Park Yourself in The Heights

by Melody Morrow

Whether you’re someone just visiting New York, or a lifelong city-dweller looking to explore the city further, a place not to miss is Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights–the jewel in the neighborhood’s crown. It’s a wonderful place to experience a breathtaking view, splendor in the park, medieval artifacts and fine dining. Fort Tryon Park, containing one of the highest points in Manhattan, is a city, state, and national landmarked park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and his brother for John D. Rockefeller, Jr. These architects also designed Central Park. Rockefeller acquired the 67 acres, developed it as a public park, and presented it to the city as a gift in 1935.

As soon as you enter Margaret Corbin Circle and walk through the entrance you know you hit upon something special. For history buffs, Margaret Corbin (1751–1800?) took control of her fallen husband John’s cannon and fought during the 1776 battle at the site known as Fort Tryon Park and is the only woman buried in the cemetery at West Point.

Right beyond the Circle’s entrance way you will find the fragrant Heather Garden, fabulous views of the George Washington Bridge (especially at dusk), a feast of locally grown food prepared by a five star chef, Scott Q. Campbell, in a rustic French country cottage called the New Leaf Restaurant and Bar and gorgeous vistas of trees overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades! Visiting in the Fall is a great treat. By the way, when in full bloom the three acre Heather Garden looks like a Monet or Renoir painting and brings people who are quick to click their cameras, including me.

The Park’s natural beauty is so amazing that Bette Midler knew she had to restore it back to its original grandeur and… that she did. She paid special attention to the New Leaf Restaurant and Bar to make the park more appetizing. Through the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 2001, she set out to redesign a concession stand built in the 1930’s into a world class eatery with all proceeds of the restaurant going to support the organization’s cleaning and greening efforts. Local green markets, community gardens and upstate farms are the supermarket of choice for its five star chef.

Not only is Linden Terrace a place to relax and take in the scenic views, but also a happening place to watch weddings being set up-a natural place to take your vows.  This part of the park meanders down into New Leaf Restaurant and Bar where countless weddings and other special occasions have been celebrated. Local photography can be seen decorating the walls. Call before you go because it seems every Saturday night the place is closed for a party! Brunch is always delicious and when the weather is nice they have jazz and tables outside where you can hang out with your favorite dog. Voted the most romantic dining establishment in Upper Manhattan and rated highly by Zagat’s, it’s nestled in an oasis of green. You may even spot Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a local celebrity, and world renown for her sex talk!

Last, but certainly not least, there is a reason why the Metropolitan Museum of Art houses the Cloisters and its medieval art collection on the Park’s grounds. There are great vistas on top of the Cloisters where you can enjoy a quick bite while imagining yourself guarding a fort of some sort. In addition, once a year the Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon Park is held here befitting of the Cloisters. Lots of craftspeople, jousters and adults and kids in medieval garb.

Take a trip to “Upstate” Manhattan to smell the fresh air and if you feel you want another truly NYC experience, take the subway. You will feel at home.

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