Bryant Park, New York City

My family is fortunate enough to live a short train ride away from New York City, and we frequently take advantage of this opportunity. We enjoy visiting Bryant Park, a quick walk from Grand Central Terminal. There are literally dozens of things to do in the nine acre park, located between 5th and 6th Avenues and 42 and 44th Streets in Midtown Manhattan. Here are some of my seasonal favorites:

Summer: Broadway in Bryant Park - one of my favorite things to do in NYC! For six Thursdays in July and August, from 12:30-1:30pm, casts from various Broadway and Off-Broadway shows perform- for FREE. There are usually 4 or 5 casts for each week, and each cast performs a medley of hits from the show. You can certainly bring a picnic, but there are places right in the park to grab lunch as well as local take out places across the streets. Tip: Get there early. Like, 10am early. You can grab one of the table and a few chairs and watch the dress rehearsal that occurs around 11am. Years ago, I was able to sneak up super close to the stage and grab a photo with the cast from Jersey Boys. The park doesn’t really fill up until an hour before the performance, so you can play lawn games to use up extra energy, or bring a board game or cards to pass the time.  There is also a huge film festival that goes on through July and August.

 Back in the summer of 2011, I got to meet some of the cast from Jersey Boys

Fall: I’ve heard so much about the Square Dancing weekend they host in late September, I’ve marked my calendar for this year. There are also classes, ranging from fencing to juggling to bird watching. The Reading Room hosts a wide variety of classes, lectures, and kids activities. Check out the putting green before it’s disassembled to make room for the Winter Village, and of course, don't forget about the Tricks and Treats celebration for Halloween.

Winter: The park turns into a Winter Village with a huge ice skating rink in the middle (free to skate, fee to rent skates, skating aids for the little ones, or storage lockers).  The whole park is lined with approximately 125 pop up shops and restaurants, with everything from food, to housewares, to hand sewn clothes, to children's gifts. You can sit outside, under a heating lamp and sip hot cocoa, or go inside a pop up restaurant for a full meal. Make sure to grab a photo next to the patriotic themed tree. Tip: It can very crowded as the day goes on, too crowded to even maneuver strollers (although you’ll want to contain little ones in a stroller). Go before lunch.

Spring: Spring means the blossoming of flowers and the return of the birds and the bees to Bryant Park. The park hosts bird watching walks, the Southwest Porch opens for outdoor dining, and Le Carrousel, inspired by the French classical style of the park, is up and running. They also have a game cart, where you can check out various board games, a putting green, and a space to play the popular European game Petanque.

I Spy: My children found four sculptures around the park, honoring various historical figures with ties to the park. See if your children can spot them, too.

Update for June 2017: A bathroom so beautiful, it made headlines. I’ve been watching them update the public bathroom at the northwest end (closest to the library) of the park for some time. It finally reopened last month, after a $300,000 make over, and the results are beautiful. Bathroom locations are usually an important planning tool for parents and this one does not disappoint!

  The women's bathroom; fresh flowers are delivered every Monday.

The women's bathroom; fresh flowers are delivered every Monday.