The best places to chill out in NYC

Go from tense to tranquil—without leaving the city—at these calming refuges



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Photograph: John Peden

New York is one of the most stressful places to live in the country. We all suffer from some form of anxiety at one point or another, but where can we find calm in the hustle and bustle of the city? Find some inner peace and tranquility at these spots around the city. From parks and gardens to museums, these places are sure to help you chill the eff out.

Places to chill out

Ditmas Park

Experience the peace and quiet of the suburbs (with no risk of scratching your eyes out due to burbia boredom) by heading to this neighborhood, a haven of manicured lawns, white picket fences and grand Victorian abodes. Postwalk, ease your troubled mind at Sycamore, a charming flower-shop-cum-bar with a back garden frequented by arty types, including some little Brooklyn band called the National.
Most calming spot: On Rugby Road between Beverley and Cortelyou Roads, look for the bright yellow house with two wraparound porches. And then dream about living there. Sycamore: 118 Cortelyou Rd between Stratford and Westminster Rds (347-240-5850,

Photograph: Mick Hales

New York Botanical Garden

This Bronx oasis is sectioned into 50 unique gardens, including the new azalea area and a sublime lilac collection. Explore the institution’s 250 acres by foot (or tram), enjoying the smell of flowers and the sound of…nothing. Beautiful, soothing nothing.
Most calming spots: The native forest and Bronx River waterfall. Yes, you read that correctly—a forest, a river and a waterfall, all natural to the site. Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-817-8700, $20–$25, seniors and students $18–$22, children 2–12 $8–$10, children under 2 free.

Photograph: Clotilde Testa


Nothing is more relaxing than some stranger holding a razor to your neck, right, guys? Guys? But seriously, this throwback Italian barbershop’s classic shave is an ace way to decompress and feel like a Mad Men character (see page 16). Settle into a worn leather chair and enjoy a hot towel treatment, followed by an impeccable shave with warm cream and lavender-scented oil, all while basking in the old-timey soundtrack.
Most calming spot: The gratis shot of Jameson makes anywhere in the tiny joint feel tranquil. 246 E 5th St between Second and Third Aves (646-649-2640, $30.

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Fort Washington Park

The newly spruced-up green space runs along the Hudson River near the George Washington Bridge, providing stunning views of the waterway, the New Jersey Palisades and Manhattan’s only lighthouse. Ahhhh.
Most calming spot: The grassy field just south of the bridge, where you can spy some awesome NYC wildlife like hawks. Hawks, you guys! Riverside Dr between 155th and 179th Sts (212-639-9675,

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Museum of the Moving Image

Astoria’s cinema lovers’ paradise is pretty low-key compared to its Manhattan museum brethren. Get a behind-the-scenes look at your favorite films and shows—and avoid the stress of spending money by heading there on a Friday evening, when admission is free.
Most calming spot: The otherworldly, blue-walled theater, which screens retrospectives, art films, cult favorites and more. 36-01 35th Ave at 37th St, Astoria, Queens (718-777-6888, $12, seniors and students $9, children 3–12 $6, members and children under 3 free. Fri 4–8pm free.

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