Hidden attractions, historic buildings, and outdoor spaces to visit for when you need a relaxing break in the city that never sleeps.
New York City is loud. From the constant chatter overheard at restaurants, at bars and on the train, to the outdoor shows and concerts held at any given moment, the city never seems to be quiet. Luckily, the city has its share of private spaces where taking a relaxing moment to reset is possible. From architectural gems that make room for those who crave greenery, to artistic outdoor escapes that change with the season, here’s our guide to free, public spaces to find a bit of NYC peace.
Outdoor Leisure Vibes
Located on Roosevelt Island, Four Freedoms Park is an urban designer’s dream. It was originally designed by Louis Khan in the 1950s (although work did not officially begin until 2012). Today, the park has an expansive lawn that gives way to a pointed lookout. It also preserves the historic tip of the island while still allowing room for thoughtful moments of leisure. For the best route there, hop on the tram from New York’s Turtle Bay and take in the view of the East River along the way.
Tropical Paradise Vibes
One normally does not think of New York’s Midtown East as being a lush, equatorial paradise. And yet, the Ford Foundation is totally tropical. An indoor garden with greenery, a winding concrete path, and soundscapes that often tie into the exhibition space above, this calming attraction is not known to most. Take in this discreet and serene location any day.
Friendly Plant Vibes
Plants are how most New Yorker’s convert their space into an urban jungle. A well known vendor in this department would be The Cactus Store. Located behind an elongated pathway and squashed between residential buildings, the store has a warm and friendly environment. True to its name, the store’s surface areas are filled to the brim with plants and cacti galore. Known for both greenness and the occasional exhibition, one is able to depart from the busy Chinatown streets for a quiet moment to shop and take in The Cactus Store’s surroundings.
Historic African-American Vibes
Brooklyn’s Crown Heights was once a historic African-American neighborhood known as Weeksville. Today, you’ll find new developments and rows of brownstones - but in the center of it all lies and oasis known as the Weeksville Heritage Center. Designed by Capies Jefferson, visit the center on a crisp, fall day for a walk in its iconic outdoor space, where a few of the original Weeksville homes still stand.
Waterfront Sculpture Vibes
With a rotating schedule of artists and works from around the world, Socrates Sculpture Park attracts both locals and tourists alike. Located in Long Island City, the park has sweeping views of the water. Combined with quirky and creative sculptural pieces, Socrates is the perfect environment to sit back and enjoy.