10 Hidden Gardens in NYC You’ll Want to Keep a Secret

Green space is hard to come by in Manhattan—an apartment with a garden or terrace is a unicorn, scoring you instant popularity with friends and neighbors—but did you know there is probably a secret garden in your neighborhood? In addition to the three botanical gardens in the city, there are hundreds of gardens that are known to locals and tended by volunteers. Many of them are open to the public, so stop by one to soak in the greenery in the middle of Manhattan. Because they are run by volunteers, their opening hours may vary so we recommend checking the website or calling the information line before visiting. And after your visit, try your hand at a family gardening activity sure to grown your green thumb.

Here we reveal our 10 favorite hidden gardens in Manhattan, from north to south.

The Gardens of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

Entrances on Amsterdam Avenue at 110th and 111th streets, Morningside Heights
Hours: daily, dawn to dusk

What many don’t realize is that the gardens of the Cathedral are open to the public all year-round, during daylight hours. There are plenty of grassy areas with places to sit, a 40-food gothic spire, and the Peace Fountain, which was sculpted to mark the 200th anniversary of the Diocese of New York in 1985. You may even bump into one of the three resident peacocks. Directly across the street there is also a small neighborhood garden called the West 111th Street People’s Garden that is worth a visit.

West Side Community Garden

Entrances on West 89th and 90th streets, between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues, Upper West Side
Hours: most days, dawn to dusk, unless there is garden maintenance or a special event going on

This popular garden with unique amphitheater design was built in 1987 on the site of a garbage filled lot. It includes impressive flowerbeds, vegetable beds, herb beds, and school beds. The West Side Community Garden hosts many events, such as the famous tulip festival in May, which showcases the 15,000 tulip bulbs that are planted in November. The garden also hosts theater shows, movie nights, arts and crafts, and a ticketed member benefit.

Ford Foundation Atrium

320 E. 43rd St., between First and Second avenues, Midtown East
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm

Hidden in an office building near the United Nations is a lush, indoor garden, perfect for escaping bad weather. It sits inside a glass paneled, climate-controlled atrium that is more than 160 feet tall.

Alice’s Garden

10th Avenue, between 34th and 35th streets, Hell’s Kitchen

This small garden is nestled between busy streets and the Hudson Yards construction site. It’s named after Alice Parsekian, a local woman who took care of the garden until her death in 2010. You now need a key to access it, which also grants access to a number of other community plots in the area. You must be a New York resident to purchase a key: $2 each from Community Board 4: 330 W. 42nd St., #2601.

Jefferson Market Garden

Greenwich Avenue, between Sixth Avenue and West 10th Street, West Village
Hours: April-October: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-dusk; weather permitting

This triangle shaped garden sits on the site of a former woman’s prison that served the Jefferson Market Court House next door (now the Jefferson Market Library, a National Historic Landmark). Legend has it that Mae West once spent some time in the prison in 1927, after being arrested for her scandalous Broadway show Sex. The garden has well-tended flowerbeds, rose bushes, a fountain, a fishpond, and a circular path that my kids loved running around. Volunteers staff the front gate, and the garden hosts music concerts, kids’ festivals, and even weddings.

St. Luke’s in the Fields

Hudson Street, between Grove and Barrow streets, West Village
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10am to dusk; Sunday, 10am-6:30pm; closed on holidays

Stroll down Hudson Street in the West Village and you will happen upon an archway on your right; don’t just pass it by. You’ll want to step into this historic garden, standing next to the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, which was built in 1821. The first known planting of the garden was in 1842, with a cutting taken from England. There are lots of benches to sit on and different areas to enjoy. My kids loved the fact that could play hide and seek in the maze of pathways, flowerbeds, trees, and shrubs.

The East Village Gardens

The East Village is famous for a lot of things, but you might not know that community gardening is one of them. This neighborhood boasts three famous hidden gardens, each with their own unique character (and opening hours). All began life thanks to the hard work of local community members who came together to create something for their neighborhood.

6th Street & Avenue B Community Garden
Corner of East 6th Street and Avenue B, East Village
Hours: April 1-Oct. 31st, Saturdays-Sundays, 1-6pm, or whenever the gate is open.

Founded in 1983, this large garden has seating, a stage, a children’s play area, as well as raised bed, shrubs, and trees. During the spring and summer, this community garden hosts weekly events and community gatherings.

6BC Botanical Garden
6th Street, between Avenue B and Avenue C, East Village
Hours: April (weather permitting)-October: Monday-Friday, 6pm to dusk; Saturday-Sunday, 12-6pm. The garden is also open whenever there is a member inside and the gate is open.

Just around the corner from 6th Street & Avenue B Community Garden is 6BC Botanical Garden, which was founded as group of individual plots in 1981. Today the garden is Manhattan’s only official botanical garden, and it aims to teach the community about horticulture, as well as provide a calm, green place to relax under the magnificent pagoda or next to the pond.

Creative Little Garden
530 E. 6th St., East Village
Hours: daily, 10am-6pm

This garden is a long, thin space between two buildings, with a winding path and lots of places to sit. Kids will love the birdhouses hidden around the garden and the shade is perfect on a hot day.

Elizabeth Street Garden

Entrance on Elizabeth Street, between Spring and Prince streets, Little Italy
Hours: daily, 10am-6pm (except in bad weather)

This garden is sadly facing destruction thanks to local government officials who have designated the land for affordable housing. The large green space hosts community events amongst its many statues and stone plinths and is a green oasis in an extremely urban part of Lower Manhattan. To find out how you can help save the garden, go to the website.

To find a garden in your neighborhood, visit nycgovparks.org.