When the concrete part of this concrete jungle gets you down, pretend you’re in a real jungle at a New York City garden. More isolated than city parks, these spaces make New York City feel like a nature escape. Find peace, plants, (and okay, the occasional pigeon) at New York City’s secret gardens.
A garden located on a little-explored island between Manhattan and Queens is an ideal place to pretend you’re on vacation. Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is the first memorial honoring the former U.S. president in his home state and is one more reason to visit New York City’s Roosevelt Island. The minimalist garden designed by Louis Kahn features a triangular lawn framed by two allées pointing directly at the memorial.
When the buzzing urban atmosphere of the Metropolitan Museum of Art feels overwhelming, travel uptown to the museum’s lesser-known northern Manhattan branch, The Cloisters. Occupying four acres overlooking the Hudson River in Fort Tryon Park, the museum comprises three gardens dedicated to Europe’s Middle Ages and four authentic medieval cloisters dismantled in Europe and rebuilt in New York City.
Since 1978, New Yorkers have flocked to one East Village space to escape city stresses. The volunteer-maintained Creative Little Garden lives up to its name with its long, narrow shape, rock garden, and multiple seating areas where many locals settle down to relax, create, and enjoy a break.
At the Noguchi Museum, a traditional Japanese garden grows in Long Island City, Queens. Seamlessly connecting the museum’s indoor and outdoor spaces, the garden contains 23 pieces of basalt and granite sculpture as well as artistically-arranged greenery: columnar trees lead the eye upward while small shrubs provide pleasant surprises along the paved concrete path.
Before you balk at the thought of seeking serenity in a cemetery (where the brand of peace may be somewhat deeper than what you’re after), understand what makes Green-Wood Cemetery unique. The 1838-built National Historic Landmark comprises 478 acres of hills, valleys, and ponds, which by the early 1860s were already attracting 500,000 visitors a year. In addition to foliage and flowers, the ground here sprouts one of the world’s largest outdoor collections of 19th and 20th-century statuary.
A necessary skill, New Yorkers can do wonders with small spaces, like this “vest pocket park” in Midtown, Manhattan. In its 60 by 120-feet space, the 1971-established Greenacre Park manages to fit a 25-foot high waterfall, an outdoor cafe, and shade-providing honey locusts. Following a visit here, you’ll leave amazed by New York City – and curious as to who Greenacre Park’s decorator was…
On East 42nd Street between First and Second Avenues lies a rainwater-grown tropical forest – really. The Ford Foundation Atrium is a 10-story glass structure housing towering trees, hanging vines, and gardenias, all kept healthy with a reserve of New York City rainwater. Need somewhere to process this surprising discovery? The atrium’s focal contemplative pond makes for a perfect spot.
Looking at West Side Community Garden today, it’s hard to believe that just 40 years ago the space amounted to vacant lots and dilapidated buildings filled with squatters. Like many New York City success stories, the 16,000-square-foot garden renowned for its annual tulip festival was the doing of locals, who to this day are responsible for the 15,000-plus tulips that highlight this New Yorker triumph each April.