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Inside Daedalum with the let me tell you badge
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out | Inside Daedalum

Let me tell you—you can find some peace at these free meditative experiences in Manhattan

Seek out the tranquil beauty of these three experiences right now.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan

"Let Me Tell You" is a series of columns from our expert editors about NYC living, including the best things to do, where to eat and drink, and what to see at the theater. They publish each Tuesday so you’re hearing from us each week. Last time, Things to Do Editor Rossilynne Skena Culgan suggested ideas for the long-vacant Times Square Sbarro

In a borough where rents soar, sirens wail, and tall buildings eclipse the sun, finding a meditative moment in Manhattan can feel nearly impossible. Dedicating time for wellness often feels like an indulgence reserved only for the ultra-rich (ahem). But I experienced three completely free experiences over the past week that left me feeling a lightness without lightening my wallet. Allow me to share, and I hope you'll head out to these spots for a piece of peace. 

Thousands of glowing orbs make up Field of Light.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out | Field of Light

1. Field of Light at Freedom Plaza

On the far east edge of Manhattan, 18,750 glowing orbs of light sprout from the ground. They gleam in green, blue, pink, and purple tones, each one emerging from the Earth like an avant-garde flower. The fiber optic lights are part of an otherworldly experience called Field of Light

The 6-acre installation was installed by British artist Bruce Munro who’s known for using light to create an emotional response. For me, his intention definitely worked. I reveled in the quiet walk along winding paths, watching as the color of the orbs evolved. Instead of my typical hurried walking pace, I slowed down and sauntered through the field. Though the skyline is visible from Field of Light, the installation feels far away from the typical hustle and bustle of the city, allowing me to detach from my daily worries. 

Expect to spend about 30 minutes strolling through Field of Light. While the exhibit is free to visit through fall, you will need to reserve a ticket online; a standby line is available for walkups. Find Field of Light at East 41st Street between First Avenue and FDR Drive. 

A green star design on the ceiling inside Daedalum. People lay down on the floor.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out | Inside Daedalum

2. Daedalum at Lincoln Center

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect when I heard about the new art installation outside of Lincoln Center. I've seen my share of interactive art exhibits, and sometimes they don't live up to the hype. On a dreary afternoon last week, I trudged in rain boots to Lincoln Center, juggling an umbrella and a laptop bag, then waited in a short line. 

But from the second I stepped inside Daedalum, my gloomy spirits melted away. Nineteen egg-shaped domes make up this inflatable labyrinth, and walking through it truly felt magical. I was immediately dazzled by the saturation of colors inside the maze—the ocean blues, emerald greens, and cherry reds that dance along the walls. I reveled in feeling lost inside the maze, inching along in shoe covers as I waited with delight to see what would await me around the next corner.

Some of the sections reminded me of a sun, a flower, or a tree, each one rendered in a trippy aesthetic. I spent about 30 minutes inside the labyrinth, going back to a few spots that I particularly enjoyed once I got my bearings. You’re even welcome to sit down or lie down inside if you’d like. 

You can show up anytime between 11am and 6pm through April 21 to wait in line, or you can reserve a "fast track" pass online. Find the exhibition behind Lincoln Center at Damrosch Park.

Tulips at West Side Community Garden.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan for Time Out

3. Tulip Festival at West Side Community Garden

While the first two recommendations focus on human-made art, sometimes nature in itself is the best masterpiece. There's no better place to admire nature's incredible artistry right now than the West Side Community Garden where the annual Tulip Festival is in bloom.

Thousands of colorful tulips—pink, yellow, red, purple, orange, and more—spill over planters for their moment in the spotlight. You can spend as long as you like. Maybe you’ve only got time for a short breeze past or maybe you can grab a spot on a bench and sit for an hour.

No matter how long you stay, consider your visit a walking meditation. Take time to notice how the red and yellow hues mix together on some petals. Watch as birds dart from branch to branch. Breathe in the hyacinth-scented air. Feel the cherry blossom petals as they gently fall from the trees above. 

For me, spending a half hour in the garden on a recent gray Wednesday afternoon brightened up my entire week.

These flowers are fleeting, though, so be sure to visit soon. Gardeners expect the tulips to be in bloom until early May. Find the garden at 123 West 89th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.

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