TRAVEL
08/26/2014 08:00 am ET Updated Aug 26, 2014

11 Places In NYC That Aren't Totally Chaotic

New York is famously chaotic -- indeed, the labyrinth of taxis, the epically-long food lines and the chaotic subway runaround give you pretty much all the skills you'd need to practically survive the apocalypse.

But there are hidden moments of bliss in this urban jungle, if you know where to look.

Here are some of our favorite spots to take a break and take a breath.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Yup, that's in Brooklyn. A highlight of these 52 acres is the Japanese Garden, where cherry trees bloom every spring. Hunting for waterfalls and turtle-watching on the pond are stellar ways to spend an afternoon.
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The Little Red Lighthouse in Fort Washington Park
Nestled under the George Washington Bridge, you'll happen upon Manhattan's only lighthouse. Roam free in the park's 160 acres, then stick around for a breathtaking sunset.
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Governors Island
A quick ferry ride gets you out of the city chaos and onto Governors Island... from May through September. Visitors can rent bikes (or bring their own!) and explore a brand-new sprawling park of hammocks, ball fields and art installments.
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The Hudson River
Manhattan's westerly river isn't just something to stare at from a restaurant -- it's super calming (and super easy!) to cruise the water in a kayak, thanks to awesome programs like free kayaking with the Downtown Boathouse. You can also get some instruction or take a tour to develop your hip new urban hobby.
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Pomander Walk
A wee British village on the Upper West Side? That's Pomander Walk, a lane of cottages hidden behind a secret gate on a typical city block. Apartments typically go for $800,000, but that doesn't mean you can't finagle your way up the secret staircase for a little mid-city getaway.
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The Cloisters
As a branch of The Met, the Cloisters museum is a beautiful mashup of medieval architecture. Perch yourself in the shade of the stone archways or explore one of the gardens, with plants that curators matched to the ones described in medieval poetry.
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Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Wildlife, in NYC? If you're looking for creatures beyond subway rats, visit more than 330 bird species at this tranquil refuge in Queens. There are also sunset tours, hikes and boat trips.
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The Central Park waterfalls
Central Park is sprinkled with waterfalls -- though they look natural, they're actually man-made and powered by New York City drinking water. Set up a picnic in the shadow of their spray.
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City Island
Just "a bridge away" from the Bronx lies a charming little island of yacht clubs, bait shops and seafood cafes so coastal and charming, you'd swear you were in New England. Take the subway and then a bus to total bliss.
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The Greenbelt Native Plant Center
Staff at Staten Island's 13-acre greenhouse will guide you in choosing plants for any gardening project you're working on. Volunteers can also help collect seeds, water plants or mix soil.
staten island native plant center

Greenacre Park
Midtown office rats take lunch breaks in this "vest-pocket park," tucked into busy 51st Street. Lush arbors and a 25-foot waterfall set a calming mood for your midday snack -- there are even heat lamps in the winter.
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ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

  • 1 You stand in line for cupcakes at Magnolia.
    haleysuzanne/Flickr
    There are so many better cupcakes in New York. Just try Billy's or Buttercup Bakeshop and then see what you think about waiting for Magnolia. There's just no need to wait in a line that wraps around the block for a dry cupcake with inferior frosting.
  • 2 You eat pizza from Lombardi's.
    SimonDoggett/Flickr
    It's not that Lombardi's pizza is bad, per se, but there are so many better places to get pizza in New York. You're just selling yourself short by waiting for an hour for pizza from Lombardi's.
  • 3 You eat at the Olive Garden in Times Square.
    Elvert Barnes/Flickr
    Don't do it. Just don't do it.
  • 4 You eat anywhere in Times Square.
    Project 1080/Flickr
    Unless you're forced to eat in or around Times Square because of your office location (for which we pity you), there's no good reason and no excuse for eating there. It's chaos -- get out as quickly as you can!
  • 5 You order Cosmopolitans to fit in.
    Leslie Thomson via Getty Images
    Just because the girls on "Sex in the City" drank them, doesn't mean real New Yorkers do.
  • 6 You eat in Little Italy.
    davidpc_/Flickr
    Little Italy may be one of the saddest places to eat in New York. We wish it wasn't so, but it is.
  • 7 You go to Serendipity for Frozen Hot Chocolates.
    Facebook/Serendipity
    We'll admit frozen hot chocolates are pretty awesome, but Serendipity 3 is really just for tourists.
  • 8 You think 4 dumplings for $1 at Vanessa's is the best deal you're gonna find.
    star5112/Flickr
    New Yorkers eat at Prosperity.
  • 9 You walk over the Brooklyn Bridge just for Grimaldi's pizza.
    AP
    Over-hyped.
  • 10 You think the Cronut™ is worth the hype.
    Andre Maier via Getty Images
    If you're willing to stand in line for two hours to wait for a Cronut™, we're not sure we should even let you in on this little secret. But... croissants and doughnuts are perfect foods. Combining them doesn't make them any better. Also, Dominique Ansel's DKA is FAR superior.
  • 11 You visit the M&M store.
    david.nikonvscanon/Flickr
    No New Yorker has EVER gone inside the M&M store, unless he or she works there. We're sure it's fun, but we've never been, so we have no idea!
  • 12 You think going to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg is adventurous.
    Facebook/Smorgasburg
  • 13 In fact, you think going anywhere in Brooklyn is adventurous.
    smcgee/Flickr
    Tourists need to spend way more time in Brooklyn and ALL the outer boroughs. That's where all the best food is!
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