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New York City might be constantly buzzing with activity, but there are moments of peace and quiet to be found on the fringes.
“That’ll be… hot!” This was the diplomatic reaction of everyone who found out I was going to New York in July. Even though the city has a reputation as being the most cultured, most exciting, most interesting place in the Western World, the dog days of summer (and the piles of sweltering sidewalk garbage) do not exactly paint Midtown in its most flattering light.
But outside the sweaty downtown core and shoulder-to-shoulder rush hours, you’ll find that New Yorkers are well versed in making space for peace, quiet and nature. Here’s where to find it on your next trip.
New York Botanical Gardens is a quick train ride from Grand Central, so snag a cardamom bun from the new Great Northern Food Hall before riding the rails to the Bronx. The curators of the garden are thoughtful about celebrating design alongside botany—famed Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx has a special exhibit on now, including an homage to his wavy paved walkways, abstract water features and hundreds of species of plants discovered during his expeditions into the jungle.
Fit Tours NYC and Brooklyn Bike Tours are two options to get you moving post flight, and take you through some of the prettier, greener parts of town—let guides take you through Brooklyn Bridge Park (complete with yoga breaks on the bridge itself), or pedal along the waterfront past bocce courts in the new five-acre green space on the site of the former Domino Sugar Refinery.
Skip the chaos of the usual cast of cultural institutions in favour of some off-the-beaten path options: the Met Cloisters (accessible with your CityPass) is a surprising haven of medieval artworks and tapestries on the far north tip of Manhattan, and you can find a more literally meditative experience at the Rubin Museum of Art, where Wednesdays feature a guided meditation on one of the pieces of the extensive collection of Himalayan art work. If you really want some quality time with the artwork though, grab a ticket to the museum’s annual Dream Over, where attendees are paired—via questionnaire—with a painting and coached on dreaming techniques before camping out overnight in front of the art.
Jonathan Waxman’s restaurant/bar Jams serves up some killer market-modern meals—the rotating menu features dishes like seared Montauk squid and griddled heirloom carrots with almond-hazelnut romesco—but if you’re feeling that health kick, order up a Green House: a nice tale glass of cucumber, kale celery, citrus and bee pollen… oh, and gin.
Is it an interactive sculpture, or a hyper-stylized way to tackle Leg Day? Either way, the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Vessel—part of the massive, and very expensive, new Hudson Yards complex—is a sight to be seen, either from below, or at the very tip-top of the structure (if you can find your way there through the Escher-like maze of steps, that is.) When you’re back on solid ground, pop into the elaborate Shed arts hub for contemporary galleries, performance art or music.
It doesn’t really get more farm-to-table than this, considering that Blenheim in the West Village literally grows its own crops and raises its own livestock upstate to provide the restaurant with everything it needs on a 150-acre plot of land in the Catskills. (Catch owner Morten Sohlberg in a chatty mood and he may share a story about the time he learned how to suture an injured hog via Youtube.) NYC Restaurant Week is an excellent time to experiment with farm-fresh fare: expect outrageously fresh gazpacho and poached farm eggs with fried eggplant among your options.
The city may never sleep, but you have to eventually, so settle in at 1 Hotel Central Park or 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge for a beautiful break from the grind. Both properties are park adjacent, so soak up the views from the sustainably minded rooms (think organic cotton bedding, plants galore, filtered water-bottle fill stations, “ugly fruit” for snacking in the lobby, iPad operated energy efficient temperature control) before crashing.
Bars That Used to be Other Things is our preferred category of watering hole, and Pilot, a sailboat-turned-drinking-establishment in Brooklyn goes above and beyond, pairing a charming ahoy-matey environment with both solid margaritas and a view of the Manhattan skyline.
FaceGym makes some pretty dramatic claims—for one, that the “40 forgotten muscles” on your face should be stimulated weekly for maximum tone and tightness—but whether it’s actually an alternative to a facelift or not, it feels surprisingly good to have someone massage your cheeks. Who cares whether your glow lasts any longer than your lunch at the swanky, retro-glam L’Avenue upstairs? You’ve just had 45 very chill minutes of dewy serums, soothing pressure points and tension-releasing jawline stretches.
On first glance, a champagne sunset cruise to the Statue of Liberty seems like it’s got high potential to be a cheese-fest, but when the wood-panelled cruiser is barreling along the coast, the wind is whipping through your hair and the bubbles are flying, and The Lady is backlit by a pink sky like she’s in the establishing shot of a 1990s rom-com, it’s hard to feel anything but good about the decision to lean in.
The Cathay Pacific lounge at YVR has its own noodle bar, so carbo load in advance for maximum napping on the red-eye. Of course, if you splurge on business class, you’ll find catching a few Zs shouldn’t be a problem: the pillows and duvets are nice enough to want to steal, and the seats recline until fully flat in your private pod seat.