Off the Beaten Path: NYC’s The Cloisters + Fort Tryon Park

Off the Beaten Path: NYC’s The Cloisters + Fort Tryon Park

I lived in New York City for 12 years, and somehow I never made it to the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art located in Upper Manhattan. Funny since I almost got married in Fort Tryon Park, a beautiful 8 mile park set majestically atop the Hudson River, and home to the Cloisters. But I suppose that’s the wonderful thing about New York City – you can never discover too much, as there is always more. So when my family and I had about a four hour block of time this past weekend, I said let’s go to the Cloisters, once and for all.

For NYC dwellers, the museum can be a bit of a hike north on the subway, but for us, southern Westchester suburban dwellers, it’s a fast 25 minute drive. It was a nice day, the sun out and shining after much rain, and I had envisioned the plan down to the T: park at the museum, spend an hour or two there, then go to the nearby New Leaf Restaurant and Bar, a picturesque restaurant nestled right into Fort Tryon Park, and spend an hour or so afterward walking around the gardens and pathways of the park. And that’s exactly what we did. Love it when things go according to plan, which isn’t always so often with kids in tow.

What sort of museum is the Cloisters? It’s a medieval arts museum, specializing in architecture, sculpture and decorative arts. A gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in the 1930’s, many of its structures were brought in from Europe, with indoor and outdoor gardens and courtyards throughout the buildings.

Medieval arts does not sound like the type of thing kids would be interested in, and for the most part it’s not, except for the fact that the buildings and gardens that make up the Cloisters are so adventurous and mysterious and wanting to be explored, that my girls loved it. The combination of long tunnel- like hallways, nooks and crannies, large outdoor patios overlooking the Hudson, and in general feeling like you’re in an ancient castle was enough to keep my girls reeling.

And in fact, we saw a lot of other families there too, many with much younger kids than my girls. Did we view a lot of art? Not really, if I’m going to be honest. Of course some, but the girls wanted to cruise around and go outside and play in the gardens. The gardens, or outdoor courtyards, are quite amazing looking, out of a fairytale. They’re my favorite part about the Cloisters, and if I had been alone I could have spent all day in them.

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Our next stop was the New Leaf, as it was lunch time. It was bustling. So much so that it was an hour wait, and we decided to mix up the plan (so I guess it didn’t go exactly to plan) and put our name on the list and walked around Fort Tryon Park before eating. The New Leaf is extremely popular, especially on weekends, so give yourself ample time. Walking around Fort Tryon Park is a treat. First of all the views of the Hudson River and Palisades are outstanding. Beyond that, the landscaping and gardens make it a real retreat for busy New Yorkers, or busy suburbanites! It’s one of the most serene and beautiful parks in the city, with 67 acres of greenery, walking paths, playgrounds, and – I didn’t know until now – Manhattan’s largest dog run. It’s a special place to be explored and appreciated, one I highly recommend visiting.

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We ended our adventure with, yes, lunch at the New Leaf, a stone building set in the trees and grass and rocks of the park, a place that makes you want to get a mimosa and hang out for a while.

The Met Cloisters, 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park, New York, NY, 10040. 212. 923.3700. Admission: like the Met, the amount you pay is up to you.

Hours: March-October, 10:00 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. May 27 – September 2, Open Late on Fridays until 7:30 p.m. November – February, 10:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.

Fort Tryon Park, Riverside Drive to Broadway, W 192 Street to Dyckman Street

New Leaf Restaurant and Bar, 1 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park, New York, NY, 10040.

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Guide to The Cloisters - a branch of the Met and an off the beaten path gem in New York City

 

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24 Comments

  1. / 3:13 pm

    Those cloisters are beautiful. Remind me of Iona abbey. What a gem to have in New York.

    • / 4:57 pm

      Total city gem for a place as big and crowded as New York..

  2. / 4:32 pm

    It looks utterly lovely and such a pretty, tranquil spot so close to a massive city. I love cloisters – we’ve been lucky enough to see two beautiful ones this year (in Lisbon, Portugal and in Wiltshire, England) and there’s something very special about them. I really love those flowers in the central part!

    • / 4:59 pm

      The flowers were stunning. I can only imagine how beautiful the cloisters are in Lisbon!

  3. / 4:37 pm

    The cloisters and the park both look gorgeous – what a lovely day out and finishing with a mimosa…. perfection!

    • / 5:00 pm

      Finishing with a mimosa is always perfection indeed!

  4. / 9:54 pm

    The Cloisters is really about my favorite museum in the city – it’s the place that I go when I need to recharge my batteries a bit, as it is so tranquil. I especially like the outdoor garden areas during the warmer months.

    • / 5:02 pm

      Yes – it’s a great place to recharge and regroup. A peaceful spot outside of the concrete jungle.

  5. / 4:40 pm

    Lovely to get the chance to read this again for #citytripping, Corey. My boys and I would just love these cloisters. Anything that looks like an ancient castle with a fairytale garden is enough to get most kids excited about exploring and imagining. Thanks so much for linking up with #citytripping.

    • / 4:42 pm

      You’re so sweet to comment again, Clare – you’re doing a great job at hosting!

  6. / 8:38 am

    I can understand that the gardens are your favourite part of the Cloisters. They are lovely. Fort Tyron Park looks amazing too. Thanks for sharing it at #CityTripping.

    • / 4:43 pm

      Thank you! I will have to hop on over and check out your blog too..

  7. / 2:50 pm

    What a gorgeous spot – it’s so easy to think of NYC as just the busy heart of Manhattan but this looks like such a peaceful green place to take a break. I’d have loved to see the art but my three-year-old would definitely have been out in the gardens too. #citytripping

    • / 4:44 pm

      I know me too – I’m definitely going to plan an “adult” day back when I can view the indoors without being tugged a million times.

  8. aandj8804
    / 5:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I’m going to NYC this summer, and the Cloisters was already on my list. I didn’t know about Fort Tyron Park or New Leaf though. And to be honest, I didn’t really know much about the Cloisters until seeing your post and pictures. Do you know if you can make advance reservations for New Leaf? Also, is there anything else out in that area that you think is worth doing? I’m not very familiar with NYC, so I’m trying to figure out a plan, but it’s so big that it’s hard to figure out what is close enough together to be completed in one day. 🙂 #citytripping

    • / 2:01 pm

      Hi – thanks for reading. I know, NYC is so big it can be hard to figure out how much to plan per day. There’s not much else up by the Cloisters. Fort Tryon Park you can definitely spend some time in, but if you wanted to add something else the closest thing I can think of is Museo del Barrio and Museum of the City of New York which are on 5th Avenue in the low 100’s. But they’re not the same neighborhood as the Cloisters at all, just the only museums/attractions I can think of that are northern Manhattan.The Apollo Theatre is in Harlem as well. I’m not sure of what the New Leaf’s reservation policy is so you might want to call. Good luck and let me know if you need help with anything else! Have a great trip!

  9. / 6:49 pm

    That view looks amazing! I’ve been to New York quite a few times but had never heard of these places. The museum sounds as wonderful as the gardens. You’ve prompted me to do some research on the Rockefellers. What an interesting family. Thanks for sharing

  10. / 2:07 pm

    Thanks Katy – yes the Rockefellers have done so much for the city. As well as where I live outside of the city in Westchester and the Hudson Valley. Happy researching!

  11. / 4:54 pm

    Sounds like one for the locals, which actually I find fascinating in a city I am unlikely to visit any time soon. The cloisters look lovely. And I know my son would appreciate the largest dog run, which I assume means lots and lots of dogs…

  12. / 6:01 pm

    Sounds like a great day out, Corey. I love cloisters. 🙂

  13. / 11:35 am

    I didn’t realise Cloisters was in the city. What a hidden gem. So peaceful and relaxing in the hustle bustle of NYC. Love it.

    • / 6:39 pm

      Thanks – yes a true oasis in the concrete jungle!

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