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NEW YORK CITY GUIDE

Fort Tryon Park and The Met Cloisters

Fort Tryon Park

Fort Tryon Park NYC

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By the time you travel to the far reaches of Upper Manhattan you’ve left the frenetic pace of most of the city behind. Here the topography changes, and you find yourself high above the Hudson River, with room to spread out and views for miles. It’s here that you’ll find beautiful Fort Tryon Park, and tucked inside it, The Met Cloisters. From its early days as the home to the Lenape tribe of Native Americans, to its turn as a strategic battle point in the Revolutionary War and then its role as a favored site for large country estates belonging to moneyed citizens in the late 19th century, this area, like much of New York, has seen its fair share of history. In its present state, it exists because of the singular vision of John D. Rockefeller Jr.. Rockefeller purchased several of these estates in 1917 and hired a firm to design and develop them as a park, which he then gifted to the city upon completion. Rockefeller’s vision extended to the land across the Hudson River in New Jersey, purchased in order to protect it from development and preserve views from his new park. It also extended to the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to Medieval European art and architecture. Rockefeller acquired and donated to the museum a large collection of medieval art, and with additional endowment funds provided by him the museum built the cloisters as a home for this extraordinary collection inside the newly-created park.

The Met Cloisters NYC

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Even without the Cloisters, the park itself is lovely – easily among the most stunning in the city. A few structures from those early estates remain, and eight miles of park walkways provide access to a large heather garden, meadows, lawns, and wooded promontories. Views to the west over the Hudson River and to the east over the rest of Harlem and into the Bronx make the park unique. I especially love the Linden Terrace (first photo), where you can sit under the linden trees in the sun-dappled shade and where it’s not uncommon to happen upon intimate weddings taking place.

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The Met Cloisters presents a collection of medieval art spanning the Romanesque and Gothic periods and ranging from paintings and carvings to stained glass, tapestries, and iron work. The setting for the art – highlighted by a collection of actual cloisters and a chapel, taken apart in Europe and reassembled stone by stone in New York – helps to bring it life, and there’s something transporting about looking at the art, both secular and religious, in a context similar to the one for which it was originally intended. Children will love following the story of the museum’s celebrated Unicorn Tapestries and exploring the gardens at the centers of the cloisters, one of which is designed to represent a medieval herb garden, containing plants documented in medieval literature and labeled here according to their primary use: medicinal, culinary, and magic. Visiting museums with little ones can sometimes be tricky, but the approachable size of the Cloisters coupled with its outdoor space and setting in the park provide flexibility should you need a break.

A few notes:

  • To travel to Fort Tryon Park you can either take the A subway train or the M4 bus to 190th Street. The subway and the bus leave you near the entrance to the park, and a short walk through the park will bring you to the museum.
  • Like the main branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the admission price is suggested, not required. If you know your visit isn’t going to be long, you can feel free to pay an amount you feel is appropriate.

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