New York City’s iconic skyline, plethora of delectable eateries, and world-class array of arts and entertainment events often take center stage in the city that never sleeps. Between fighting subway crowds and dodging crazed cab drivers, visitors don’t often associate this bustling metropolis with a relaxing game of tennis.
But nestled among the shadows of towering skyscrapers within both hip and lesser-known neighborhoods, New York City tennis courts await your arrival. Work off your nerves during a business trip, or simply incorporate the game you already love into the city you’re beginning to adore.
Before arriving in New York, most tennis enthusiasts have already caught a glimpse of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on TV. Hosting the annual U.S. Open, this world-class facility boasts 12 indoor DecoTurf courts with viewing areas, nine field courts (including four feature courts), four climate-controlled clay bubbled courts, and three stadium courts.
In order to practice your serve on the same courts where legends like Maria Sharapova and Pete Sampras have played, you can reserve a court up to two days in advance, either online or by calling 718-760-6200. Courts are open from 6 a.m. to midnight. Rates vary based on the court you have reserved. Tennis courts are open to the public 11 months out of the year—closed for one month for the U.S. Open.
The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, just a short walk from the Shea Stadium / Willets Point Station of the #7 Flushing subway. Once you have defeated your opponent or simply worked up an admirable sweat on the court, catch a New York Mets game at nearby Citi Field or meet up with family at the Queens Zoo. Although smaller than the Bronx Zoo, children will be delighted by the assortment of animals available for viewing.
To gain a better appreciation of the unique atmospheres surrounding distinct neighborhoods in New York’s five boroughs, reserve one of the numerous tennis courts maintained by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. A single play ticket costs $15 while a year full pass will run adults (ages 16 – 61) $200. Outdoor playing season runs from the first Saturday of April to the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Probably the most infamous on the department’s roster of court hotspots is Central Park tennis. Imagine the popularity and crowdedness of Times Square moved onto hard courts. Your best bet to acquire one of the coveted playing slots at Central Park is to reserve an early morning time on one of the park’s 26 courts. After a rousing game of tennis in one of the country’s most iconic urban parks, stroll past Belvedere Castle and grab a post-match snack at one of Central Park’s eateries.
If you’re a New York resident with children, look into CityPark Tennis. This program provides opportunities for free lessons, tournaments, and leagues for thousands of children spanning more than 36 parks in the city’s five boroughs.
This rare, illusive event does indeed exist: free tennis in New York City. Three hard courts at Hudson River Park offer residents and visitors alike the opportunity to play tennis for free on a first come, first served basis without the hassle of permits.
Spanning five miles along Manhattan’s West Side, Hudson River Park is the longest waterfront park in America and has renovated decaying piers and docks into a spectacular green space. To reach the tennis courts, cross into the park at W Houston Street in Greenwich Village after exiting the #1 subway at Houston Street.
Although there is a one-hour limit on the courts if there’s a line of people waiting, tennis players could spend the entire day exploring Hudson River Park and adjacent Greenwich Village. In addition to free tennis courts, the park boasts a rock climbing wall, kayaking, sailing, bicycle rentals, and beach volleyball, just to name a few of the available activities.