A Guide to the Secret Gardens of NYC
As a Manhattanite of 4 years, I’ve learned the only way to survive the constant thrum of the city is to find miniature escapes. Everyone has their own version of this — some take the train upstate, others walk along the river, while others enjoy hidden coffee shops they find refuge in. But when spring and summer roll around, everyone is taking their vitamin D deficient and nature deprived bodies to the park for a good dose of forest bathing. (Yes, this is a real thing.)
However, NYC parks are often packed with tourists (ahem, Central Park), or consist of a triangle of concrete, one tree, and a few benches (shout-out to the ‘park’ by my house). Four years in, I finally discovered the secret gardens of NYC, which, having been a huge fan of The Secret Garden as a small child, was a real-life fantasy for me.
So, iPhone in hand (I am not a professional photographer!), I ran around the city to find the secret gardens of Manhattan. These hidden parks are little magic pockets of green that most locals don’t know about, and so they remain quiet and calm — ideal little escapes from the hustle and bustle of the city.
1. Jefferson Market Garden
This little garden is located on Greenwich Avenue between 6th Avenue and 10th Street. It’s a privately owned garden that’s available for public use, so drop a donation in when you visit!
Jefferson Market Garden is a positively enchanting little triangle of green with a path around the circumference and a few hidden benches on the outskirts. There’s a greenhouse lodged in between the greenery that almost makes you forget you’re literally feet from the crazy city.
2. St. Luke’s in the Fields Garden
Again, it’s privately owned, but available for public use so donations are appreciated. The church is located at 487 Hudson, and the garden is located on either side of the church. The public entrance is through Barrow Street.
St. Luke’s in the Fields Garden is owned by St. Luke’s Church and is the most secretive of all the gardens I visited. Because this garden surrounds a quaint church, it was a very quiet and reflective place. There were very few people, and the people who were there were reading, journaling, or simply sitting. The church requests you don’t talk on the phone or distract in any way from this meditative quality.
3. Greenacre Park
Greenacre Park is located at 217 E 51st Street. It’s also privately owned, but they earn their maintenance dollars from a cute little drink stand located to the left-hand side of the entrance. There are tons of seating, and this was one of the most packed gardens I discovered.
As far as secret gardens go, this is the sort of ‘upscale’ one — the kind you’d see in a TV show about NYC’s elite. It’s highly maintained and curated. It’s wedged between two buildings as if they literally just took out a column of apartments and inserted this garden in. The walls are climbing with ivy and an amazing waterfall runs on one side.
4. Tudor City Greens
While I found the other gardens through online articles and friends, I discovered this garden quite literally by accident. It begins on the corner of 2nd Ave and 43rd Street and runs south a few blocks.
Second Avenue is quite quiet, but without the reverence policy of St. Luke’s, so this garden is a really nice place to take lunch or chat with a friend. Whoever takes care of this garden must prefer green to flowers — the winding gravel paths are surrounded by bright, lush greenery. Thanks to a few well-placed benches (some are almost hidden in trees and plants), you can almost forget you’re in the city.
5. Creative Little Garden
You can find the Creative Little Garden at 530 E 6th Street in Alphabet City. It has specific open hours, so be sure to check those out before taking the trek down there.
This was by far the emptiest of all the gardens, and you can immediately tell it’s a place born of creatives. A brightly colored gate greets you, and inside are all sorts of hand-crafted looking garden decor (birdhouses, gnomes, tile, etc.) Hands-down, my favorite part of this garden was the swing. Because nothing speaks to childhood escapism quite like swinging outdoors.
Wherever you are, gardens are among the best ways to escape into the magic of nature. If you get a chance, check out these gardens! If not, we hope you can find a way to make gardens an escape for you. @gardenuity