Rushing is the name of the game in this city. If New Yorkers aren’t running to catch the express train, we’re bypassing the slow walkers in the crosswalk or upstreaming someone for a cab. No wonder we’re all so stressed out.
Even the most diehard New Yorkers need to escape the hectic day-to-day and slow down every now and then. When you’re craving some fresh air, hit up one of these gorgeous green spaces in the city. It’s just what the doctor ordered.
This museum dedicated to the art of the Middle Ages really looks the part, since architects used material from five medieval French cloisters to build it. Come to see the famed unicorn tapestries from John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s collection and take a stroll in gorgeous Fort Tryon park.
Staten Island Greenbelt
At more than three times the size of Central Park, the Greenbelt offers a true escape for New Yorkers tired of the hustle and bustle of city life. Start your day with a visit to the Greenbelt Nature Center, where you can pick up maps of any of the six main hiking trails.
Located inside sprawling Pelham Bay Park, the historic Bartow-Pell Mansion shows visitors what country life in the early 19th century must have been like. Whether you’re more impressed with the Greek Revival interiors or the serene natural surroundings, you’re sure to leave refreshed.
Ford Foundation Atrium
At first glance, the Ford Foundation building appears to be just another typical Midtown office. Once you step inside, though, you’ll find a thriving tropical garden inside a 10-story glass foyer. It’s environmentally friendly, too: The building’s roof catches rainwater to nourish the ferns, gardenias and lush greenery without burdening the city’s water supply.
Central Park’s North Woods
The most secluded section of Central Park, the North Woods, almost feels like the Adirondacks. Skip rocks on the Loch, a stream rebuilt by conservationists in the 1900s, or take a quiet stroll down the Ravine. To explore a larger swath of the northwestern corner of the park, rent a bike.
This pocket park measures just 60 feet by 120 feet, but feels much more spacious thanks to its efficient design featuring multi-level seating. A rushing 25-foot waterfall anchors the space, while honey locust trees and azaleas add a touch of nature.
Once designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux had finished Central Park, they turned their attention to Brooklyn, and created Prospect Park in 1867. Today, visitors can still explore all 585 acres of the park’s green meadows and footpaths. Self-described "wildman" Steve Brill even leads foraging expeditions there, from time to time.
Columbine, wormwood, quince, flax, cowslip and other plants native to the Bard’s English countryside home thrive in this four-acre landscape inside Central Park. In 1916—300 years after William Shakespeare’s death—the garden was dedicated to his memory, and today, visitors can still find plaques inscribed with his poetry near the flowerbeds.
Inwood Hill Park
If you thought New York’s Revolutionary War history made it old, prepare to have your mind blown. Inwood Hill Park actually holds evidence of prehistoric times in the caves, ridges and valleys that were carved out by moving glaciers. During the Middle Ages, the Lenape tribe took over the caves, turning them into seasonal camps. Even going for a hike today really gives you a feel for the history of the place.
With 15 different gardens, the Wave Hill estate is well worth the trek up to the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The original Greek Revival home from 1840’s where Mark Twain once spent a few summers was recently renovated, too.
Knobby hills and mile after mile of woods cover half of Forest Park, while the other half holds baseball fields, tennis courts and a par 67 golf course. But if you’re looking to get some peace and quiet, it’s best to set off on a hiking trail in the eastern half of the park. Brill leads foraging hikes here, too, and you can expect to find sassafras, chanterelle mushrooms and wildflowers growing in the park.
New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden
Complete with eight traditional pavilions, a bamboo forest, waterfalls and a koi pond, the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center draws inspiration from the gardens of Ming Dynasty China. A team of 40 artists spent a year working on the components in China and another six months assembling the pieces in Staten Island.
Seton Falls Park
Seton Falls Park is a woodland, wetland and bird sanctuary home to more than 30 different species. Much of the forest has been left undisturbed since the time of the Revolutionary War, so you can catch a glimpse of what Eastchester would have looked like if it had never been developed.