Summer in the City

Summer in the City

Summer in the City

EXPLORING URBAN NATURE

With summer officially here, it's time to get out and explore the beauty of New York City. When visiting this bustling metropolis, one might not think of nature. But amongst the skyscrapers and crowded streets are 1,942 parks and an abundance of idyllic places to experience calm amongst the city's vibrant energy. So, once you've experienced the urban jungle of Times Square, head to some of these top spots to see the variety of experiences NYC has to offer.

Central Park

Nestled between the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side is an oasis of nature. Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States with around 42 million people experiencing it each year. At 842 acres, it can be overwhelming to navigate, so selecting an area or two to visit can help focus your time in this beautiful park.

Some of the top areas to explore include:

Bethesda Terrace

This beautiful area overlooking the lake features one of the most well-known fountains in the world with the sculpture Angel of the Waters. This twenty-six-foot-high statue was designed by Emma Stebbins in 1873 commemorating the establishment of the Croton Aqueduct, which supplied the city with fresh water. While here, you can head out onto the water in a rowboat rented at the nearby Central Park Boathouse.

Belvedere Castle

Experience stunning panoramic views from this castle in the middle of the park near 79th Street. It was designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould in 1865 and was intended to be a Victorian Folly, a fantasy structure that provided a beautiful backdrop and had no real purpose. This changed in 1919 when the National Weather Service began taking measurements from the castle's tower to determine wind speed and direction as well as rainfall. Visitors can view the collection of natural history artifacts such as skeletons and paper mâché birds. There are also microscopes and telescopes for guests to explore the park's natural elements.

Strawberry Fields

Located between 71st and 74th Streets on the west side of the park is this living memorial to John Lennon. This 2.5-acre area is a dedicated quiet zone of the park and was opened on the 45th anniversary of the musician's birth in 1985. Here, you will find the iconic Imagine mosaic and the bronze plaque that lists the 150 countries that planted flowers and donated money to maintain the area. Across the street, you'll see the famous Dakota Apartment building where John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived. You might also recognize it from such films as Rosemary's Baby and Ghostbusters.

The Mall and Literary Walk

This stunning walkway, bordered by magnificent elm trees, is the perfect spot for a relaxing stroll. These trees were popular at the time the park was constructed but are now relatively uncommon. The Central Park Mall contains one of the largest plantations of American Elms in the country. The mall runs through the middle of the park from 66th Street to 72nd Street. It is the only formal feature in the park's naturalistic creation that Olmsted and Vaux designed. While walking along the mall's southern end, visitors pass by beautiful sculptures of well-known literary figures such as William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Burns.

The New York Botanical Garden

In the Bronx sits this 250-acre haven of nature. One feels like they've left the urban hustle and bustle and stepped into another world. With hiking trails, waterfalls, gardens, and greenhouses, nature is featured and explored. Opened in 1891, they have invited millions of people over their more than 130-year history to explore our connection to plants and the planet in a meaningful and interactive way.

With numerous gardens and trails, there is much to experience. The Thain Family Forest features 50 acres of old-growth woodlands. The Wetland Trail is perfect in the summer with its bright purple ironweed flowers in bloom. Other notable areas include the Azalea Garden, the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden with more than 650 varieties of roses, and the stunning conservatory.

Different classes and tours are offered each day. Throughout the summer, numerous events and parties offer exciting adventures. A visit here is an excellent opportunity to learn, relax, connect with nature, and augment your visit to New York City.

Governors Island

In the heart of New York Harbor, you'll find this 172-acre island. With stunning views of the city's skyline and a multitude of activities, this is a place not to be missed. Just minutes from Lower Manhattan on the ferry you'll experience an award-winning park with dozens of historic buildings, including one of the forts built for the War of 1812.

For the active visitor, the Blazing Saddles bike rental is a perfect way to explore the entire island along its many pathways. With a fleet of 1,000 bikes, they have something for everyone, including kids, adults, pedal cars, and surreys for two to six riders. On weekdays they offer free bike mornings, a one-hour free bike rental between 9am and 12pm.

For a more relaxing experience, stop by the Hammock Grove and lounge in the island's iconic red hammocks. Nestled amongst the young urban forest, it offers a terrific view of the Statue of Liberty. And this summer, for the fourth year in a row, a family of five sheep will be in the Hammock Grove. Relax with them as they munch on mugwort and other invasive species to help the horticulture team.

For those interested in climate and conservation, there is the bee sanctuary, Earth Matter compost and soil start farm, and the Circular Economy Manufacturing Microfactory. History buffs should make sure to visit Fort Jay and Castle Williams.

The High Line

On the west side of Manhattan is one of the city's most unique parks. The High Line is a nature creation on top of the long-abandoned elevated train tracks that once brought livestock to the Meatpacking District. Over a period of 25 years, while the tracks were abandoned, a self-seeded landscape of gardens emerged. This inspired a group dedicated to saving this piece of history to create this urban garden.

Running from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, there are fifteen distinct planting zones and 150,000 plants. The one-and-a-half-mile walkway creates an experience of connecting with nature amongst the skyscrapers of Manhattan. The path is filled with public art that the High Line has commissioned. It is the only park in New York City with a dedicated multimedia contemporary art program. They present works by national and international artists at varying stages of their careers.

The Nature of the City

New York City offers every kind of landscape there is. This summer, get out and experience them all. There's nothing like joining the energy of Times Square on a hot afternoon and then escaping to one of these oases of nature and enjoying all the city offers.

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