Health + Fitness

Solace and the City: The Best Places to Relax in New York City

New York parks, gardens, like this one at The Cloisters, and even a kitty cafe are some of the best ways to find solace in the city. (Photo: Marmaduke St. John / Alamy Stock Photo)

New York City’s pulse beats with an intensity found in few other places on Earth. Its iconic high rises, cacophony of sounds, and bustling crowds move with a vibrant energy that invigorates. Eventually, even diehard New Yorkers crave a calming space to peace out and relax.

Where to go when you need to crank down the hectic pace and take a breather? These idyllic, urban hideaways allow you to unplug and unwind even in the midst of Manhattan’s madness.

The Ramble, Central Park

As the city’s premiere sprawling urban oasis, Central Park’s grassy lawns can still feel crowded, particularly on weekends when visitors and locals cram together on lawn chairs and blankets. Forgo the fields, and instead, wind your way into the park’s Ramble. This tangled patch of hilly, rocky terrain in the heart of the park manages to remain blissfully quiet and crowd-free. A lush, tree-filled landscape shades you from the sun and obscures the high rises looming in the distance. As you stroll along the twisting trails and catch glimpses of the park’s sparkling lake, it’s easy to forget you’re not in the depths of a remote forest.

Great Jones Spa, NoHo

Tucked away from the bustling sidewalks, traffic, and blaring horns of the trendy NoHo neighborhood, Great Jones Spa grants visitors access to an extraordinary world of pampering and relaxation. The subterranean space includes a 3-storey waterfall, and feng-shui designed wet lounge complete with hot tub, river rock sauna, chakra-light steam room, and plunge pool. Pamper your weary self with a decadent treatment like the spa’s Signature Massage, which blends Swedish or deep tissue techniques with hot stones, hot towels, and healing aromatherapy oils.

The Frick Collection, Upper East Side

Art lovers needing to unwind should make their way to the Upper East Side, bypassing the jam-packed Metropolitan Museum in favor of the infinitely calming Frick Collection. Housed in an opulent Gilded Age mansion formerly owned by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, the rarely crowded collection exhibits Old Master works from the 14th through 19th centuries. When you’re not being soothed by the sights of Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Whistler’s works, enjoy the home’s ornate architecture and quiet halls. It’s possible to head to a bench alongside the interior court’s reflecting pool for a moment of Zen.

The Cloisters, Washington Heights

Head up to the cliffs of Washington Heights to visit one of the city’s most remarkable hideaways. Tucked into 66-acre Fort Tryon Park, The Cloisters and its manicured grounds are an offshoot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With an ornate stone exterior inspired by the design of European abbeys, The Cloisters exhibits art, architecture, and artifacts from Medieval Europe. You can wander through quiet halls, stroll through the decorative gardens, and hike the park’s peaceful trails, stopping to admire sprawling views of the sparkling Hudson River below your perch.

Cozy up to the cats at Meow Parlour. (Photo: Robert K. Chin - Storefronts / Alamy Stock Photo)
Cozy up to the cats at Meow Parlour, Lower East Side. (Photo: Robert K. Chin – Storefronts / Alamy Stock Photo)

Vegging out watching YouTube cat videos is so 2014. Branch out from that lonely tradition and head to Meow Parlour for your furry feline fix. The Lower East Side’s Meow Parlour is a cat cafe, a trend that’s been popping in up in cities like Tokyo and San Francisco, as well as the Big Apple. Kitties roam free at a cat cafe, and patrons rent slots of time — from 30 minutes to 5 hours — which they can spend cuddling and relaxing with the little furballs. Stop by the Meow Parlour Patisserie before your appointment and bring coffee and kitty-shaped macarons and cookies with you to snack on as you cozy up with the cats.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

When warm spring temperatures unleash New Yorkers from their apartments and offices, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens offers a welcome, soul-soothing respite. The park is particularly stunning during cherry blossom season when the cherry trees explode with pink blooms; plan ahead and bring a blanket so you can lay down and nap amidst the trees in the Cherry Esplanade. The park’s paths wind through an idyllic landscape chock full of unique plants and flowers. Wander to the Japanese Pond with a book and set up quiet camp for an afternoon.