October 1 marks one year since I began living in New York City. In that time, I’ve come by plenty of must-see landmarks and even more Instagrammable sights. But today I want to take a moment to appreciate the corners of the city that I find myself returning to again and again—not only to ‘gram but also because of how they make me feel.
These are the places where I go to find my chill, in all senses of the word. These spots are mostly in Manhattan—and uptown—because I live in Harlem and that’s just what’s convenient. In this next year, I hope to venture out farther…
The whole Lincoln Center area is marvelous and easy to love, but this plaza—with a grove for shade, wire chairs, and views of an infinity pool, Henry Moore sculpture, and hyperbolic paraboloid green roof—is as calming as it gets for me. At the same time, when people pour out from the shows, it’s an invigorating kind of swarm. (And after visiting Paris for the first time and falling in love with many a garden with well-manicured trees, I realized Hearst Plaza brings me back just a little bit.)
It’s hard to believe this almost-brand-new branch of NYPL is only steps away from the frenzy of Fifth Avenue Shopping. But once inside, you get free: Seating! Bathrooms! Wi-Fi! Outlets! Books! I always try to spend a little while here when I’m in the area and if it’s open.
This is the place to be if you love French culture, gorgeous interiors, and cozy nooks. Ran by the French Embassy, Albertine is a bookstore and reading room with a magical ceiling mural (modeled after the starry sky painting by Franz von Stuck in the music room of Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany), glorious pendant lamps, and plush seating. You can find books in French and English to buy here—and, in a completely non-creepy way, listen to adorable French kids speak French.
I love going to the new World Trade Center complex, whether it’s to gawk at Calatrava’s Oculus, pause for a while at the 9/11 memorial (which is surprising and impressive every time), or look up and realize that Wow, One World Trade looks way more magical up close. The nearby Brookfield Place has an alluring food court and a soaring glass atrium with real palm trees. There’s just a lot to take in here.
I honestly cannot believe this place is still on the island of Manhattan. It just offers so much open space—a real college campus!—with a mix of traditional and contemporary architecture, plus surprising corners like this area near the science building that’s reminiscent of the roof garden at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA.
There are a lot of great restaurants in this city, but when I want good food and, more importantly, good vibes, I come to Han Dynasty on the Upper West Side. Here, you have to go through a long, wide entrance/lobby/waiting/bar area just to get to the main dining room, which is one big open space, with very high ceilings and warm lighting. There’s room to put down all your things, to breathe. It feels grand, by way of architecture alone.
What is there to say? Central Park is iconic. I enjoy the southern areas, I enjoy the northern areas. I enjoy it in the spring and summer, winter and fall. I’m so grateful it’s the “default” when I really need to “go outside.”
There’s no shortage of cool plazas in this city with free chairs to sit on and people watch, but there’s just something special about the one in Flatiron. You’re literally in the middle of the street in New York City, but not just any street—here, you can take in views of the Flatiron Building, Empire State Building, and the Met Life Tower, all at once. And no matter on what day at what time, there are always multiple people trying to capture the wedge-shaped wonder. It feels good to be able to enjoy something together.
I loved Governor’s Island the first time I visited in summer 2016, which is also right after it debuted delightful new additions, and I loved it again this year. The new “Hills” area is gorgeous, made even more breathtaking by sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty and the Downtown Manhattan skyline. I think it’s best explored by bike (rentals start at $15 for two hours on a cruiser) because that makes it easy to see the whole island. Also, it’s the only place I feel safe biking in New York.
All photos by me (unless embedded or I’m in them, then it’s Jason)