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Fifth Ave. and Waverly Pl. (Greenwich Village)
New York, NY
POPULAR TIMESAfternoons; weekends; summers
RESERVE IN ADVANCENo
WAIT TIME WITHOUT RESERVATIONNone
HIGHLIGHTSWashington Memorial Arch; Washington Square Fountain; chess tables
SUBWAYW. 4th St. (A, B, C, D, E, F, M); 8th St.-NYU (N, R); Astor Pl. (6); Christopher St.-Sheridan Sq. (1)
Despite rather inauspicious beginnings as an execution ground and a cemetery for yellow fever victims (it’s estimated that up to 20,000 people may be buried beneath the park), Washington Square Park actually became one of the city’s most fashionable addresses after its founding in 1827, attracting wealthy Manhattanites who built luxurious Greek Revival mansions around its perimeter. By the 1950s, the wealthy had fled further Uptown, ceding the park to the beatniks and folk singers who congregated under the Washington Memorial Arch (a marble arch modeled on the Arc de Triomphe) and near the ornate fountain for singalongs and debates. While Dylan and Ginsberg aren’t regulars anymore, bohemian types (NYU students, musicians, and out-of-the-box thinkers) still congregate here to play scrabble and chess on the outdoor tables, watch the crowds of skateboarders and street performers, or simply debate the state of the universe.
GO HERE WITH
Friends; family; kids; a pet; yourself
WHY WE LIKE IT
This is hands-down one of the best people-watching spots in the city. We like spending an afternoon watching kids splashing in the fountain, offbeat performers doing their tricks, and chess players duking it out at the tables.
WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
The not-so-discreet pot dealers.
GOOD TO KNOW
Back in the 1960s, urban planning activitist Jane Jacobs fought to make the park free from cars (city authorities wanted to route Fifth Avenue through the center of the park), and since its redesign in 1971, the park has remained traffic-free. There are two playgrounds and a dog run in the park. Some fun facts about the square: NYU considers this its quad, in 1835 Samuel Morse gave the first public demonstration of the telegraph here, and in 1888 Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Twain (most likely) shared a park bench and a conversation here.
All information within this website was checked for accuracy at the time of publication. But since the world moves quickly, things may have changed. Pardon us for any errors as we strive to give you the most up-to-the-minute details!