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There are times when the Real Cheap Eats team is not eating. There are also times when we’re not drinking. During these depressing, non-comestible moments of our New York lives, The Outdoor New Yorker is here to put things in perspective. Her blog, a descriptive index of New York’s easy-to-forget outdoor spaces, shows us what happens when you tear yourself away from the computers, restaurants, street carts, bars, and monumental downtown protests of New York life and seek out this city’s more slowly digestable experiences.

Best of all: It’s a cheap way to spend the day with your loved ones (and possibly with ducks). It looks like we’ve got an amenable Fall forecast this weekend, so take a tip from Judy and get real cheap outdoors before snow begins to fall.

Manhattan: The Central Park Conservatory Garden
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In contrast to the other parts of Central Park, this garden has a formal grandeur that reveals its beauty quietly. It is ideal for those who want the most privacy Central Park can offer in a lush setting. The garden is actually three separate gardens, each highlighting a different European style. The vast Italian garden through which you enter offers quiet reading spots underneath the canopy of trees to the sides. The French Garden to your right reveals a group of sprightly statues in its center. The more subdued English Garden to your left provides a calming waterlily pond for reflection.

The entrance to the garden is at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue. The closest train station is at 103rd Street on the 6 line. Admission is free.

Brooklyn: Greenwood Cemetery
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Greenwood is the kind of place where nature competes so well with the headstones and mausoleums, you actually forget for a minute that its purpose is to house the dead. It is also one of the quietest outdoor spots you’ll ever visit (for obvious reasons). Landscaped like a park, with several lakes and wildlife to match, it is also gets the award for the most beautiful cemetery in the city. Historically, people of the long-gloved and parasol set used to bring their picnics here. These days, it is better known as a resting place for a number of famous personalities- “Boss” Tweed, Leonard Bernstein, and Jean-Michel Basquiat – to name a few.

The cemetery is located at 500 25th St in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn. Take the R train to 25th Street Station and walk one block east. Admission is free.

Queens: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
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Where there are wild birds, there is usually gorgeous nature to be found. Who would have thought that such nature can be found in Queens? The refuge provides an easy hike through marshland that is safe and dry during the drier months. There are two separate hiking trails. I recommend the less marshy west pond trail, which is a 2-mile loop on a well-maintained gravel road. You will see lots of open sky, and if not for the occasional plane taking off from JFK, you might even forget that you are still in the city. Keep a look out for the famous family of ospreys nesting in plain view from the trail.

The refuge is located off of Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel. Take the A train to Broad Channel Station or take the 7, R, W, E, or F train to Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights station, then take the Q53 east to Jamaica. The bus will drop you right off at the entrance. Admission is free.

Bronx: Wave Hill
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Unlike other public gardens in the city, Wave Hill has housed a good share of famous people since the late 1800′s. Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Arturo Toscanini each lived at Wave Hill House on separate occasions. Thomas Huxley and Charles Darwin also came here to explore its natural beauty. It doesn’t take a scientist to tell you that this place is perfect for relaxation and contemplation, with sweeping views of the Palisades and the Hudson River. Over the years, the grounds were built up and reshaped to take advantage of the scenery. Today, it’s a stunning testament to centuries-old preservation.

Wave Hill is located at West 249th Street and Independence Avenue in Riverdale. Take the Metro-North to Riverdale Station or the A or 1 train to West 242nd St. A free shuttle bus provides a pick up at both places. Admission is $8 for adults, but if you go on Tuesdays or Saturdays before noon, it is free.

Staten Island: Chinese Scholars Garden
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A relative newcomer to the city, the Chinese Scholar’s Garden opened in 1999 as the only garden of its kind in the country. It was designed as a typical scholar’s garden from the Ming Dynasty. The layout, attention to detail, and overall atmosphere of the place is amazing. You really feel like you have been transported to China. One of the most thoughtful touches to this garden is that it reveals itself slowly. There are layers to this place as you keep discovering another entrance to walk through and another new part of the garden to explore. Let’s face it, there are few reasons one would visit Staten Island. This one is worth your time.

The Chinese Scholar’s Garden is located inside the Staten Island Botanical Garden at Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Take the 1 train to South Ferry. Get on the ferry and enjoy your short trip across the river. Once you arrive, go to Gate D at the ferry terminal to catch the S40 bus that will travel along Richmond Terrace. Let the bus driver know that you want to get off at Snug Harbor. Admission to the Staten Island Botanical Garden is free – the Chinese Scholar’s Garden has a separate fee of $5.

-Judy K., The Outdoor New Yorker

 

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