12 Most Tranquil Escapes from the NYC Hullabaloo

12 Most Tranquil Escapes from the NYC Hullabaloo

The hustle and bustle of New York City is certainly a part of its unique allure. At times though, be you tourist, immigrant, or bona fide Noo Yawwker, it can reach a level of boiling blood to try even the most sedate of souls.

Having pounded the pavements here for several years now, I’ve some insight into the places that may keep you from flipping your wig. If you’re one of those folks who has joined Facebook groups like “I secretly want to punch slow moving people in the back of the head…,” this post is for you.

1. Go West

As the Pet Shops Boys sagely advised, “Life is peaceful there”. At least it is if you know the right spots to hit on the West side of Manhattan. The parkway on that side is now largely complete, from the southern tip of the Financial District and stretching all the way North past Harlem. There are still some grimy and tourist-heavy sections, but areas like pier 25 and the lower Battery Park City riverside are pleasant escapes, unlike any you’ll find in the rest of Manhattan.

2. Brooklyn Bridge Park

This newly renovated and landscaped park holds many of the delights of its Manhattan brethren, with a fraction of the crowds. In actual fact, it’s a better choice of Bridge area meandering, as you get the stunning views of the Lower Manhattan skyline thrown in for good measure. Visit in the spring/summer months to take advantage of the gourmet food vendors that were smartly integrated into the design.

3. Public Libraries

Granted, these aren’t exactly exclusive to NYC, but the city certainly has more options than most, if you’re seeking a peaceful, indoor area with a little mental nourishment thrown in. As well as the magnificent Bryant Park location, I’d recommend the similarly grand Brooklyn Central Library at Grand Army Plaza and the gothic charms of the Jefferson Market facility on W. 10th St.

4. Diagon Alley-esque Coffee Shops

Fine, one need not be a wizard to access these spots, yet plenty of coffee shops in NYC seem to exist well off the beaten path. It’s less “location, location, location” for places like Grounded in the Village, or Glass Shop in Prospect Heights, more “little, languid, lip-smacking.” And yes, I’m happy to take the hit on literary credibility in return for making that Potter allusion. Accio Caffeinum!

5. Fort Tryon Park

Waaaay up in the part of Manhattan that gives Brooklynites a nosebleed just thinking about it, lies a castle atop a mount. Overlooking the Hudson with the George Washington Bridge standing proudly in the background on one side, the other offering up views off and up the Hudson Valley. If that sounds poetic, well, it really rather is. An unexpected pleasure, relatively accessible from the subway and blessed with picturesque views throughout, this is one of those spots that you’ll be glad few others have yet sought out.

6. Prospect Park

Heading back to Brooklyn — as one often should — the baby sister of Central Park is an appealing oasis in its own right. Though it does fill up at weekends during the summer, the mainly residential crowd exits the borough on weekdays, leaving it much calmer for those of you visiting or with a flexible schedule.

7. Botanic Gardens

What more restful environment than an enormous garden, landscaped with flora designed with just that feeling in mind? Again, I’m partial to the Brooklyn version, a short stroll from Prospect Park, but hear good things about those in Manhattan and the Bronx as well.

8. Staten Island

I still have significant confusion over how and why people live on New York’s most removed borough… I mean, even Jersey’s easier, right? Nonetheless, I have nothing but fond memories of taking the ferry over, skirting past the Statue of Liberty, and enjoying the view from what has to be one of the most sedate areas around a major transit center in the entire city. It’s not exactly packed with scintillating attractions but, then, sometimes the journey is the destination.

9. Brooklyn Heights

One of the borough’s grandest old neighborhoods offers both respite and resplendence, to anyone willing to hop just one subway stop over the East River. With tree-lined streets showcasing traditional brownstones and grand town houses, a soothing stroll around Brooklyn Heights gives you all of the pomp of Greenwich Village, with little of the pomposity.

10. Roosevelt Island

A solitary sliver of land lurks in the narrow East River expanse between Manhattan and Queens. Lacking much in the way of shopping or grand spectacles, Roosevelt is nowhere to be seen in the tourist guides. Make the short hop over on the ‘F’ train (or the more adventurous, potentially crowded cable car option from 2nd Ave), though, and you’ll have photogenic views of midtown to the Upper East Side all to yourself. And fear not, as with anywhere in the 5 boroughs, there is a Starbucks waiting for you.

11. Chelsea

Getting off the A/C/E at 23rd St won’t immediately strike you as a relaxing experience. So, wander over towards the Hudson and weave through the streets between 9th and 10th Avenues, down as far as 18th St. This is an area laden with art, from chic galleries to contemporary street works lining the gallery fronts, nooks and crannies. And if all that sounds too much like hard work, one of the French cafes on 9th Ave in the same area should satisfy any loafers in your group.

12. Anywhere, when it rains or freezes!

For all the rough n’ ready stereotypes, New Yorkers seem to be particularly afflicted by rain and cold avoidance syndrome, at least from the perspective of this precipitation-fatigued Brit. If you’re a hardier sort, you’ll find all but the most famous of landmarks eerily quiet in times of inclement weather.

The beauty of New York City is that you can live here for many years and still have missed some of its most appealing spots. Which places are you screaming at the screen for me to have included?

Where do you go to retreat from the hullabaloo of your home town?

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Featured image courtesy of Steve Birkett.

Steve Birkett


Steve Birkett is a passionate new media advocate who walks his talk with Esvee Group, a Brooklyn-based marketing agency. With a diverse background in business operations and marketing, coupled with the creative instincts of a true digital native, he is dedicated to bringing out the best in organizations online through a streamlined web presence. Steve is an avid writer and maintains blogs at Above The Static (web presence development) and Heavier – Than – Air (music). You can connect with him on Twitter, Linkedin, dingy music venues the length and breadth of Brooklyn.

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