Last weekend, cities across the US hosted “Open Houses,” including New York City. The basic premise of Open House New York is to open public works buildings, historic sites, and other such spaces to the public for the entire weekend for free. Yep, you heard me—it was 100% free.
I started my day with big plans. I had four different sites on my list to visit, all in the Bronx/Washington Heights area. Like many well-laid adventure plans, I ended up doing only half of what I had on my list in favor of taking my time at the places I was able to visit with my roomie.
After a delicious lunch of mofongo (so annoyed I didn’t think to write down the name of the restaurant we ate at!), Tricia and I headed to Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights. Washington Heights is one of the the northernmost neighborhoods in Manhattan and is quite hilly. We headed to the park to view what we were hoping would be a picturesque little cottage. It ended up being not mega exciting inside, but we got an interesting 30-minute history lesson of the park and some gorgeous views (long story short, the park was privately owned by a single family for many years and somehow wound up in the hands of Rockefeller in the early 1900s—go figure).
While the cottage was a mild bust, the park itself was a major find. Adding to my long list of “Things I Never Knew About NYC but Locals Probably Did” is the fact that Fort Tryon Park is gorgeous. Like, I’m-in-a-different-universe-than-NYC gorgeous. Fort Tryon is situated at the top of a huge hill and has the most beautiful, unobstructed view of the Hudson River. It was so peaceful when we went—sailboats were out on the river, traffic was crawling its way over the George Washington bridge, and a few different people let me pet their dogs. Sheer heaven.
Fort Tryon Park has lovely heather gardens as well that were nice to stroll through. I’ll be back sooner than later because the park has an old cloister that’s been repurposed into a medieval museum, which is supposed to be fabulous.
After the park, we hoofed our way to the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest home. While the Colonial structure isn’t super impressive to the naked eye (not a lot of furniture inside, to my dismay), the history of the place is fascinating. After being built for a British colonel and his American wife in the late 1700s, it was later used as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolution for a whopping one month. In the early 1800s it was purchased by a Frenchman, who died soon after, leaving his widow to marry Aaron Burr of all people.
Fun fact: on the very day Aaron Burr and the Frenchwoman divorced, he died (talk about karma).
Needless to say, Tricia and I had a wild time fan-girling over the spots where Aaron Burr may or may not have been and quoting Hamilton excessively. While we were inside exploring, a poetry reading was happening on the front steps of the house—what an exciting visit!
After a long day of wandering, we ended up catching a movie at a friend’s place and welcomed our warm beds that night.
If you get a chance to explore your city during an “Open House” weekend, I highly recommend it. Open House New York had dozens of places open to the public, and I only saw two, so I’ll undoubtedly visit even more sites next year.
What’s one place in NYC you’re dying to visit? It doesn’t have to be open to the public! I’d love to hear your thoughts!