clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Explore 8 of the Quietest Spots In the City's Most Popular Parks

New, 2 comments

For all of its built-up space, New York City is chock-full of parks and gardens that offer at least some reprieve from the concrete jungle. But in a city of 8 million with tourists galore, it's tough to find a place to truly get away from it all. (Case in point: Sheep Meadow on a summer weekend.) While two of the city's best-known parks, Central and Prospect, attract millions of visitors each year, there are still places within them that are a whole lot less trafficked than their better-known fields and reservoirs. If looking for a break from NYC, or for a new adventure, check out these eight places where true quiet can be found in Central and Prospect parks.

Prospect Park

↑ Vale of Cashmere
This long over-looked corner of Prospect Park will soon get a makeover, but it's tucked-away location means it will likely remain one of the most uncrowded spots. On a map, it's practically right beside the jam-packed Long Meadow, but a slight hill and crumbling pathway often deter visitors—and not without reason. The area has become known for illicit activities (perhaps why it is uncrowded), but this is no reason to avoid it. The fountains are overrun with weeds and the rose garden's definitely not in bloom, but it has that beautiful look that only ruined masterpieces can possess. Enjoy it before it becomes perfect again. ↓

↑ Ravine
Sandwiched between the Long Meadow and the Nethermead, the Ravine is often overlooked, or simply passed through as a way to get from here to there. But next time, take a turn down an unfamiliar path. Olmsted and Vaux designed the Ravine to evoke a natural forest, and you'll be amazed at how much it does. A stream trickling in the distance, birds flitting around, winding pathways that seem to have no end, and best of all, waterfalls. Despite being in the middle of the park, you'll rarely encounter more than a handful of people in these woods. ↓

↑ Lookout Hill
At the western end of Center Drive, there's a steep staircase that seems to go nowhere—climb it. It leads to the top of Lookout Hill, with views all the way to Coney Island and the Atlantic Ocean. It's also surrounded with winding pathways that lead you through meadows of wildflowers and patches of woods, providing ample space for uninterrupted wandering. ↓

↑ Lakeside Surrounds
The new Lakeside complex (where Wollman Rink once was) brought new access to the waterfront in the park, but the pathways around the lake are still some of the park's less-traveled roads, especially below Breeze Hill near Terrace Bridge. It's not uncommon to see park-goers gazing down from Wellhouse Drive, clearly thinking, "How did they get there?" ↓

Central Park

↑ North Woods
The North Woods in Central Park's northwest corner is one of three of the park's woodland areas. In the North Woods, nature is left to run its course, with fallen trees left alone much as they would be in the wild. Because the North Woods are so far, er, north, they don't get as much foot traffic as more southern portions of the park, but they're worth traveling to for their peaceful aura and less-trodden trails. The area is especially popular amongst birdwatchers, as birds often pause here in their migrations. ↓

↑ The Ramble
This 36-acre stretch of wild garden is in the heart of Central Park, but might deter the casual sunbather because of its dense landscape and leafy canopy. Although the Ramble is meant to evoke the natural landscape native to the area, the entire swath was planted by Vaux and Olmstead. It was one of the first areas of Central Park that was developed, and because of that, some of the trees date back as early as 1859. When the Ramble was first planted, it was intended as a place of seclusion from carriage drives, bridle paths, and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A stroll through the Ramble still invokes feelings of being miles away from the country's largest city, save for the occassional skyscraper poking through the trees. ↓

↑ The Ravine
When Vaux and Olmsted planned the Ravine, a secluded waterway at the north end of the park, they envisioned it as a place where people who couldn't afford refuge from the city could go to get away. Nestled within the larger North Woods area, the Ravine is surrounded by a deciduous forest of oak, hickory, maple, and ash, and is dammed in several places to create waterfalls. Because of its northern location, the Ravine gets only a handful of visitors compared to places like the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, but its relative quiet is one of things that makes it so nice. ↓

↑ Shakespeare Garden
Tucked between the 79th Street Traverse, West Drive, and Turtle Pond, the four-acre Shakespeare Garden is a quiet ode to the great playwright. Unlike Strawberry Fields, which has become the bustling unofficial Central Park hub of Beatles devotees, Shakespeare Garden enjoys a less-trafficked existence. The garden teems with flowers and bushes mentioned in Shakespeare's works, like rosemary, pansies, and thistle, as well as plants found in Shakespeare's Stratford-Upon-Avon garden. Bronze plaques with quotes alluding to the species' mention in the playwright's works line the garden. ↓

· Discover 30 of New York City's Best Secret Gardens [Curbed]
· Historic Maps Reveal the Secrets of Four Iconic NYC Parks [Curbed]
· All Prospect Park coverage [Curbed]
· All Central Park coverage [Curbed]