New York’s Top 5 Nature Attractions Are Quiet Oases

As much as New York City buzzes and bustles, its nature areas provide a respite from the distractions of daily life. New York’s 1,942 parks are interwoven with one another, to the city’s waterfront and beaches, and to over 100 miles of pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly greenways. When the weather isn’t cooperative, lush indoor attractions step right in, providing oases that bring the outdoors in. 

Whatever the season, it’s great to know you can hit the reset button at these verdant, peaceful environs.

  1. Occupying 10,000 acres of parkland, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (304 Cross Bay Blvd., Queens, 718-318-4340, nyharborparks.org) fosters rare native habitats. Intersecting forests and salt marshes past freshwater ponds, there are many trails that beg for exploration. Just be sure to watch for resident wildlife — the park is frequented by over 50 species of butterflies and 330 species of birds.
  2. A creative repurposing of a long-abandoned freight railway, 1.45-mile The High Line sits 30 feet above busy 11th Avenue, between Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street, and between 10th and 12th Avenues. The public park on Manhattan's West Side is a horticultural haven, with picturesque plantings and views of the Hudson River and New York City skyline. Not to be overlooked: the seasonal food vendors and world-class contemporary art.
  3. A placid plot adjacent to Fifth Avenue and the Museum Mile, six-acre Conservatory Garden (1233 5th Ave., New York, 212-310-6600, centralpark.com) is a trio of formal gardens. It’s also one of eight designated "quiet zones" in Central Park. Seek solace in the central Italian garden, with its wisteria pergola and crabapple trees; the southern lilac and magnolia-frocked English garden; and — at the northern end — the French garden, site of Walter Schott's sculpture, Three Dancing Maidens. At the latter, you’ll find an abundance of tulips in spring and Korean chrysanthemums each autumn. 
  4. New York Botanical Garden
    When weather allows, stroll the manicured outdoor flower gardens, large, open expanses, and winding, flower-fringed trails at the New York Botanical Garden (2900 Southern Blvd., The Bronx, 718-817-8700, nybg.org). Whatever the elements, the stunning, Victorian-style Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is an ethereal escape under glass. Filled with humid tropical rainforests; arid, cactus-stippled deserts; towering palms from far corners of the world; and aquatic and carnivorous plants. From early summer through fall, find a changing array of flora in the courtyards; come winter, the impeccable greenhouses host a train show, which features the city in miniature. 
  5. A looping path connects the series of gardens, conservatories and pavilions at 52-acre The Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Prospect Heights (990 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, 718-623-7200, bbg.org). The living museum cultivates 18,000 kinds of plants from the world over. Marvel at meticulously trained bonsais, rare orchids and magical desert plants. Stroll the outdoor Shakespeare garden, arriving at a peaceful, Japanese-inspired lily pond with a romantic, arching bridge. Depending on the season, you can also glean pretty pink peonies; cherry blossoms, their confetti-petals floating through the air; or elegant rose bushes bursting with fragrant flowers.

Beyond these amazing spaces, there are plenty more waiting to be explored. Discover some on our blog.

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