12 Peaceful Spots to Relax and Unwind in Major U.S. Cities
When you need a moment of calm, head to one of these hidden gems.
Cities often get maligned for being too busy, too loud, and just too much. But believe it or not, it's totally possible to find peace and quiet in any of the country's biggest cities — you just have to know where to look. A silent museum gallery, cozy library reading room, or urban park filled with birdsong can be just as calming as wide, open spaces — and you don't have to set foot outside city limits to go there.
Next time you're craving some solitude, head to one of these peaceful places in major U.S. cities. Start your solo date with a cozy lunch at home that's both nourishing and easy to make, like one of Pacific Foods' new ready-to-serve hearty soups and plant-based chilis. Then, gear up for an afternoon all your own — sometimes, enjoying your own company is the best way to relax.
Thanks to recent revitalization efforts, the southern tip of Austin's oldest park now boasts a few state-of-the-art features — like the Treehouse. The two-story, open-air structure was designed to mimic a seedpod on the forest floor, and climbing up into it brings you to the level of the treetop canopy. You can even recline on the second-story net to lose yourself in the birdsong and wind whispering through the tree branches.
New York, New York
Just off Fifth Avenue, this tiny 1/10-acre "pocket park" offers an oasis of calm from the hustle and bustle of Midtown. It's hemmed in on three sides by buildings lined with English ivy and a 20-foot waterfall that anchors the space with calming white noise.
Los Angeles, California
This spiritual center in LA’s Jefferson Park neighborhood was designed for mindfulness. You might find a spot to sit quietly in the meditation garden with 16 water features, or walk the stone labyrinth for a moving meditation practice. Book a timed entry ticket ahead of your visit for $6.
Another way to experience some peace and quiet? Having a mindful lunch by yourself. Resist the temptation to listen to a podcast or scroll through social media while you eat, and instead, try simply focusing on your meal. Staying present not only helps you appreciate the flavors of your food more, but also gives your mind some time to just relax.
For a simple yet satisfying meal, heat up one of Pacific Foods' new ready-to-serve hearty soups and plant-based chilis. The recipes take cues from nature for their flavors, so whether you go for Carrot Ginger Bisque, Poblano Pepper and Corn Chowder, or Plant-Based White Bean Verde Chili, you'll have a meal that's both nourishing and tasty.
Created through a collaboration between Phoenix and its sister city of Himeji, Japan, this serene 3.5-acre garden is an ideal place for a tranquil stroll. Admire the koi ponds and stone footbridges as you walk the winding paths, or perhaps make a reservation at the teahouse to experience a traditional tea ceremony.
San Francisco, California
Ocean waves play music on the Wave Organ, a giant acoustic sculpture on a jetty behind Marina District Lighthouse. Built from granite and marble rescued from a demolished cemetery, the Wave Organ's PVC and concrete pipes extend into the water at varying heights. When the waves crash against them, the water creates low, gurgling notes that are unlike any music you've heard before. The music sounds best at high tide, so be sure to check the tide charts before you visit.
If reading is your ideal peaceful pastime, the Winter Garden on the ninth floor of the Harold Washington Library Center might be your dream relaxation spot. The building's glass roof offers gorgeous natural light all year round — a perfect environment for getting quietly absorbed in a good book.
Beatrix Farrand, the country's first professional female landscape architect, designed this 27-acre park as part of a commission for the owners of the nearby Dumbarton Oaks estate (now a history museum). Today, the National Parks Service maintains the naturalistic gardens inside Rock Creek Park, and the meadows and woodlands are a lovely place to wander.
Artists transformed this once abandoned lot on Detroit's East Side into the open art environment known as the Heidelberg Project. Vacant houses became polka-dotted art installations, while found objects like rusted-out cars and old street signs form the basis of other sculptures. Take a self-guided tour of the space on your own using the Heidelberg Project's free app —it's free to visit, but visitors are also encouraged to donate to nonprofit if they're able.
Although more than 70,000 people are buried in Oakland Cemetery, it's anything but macabre. In fact, the grounds are rather peaceful: Mature 200-year-old trees tower over ornate gravestones and mausoleums, and the gardens are beautifully maintained in all four seasons.
Indulge your academic fantasies with a visit to this research library dedicated to the history of women in the United States. It's part of Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute, but open to the public. Take in the rotating exhibitions on art and culture, or ask a research librarian to pull a book from the library's impressive collection of culinary history texts to peruse in the reading room.
New Orleans, Louisiana
An array of wind chimes of different sizes hang from the branches of this hundred-year-old tree in City Park, creating the Singing Oak. Sit in its shade for long enough, and you're guaranteed to hear a tinkling symphony when a breeze picks up.
Built in 1878, the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins Mt. Vernon campus is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The silence inside the academic institution only makes the skylight-topped reading room lined with ornamental cast-iron balconies appear more majestic.