For many people New York is the ultimate city break – the fun never stops in the city that never sleeps. But even the most seasoned New Yorkers need a breather from time to time. Escape for an afternoon from the noise and pace of New York City with a few precious hours at one of these relaxing locations.
Roosevelt Island is the perfect place to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon. It is a two-mile stretch of land lying in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, offering visitors its own unique perspective of the city’s skyline, and a clean, park-like setting. Take the F-line on the subway to the Roosevelt Island Station or enjoy a ride on the historic Roosevelt Island Tramway and go for a stroll.
Heading north, take the Riverwalk, a path along the river on the Manhattan side, up toward the lighthouse, a simple but dramatic stone building standing at the northern tip of the island. Its isolated setting is solemn but peaceful. Heading south again, stop by the Octagon, a beautiful apartment building, which has housed politicians and celebrities since its restoration in 2006.
From the Octagon hop aboard the island’s Red Bus and take a ride down picturesque Main Street before stopping at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. This beautiful building is now a community center, as is its southern neighbor The Blackwell House. Both buildings were originally built following the Revolutionary War, and have been meticulously maintained. Visiting them is like time-traveling back to a simpler era in New York’s history.
Toward the southern end of the island, pass under the Greensboro Bridge and walk past the historic Smallpox Hospital toward the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. This beautiful tree-lined park has incredible views of the New York skyline, particularly of the United Nations just across the river. There aren’t too many places to eat on Roosevelt Island, but you’ll find several options along the West Promenade.
Toward the northern end of Manhattan, in Fort Tryon Park, is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art known as The Cloisters. Originally commissioned by John D. Rockefeller Jr., it incorporates parts from five different European abbeys, disassembled brick by brick and reconstructed on a hill overlooking the Hudson. The architecture alone is stunning, especially the Sant Miquel de Cuixà cloister and the adjacent Chapter House, and even more treasures are held inside.
The Cloisters art collection is extensive, consisting of art and artifacts gathered mainly from the 12th to the 15th centuries, many collected by Rockefeller himself. Approximately five thousand of these treasures are on display through the buildings and grounds, so take your time exploring. Even the gardens and landscaping pays homage to the medieval style, as they were designed by consulting ancient manuscripts. The herb gardens are especially quiet and still, perfect for an afternoon of contemplation or meditation.
If you visit The Cloisters, we recommend taking an audio tour. One of our favorites is the Highlights Tour: New & Familiar Masterpieces. This itinerary leads you through galleries that range from quietly familiar and intimate to striking and inspiring. Whatever you decide to do on your visit, plan to take at least a half day to make the most of it.
The Frick Collection
On the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street, is the former home of Renaissance art collector Henry Clay Frick. His house became a public museum after his death, and as the collection expanded, the Frick became a preeminent small museum featuring European master painters such as Vermeer, Goya, and van Eyk, as well as many works of sculpture and decorative arts.
The pleasure of the Frick Collection is also partly in the beauty of the house, tucked away off Fifth Avenue, a haven of quiet in a busy corner of Manhattan. You can wander through the rooms and light-filled garden court for a quick lunchtime escape, or enjoy a whole day of exploring. The Frick Collection hosts many cultural and educational events throughout the year – attend a concert and enjoy performances by internationally acclaimed musicians, or join artists, writers, scholars, and performers for special Salon Evenings. On selected Sunday afternoons, Studio Programs allow budding artists (and the public) to sketch in the Garden Court – they’ll provide the materials and there’s even an art instructor on hand to guide you.