Attentional restoration and psychophysiological stress reduction approaches have been proposed for understanding how natural and other environments aid recovery from excessive demands on functional capacities. Two series of studies have tested aspects of these frameworks. The first consisted of experiments which mapped the emergence of attentional, emotional and physiological outcomes in conjunction with comparisons of the restorative potentials of commonplace urban and natural environments. The second was dedicated to the development of a measure of perceptions related to the restorative potentials of environments. Restorative potentials of select sites were measured with items intended to represent the constructs being away, fascination, coherence and compatibility. The sites differed along theoretically relevant dimensions and were evaluated by subjects from different populations under various field and simulation conditions. The paper summarizes the main findings from each series of studies, drawing attention to the structure of restorative experiences, the time course of restoration and the relative restorative values of natural and urban environments.