The 10 best places in New York to escape the craze and the crowds

1    THE LITTLE RED LIGHTHOUSE

Hidden beneath the massive George Washington Bridge, like a little bird standing at the feet of a dinosaur, the Little Red Lighthouse is an odd relic. It was originally built in New Jersey, where it stood at Sandy Hook until 1917. It has stood in its current location on the north-west side of Manhattan since 1921, but been unused for almost all of that time. It is a romantic thing, the subject of children's books and poems. For a particularly beautiful vista, visit in winter, when ice floes drift past on the Hudson, and the red paint makes for a striking contrast with the surrounding snow. 

2.    TOP OF THE ROCK

Ignore the long lines. Once you're at the top of Rockefeller Centre, gazing uptown over the green sea of Central Park, all the other visitors seem to fall away. It is just you and the city. There are now a variety of high-rise lookouts around New York – the World Trade Centre opened its observatory in 2015 – but this remains the undisputed best, offering clear sightlines both up and down the island. See topoftherocknyc.com

3    MEETING AT MOMA PS1

Visitors flock to the Museum of Modern Art in Midtown, but the real gem is its sister property over in Queens: MoMA PS1, built in a converted public school. Along with the rotating exhibitions, PS1 features one of the most extraordinary permanent art pieces in the city, called Meeting, by James Turrell. It is deceptively simple: a small, empty room with seats around the edges and a hole in the ceiling. But Turrell is a master of light, and at sunset the walls illuminate in soft orange, and the sky takes on a strange, abstract quality that makes it both meditative and mesmerising, particularly when planes drift overhead from nearby LaGuardia Airport. See momaps1.org 

4   THE ROSE ROOM, NYPL

About two years ago, in the early hours of the morning, a piece of the ceiling collapsed in the New York Public Library's Rose Room. After an extensive (seemingly endless) renovation, the main reading room is now open again. One of the most beautiful public spaces in New York, it is the length of two city blocks, filled with long tables, green lamps, and people hunched over books pulled up from the subterranean stacks. This is a great place to come and read – or work – but don't forget to look up occasionally: the ceiling is decorated with billowing clouds. See nypl.org

5  FOUR FREEDOMS PARK

It is easy to forget that Manhattan is one island among many. Another, just alongside, is called Roosevelt Island, and it features a startling national monument at its pointy southern tip called the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. The park is worth a visit, an uncanny oasis of calm surrounded by high-rise buildings. It is also the last work of the extraordinary architect Louis I. Kahn, dedicated to one of America's best presidents. See fdrfourfreedomspark.org

6   THE NORTH WOODS, CENTRAL PARK

It's easy to find a quiet spot in Central Park. The most private and secluded, however, is the North Woods, adjacent to 110th Street at the very top. Modelled after the Adirondack Mountains further upstate, it is one of the few places you can go to entirely forget you're even in a city. There's a ravine, waterfalls, fallen logs, and even a loch. Recently, there was also a resident coyote, which somehow found its way onto Manhattan and decided the North Woods was the best parcel of real estate going. See centralparknyc.org

7   THE WHITNEY MUSEUM

When the Whitney Museum moved from the Upper East Side to the Meatpacking District in 2015, it did a smart thing. Instead of closing itself off to the city outside, looking inwards to the art, it opened itself up with large picture windows. What this means is that the city itself becomes a work of art, and you sometimes find yourself drifting from an Edward Hopper painting over to a vista of New Jersey across the Hudson River. The cafe on the eighth floor is expensive, but it's almost worth the price to sit and sip coffee on those graceful terraces. See whitney.org

8   THREE LIVES AND COMPANY

New York has a number of good bookstores. People like to boast about the Strand, near Union Square, which literally offers miles of books on its shelves. But the true gem is Three Lives and Company in the West Village. Think creaky floorboards, friendly staff, and tables cluttered with delectable titles – many of them written by famous names in the neighbourhood such as Patti Smith. This is the kind of place you come to browse on a rainy day and leave with several bags worth of reading material. Recently, the building sold to real estate developers, so the future is uncertain. Visit while you can. See threelives.com  

9   HUDSON RIVERSIDE PARK

For much of the city's modern history, New York has ignored its waterways. Thankfully, that began to change with Mayor Bloomberg, and the Hudson River is now accompanied by a terrific Manhattan-length walking path. From Times Square down to Battery Point, this becomes a great option for clearing your head. Grab your trainers to join the runners, or rent one of the Citi Bikes and hit the cycling trail, which twists past parks on piers that throng with residents during warmer months. A similar, less frequented path can be found on the other side of Manhattan, facing the East River. See nygovparks.org

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10   CAFE SABARSKY

For a piece of old Europe in New York, Cafe Sabarsky, on the ground floor of the Neue Galerie, is impossible to beat. If the Bosendorfer grand piano and Adolf Loos furniture doesn't give it away, the apple strudel will: Sabarsky is modelled after turn-of-the-century Viennese cafes, with their white-aproned wait staff and steaming black coffee. This is one of the best places in New York to come and get a light breakfast as you catch up on the newspaper, though the chocolate tortes are difficult to pass up as an early dessert. See neuegalerie.org   

Lance Richardson travelled at his own expense.

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