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Good Day Sunshine: Serene Outdoor Spaces to Enjoy7 min read

NY weather is notoriously bipolar, but things are looking up. We’re deep into the spring weather, and now would be a great time to get outside and enjoy it. Focus less on the rain and allergies and more on the sun and warmer temperatures.

A big reason why you’re studying at Stern, in the heart of the city, is because you love NYC and everything it offers. That and, if you’re full-time, you didn’t get into Columbia. Part of what NYC offers is escapism. The noise, the hurry, the bright lights, the hustle and bustle–it distracts from your loneliness, worries, any problem at all. Too real? We’re all occasionally guilty of it, whether we realize it or not. But every so often, it’s important to step away from the noise and introspect. Or maybe you just want a quieter place to read, study, self-loathe, whatever.

Of course, all of this can be done indoors, but it’s been a long, cold, and “covid-y” winter, and we’re tired of it. Not for nothing, being outdoors can elevate your concentration levels, boost your mood, let’s not forget the OG vitamin D, the warmth of the sun, the green from the trees–why stay inside?

John Lennon once wrote, “I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind.” Everything. Let’s not get to that point of desperation. Go outside, take a walk, touch some grass.

There will always be Central Park or any of the many Botanical Gardens in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens–and rightfully so–these places are always wonderful to visit. But here’s to the less popular places, the quieter places–for the peace of mind.

Conservatory Garden, UWS

This is technically a part of Central Park. But it tends to be far less crowded than, say Sheep’s Meadow, and far more beautiful. Characterized by a classic French, English, and Italian garden, the horticulture is designed to make it a glorious place to visit any season (especially in the fall). The magnolias should be blooming now!

Morningside Park and St. Nicholas Park, Harlem

Technically, Morningside is a pretty popular park, but not so much with our Stern crowd. Insert another you didn’t get into Columbia joke here. All jokes aside, both degrees are likely equally beneficial or useless depending on your mindset, which will be healthy with more outdoor time! It all connects. Regardless, this is a beautiful park. Better in the fall, in my opinion. If you’re up here, also check out St. Nicholas Park–super peaceful, great for walking, unwinding, thinking, etc.

Paley Park, Midtown

The most perfect oasis right in midtown—the place that needs it the most, am I right? Don’t get me started on the importance of water features when designing public spaces. Too late. People love the calming sound of running water and the soothing feeling it creates. In cities, it also helps to shield the park from traffic or industrial noise. It’s an enticing feature found in, you’ll notice, almost every successful public space or park in NYC and cities around the world.

FDR Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island

Named after the cousin of our greatest president, Roosevelt Island is only 2 miles in length. With both a former insane asylum and a smallpox hospital ruin, it’s rumored many a tortured soul roams Roosevelt Island. Join them. This park is wonderful, especially if you abide by the “less is more” concept typical of mid-century architecture, which makes sense as this park was designed by Louis Kahn, one of the greatest modern architects. Besides, any view of the cityscape, water, and a bridge is always just *chef’s kiss*.

Liberty State Park, Jersey City

“JeRsEy CiTy???” Yes, Jersey City. Just get on the Path train (few things are worse than MTA, and the Path is not one of them). You won’t regret it. So much green space it hurts, the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson (nice to look at but don’t let it touch you, or you’ll end up as one of the tortured souls on Roosevelt Island). Besides, how can you really see how beautiful the Manhattan skyline is if you’re always in it?

Still around campus? 

Washington Square Park is nice and all, but the moment the fountain is on and the sun breaks out, New Yorkers fiend like Moses parted the Red Sea. Don’t worry, there are other places nearby.

NYU Law Vanderbilt Hall Courtyard, 40 Washington Square S

When you’re over the pigeons harassing you on Gould’s Plaza, make your way to the Law School Courtyard. Where the distractions are few and trees are many. Calming sounds of cascading water, real birds (not rats with wings), and people way smarter than you included.

Willy’s Memorial Garden, 1/2 Fifth Ave

I don’t know who Willy is –sorry to that man. This is a small courtyard garden tucked away at a laughable address on 5th ave. You’ve likely walked past it several times on your way to and from Washington Square Park. Beautiful blooming trees, shrubs in vibrant hues of rouge, blush, and pastel pinks, an ivy-covered wall, a statue of Miguel de Cervantes to inspire you. This is the perfect place for musing, with Cervantes and Willy, whoever he is.

Sasaki Garden, between W. 3rd + Bleecker (behind Stern)

A 1.5-acre garden equipped with a fountain, walkways, flowers, dogwoods, Japanese maples, evergreens, and weeping willows for all your meditative thoughts. Plus, dogwoods bloom around this time of year!

These are, of course, just a mere few places to visit. Go explore, the city is full of them. While you’re roaming, listen to our SternSounds playlist for this month! While technically a distraction, it’s a worthwhile one.

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