Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters

Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters

Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters are one of the neighborhood’s gems. The scenic park offers panoramic views of the Hudson River and The Palisades in neighboring New Jersey. Even though Fort Tryon is a short train ride away from Midtown, the serene atmosphere to be found here will make you forget you were ever in the city at all. Go for a run or a walk along the park’s winding trails and enjoy a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

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Fort Tryon Park encompasses 67 acres of green space and counts with 8 miles of trails, the largest dog run in Manhattan, two playgrounds, a volleyball court, and even a couple of ping pong tables. The Heather Garden, the largest garden of it’s kind in the city that’s open to the public, is home to more than 500 species of plants and trees including a rare Japanese cherry blossom tree. In the summertime, flowers such as hybrid musk roses, hibiscus, and thistle are in full bloom. A nearby Alpine Garden changes the scenery to one that features lots of rocks and stones native to environments typically found at high altitudes. The gardens were created as a result of the renovations that took place during the 80’s.

photo by Hubert J. Steed

photo by Hubert J. Steed

The park’s grounds were home to local Native Americans until Dutch settlers claimed the land back in the early 17th century. After the Revolutionary War took place, the British Army renamed the park after Sir William Tryon, a Major General and the last colonial British Governor of New York. Fort Tryon gained notoriety again during the 19th century when the city’s elite started building luxurious mansions around the area.

In 1917, John D. Rockefeller purchased one of the most expensive mansions and developed the property to his liking. In an effort to preserve the land, Rockefeller then proceeded to donate it to the city. The estate later became a public park domain with the help of the renowned architects behind the design of Central Park. With their artistic eye, the area’s rocky landscape was transformed into an urban park full of smooth walking trails including winding promenades and terraces. The park’s natural beauty was recognized in 1983 when it was designated as a NYC Scenic Landmark.

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In the middle of the park lies a historic monument called the Cloisters. The building forms part of the MET Museum and houses 5,000 medieval works from Europe. The monument itself is composed of different structures that were imported directly from French and Catalan monasteries and castles. In the building’s beautiful archways and columns one can see the Romanesque and Gothic architecture influence of the time. The museum’s excellent artwork collection dates back to the 12th century.

http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/met-cloisters

http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/met-cloisters

 

 

The Cloister’s one-of-a-kind unicorn tapestry room shows carpets that were once purchased by Rockefeller from sculptor George Grey Barnard. The intricate patterns on the carpets can be seen hanging in one of the museum’s rooms. Visitors can also explore the courtyard and see historic sculptures, pillars, murals, stained glass, altars, and even jewelry that’s more than 800 years old.

Tapestry 1 (metmuseum.org)

Stay for the better part of the day and dine at the park’s very own restaurant. The New Leaf Restaurant & Bar serves locally-sourced food in an upscale and intimate setting. The restaurant’s beautiful interior comes with a stunning 18-foot ceiling dining room and was built by Rockefeller with the intentions of turning it into a cafeteria. Order the delicious crab cake sandwich or the falafel burger and enjoy the lovely weather by sitting in the outdoor terrace.

New Leaf

A non-profit organization called Fort Tryon Park Trust supports the preservation of the park’s grounds and promotes the restoration of the gardens for continued use amongst visitors. The organization also helps fund social activities and weekly programs such as sunset yoga, tai chai, the Medieval festival, as well as many other outdoor concerts and events.

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More Washington Heights Parks:

Fort Washington Park

Highbridge Park

Bennett Park

Inwood Hill Park

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Edgar Catasus

Edgar is a a film fanatic, a food lover, and an Upper West Side enthusiast. After working in PR and marketing in Chicago, he is pursuing his dream of becoming a writer. He loves photography and on his spare time you can find him hiking or biking the great outdoors (while also snapping some pretty awesome Instagram pics!).

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