By Annemarie Dooling
Oh, New York. As a city dweller, I’ve grown accustomed to my corner grocer and the kids yelling on the stoop next door. But as a traveler, I love escaping New York from within the city limits. It’s true, as a melting pot, a hub where so many have settled and will always flock, the city offers authentic far-flung experiences at every stop along the subway line. At these favorites, you won’t even know you’re in New York.
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Okay, sure, there are plenty of spots in the Big Apple where you can get pampered and massaged, but very few where you can get willingly beaten with heavy sticks by a man barking out orders in Russian. The nondescript doorway of the Forest Hills Spa does nothing to indicate the sweating masses of burly, hairy men sitting inside. Don a swimsuit and you too can swelter in steaming heat while oak leaves are slapped across your burning skin.
Forest Hills Spa, 5921 Calloway Street, Queens, NY.
Lost in the Wilderness
Towering trees and softly cooing birds aren’t the first descriptors that come to mind when you think of New York, but just a few minutes into Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, you can get totally lost. The 2.5-mile trail is made of a network of paths that wind around bubbling brooks and lush flora. Forget posh eateries, this is NYC’s best-kept secret.
Audubon Center Boathouse, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY.
So you’re below 14th Street and you’ve done all your shopping and feel that buzz of hunger starting to stir. You take a turn below Canal Street and end up in an alley, with roasting ducks simmering in the windows, boxes of herbs piled on both sides of the sidewalk, intense yelling back and forth across the street. You’ve found Chinatown, and while nearly every city has its own Asian hub, New York’s is really something special. With its sprawling, yet secretive streets, you might have trouble finding the winding little dead ends that make up Chinatown, but you’ll have an even more difficult time getting out.
Chinatown, Doyers Street, Manhattan, NY.
Quiet Courtyard Oasis
Sit a spell in the meditation garden of the Jacques Marchais Tibetan Museum and soak up the sunshine that hits you while you relax at one of the most serene places on the East Coast. The cozy stone museum is home to a collection of Tibetan art and offers yoga classes and the views–although a stark reminder of exactly what city you’re in–are stunning.
Jacques Marchais Tibetan Museum, 388 Lighthouse Ave, Staten Island, NY.
New York is known for its brownstones and tenement buildings, but imagine, for just a moment, a quiet row of candy-colored Victorian homesteads, lined up against bright gardens. You’re not in the suburbs, you’re in Brooklyn. Ditmas Park was once home to the affluent who’s who of the city. These days it’s all a family affair–and they don’t mind the gawking of passers-by.
Beverly Road & Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn, NY.
Where do you go to escape the city? Tell us in the comments section below.
Annemarie Dooling is a writer & digital content strategist from New York.