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A Guide to Slow Looking in Prospect Park, Brooklyn

Updated: May 4, 2022

While in Brooklyn, you’ll want to carve out some time for one of our favori​​te places: Prospect Park.

Green lamp posts near the water located by the Boathouse in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

Once you step inside the park, it only takes a matter of minutes before you forget you’ve walked through a jungle of buildings and honking cars to get here.

If you’re in the mood for a meditative walk through the park, grab your headphones and enjoy our audio walking tour, which you can experience on-demand.

Welcomed by undulating meadows and canopies of trees, spend some time simply taking in your surroundings -- there’s so much natural beauty in just about every direction. To guide your journey through the park, we’ve highlighted five places in the park that are perfect for slow looking and enjoying a few mindful moments:

The Long Meadow

The Long Meadow is the pinnacle of Olmsted and Vaux’s design principles. Olmsted described this part of the land as, “A broad stretch of slightly undulating meadow without defined edges, itself lost in a maze of shadows of scattered trees.” The ends of the land are out of sight. Olmsted and Vaux used the landscape to their advantage to create the effect that the meadow stretches on forever. Find a place to sit and imagine what this space might have looked like in its earliest years when local farmers were still using this area for their sheep and cattle.

A large green area filled with meadows and trees. Nearby is a walking path and a few people are exploring Prospect Park on the walking path and on the grass.

The Ravine

Notice the way the trees seem to envelop you. Olmstead and Vaux’s vision for the Ravine, Brooklyn’s only forest, was to recreate a walk through the woods upstate so that Brooklyn residents didn’t have to leave the city to experience the Adirondacks. Listen closely. What noises do you hear -- water flowing, footsteps of those ahead of you, leaves falling, ice melting? You’ll hear unique sounds in each season.

Notice the large boulders along the path. Take some time, peek among the rocks. Perhaps you catch a glance of a chipmunk, or a rabbit hopping back into hiding, or songbirds flitting through the underbrush.

The Boathouse

The Boathouse faces west, allowing you to soak in sunsets over the water. Take a seat on the steps of the building and take in the bucolic view. Admire its white terra-cotta structure and think about all the New Yorkers and travelers who have walked this path throughout history.

The Boathouse was designated a historical landmark in 1968 (one of the first buildings in New York to gain that status). As you spend a few moments listening and looking, what stands out to you -- fish swimming, the movement of the water itself, children playing, maybe the tunes of musicians playing in the distance finds its way to you?

Exterior view of the Boathouse in Prospect Park Brooklyn, on a sunny day surrounded by lush green trees and algae on the water's surface in front of the structure. People are walking around in front of the Boathouse, relaxing by the water.

The Camperdown Elm

Does this tree look similar or distinctly unique compared to the other trees you’ve walked by? The Camperdown Elm is a tree with a storied past. There’s a wrought iron fence surrounding the tree. Walk up to it and find a plaque on the fence’s side. Take a moment under its draping branches.

In the 1830s, David Taylor, a forester on the estate of the Earl of Camperdown in Scotland discovered a strange mutant elm. Its branches draped down, rather than reaching toward the sky. In 1872, a part of that tree was planted here in Prospect Park, only five years after the park opened. As you watch the tree’s branches softly swaying in the wind, picture the tree as a silent observer of the park and imagine all that it’s seen from the 1800s to today.

Inside a black wrought iron fence is the Camperdown Elm in Prospect Park Brooklyn, and its appearance are different from other trees in the park as its leaves are very full and cascade down the branches.

The Nethermead

As you walk down this portion of the park, notice the rolling hills surrounding you. Look around. Can you see any buildings peeking above the treetops? Is there any sign you’re at the center of a bustling city? What does walking through this space, seemingly as opposite of the Big Apple as you can get, evoke?


Want to discover more stories in Brooklyn? Explore at your pace, on your schedule with Gesso - browse available tours!

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