The Birds and The Bees: Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters, New York

It’s tough being a tourist in New York.

In an ever-changing city, there’s always an exhibition, restaurant, or landmark to jot on the to-do list. It’s hard to do and see it all in a matter of days, let alone a couple of weeks.

Strolling from East Manhattan to West, riding the subway from uptown to downtown, taking a cab from hotel to restaurant to bar, you probably won’t make it beyond Central Park.

So, it’s no surprise that there are hardly any tourists at Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters, located in the far reaches of Manhattan. I only visited today, and I’m a resident.

Fort Tryon Park

Originally inhabited by the Weckquaesgeek Tribe, who lived in the area until the early 17th century, this densely forested high ground at the northern end of Manhattan was “Lang Bergh” or Long Hill to the early Dutch colonists. The Continental Army called the strategic series of posts along the Hudson RiverFort Washington” during the summer of 1776, until Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British forced the troops to retreat. The British then renamed the area for Sir William Tryon (1729–1788), Major General and the last British governor of colonial New York.*

Exiting the 190th Street Subway, I found myself in the midst of Fort Tryon Park, located in the Washington Heights region of NY.

Fort Tryon’s land was purchased by John D. Rockefeller in 1917, who envisioned the park, which he later donated to New York City in 1935. It took four years for head designer, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., son of Central Park’s architect, complete its design.

Fact: Fort Tryon Park is one of the highest points in New York.

Despite the twisting pathways, never-ending steps, and steep slopes, the park is relaxing to explore. From here, I enjoyed views of Palisades State Park, which, located on the other side of the Hudson River, Rockefeller had also purchased in order to preserve Fort Tryon’s outlook.

The park’s benches are ideal spots for daydreaming.

Fact: Fort Tryon Park fell into decades of neglect and its cleanup efforts were spearheaded by actor Bette Midler.

I was so upset; I didn’t sleep for weeks… People were throwing their garbage out the window, leaving their lunches on the ground. Finally, I realized I needed to actually do something – even if it meant picking up trash with my own two hands. ~ Bette Midlerfrom Good Housekeeping Magazine

Bette, friends and family started removing garbage from Fort Tryon Park and Fort Washington Park. This grassroots effort led to her to found the non-profit New York Restoration Project (

I noticed visitors taking a breather, stretching their legs, while strolling through the English-inspired Heather Garden. Flowers in purples, yellows, and whites, surrounded by buzzing bees, welcome the new season.

Plaque dedications mark benches in seating alcoves along Stan Michels Promenade. Clay sculptures, part of a proposed public art project, demanded my attention.

FACT: Stan Michels Promenade is named for New York City councilman Stanley Michels, an ardent supporter of environmental reform and park restoration.

A visit to Linden Terrace meant standing in the shadow of linden trees.

In the distance, I saw the George Washington Bridge.

I spotted the tops of the Cloisters building through a thicket of branches.

The Cloisters opened in the north end of Fort Tryon Park in 1938 after Rockefeller bought sculptor George Grey Barnard’s (1863–1938) collection of medieval art. Inspired by Romanesque monasteries, the museum includes several cloisters, or courtyards, from actual French monasteries. Now a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was designated an official New York City landmark in 1974.*


47 thoughts on “The Birds and The Bees: Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters, New York

    • I know – I mean, central Park is one thing, but this is away from the bustle. And it has The Cloisters which was very cool. Alot of history up there. I love the neurologist bust too! Thanks!

      • what a great idea, i would love to see how it changes thank you. ive recently been thinking of taking a photo from the same position once a week at our local beach showing how the tide ebbs and flows. Dont know if i,ll get around to doing it though🙂

  1. At the moment I’m reading and viewing this from my phone, in bed, and enjoying my first cup of tea, so I can’t wait to see the photos properly on the computer, Marina. I’ll be back later, its looks another good un from you.

  2. I love The Cloisters: the grand beech tree near the front; the medieval herb gardens within the cloistered walls; the view from the terrace; the tapestries and other exhibits. A little known gem, perhaps, but so worth the long train trip to that somewhat creepy subway station! Thanks for posting.

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment – I agree, well worth the trip up. It’s taken me a while to get there myself, though now I am looking forward to heading back when the gardens are in bloom!

    • Thanks Val! I am glad you enjoyed the stroll. I’m looking forward to seeing the Park in warmer temps too – my first trip was indication that it will be blooming beautiful!

  3. What a lovely park Marina and captured beautifully. I love the crocusses and the heather garden.. spring is about to be sprung big time, you can just feel it in your pictures. The hard landscaping is interesting with it’s preponderence of granite blocked walls and steps, the park’s lofty position, it reminded me of Scotland. Can’t wait for part two.

    • Thanks Adrian – it’s actually interesting that you mention the hard landscaping as I was trying to find the words to give such a visual too. The images showed it easily enough🙂 The crocuses are so pretty – I am waiting to see a field of them!

  4. It’s never easy to be a tourist in a big city that’s why I like to do my homework before travelling🙂 I often hear stories from my friend who works at the information centre, people asking ‘so, what can I do here?’ Hello!!!?? you are in London ;D Rockefeller did a great job preserving all this land and what a nice gesture to donate it to the city, very generous and I am so glad that Bette took control and cleaned the park, it’s an amazing space and the views must be fantastic! It’s true, people always look up these days, admiring all the skyscrapers and forget to look down and notice all these little beautiful and colourful flowers and creatures🙂 Looking forward to part two😀

    • Yes, true, though there are always those parts of the city that seems so hard to get to in a short space of time! I have not forgotten my (bad) choice in not heading to Versailles when I was in Paris as I thought I’d lose precious time in the city! I wish I had gone…! Perhaps this is how tourists think of The Cloisters. And, I guess, it is true of many cities. It really is a great place, and its upkeep is massive. Thanks!

  5. It’s so true Marina. As tourists in NYC we can’t get to see all there is to see in a few days so it’s great that you can show us these out of the way places.I have read about the Cloisters, so I’m looking forward to your next post!

    • Thanks Jenny – it’s like that in every city, I feel. In Sydney, many rarely go to say, the Blue Mountains or Central Coast (1 hr drive away). In Paris, i didn’t get to Versailles. I am sure you could name places for me in Europe. It’s interesting to see these places; if only we could have some time exploring the corners of cities, countries, the world!

  6. So nice to see a few things poking their heads out of the soil and starting to bloom!
    this looks like such a serene and gorgeous park, what a happy discovery.
    Beautiful pictures.
    I’m quite taken with the black and white trees with all the long shadows!

    • Thanks Karen – I can’t remember seeing a buzzing bee in a long while, so I was honestly fascinated with them hovering above the flowers! I am glad you like that shadows shot; I am noticing shadows alot more these days!

    • Thanks so much – as much as I cannot wait for Spring, I feel like we didn’t have enough of a winter. I say be thankful for the snow. the crocuses will come sooner than you think🙂

  7. Pingback: After “A Banquet – Piece” by Willem Claesz Heda « Aware of the Void

    • Stuart, you truly are one of a kind! I am glad you like the post… and as for the boots, all I can think of is “these boots were made for walking.” They’ve done their fair share of pavement pounding🙂 Best part – can they be any blacker? Thanks!

    • It is lovely there. I think you’ll like the Conservatory Garden in Central Park – have you been there? Much quieter than Fort Tryon Park based on the times I was there. If you go to the park, there’s a Russian store on 181 street called Moscow on the Hudson. Good for caviar and rye bread, if you like that kind of thing! Oh, my boots deserve some attention, hence the pic – thank you! They have been good to me this winter!

    • My pleasure! I am so happy that you’ll put it on the to-do list. The Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park are a great part of Manhattan ~ I’m looking forward to getting back there during Spring time! Enjoy your trip, and thank you🙂

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