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

http://riseabovethestatic.com/web-presence-development-blog/

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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16 comments
PegFitzpatrick
PegFitzpatrick moderator

I have the reverse effect for me Steve as I come to New York for the Broadway lights, people and shopping. Living in tree-filled New Hampshire, I long for excitement and thrill of NYC. I have a host of things I do each time but balance it with seeing new places as well.

New York City is my very favorite city but it is also nice to come home to the peace, quiet, and safety of New Hampshire.

Loved your ideas!

DixieLil
DixieLil

@abovethestatic You're right, Steve, as a native New Yorker, I've never been to Roosevelt Island. Downtown revitalized Brooklyn is very cool. On the first Saturday of every month, the Brooklyn Museum hosts Target Saturdays, free admission from 5 - 11 pm, music, the galleries and refreshments - what a deal! As for NYC, loving the Highline, a very cool elevated park on the West Side.

RicDragon
RicDragon

Well, I'll have to add Kingston, NY to that list - if you want to wander around an old-fashioned town with some cool coffee shops and stores. If you really want to get remote, take the Trailways bus to Phoenicia, NY in the Catskills.

dbvickery
dbvickery

I am going to Stumble this one for that vacation when I finally get to take @kfvickery to see the US Open in New York. Of course, we will be adding Broadway to this more relaxed list.

MZazeela
MZazeela

Steve,

If you go west, you would be in the Hudson. Beyond that is just wasteland! :-)

I am always discovering great get away spots. Riverside park around the 120's is fabulous as is the park around Grant's Tomb. Some of the best respites are a short subway ride away.

Cheers,Marc

PaulBiedermann
PaulBiedermann moderator

Great post, Steve! You say Go West in #1, but I would also say “Go East!,” especially after seeing in your comments below that you’ve never been to Long Island! We must get together out here sometime in the near future — perhaps in the Summer when the Island’s at its best with all our beautiful beaches!

Steve Birkett
Steve Birkett

Thanks Sharon, I've never been out to Long Island in all my time here...there are so many wonderful folks and places to visit out there, that I should really make the time!The rivers are always a worthwhile place to head for anyone unsure where to find some tranquility. Most of the parkways now have enough greenery and benches to make them a relaxing place to watch life go by. Appreciate your comment, thanks again :-)

sharongreenthal
sharongreenthal

A few blocks from my in-law's apartment on the upper east side is the East River and lots of benches. We like to sit there sometimes when we're visiting from So Cal.

Having grown up on Long Island, I can also recommend the burbs for quiet - if you want to take a train for half an hour or so!

Steve Birkett
Steve Birkett

@PegFitzpatrick Cheers Peggy! You're completely right, if I didn't have the daily hustle bustle of the city, I would be happy to dive right into it every time I came. My wife and I did a road trip through New England last summer and LOVED the greenery, beautiful scenery, and all the picturesque towns and cities. Shame we didn't have a 12 Most post to guide our journey though (*hint hint*) ;-)

Steve Birkett
Steve Birkett

@DixieLil Yyyyyes, thanks Lily! First Saturdays are lots of fun....completely transform the museum into a hybrid art gallery/dance party, fueled by some tasty booze :-) I keep returning to the Highline, as you get a different experience every time. It's often packed now but there are plenty of wider spots that offer a chance to admire the park and sit back with a coffee. Ahhhh, I feel more relaxed just thinking about it.

Steve Birkett
Steve Birkett

@RicDragon Though I was originally focused on escapes within the city itself, I love the recommendations farther afield that it has brought out. You certainly have one of the most beautiful areas up there in Dragon Land, Ric. My wife and I took a long weekend road trip to Kingston and the Lower Catskill area last year and absolutely adored it. We actually went to Sweet Sue's in Phoenicia for breakfast.....although it doesn't really 'escape the city' when all the accents are from NYC!Thanks for your thoughts Ric!

Steve Birkett
Steve Birkett

@MZazeela Hi Marc. Indeed, although I'm confident that the smart bunch of folks who read 12 Most will have the wherewithal to stop walking when confronted with a murky looking Hudson ;-) As for Jersey being a wasteland.......I'll leave that to anyone from the sixth borough to weigh in!! I've been to Riverside park around the 90's but never that far up. Also haven't heard of Grant's Tomb, so I have some traveling to do now. Thanks for your comment and additions. Even more to help me get the most out of my unlimited metrocard :-)

Steve Birkett
Steve Birkett

@PaulBiedermann Cheers Paul! Yes, I think I focused largely on the immediate city retreats, places that one can access within a short subway ride or walk, as those are my day to day options. And the city is FULL of them :-)

For a weekend or longer, though, nothing beats a good drive or train out of the urban jungle.....and the beaches of your particular Island just shot to the top of my list!

sharongreenthal
sharongreenthal

@RicDragon Not sure if that's what its called. In-laws live at 86th and York, so we just walk down 86th Street. I have to add, even though it's not especially quiet, that I love love love Washington Square Park in the village - some of the best people watching there is!

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