The Gateway National Recreation Area encompasses 26,000 scenic acres in Queens and Staten Island, winding into Monmouth County, New Jersey. Every year, 10 million visitors enjoy one portion of this outdoor playground, Jacob Riis Beach, as well as outdoor recreation, interpretive programs, and special events. This site, watched over by the National Park Service, offers an array of visitor services, concessionaires, and fun things to do. It's also one of the few places to find a topless beach in New York.
Jacob Riis Park is part of the recreation area in Queens, located just east of Rockaway Beach, a New York City park. The name is in honor of the journalist and photographer who brought attention to the troubles of the poor at the turn of the twentieth century when photographs were something of a novelty. The park was designed in the 1930s by Robert Moses, who created many of the public spaces still enjoyed today, including Orchard Beach in the Bronx and Robert Moses State Park in Suffolk County, Long Island. Moses and the other planners envisioned this park as accessible location for the working poor in the city, thanks to ever-expanding network of public transportation.
Today, people of all ages and backgrounds come to enjoy the scenery of Jamaica Bay and recreational offerings at mile-long Jacob Riis Beach. While it's not officially a clothing-optional beach, many of the adults who visit this topless beach in New York don't have to worry about tan lines. Families tend to congregate on the western part of the beach. While most of the beachfront land is family-friendly, some of the shoreline has become known as a topless beach in New York.
Much of the architecture at Jacob Riis Park boasts a nautical theme, evoking the feeling of standing on the deck of a mighty ship. The bathhouse, completed in 1932, stands proud as an example of 1930s art deco design. Since being restored to its original glory, the building is so much more than a place to cool off. While it's filled with places primed for visitor comfort, it serves as a museum of sorts with exhibits. Many ranger-led interpretive tours start here, which detail the unique natural and cultural history of Jamaica Bay and the New York beaches in general.
Not far from the Jacob Riis beach, visitors will find a recreational facility offers an 18-hole, pitch-and-putt golf course, in addition to snack bars offering cold drinks and tasty lunches. At Jacob Riis Park and the other nearby units of the Gateway National Recreation Area, visitors will have the chance to go boating, camping, fishing, hiking, and find other interesting ways to spend an afternoon.
In addition to the offerings along Jamaica Bay, the recreation area also encompasses sites in Staten Island and Sandy Hook. Swimming at Great Kills Park is just one of things do at the Staten Island portion. Visitors also can explore historic Fort Wadsworth and Fort Tompkins, which testify to the area's military past. While no longer active, these sites are open for tours, ranger-led activities, and Civil War re-enactments. Over in New Jersey, Sandy Hook is noted for the prime fishing, swimming, and bird-watching opportunities. History is on display here, too, with Fort Hancock and the Sandy Hook Lighthouse.