Gov IslandSomeone recently told me that they love to visit New York City, but after a few days they feel overwhelmed by it all.  It’s true, the city can cause a sensory overload that makes you feel the Grinch during a month of Christmases. Here are five destinations where you can escape to get your equilibrium back.

1.  The Cloisters:   The dark monastic interiors in this museum can’t help but make you feel calm.  A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the building and gardens are on a tranquil four acre lot overlooking the Hudson River.  The museum is dedicated to medieval art and architecture and is designed after several European abbeys where vows of silence were the norm.  The landscaping was authentically reproduced based on medieval manuscripts and artifacts so you can imagine yourself in a time before car horns, buses and taxis.  The museum also has scheduled activities for families, if your brood is not feeling the solitude.

2.  Governor’s Island: This 172-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor was once a military base but is now a park open to the public.  What makes this park so special?  No cars!  It has many historical sites, playgrounds and cultural events but for those who’d just like a little peace and quiet you can relax in the hammocks on the southern tip of the island or stroll or rent a bike and ride along the island’s perimeter and enjoy the spectacular views of Manhattan and Brooklyn.  You can only get there by ferry, which are free and depart every half hour from lower Manhattan and every hour from Brooklyn.  Sadly, it is only open on weekends from May until September.cloisters 2

3.  The Church of Transfiguration (also known as the Little Church Around the Corner):  Back in 1871, when theatre people were not considered respectable, a celebrated actor of the time, Joseph Jefferson, wanted to arrange a service for a fellow actor who had died penniless.  He approached a fashionable 5th Avenue church and was told that they did not provide services for those types of people but that the little church around the corner on 28th Street might.  The church has been marrying, burying and attended by actors ever since.  Sure, all churches are peaceful but this one has a beautiful gated little garden where you can sit and relax and read or watch the madding crowd go by.

4.  Tea & Sympathy:   Here you can be transported into a quaint country village (although the prices are still NYC!).  This cozy little tea shop, which has been a fixture in the West Village for ages, is the perfect spot to rest your weary soul and tired body with a nice cuppa.  It serves a proper British afternoon tea but also has heartier dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  TIP:  I would avoid this spot during Royal weddings, deaths and births.

burnett-fountain-l5.  Central Park Conservatory Garden:  Need a break from the smell of exhaust and urine?  Replenish your senses at this French-style garden at the top of Central Park.  There are numerous nooks and crannies to explore and escape the crowds.  To the south of the garden is a fragrant English-style garden, while at the center is sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnah’s sculpture fountain, a tribute to Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of the children’s classic, The Secret Garden.

TIP:  All these locations are accessible by public transportation.  See MTA Trip Planner for directions.  See Ferry Schedule.