Bryant Park is one of Midtown Manhattan’s most popular destinations for those visitors seeking a green space in the midst of some of the most famous buildings in the world. Located right next to the main branch building of the New York Public Library, Bryant Park sits between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and 40th and 42nd Streets, squarely in the heart of New York City. It’s home to a variety of food and drink options, sponsored activities, special events, and more.
Bryant Park History
The first park located on the land we know today as Bryant Park dates to the mid-1840s. In those days, the location was home to Croton Distributing Reservoir, an engineering marvel and the primary supplier of New York City’s water. A park, known appropriately enough as Reservoir Square, was built next to the water facility, and over the next thirty years it would serve as the site of New York City’s Crystal Palace exhibition and as a campground for Union troops during the Civil War.
In 1884, Reservoir Square would at last become Bryant Park, so dubbed in honor of William Cullen Bryant, the reform-minded editor of the New York Evening Post who had died in 1878. In 1911, the primary building of the New York Public Library was completed, and though much has changed in the intervening years, and the park has undergone numerous renovations in that past century, the basic footprint of the area has remained the same ever since.
What’s at Bryant Park
Even though Bryant Park is a relatively small place, occupying just about ten acres in the shadow of the New York Public Library, visitors won’t be disappointed by all there is to do here. Two favorite Bryant Park activities available year-round are ping pong and Le Carrousel, a classic, French-style ride the little ones are sure to love. Juggling classes are also frequently held in the park, and are free to anyone and everyone.
One of the most popular attractions found here is The Rink at Bryant Park. This charming ice-skating rink is part of the Winter Village experience that runs at Bryant Park every year from about the end of October to roughly the beginning of March. In addition to ice skating, the Winter Village at Bryant Park features seasonal food and drink, special holiday shops, and more.
There are numerous dining options at Bryant Park. You’ll find several distinct kiosks on site, including a coffee shop and Le Pain Quotidien. During the holiday season, The Lodge is Bryant Park’s pop-up food hall. There you’ll find festive winter drinks, snacks, and meals from some of the city’s best bars and restaurants. Bryant Park Grill and Café is the park’s signature brick-and-mortar restaurant. It does New American cuisine in a beautiful setting on the park’s Upper Terrace.
Bryant Park is located in the midst of a great many different attractions, too. Times Square is just a few blocks away, as are favorite destinations like the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, and so much more.
Tips for Visiting Bryant Park
- While the park’s two ping-pong tables are available all year long, they are not managed throughout the fall and winter months. That means, if you’re looking to play during these seasons, you’ll need to bring your own equipment.
- If you’re interested in dining inside at the Bryant Park Grill, reservations come strongly recommended. The Café portion of the restaurant has a more casual vibe, and its outdoor seating is first come, first served.
- Not only is ice skating at Bryant Park a seasonal activity, but it requires you to make an online reservation in advance of your outing (you must make this reservation even if you plan on using your own ice skates). The cost of skate rentals here varies depending on the day and time, so you’ll definitely want to plan ahead if this activity is on your to-do list.
- The Rink at Bryant Park can get pretty busy during peak times. To avoid the crowds, consider going for your skate during the morning, especially on a weekday. These tend to be the best times to beat the rush.
- Bryant Park proudly claims to host over 1,000 events, classes, and activities each and every year. As a result, be sure to check their calendar of events before your visit—you never know just what might be scheduled to happen!