Exploring Manhattan: The Met Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park, and the GW Bridge

Sometimes New Yorkers think of Manhattan as whatever is below 125th. I’ve even heard anything below 60th! But of course Manhattan is a loooong island that reaches up into the 200s. If you go far enough, you get to Inwood/Washington Heights and the George Washington Bridge area. That’s what we did this past weekend and we got to visit the Met Cloisters, the beautiful Fort Tryon Park, and walk across the George Washington Bridge. All in all a great local OR tourist adventure!

Getting There

It’s quite easy to get up to the Met Cloisters. You take the A train straight to Dyckman Street. It’s around a half hour from Times Square. The Met Cloisters are just south of the subway station. Their typical hours of operation are from March–October: 10 am–5 pm and November–February: 10 am–4:30 pm.

You also can check out Dyckman Farmhouse before heading to the Cloisters if you’re into old houses/furniture. It definitely stands out from the 6-7 floor apartment buildings that are everywhere in this area. We checked out the grounds, but weren’t too interested in going in.

Dyckman Farmhouse

The Met Cloisters

What they are and how they got to NYC

The Met Cloisters is a museum that’s a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It has a ton of medieval-era art and artifacts. It contains four cloisters that were dismantled in Europe and brought on over to their new home in Manhattan. The whole concept of picking something like this up and dropping it in Manhattan is a little extravagant to say the least. But extravagant is exactly the word I would use to describe the man that later acquired them for the museum: John D. Rockefeller. It’s literally a slice of Europe in the United States, and feels like it.

The Architecture

The Cloisters have gardens and areas to sit in their center. They’re gorgeous even in late November as the plants all wilt. One cloister had gardens with food growing in them, another had potted plants. One looked overgrown, but there was something sort of right about an old cloister having some natural overgrowth. Columns line the cloisters, giving you an open-air walkway around the center. Many of these columns were very interesting, too. Different colors, designs, etc. They provided both archways and windows to the gardens and a glimpse of the people walking along the other side.

The Artifacts

The artifacts here are mostly from the 1300s. There were a lot of a tapestries, pieces of furniture, jewelry, vases and books. I love seeing old books. Some really look more like art than books you’re supposed to read, with images over or all around the words. But they’re very cool and come in every size imaginable. I supposed that’s still true today, but there’s something about a tiny ancient book that makes you wonder why? Tiny pockets? Trying to get more use out of that magnifying glass?

They also have the famous unicorn tapestries here, which was kind of exciting to see because Neal and I did a puzzle last year of the Unicorn in Captivity tapestry!

There also are a lot of tombs in the chapel and some absolutely stunning stained glass.

The Ambiance

This place seems like a bastion for creativity and inspiration. When you walk in, there are numerous chairs with sketchbooks and utensils to help get you started creating something. We saw people in several rooms taking the opportunity to sketch what they saw. A young kid did a stellar depiction of a Romanesque statue. I was so impressed! Some people were using pastels, some pencils, some pens. I loved the communal feel of creating something together.

This museum is pay-what-you-want for New Yorkers and we got our $10 worth.

Fort Tryon Park

We left The Met Cloisters and ventured south through Fort Tryon Park. The park is multi-layered and has really nice easy walkways throughout it. It’s teeming with black and grey squirrels. There are quite a few stone bridges that look beautiful with the fall leaves all around them, and huge boulders that people definitely climb on (despite the no climbing signs).

We were surprised at how nice this park was without looking manicured. Gantry Park in Long Island City is a beautiful park, but is so manufactured. This park is much more unassuming and gives sprawling views of the Hudson and the George Washington Bridge. It is so adorable that I wonder if a lot of people get married here. We have Rockefeller to thank for this one, too. He opened it for public use in the 1930s. This place truly felt like stepping back in time to a place where you’re surrounded by cobblestone and archways.

What to eat in the area

We got out of the park around 190th St. We were in search of food and decided on Uptown Garrison on 181st. This place was lovely and still serving brunch at 2:30. I got a mushroom omelette sandwich and Neal got the chicken and waffles. The portions to price ratio was a bit off the charts and I was honestly surprised for the area. I guess I don’t actually know a lot about this area — maybe there’s a rich community. Anyway, it was quite yummy. Neal got a cocktail that was cold brew coffee, bourbon and sweet cream. It didn’t have enough coffee in it, but man it was tasty!

George Washington Bridge

How to get across the GW

When we came out of the restaurant, we realized we were extremely close to the George Washington Bridge. We actually had not set out in the morning thinking we would cross it. But we thought, when will we be back up here? I googled it and discovered it was only a 20 minute walk across the bridge. Let’s do it!

We had to walk to the south side of the bridge to get on the ramp as the north side appeared to be closed. The path was somewhat narrow at first and you share it with bikers. They were all extremely courteous though, I must say!

What to expect

As we began crossing it, we saw the highways below lined with trees in past peak fall colors. There are also several tennis courts here that gave it a sort of resort feel. In the distance, you can see the skyscrapers that have come to symbolize NYC.

This bridge is high, real high. But it’s covered by netting all above you. The concrete does appear to be crumbling in certain places, but I felt pretty stable. Neal was worried as the bridge shook, but that is every suspension bridge! Night was falling as we reached the other side.

At the other end of the bridge–on the NJ side–is Fort Lee. We explored only as much as to use the facilities and view NYC from NJ. We want to go back, though, because it looked pretty nice.

As it was getting darker, we decided we really needed to head back. Besides, we’d already put 20k steps on our fitbits for the day and our dogs were barkin’.

We managed to cross back to Manhattan and find the subway home. It was a lovely way to spend the day! We just couldn’t let the high 40s go to waste in November. Never stop exploring!

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