin Beansley sit outside the boathouse by the Lullwater. (May 11, 2013)

The Brooklyn Bird Club holds its weekly Saturday
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The Brooklyn Bird Club holds its weekly Saturday walk with a stop outside the Prospect Park Boathouse. (May 11, 2013)

THE RAVINE: At the dense center of Brooklyn's
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

THE RAVINE: At the dense center of Brooklyn's only forest is this steep gorge, home to migratory birds, with a stream that skips along on its way to the lake. It's the quietest part of the park, intended to evoke the Adirondack. Following the bridle path is the best way to see it. (May 11, 2013)

Prospect Park is home to five arches, including
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Prospect Park is home to five arches, including Nethermead, located just outside the Ravine. (May 11, 2013)

LONG MEADOW (& BATTLEFIELDS): This undulating pastoral area
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

LONG MEADOW (& BATTLEFIELDS): This undulating pastoral area stretches for almost a mile and serves as the entry point for many visitors coming from Grand Army Plaza and its somber Civil War monument; active ballfields anchor its opposite end. The vistas demonstrate the Olmstead and Vaux talent for making an artificial landscape appear natural and wild. (May 11, 2013)

Ben Chatham is among the many who play
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Ben Chatham is among the many who play in Long Meadow. (May 11, 2013)

Cheyenne Powell in the great outdoor setting of
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Cheyenne Powell in the great outdoor setting of Long Meadow. (May 11, 2013)

LEFFERTS HISTORIC HOUSE: In olden days, seasonal eating
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

LEFFERTS HISTORIC HOUSE: In olden days, seasonal eating and pickling were not hipster Brooklyn pursuits -- they were common survival modes. Learn about Colonial times at this 18th-century farmhouse ($3 suggested, kids free) built by the Lefferts family (who also lent their name to a Brooklyn boulevard). Kids will enjoy the emphasis on crafts and games. (prospectpark.org/visit/places/lefferts) (May 11, 2013)

Visit Lefferts Historic House, located near the zoo,
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Visit Lefferts Historic House, located near the zoo, for $3 (suggested, and ages 16 and younger are free). (May 11, 2013)

Zeke and Jack Brokaw and friend Henry Castle
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Zeke and Jack Brokaw and friend Henry Castle run along a path outside the Lefferts Historic House, where there are plenty of kid-minded crafts and games. (May 11, 2013)

ZOO: The Prospect Park Zoo, with an $8
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

ZOO: The Prospect Park Zoo, with an $8 admission price, has 400 animals, including the popular red pandas. It's run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the same organization in charge of the Bronx Zoo. Saturday and Sunday, the zoo's farm area hosts the annual Fleece Festival, featuring sheepshearing and other woolly activities. (prospectparkzoo.com) (May 11, 2013)

Anoushka Bell greets the goats, among the 80-plus
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Anoushka Bell greets the goats, among the 80-plus species represented at the Prospect Park Zoo. (May 11, 2013)

Baboons are among the 80-plus species housed at
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Baboons are among the 80-plus species housed at the Prospect Park Zoo. (May 11, 2013)

KENSINGTON STABLES: Did you know about the active
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

KENSINGTON STABLES: Did you know about the active stables in the heart of Brooklyn? Located just outside the park's main boundaries, this 1930s barn houses a variety of horses and ponies for lessons ($57 an hour) and trail rides through Prospect Park ($37 an hour). (kensingtonstables.com) (May 11, 2013)

Rent a horse for the day at Kensington
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Rent a horse for the day at Kensington Stables, just outside of Prospect Park. (May 11, 2013)

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