Carved out of Midtown Manhattan’s grid of bustling streets, Madison Square Park is another one of New York City’s great public spaces. Here you’ll find modern outdoor amenities—think a playground, dog run, and food vendors—set among lush green lawns, ceremonial fountains, cutting-edge public art, and numerous memorials, monuments, and statues honoring prominent historical figures. Madison Square Park is also just across the street from the Flatiron Building.
Madison Square Park History
Madison Square Park is so named in honor of the fourth president of the United States, James Madison. It was given this name during his presidency, at which time the site was serving as a military parade ground. The site played a number of roles over the course of the next few decades, before opening as a public park in 1847. It has remained a popular neighborhood park ever since.
One of the most fascinating historical tidbits pertaining to Madison Square Park involves something that no longer exists here. The world-famous arena, Madison Square Garden, takes its name from Madison Square Park. There have actually been four buildings bearing the name Madison Square Garden, and the first two of these structures were located just northeast of Madison Square Park. Though Madison Square Garden hasn’t been located near Madison Square Park since 1925, it carries the park’s name until this day.
What’s at Madison Square Park
Madison Square Park is full of history—it seems everywhere you turn within its green spaces and concrete walkways there’s a monument or memorial of note. Particular pieces of importance here include a statue of President Chester Arthur, who was actually inaugurated in New York City; the Admiral David Glasgow Farragut Monument, which honors the Civil War-era naval leader famous for the expression “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”; and the Worth Square Monument, where General William Jenkins Worth is buried.
Just because Madison Square Park is proud of its rich history doesn’t mean it’s lacking in modern amenities and plentiful opportunities for fun and relaxation. The Moira Ann Smith Playground is open year-round, and its swings, slides, and climbing towers are sure to be a hit with your little ones. Jemmy’s Dog Run is considered one of the better dog parks in Manhattan, and the Fountain and Reflecting Pool are pleasant spaces to mill about soaking up some sun and catching some fresh air.
Arguably, the most famous attraction you’ll encounter during your visit to Madison Square Park isn’t found within the park itself, but one block south of it, just across East 23rd Street. That’s where you’ll behold the Flatiron Building, the remarkable structure that gives this neighborhood its distinctive name (the Flatiron District). This architectural marvel is one of New York City’s most beloved buildings, and you’ll have wonderful views of its striking wedge shape from Madison Square Park.
Many people enjoy bringing their own food and throwing a picnic on the lawns of Madison Square Park, but if that’s not your style, don’t worry, you’ll still be spoiled for food options. For one, there’s a branch of the Shake Shack franchise located directly within the park. Also, as mentioned above, Madison Square Park exists at the heart of the lively Flatiron District neighborhood. This means there’s no shortage of restaurants, bars, and cafés in the area. One of the world’s greatest fine-dining establishments, Eleven Madison Park, is even located right across Madison Avenue from the park.
Tips for Visiting Madison Square Park
- Madison Square Park is open every day between the hours of 6:00am and 12:00am.
- However, the lawns at Madison Square Park are not open every single day of the year. To determine their availability in advance of your visit, check the Madison Square Park Conservancy official website for the latest information.
- Bikes are not allowed within Madison Square Park, so if you’re in search of some cycling fun, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
- There are no public restrooms available at Madison Square Park. Your nearest option will be a pay toilet on Madison Avenue between East 23rd and East 24th Streets.
- There are three major New York City subway stops located in the immediate vicinity of Madison Square Park. Consider taking public transportation when traveling to this attraction, as it’ll help you avoid the hassle of parking in Midtown.