In the heart of midtown’s high stress and high traffic stands Bryant Park, a much-needed escape and an oasis to take a moment to refresh and watch the world go by.
Bryant Park is as close to the middle of Manhattan as you can get. Bordered by Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 40th and 42nd Streets, it’s one block from Times Square. The New York Public Library adjoins it. Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building are on the same street. It’s the epicenter of chaos, yet it’s a place that offers much-needed respite.
First designated a public space in 1686, its checkered past includes being used as a potter’s field (cemetery) from 1823 to 1840, when the bodies were exhumed and moved to Wards Island, near Randalls Island. In the 1870s, it fell into neglect and was beautified in the 1930s as a public works project during the Great Depression. In the 1970s, it was a no-go zone for most tourists and the general public, a haven for pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers. In the 1980s, community groups fought to reclaim the park and between 1988 and 1992, it was renovated, reducing visible cover that previously harbored bad elements.
Today the park is a haven for midtown workers and tourists alike. A carousel with a freak show of carriages can be found on the south side of the lawn. A bar and café hold permanent positions near the Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain, the park’s most immediately identifiable landmark. In winter it’s left on, creating a beautiful frozen sculpture.
Among the park’s main statues are ones of literary greats, Gertrude Stein and Goethe, while the most dominating feature is one of William Cullen Bryant, who the park is named in honor of. On the northern promenade, the Reading Room provides free books and board games to enjoy as you while away the hours in the sun and for the more active types, there are ping pong tables and a putting green – all free to use.
In summer the park is home to music festivals, fashion parades, opera performance and the HBO Summer Cinema, with free showings of classic and recent movies. From mid-November, the park is transformed into a winter wonderland, with winter craft markets, and the lawn becomes a free ice skating rink.
The Bryant Park Winter Village
Free Ice Skating (BYO Skates)
It’s hard to miss Bryant Park and when you need a break from the city’s insanity, it’s one place that offers clean toilets and free WIFI – so why wouldn’t you?
Bryant Park is midtown’s favorite place to escape the traffic and crowds.
Bryant Park is situated behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
Take the B, D, F, or M train to 42nd Street/Bryant Park
Take the 7 to 5th Avenue