Of course we love Central Park, but these unusual urban sanctuaries are also worth exploring.
Mon Aug 23 2010
Photograph: Roxana Marroquin
The High Line
The elevated park:
The High Line
The most exciting new feature of Manhattan's cityscape has to be the landscaped strip atop a disused freight-train track on the far West Side. The first section, from Gansevoort to 20th Streets, includes a "sun deck"—with a water feature you can dip your toes in and lounge chairs that slide back and forth on the old rails—and cool art installations. The second section, which extends to 30th Street, opens next spring. From Gansevoort St at Washington St to 20th St at Tenth Ave (thehighline.org). Subway: A, C, E to 14th St; L to Eighth Ave.
The island escape:
A seven-minute ride on a free ferry takes you to this seasonal island sanctuary, open Friday to Sunday through October 11 this year. Due to its strategic position in the middle of New York Harbor, Governors Island was a military outpost and off-limits to the public for 200 years. The verdant, 172-acre isle still retains a significant chunk of its military-era architecture, including 18th-century Fort Jay. In addition to providing a peaceful setting for cycling (bring a bike on the ferry, or rent from Bike and Roll once there), the island hosts art events (see website). It's also the site of the latest Water Taxi Beach (the other two are in South Street Seaport and Long Island City)—a giant sandy patch facing lower Manhattan, offering burgers and volleyball by day, live music and DJs (for over-21s) at night. 212-440-2202, govisland.com. Travel: R to Whitehall St; 1 to South Ferry; 4, 5 to Bowling Green; then take ferry from Battery Maritime Building at Slip No. 7.
The arty oasis:
Madison Square Park
A highly desirable address when it opened in 1847, Madison Square had become a decaying no-go zone by the 1990s, given over to drug dealers and the homeless, but it got a much-needed makeover in 2001. Now a verdant oasis, it hosts a series of summer concerts, literary readings and Mad. Sq. Art, a year-round "gallery without walls," featuring changing installations from big-name artists, such as William Wegman and Antony Gormley. 23rd to 26th Sts between Fifth and Madison Aves (madisonsquarepark.org). Subway: N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
The garden of rest:
A century ago, this site vied with Niagara Falls as New York State's greatest tourist attraction. Filled with Victorian mausoleums, cherubs and gargoyles, Green-Wood is the resting place of some half-million New Yorkers, among them Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Fifth Ave at 25th St, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (718-768-7300, green-wood.com). Subway: M, R to 25th St.
New York Botanical Garden
The serene 250 acres of the NYBG comprise 50 gardens and plant collections and the last 50 acres of a forest that originally covered all of New York City. The fall brings vivid foliage in the oak and maple groves, and in spring the gardens are frothy with pastel blossoms. Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-817-8700, nybg.org). Travel: B, D to Bedford Park Blvd, then take the Bx26 bus; or Metro-North (Harlem Line local) from Grand Central Terminal to Botanical Garden. $6, students $3 (grounds only). Wed and 10am--noon Sat free.