Washington Square Park

This post is about Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village and provides information on how to get there, events and things to do in the park.

 

 
 

WHERE IS WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK?

This park is located right in the heart of one of New York’s great neighborhoods, Greenwich Village.

The easiest thing to do is use this Google map to get directions to Washington Square Park from anywhere in the city.

 
 
Where is Washington Square Park NYC
 
 

It is very easily reached by subway, with the West 4th Street Station being the closest to the park. This station (red circle below) is serviced by the A, C, E, B, D, F, M trains.  

It can also be reached from the

  • 1 train at Christoper Street Station (yellow circle)
  • 8th St. – NYU Station (orange circle) with the N and R trains,
  • Astor Place Station (green circle) with the 6 train
  • the PATH train to/from New Jersey at 9th Street (brown circle)
 

Washington Square subway stations

 

Learn how to navigate the NYC Subway and figure out which MetroCard to buy.  

If you are taking a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, most will have a stop at the park.


Let Us Take You Here

Join us on one of our pay-what-you-wish guided tours of Greenwich Village. We visit the park on every tour. 

The park is also a stop on our GPS-led audio tour of Greenwich Village, which you could take any time you wish. 

 


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THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN THE PARK

This ever-popular park is bustling with people from all over. Locals come to sit on the benches, enjoy a coffee and soak in the laid-back atmosphere.

The park has a variety of greenery and while it is much smaller than Central Park, you can find manicured lawns as well as huge (and very old) elm trees.

Stroll along the multiple walking paths lit at night with replica historic lamps giving the park an extra bit of charm. 

You will also find an ever-changing array of performers, buskers, and musicians. The park is well known for spontaneous jams where anyone with an instrument can join in and play.

What starts with one guitar may end up as three guitars, tambourines, and even a piano. Don’t be bashful! Join in and sing along! You’ll find these small pockets of musicians day and night!

 

 

TIP: If you are looking for great free musical performances, Washington Square Park isn’t the only place in town. NYC has some of the best subway musicians, buskers, and performers.

Our post on Subway and Street Performers will lead you right to them!

If you want some structured activities, you can try your hand at chess. Head to the southwest corner of the park. There you will find stone chess tables with some serious chess players. This is where a young chess wizard Bobby Fisher honed his skills.

If you dare play one of them, be prepared to pay a few bucks and be ready to lose quickly!

For those traveling with children, there are two excellent playgrounds: one for toddlers and one for elementary school-aged kids.

If you are traveling with a dog (or just like to watch other people’s dogs, as so many New Yorkers do!) check out the dog run.

When nature calls, there are public bathrooms in the park. You can also pick up free wi-fi.

 


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ANNUAL EVENTS

Here are the most popular annual events and festivals that take place in Washington Square Park.  

To find out the exact dates these events will occur, see the Washington Square Park Conservancy website and the park’s blog.

Washington Square Music Festival 

Every Tuesday in June at 8 pm, you can enjoy an outdoor concert with iconic Washinton Square Arch as a backdrop. The performances are free and of varied styles of music. See our post on things to do in June in NYC for more activities that month.

Movie Night Under the Arch 

On select nights during the summer, movies are shown in the park. Space opens at 6:00 pm for blankets and picnicking—first come, first served—so arrive early to snag a spot. The movie will begin at dusk. See our Summer in NYC Guide for more information on this and other outdoor movie series.

Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit  

This twice-yearly street fair showcases artists and craft artisans from around the world for two weekends around Memorial Day (May) and two weekends around Labor Day (September).

Washington Square Park Folk Festival

Since 2010, this small but excellent music festival takes place in mid-September.

It is free to attend. You will hear all sorts of music including folk, blues, jazz and perhaps less familiar styles like Balkan music and Klezmer! 

See their website for details.

Dog Run Halloween Parade and Costume Contest

It is exactly what the name of the event says. Dogs dressed up for Halloween and strutting their stuff. It takes place in October.

Find out what else is going on in New York City in October.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony 

This tradition has gone on since 1924. In fact, the Washington Square tree lighting ceremony is older than the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting!

The ceremony takes place usually late November or early December.

 


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TOURS THAT INCLUDE WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK

Washington Square Park is included in most tours of Greenwich Village as it is a famous and fun must-see park in NYC. 

That is why several of our pay-what-you-wish tours visit the park, including our Greenwich Village Tour and our Greenwich Village Food Tour.

 

 

Other pay-what-you-wish tours that include Washington Square Park are: 

 


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WASHINGTON SQUARE IN POP CULTURE

Movies and TV

The fountain in Washington Square Park has appeared in movies and TV shows. You may recognize the fountain from the opening credits from the hit show “FRIENDS”…except the shots weren’t filmed there.

Find out the true story about the fountain in FRIENDS by reading our post on visiting the Friends apartment.

At the start of the film “When Harry Met Sally,” Harry drops Sally off in NYC by the Washington Arch.

Music

Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and other folk musicians hung out in the park before making it big.

If you are a Dylan fan, you should check out our self-guided tour of Bob Dylan locations in Greenwich Village.

Modern Art

On January 23, 1917, a group of “conspirators,” including Marcel Duchamp and Gertrude Drick climbed to the top of the Washington Arch one evening. 

They stayed up there all night, tied red balloons to the arch, shot off cap pistols and declared the area “The Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square.” 

See some of the most famous artworks of DaDa artist Marcel Duchamp at the Museum of Modern Art.

 


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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PARK

The area where Washington Square Park is today was once inhabited by Native American tribes, as was the rest of Manhattan. 

They were pushed out of the area by the Dutch West Indies Company, who then used the land as farmland for freed African American slaves. 

The area remained farmland until 1797 and was considered a separate town from New York City. It was called the Village of Greenwich, which is where the neighborhood name comes from. 

In 1797 the Common Council of New York purchased the land where Washington Square Park stands today. The land was used as a potter’s field (a graveyard for the poor).

It is believed that as many as 20,000 bodies are buried under Washington Square Park.

The square was first laid out in 1826, officially designated as the Washington Military Parade Ground.

Handsome Greek-Revival townhouses were built along the perimeter of the new square. Many of these original townhouses still stand. 

To learn more about the long and fascinating history of Washington Square Park, consider either our guided tour of Greenwich Village or our GPS audio tour.

 


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About the author

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others.

She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.

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