Your Personal Concierge
Top NYC Gardens
“Amid the frenzy of the bustling city, there are places where one can take refuge and enjoy the serenity of the surroundings,” says Kathleen A. Nugent-Harris, concierge at Loews Regency Hotel, where she’s worked for more than 20 years. The best way to enjoy a Zen-filled, tranquil day in NYC? Stroll through one of the city’s lush gardens—an experience Nugent-Harris describes as “relaxing and a source of inspiration.” Here, she recommends her top three.
Enter Central Park through the cast-iron Vanderbilt Gate, which originally graced the entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion in Midtown, at Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th streets and you’ll find The Conservatory Garden. “Lovingly restored in the 1980s, the garden is a place of wonder that suspends all sense of time,” Nugent-Harris says. The sprawling space is comprised of six acres of formal landscapes divided into Italian, French and English gardens. “It is officially designated a quiet zone and is therefore the perfect place to unwind after a hectic day, relax with a book, sit and meditate or stroll its meandering paths,” Nugent-Harris continues. With a geyser fountain and picturesque vistas, the Italian-designed center garden serves as a popular spot for romantic wedding photos. To the right of the center garden is a garden of concentric circles where visitors can relax near several tranquil water features. “On any given day, you might find people sitting by The Secret Garden Water Lily Pool or admiring the bronze figures in the Three Dancing Maidens fountain,” she says. “It is an enchanting spot well worth a visit.”
In the Bronx, The New York Botanical Garden—just a 20-minute journey from Midtown Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, via Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Line—is “another treasure not to be missed,” Nugent-Harris says. Inspired by the Royal Botanic Gardens in London, the Garden was chartered by New York State in 1891 and covers approximately 250 acres and is comprised of 50 different gardens. “It is a source of inspiration and unparalleled beauty,” Nugent-Harris says, adding that the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory—a large Victorian-era greenhouse—is one of the garden’s standout features. “Throughout the many gardens, each season of the year provides its own pop of color,” Nugent-Harris says. “There is a riot of color in the azaleas garden late April into May; expanses of yellows, pinks and red hues in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden in June; a patchwork of color in the perennial and herb beds; and muted majesty in the woodlands and the 37 acres of conifers.” Open thru September 7, the garden-wide Groundbreakers: Great American Gardens and The Women Who Designed Them showcases early 20th-century influential American women in the world of landscape architecture and design, as well as garden photography.
Nestled in Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan’s northern reaches, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens is a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of Medieval Europe. “The Cloisters sits atop a hill and offers phenomenal views of the Hudson River,” Nugent-Harris says. Normally associated with convents and monasteries, a cloister is a square or rectangular courtyard surrounded by covered passageways. “A fountain located in the center of the courtyard divides the garden into quadrants,” Nugent-Harris says. “A stroll through the herb garden in the courtyard of the Bonnefont Cloister reveals more than 250 species of plants.” The raised beds of herbs are grouped and labeled according to their uses. Daily tours of the gardens are offered May thru October, while guided tours of the buildings and grounds at the Cloisters take place all year—except for Saturdays. “April thru October, enjoy a sandwich or a snack outdoors in The Trie Café in the French medieval Trie Cloister.”