In the middle of the bustling Midtown Manhattan is located a small haven of peace known as Bryant Park, one of the smallest parks in the city but most loved by New Yorkers. A nice place to take a break during your visit to the Big Apple.
1. Ice skating at Christmas
A typical postcard of Christmas in New York is people skating in an ice rink. From late October to early January you can be one of them in Bryant Park, which for a few weeks becomes the Christmas town of Bank of America Winter Village.
The Rink, a large ice skating rink with free access and an emblematic Christmas market full of souvenirs and gourmet delicacies, is set up here. Like Rockefeller Plaza, Bryant Park also lights up a tree for Christmas, although it's less media-worthy.
The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
There are no celebrities to liven up the evening, but it is very special nonetheless: a group of skaters dance and perform acrobatics to live music, and the show concludes with the lighting of the tree lights. Afterward, the ice rink is reopened to the public while musicians from Lincoln Center play jazz. If you are going to be in town for Christmas, you can read my article on 11 Christmas things to do in New York City.
The ice rink remains open until April when it is dismantled for the spring and work is done so that the Bryant Park lawn can recover for the summer.
2. Join one of their summer activities
At the end of May Bryant Park organizes multitude of activities that attract all kinds of people: free yoga, tai-chi, and dance classes, a reading corner, spaces to play board games and my favorite plan, the iconic classic film festival outdoors that is screened on Monday nights during the summer months. There's free popcorn at the entrance if you get there early!
If you're up for the plan, I recommend checking the official Bryant Park website to keep an eye on their schedule and find out about times, events, etc well in advance.
3. Photograph the iconic Bryant Park fountain
As soon as you arrive the first thing you will see if you access from Sixth Avenue is the popular Bryant Park Fountain, although its real name is the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain which was erected in 1912 in honor of a social worker who fought to improve the working conditions of women. It was the first public monument in the city dedicated to a woman.
If you visit Bryant Park in winter, this fountain is one of the most photographed places in the park because the cold water freezes and creates unusual shapes.
4. Get cultured at Bryant Park
In the Reading Room
During the warm months of the year, the Bryant Park Reading Room is a nice space under the trees where there are benches and tables to spend a nice time reading the press or a book for free. No need for IDs or cards.
In addition, the Reading Room organizes reading programs at lunchtime or after work for those who work in nearby offices and want to disconnect from the routine for a while. There is also a reading club, spelling contests, meetings with writers, film discussions, and activities for children.
With its concerts
In September, the American Symphony Orchestra offers several intimate concerts that fill up quickly. Since seating for these events is limited, I advise you to arrive early because they are on a first-come, first-served basis. All performances begin at 5:30 PM.
If you enjoy piano concerts, between June and October there are also ragtime, stride, and jazz recitals every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
One of Bryant Park's coolest cultural activities for a fun evening is the Picnic Performances, where audiences can attend short opera, dance, music, and theater performances for free with no lines, no tickets, and no dress code.
Plus, at the entrance blankets are distributed to attendees to make the evening more relaxed, so they can lie down and enjoy the picnic while watching the show - there are even jugglers and giant games to entertain the audience!
Take part in their writing workshops
Did you know that Bryant Park has free writing workshops with teachers to hone your writing skills? If you are interested in the subject, I recommend you to visit these workshops as it is a good opportunity to increase your creativity with letters and meet people in New York with the same interests.
5. Ride the Bryant Park Carousel
Bryant Park is also home to a small vintage carousel that was designed in harmony with the French style of the park and in homage to the European and American tradition of carousels. Its decoration and the animals that compose it were crafted by hand. If you visit New York with children and in particular this park, they will love it. The ride costs $ 3.
Other activities in Bryant Park for Kids
If you are traveling to New York with children it is important to include in the agenda plans where they can also enjoy the getaway. Bryant Park is one of those places where the little ones can play outdoors and have fun with the children's activities programmed: the merry-go-round, story-time, bubble show, magic, and much more.
6. Take the opportunity to visit the New York Public Library
The part of Bryant Park that borders Fifth Avenue is occupied by the New York Public Library, a beautiful neoclassical building that is accessed by a marble staircase decorated at the entrance with two fountains and two lions nicknamed Patience and Fortress that guard the greatest treasure of this space: its more than three million books.
I recommend you visit it after a stroll through Bryant Park because it contains a treasure trove of literature and history such as a letter from Christopher Columbus, a draft of the Declaration of Independence of the United States, a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, and some manuscripts of William Shakespeare.
Climb to the third floor
The majesty of its reading rooms is such that it has served as the setting for several films, but the most famous of all is the Rose Reading Room, the main reading room on the third floor. Not only for its soccer field dimensions but also for its ostentatious decoration with hanging lamps, massive oak tables, and frescoes on the ceiling.
As an interesting fact, on the same floor, you can see the library with original furniture owned by Mary Shelley, the author of "Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus". One of the most unknown corners for most visitors to the New York Public Library.
7. Join one of the tours that run through it
Who knew that in a park as small as Bryant Park there could be such a diversity of birds? If you like bird watching, between September and October the NYC Audubon platform for the protection of these animals and their habitat organizes guided tours to observe the wildlife of Bryant Park.
Weather permitting, a guided walking tour of Bryant Park takes place every other Wednesday to learn about the origins of this park, its history, and how for a few years it became a haven for crime and drugs in Manhattan's Town Square.
The tour starts every morning at 11 AM from the Bryant Park fountain, near Sixth Avenue and 41st Street, and lasts 45 minutes.
8. Attend the Film Festival in Bryant Park
A good plan for Monday nights in New York during the summer is to head to Bryant Park to enjoy its Outdoor Film Festival. In front of the park's famous fountain, a giant screen is set up where classic movies are shown while the audience picnics on the lawn.
The movie viewing area opens at 5 PM for attendees to take their seats but the movie starts between 8 PM and 9 PM.
9. Stop by Nikola Tesla Corner
The corner of Sixth Avenue and 40th Street is dedicated to inventor Nikola Tesla as it is said that he spent a lot of time here feeding the birds. In fact, there is a sign on the street that reads "Nikola Tesla Corner" to mark the site.
Other sculptures or tributes
- The William Earl Dodge Memorial: on the north side of the park is a bronze statue dedicated to philanthropist and entrepreneur William Earl Dodge.
- The William Cullen Bryant Memorial: Bryant Park is also home to the memorial statue to poet and journalist William Cullen Bryant, for whom the park has been named since 1884. When the New York Public Library was completed this monument was installed in 1911.
10. Take the opportunity to see the surrounding buildings
If there's one thing we travelers love about New York, it's its eclectic architecture. From Bryant Park, we can enjoy the views of some very special buildings that surround the park and give a unique personality to the environment.
- 500 Fifth Avenue: At the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street sits this 212-meter tall Art Deco skyscraper designed by the architects of the Empire State Building.
- Bryant Park Building: On the northwest corner of Avenue of the Americas and 42nd Street is this building that was remodeled in 1985 to house the Home Box Office Building (HBO).
- Salmon Tower Building: This beautiful 1920s building is notable for the tile vaults in its lobby and the bas-reliefs around its entrance, which represent the months of the year. New York University occupies part of the building.
Avenue of the Americas
- Bank of America Tower: One of the most modern skyscrapers surrounding Bryan Park. It was completed in 2010 with a sustainable design in connection with nature and is the eighth tallest in the city. You'll know it for its slanted roof and glass structure for the passage of light.
- 1095 Avenue of the Americas: It is a 192-meter-tall skyscraper that was built in the 1970s as the headquarters of New York Telephone.
- American Radiator Building: One of the most beautiful buildings surrounding Bryant Park. Art Deco and Neo-Gothic in style, it features black brick with gold trim to symbolize fire - you'll spot it right away!
- Knox Hat Building: This is one of the most beautiful commercial buildings in the city. It was built at the turn of the 20th century and housed the offices of a major hat manufacturer that was worn by the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller.
- New York Public Library: One of the most impressive buildings in New York, both inside and out. It opened in 1911.
Other nearby buildings.
- Chrysler Building: The favorite skyscraper of many New Yorkers and tourists for its striking Art Deco architecture.
- Grand Central Terminal: A marvel of art and engineering that opened in the 19th century and is now one of New York's most prominent architectural gems.
Where is Bryant Park and how to get there?
Bryant Park is located on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, very close to Times Square. The park can be reached by subway by taking the following lines:
- B, D, F and M lines (Stop 42nd St/Bryant Park)
- Line 7 (Stop 5th Ave)
Where to eat in Bryant Park?
Bryant Park is the ideal place in Midtown Manhattan to take a break and have a relaxing meal. There's a little bit of everything: from upscale restaurants to cozy cafes and small kiosks.
The Lodge Deck
During the winter, next to the ice rink, The Lodge Deck offers a seasonal menu and hot drinks in a space overlooking the ice rink. There are different types of sausage with sides and sauces as well as various cheese, spicy, or bacon fries. Open daily between October and March from 10 AM to 10 PM.
When the weather is nice, a good place to grab a bite to eat while you recharge your batteries is Fever Tree Porch. Their salads are delicious but there are also other options such as burgers or sandwiches.
Also, at Fever-Tree Porch there are power outlets available to charge your phone or computer, which comes in handy after walking around the city all day. Since there's free Wi-Fi at Bryant Park you can take advantage of it to upload all your photos to your socials or make a video call home to tell how much fun you're having on the trip. Open Monday through Wednesday from noon to 6 PM and Thursday through Sunday from noon to 8 PM.
Bryant Park Grill
The Bryant Park Grill is a sophisticated Parisian-style restaurant perfect for a romantic evening if you're traveling to New York as a couple. Depending on the time of the year, the terrace adapts to the weather and as for the dishes, the menu is extensive and delicious. Ask for their desserts and cocktails, they are exquisite! Open on weekends from 12 PM to 8:30 PM.
Bryant Park Café
The Bryant Park Café is run by the Bryant Park Grill but has a more casual feel. You don't need a reservation to eat here and its menu is American style. Its terrace is a popular spot, especially during the summer. It is open Wednesday through Friday from 3:30 PM to 9 PM and on weekends from 11:30 AM to 7 PM.