Bryant Park may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Manhattan, but it is certainly one of the New York borough’s best places to spend some time. While many others are crowding around Central Park, many local New Yorkers like to relax in Bryant Park and enjoy the feeling that somehow remains low key despite being in one of the busiest areas of the city. If you are planning on coming to New York City with your family, Bryant Park is certainly worth a lengthy visit.
About Bryant Park
Bryant Park is a public park in New York that takes up more than 9.5 acres in one of the most bustling regions of Manhattan. Located only 2 blocks from Grand Central Station to the east and Times Square to the west, the park is easily accessible to tourists, workers, and locals.
Bryant Park was developed before New York even existed as an official American city, with the colonial governor Thomas Dongan designating it as a public space when Manhattan was still considered wilderness. In 1823, Bryant Park was used as a graveyard for impoverished families, but those bodies were moved to Wards Island in 1840. In 1847 the area was opened as a public park for the first time and it was given the name Reservoir Square.
In 1884 the park was renamed Bryant Park in honor of William Cullen Bryant, who was a famed abolitionist and an editor for the New York Evening Post. In 1899, a branch of the New York Public Library was added, and public facilities, gardens, and kiosks were built around the park.
Bryant Park fell on some hard times in the 1970s, as it became known as a haven for drug dealers and criminals, and the city urged citizens to steer clear of the area. Advocacy groups and local government worked hard throughout the 80s to improve the image of the park and restore it to its once safe status as a beautiful place for New Yorkers to visit and relax.
By 1992, the park reopened with brand new amenities, and New Yorkers considered it an immense success. It was once again a family-friendly place where citizens and tourists could go to enjoy a nice afternoon or evening. Many lauded the ability of the park to allow people to enjoy a break in nature while still feeling connected to the rest of the city.
What to do at Bryant Park
There are many ways to enjoy the public space of Bryant Park for both adults and children alike. Consider some of these options when visiting the park.
· See the monuments. There are many statues scattered throughout the park, including one dedicated to William Cullen Bryant located at the library’s rear terrace.
· Admire the plant life. Bryant Park is known for its fantastic horticulture, with magnificent flowerbeds, trees, and shrubbery planted throughout the park.
· Get Lunch at the Bryant Park Grill. The restaurant is known for new American fare and has plenty to offer for the kids. Reservations are required for the main dining room, but you can get a seat on the patio or the rooftop terrace on a first come, first served basis.
· For a more informal lunch, try the Southwest Porch. This al fresco dining area features burgers, salads, and drinks, so there’s something for the kids and the adults here. The swings and lounge furniture make for a fantastic atmosphere while enjoying your meal.
Seasonal Activities in Bryant Park
Bryant Park is known for being a festive gathering area in the center of Manhattan, so it can be fun to join in on the seasonal activities that take place there. Consider some of these great events that happen every year.
· Winter – Bryant Park hosts and entire Winter Village that includes visits to Santa Claus, Ice Skating, and Christmas caroling. There are shops located throughout, offering everything from snacks and hot chocolate to Christmas gifts for the family.
· Spring – Spring is the best time to enjoy the blooming flowers, as Bryant Park has a slightly earlier seasons thanks to the miles of library stacks under the park which provide a warming zone for growth.
· Summer – The HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival is a great way to see some classic movies while enjoying the hot summer nights. It takes place every Monday throughout the summer at 5pm, so you’ll have plenty of time to grab a bite or enjoy a drink after viewing your movie.
· Fall – The Bryant Park Fall Festival is a free, weeklong festival in September that features performances and displays from some of New York’s top artists. You can watch and listen to ballet, jazz, rock, and blues all week long while enjoying the cool nights of autumn.
Have you been to Bryant Park in NYC? What did you think of it? What did you do there? Please share your thoughts, tips, fun memories below in the comments!