The Green side of the Big Apple: Nature trails and calm spaces around New York City
Here's one last post from my recent trip to the U.S. and then I promise to return to Italy!
My memories of New York were mostly of soaring skyscrapers and endless asphalt, but on my recent trip I set out to discover some of the green spaces within the city (and neighboring Brooklyn). I visited a park or garden every day and couldn't believe how much gorgeous NATURE there is! Here are some of my findings (I omitted Central Park because it's kind of obvious, but it's also HUGE and amazing so put that on your list too):
This creative new park opened the week that I was there, so I rushed over to see it. It's called "Little Island @Pier 55" and construction began in 2013 following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. 267 concrete piles were sunk into the bedrock, with a timed break to allow for fish migration seasons. There are some food stalls if you want to grab a bite, and several fun interactive musical installations. Read all about the fascinating history of the pier here.
There's also a large amphitheater where they host music and arts performances.
Covid measures are in place for the moment so be sure to check the website before you go. Entrance is free.
THE HIGH LINE
Another creative park project is called The High Line, a 1.5-mile walkway built over an abandoned elevated rail line. The old “West Side Elevated Line" was built in the 1930s to lift trains off of the crowded streets below, and they delivered meat, dairy and produce into the heart of the city. The line gradually fell into disuse, and by the 1980s it was completely abandoned and destined for demolition. 20 years later the tracks were overgrown and reclaimed by nature, which sparked the idea to make it into a park, the first section of which was opened in 2009. Read more about this exciting project here. There are a few food and drink stalls, as well as lounging benches and water fountains (which were closed due to Covid, however, so bring your own bottle!). Entrance is free but you have to reserve an entry time due to Covid.
They also have a multimedia contemporary art program that aims to foster a dialogue with the urban landscape. Read more about that here. When I was there they had this work on display at the Plinth, an art space which opened in 2019.
PROSPECT PARK (Brooklyn)
The biggest surprise of my trip was Prospect Park, in Brooklyn. It's huge (526 acres or 213 hectares) and has all sorts of features like a small waterfall and lake, and covered structures (housing an African dance lesson while I was there!). The park was FULL of people celebrating the arrival of spring and enjoying being out after lockdown.
I saw this sweet mother swan taking her babies for a swim. ❤️
My niece recommended Bryant Park, which I had never heard of but is apparently "visited by more than 12 million people each year and is one of the busiest public spaces in the world"! It's a gorgeous expanse of green right in mid-town Manhattan and has all sorts of fun things like Ping-Pong tables, an "Art Cart," a reading room, areas for games and chess, and of course food, drink and shops. .
You can even go on bird-watching tours and they have a live webcam of their apiary!
THE BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN
A friend suggested we meet at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and it, too, was marvelous. The garden now covers 52 acres and it was first designed in the early 1900s as the city began to grow. Now you find all sorts of flowers as well as educational and research programs, and as always there is a cafe' when you need to stop and quit smelling the roses. 😉
There were some greenhouses with succulents but they were closed due to Covid.
There is an entrance fee and some areas were closed due to Covid, so check their website before you go.
THE HUDSON RIVER WATERFRONT
The waterfront along the Hudson is equipped with trails, parks, restaurants, water fountains, and bike lanes, and you can find outdoor activities like yoga and musical performances. You can rent a set of wheels at Citi Bike share and see lots more of the city! I wish I had done it as I think I wore a hole in my hiking sandals!
There are lots of green spaces along the riverfront, and even some friendly Canadian Geese who brought their babies up to nibble on the green grasses!
There were also lots of water fountains, so bring a bottle with you!
It was a great place to watch the sunset. ❤️
WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK
One of New York's most iconic parks, Washington Square Park is almost 10 acres and I was surprised at how green it was!
Of course there's a statue of George Washington...
But there's also this guy!
This statue of Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi was created by Giovanni Turini, one of the editors of the newspaper Il Progresso Italo-Americano. Turini had served in Garibaldi's 4th Regiment in the campaign against Austria in 1866.
The park was bustling, with jazz trios, street artists, and students celebrating graduation in their caps and gowns.
AND SO MANY MORE...
There were lots of little parks scattered throughout the city, providing trees and benches and quiet spaces to take a break from the hustle and bustle. Here below is Winston Churchill Square, Abingdon Square, and a small park at the Stonewall National Monument which commemorates the Gay Liberation struggle that took place at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 (Happy Pride Month!!!).
The vaccination effort was well under way so there was a feeling of optimism, relief, and JOY, as expressed in this lovely little bit of street art. ❤️
Thanks for joining me on my walks around the city. I had such a great time, and seeing so much green totally changed the way I see the city. I'm back in Italy now but look forward to more explorations in the country I left behind! 🙂
I hope to be able to return to guiding soon, but until then, I'll be here in the blog-o-verse. If you'd like to help keep me in hiking sandals (Chacos for the win!), drop a few bucks into the "tip jar" (click here, or in the menu tab above), and THANK YOU! 🙏
Ciao e ci vediamo in Italia!
(Bye and see you in Italy)