“My velvet escape travel tip” is a guest series about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. With this series, I hope to uncover travel tips from places around the world to help visitors have a truly local experience.
I’m a serious nature lover, even in my hometown. But Manhattan hardly seems like a bastion of spacious green spaces, well, except for Central Park that’s not only on everyone’s radar — cyclists, bladers and a motley crew of other personalities are just about everywhere — but at 840-some acres, it’s just too expansive for me. I prefer more petite lush acreages.
What’s interesting is that most visitors and even many native New Yorkers are unaware of the Conservatory Garden, Central Park’s only formal garden. In fact, I only found out about it several years ago. Located at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue, this garden is an overlooked and underappreciated gem that’s a stimulus to the senses. Named for the former glass conservatory that was erected in 1899 and then demolished in 1934, the garden is noted for its towering wrought iron gates that front Fifth Avenue. (These came from Cornelius Vanderbilt’s house on 59th Street that was torn down in the 1920s.)
Once inside, I find myself transported to a peaceful oasis. A colorful six-acre expanse spreads before me with a manicured green lawn, allées of crabapple trees, and carefully trimmed yew hedges. What’s most striking is the gushing central fountain amidst the brilliant green.
Visiting on a weekday is especially calming — but don’t expect to find any cyclists or bladers here no matter the day. That’s when I stop at one of the many benches, either in the shade or full sun, to work on my laptop, relax with a book or a sketchpad, or meditate. Aside from sitting under the brooding arms of the crabapple trees, my favorite spot is under the purple-blossomed wisteria pergola that curves along the west side of the garden at a level that provides lovely panoramic views. (If it’s a sweltering summer, this is the best place to seek shelter from the sun.) If you walk north from the central lawn, you’ll find the French Garden with its lovely bronze sculpture named “Three Dancing Maidens.” Depending on the season, there may be thousands of chrysanthemums or tulips planted in a spiral pattern.
I’m particularly fond of the South or English Garden that’s often referred to as the Secret Garden in honor of the classic children’s book by the same name. This garden has more of a more hidden quality thanks to the hedges that frame this space. Amongst the blooming fragrant lilies and daffodils is a reflecting pool dotted with water lilies and a bronze sculpture fountain of two children from the novel, Mary and Dickon.
Another refreshing spot, and one also overlooked by many visitors, is the adjacent Woodland Slope, a narrow stretch planted with shade-loving botanicals that really come alive in the springtime.
Each time I visit this garden, I find a flower I hadn’t noticed before or I discover a new scent or even an unusual hue of blue, pink or other shades of the spectrum. As a writer and journalist, I prefer to create in a natural environment, as opposed to working at home or in an office. The Conservatory Garden provides the perfect venue for me to be creative while also leaving me with a sense of calm, my idea of a velvet escape. Who says New York City has to be all about a frenetic pace?
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About this week’s guest writer
Journalist Jeanine Barone writes and tweets about travel, food, design, art and architecture. No matter where she roams, she’s always seeking out what she calls “hidden treasures,” in other words authentic experiences that provide insights into the heart of the land and it’s people. Visit Jeanine’s travel site, J The Travel Authority and follow her on Twitter for a wealth of travel tips and insights.
Read more ‘My velvet escape travel tips‘: