The best way to enter Washington Square Park is from the north, on 5th Avenue. As you pass high-end medical offices and views of the Empire State Building, you will emerge by the enormous archway and memorial that rises well above the rest of the park. Proceed under the arch and walk to the center of the park for another of its highlights. Here, you will find an enormous fountain that was once a popular hangout for bohemians, academics and artists.
Built in 1871, the park is named after the Washington Square Arch, a memorial erected to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as president of the United States. Take a walk around all the beautiful gardens enclosed in this area.
On the western side of the park, play a game of chess for money. The men who play here are skilled, so be careful if you have not studied chess before. For the seasoned player there are enough opponents to fill multiple afternoons. In the past, they included director Stanley Kubrick, who made money by playing matches here.
Sit for an impromptu concert. Buskers come to the park with accordions, guitars and even baby grand pianos to play a wide variety of genres of music. Some are highly skilled and sell their music on CDs.
Washington Square Park is located in Greenwich Village. The West Village is only two blocks to the west and the Bowery is only two to the east. While the park has undergone major restorations and is much safer than it has ever been, it is still best to visit during the day. Though the center is usually lit and crowded later in the day, avoid walking alone through the western side of the park at night.
While you’re in the Washington Square Park area, visit the IFC Center on 6th Avenue, and see an independent film. Enjoy a walk in this cluster of New York City’s most charming and distinctly European neighborhoods. Linger for a while in an antique book shop and sit down for an afternoon cappuccino.