Jane Austen is one of the preeminent writers of the Regency Era. While Britain was in the throes of its distinctive phases in architecture, literature, and fashion, New York City in the 1800s was undergoing its own boom as an economic and cultural center. The soot and gambling dens are best left to history, but in a city as storied as ours, you don’t have to look very far to experience the more rosy aspects of Austen’s day.
“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.” – Mansfield Park
What better way to start your day than with a finely-brewed cuppa and a selection of delicate pastries and savory delights? Let the bustle of the city pass you by as you imagine yourself in an English country sitting room (or entertaining the advances of a potential suitor).
- Bosie Tea Parlor: A stone’s throw away from the Cherry Lane Theatre on Morton Street is Bosie Tea Parlor. With over 100 curated loose leaf teas by tea master Kiley Holliday (who also holds the distinction for being the youngest tea sommelier in the U.S.) and pastries from third generation French pâtissier Damien Herrgott, Bosie’s quiet elegance is ideal for all your tea service needs. (An even lovelier touch? The check is given to you tucked into a classic novel).
- Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon: Where else can you sup on petits fours while lounging on brocade couches? Seating at this Victorian parlor tucked in Gramercy Park is limited, so be sure to make a reservation if you’re interested in their luxurious pre-fixe afternoon tea.
- Tea & Sympathy: Bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, and sticky toffee pudding? Check. At the West Village’s Tea & Sympathy, you can have your traditional, hearty British fare alongside tiered trays of Victoria sponge cake and scones with clotted cream, all washed down with a pot of Earl Grey (and dozens of other choices).
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” – Northanger Abbey
In Pride and Prejudice, Miss Bingley quips that Elizabeth Bennet “is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.” She meant it as a slight, but what better way to honor Austen’s long list of learned women than by immersing yourself in one of the greatest pleasures in the world?
- The Morgan Library & Museum: In 2009, the Morgan Library & Museum honored the life and legacy of Jane Austen with an expansive exhibition of over 100 of her works, from manuscripts to personal letters. Selections from the exhibition can still be viewed online, but if you’re ever near Grand Central or Penn Station, you’ll be hard put to find a more awe-inspiring space for literature and art lovers.
“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” – Mansfield Park
Tea and literature is all well and good, but one of the greatest luxuries we have in our oversaturated lives today is time to do absolutely nothing. Leave your screens behind for a few hours and relish in a quiet walk to air out your thoughts.
- Conservatory Garden: In the northeast corner of Central Park is this six acre formal garden, which is divided into smaller Italian, French, and English gardens (where Kate Hamill’s photos—see above—for our production of Pride and Prejudice were taken). A designated Quiet Zone, let the hubbub of the city melt away as you while away an afternoon surrounded by woodland plants, seasonal blooms, and decorative fountains.
- Frelinghuysen Arboretum: If you’re itching to take a day trip, the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ is a serene (and free!) escape from the city. Meander through the immaculate English-style grounds of the 127 acre arboretum and don’t forget to take a breather by the main house and its sloping Great Lawn, which wouldn’t be out of place in a sumptuous period film.
“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” – Pride and Prejudice
The ballroom wasn’t exactly the site of good first impressions for Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, but that doesn’t have to be your case! Conclude your perfectly Austenian day by stepping and skipping your night away in the most elegant fashion.
- Country Dance New York: You can sip a cup of tea and imagine yourself in an Austen novel, or you can join Country Dance New York every Tuesday in the West Village for an evening of the kind of social dancing Jane Austen herself would have enjoyed. Lessons are provided, newcomers are welcome, and it’s tradition to switch partners for each dance, so there’s no pressure to find a companion to bring with you (but the more the merrier!).
“One cannot have too large a party.” – Emma
Sated with scones and feeling fancy-free, what better way to wind down your evening than by celebrating Jane’s most beloved story with the quick-changing and sharp-tongued antics of our Bennets, de Bourghs, et al. in Kate Hamill’s playful new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Performances of the Primary Stages production of Pride and Prejudice run through January 6 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.