New York City is filled with incredible art, diverse cultures, and interesting people, which is why it can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Lots of visitors — and even locals — sometimes want to get away from its busy streets, yearning to be surrounded by Mother Nature instead. After all, it’s good for your body and mind. Psychologist Irina Wen explains that being in green spaces is an effective stress reliever, and it encourages people to be more active. This, in turn, can be good for physical health as well.
All in all, the presence of green spaces is especially crucial for urban dwellers, as The Conversation points out that the environment in cities can be detrimental to one’s overall wellbeing. There are a few factors that add to this, including bright lights, street noise, and congestion. The so-called “canyon effect” of tall buildings should also be considered, as larger buildings are known to trap heat within “canyons” on a city grid, altering the speed and intensity of the wind and reducing light penetration.
All of these environmental factors have long been associated with poor mental health. Therefore, some of the stress experienced by people in NYC can be tied to the fact that the city is chockfull with high-rise structures. In fact, a feature by Yoreevo notes that the city is home to at least 13,500 buildings above six stories, with many even surpassing 40 floors. The latter comprises what’s classified as skyscrapers, such as the iconic Empire State building. All of these man-made structures continue to strengthen the city’s reputation as a concrete jungle, making green spaces less and less associated with the Big Apple.
Thankfully for New Yorkers and tourists, however, there are a good number of places that operate as temporarily retreats from the hustle and bustle of the city and will allow people to reconnect with nature.
Visit Central Park
Central Park is the most visited urban park in the entire country — but there’s no need to worry about the number of visitors that it gets. Because it covers 843 acres, you can still get some much needed alone time.
You can start by visiting The Pond and Hallett Nature Sanctuary in the southeast corner. It has a zoo, a meadow popular with Frisbee players, and a lake where boating is allowed.
Outdoor enthusiasts have also found Central Park to be a prime bird-watching spot, specifically The Ramble, the largest wooded section of the park. Professional birding tour guide Birding Bob suggests visiting in early May, which is when you might see up to 125 different birds!
The High Line
The High Line is a great example of trash turned into treasure. It’s a renovated abandoned rail trail that is now one of the most famous green spaces in all of Manhattan. Its 1.45-mile long trail is professionally landscaped with 120 species of plants and benches made out of reclaimed timber.
Paley ParkGreen spaces don’t have to be huge in order to be relaxing, and this is what Paley Park has demonstrated over the last 52 years. The main feature of this pocket park in Midtown Manhattan is an artificial waterfall, which produces a sound that’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing. If you close your eyes for a few minutes and meditate, you might even forget that you’re in New York!
Bryant Park is just in front of the New York Public Library. It’s basically a huge lawn lined with London plane trees that has outdoor tables and chairs. It has a chill atmosphere that you can easily enjoy by yourself or with a companion.
Did you know that Brooklyn has a forest? It’s called the Ravine, which is located within Prospect Park. The borough’s only forest covers 146 acres and there’s a stream and gorge that remind locals of the Adirondack Mountains, a mountain range in the northeastern part of New York State. Prospect Park is more isolated than the other spots highlighted above, making it perfect for long, peaceful walks.
New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx boasts 50 gardens, wetlands, a waterfall, and at least one million plants. The best time to go here is from mid-April to late May when the flowers and cherry trees are in full bloom. It’s worth a visit even if you don’t have a green thumb.
New York City can be a lot to handle, as it’s one of those places that truly represent America. It’s like Miami which, is big and loud, especially with respect to the buildings. Every once in a while, you may need some peace and quiet, which is easy to get in NYC’s nature-filled parks and gardens.