It’s easy to argue that Greenwich Village is one of New York City’s most dynamic neighborhoods. Like the city itself, it has a little bit of everything: luxury shopping next to dollar pizza joints, business bigwigs brushing shoulders with struggling students, and the old coexisting rather peacefully with the new. It truly is the heart of downtown Manhattan; perfectly north of the Financial District and perfectly south of Midtown. For three incredible years, I called it home. Here is my list of some fun activities to check out in the area next time you visit!
If Greenwich Village is the heart of downtown Manhattan, then Washington Square Park is its soul. For almost two centuries, the 10-acre square has been a gathering place for both locals and tourists alike. Although often fondly referred to as New York University’s “campus,” since the entire park is ringed by school buildings, visitors will find much more to see than stressed college students hurrying to their next class. The large fountain at the center of the square is the perfect place for a picnic during the warmer months, and ice cream trucks often circle the perimeter, much to the delight of anyone with a sweet tooth. Don’t forget to snap a photo under the famous arch, and simply enjoy the people-watching. You’ll see quite a few characters, and maybe even catch some free entertainment. The park also hosts several official events, such as photography and gardening orientations.
Located a quick ten-minute walk from Washington Square Park, Housing Works Bookstore is an essential stop for any word nerd visiting the area. For the past decade, the bookstore has been a neighborhood resource for secondhand literature and records. The entire inventory is donated, and all proceeds go right back into the store’s parent organization. Housing Works seeks to help those in the NYC area suffering from HIV/AIDS receive housing and get back on their on feet. Every purchase is a good deed, so there’s no need to feel guilty about buying a book you might not pick up for a while. The bookstore also features a café and special events almost daily, such as storytime for kids, open mic nights, and author talks.
Conceived in 1970 as an alternative screening space for independent films, Film Forum is New York City’s last non-profit cinema. To the casual moviegoer, Film Forum’s lineup is likely unfamiliar territory, for there isn’t a major blockbuster in site. Director Karen Cooper attributes much of the theatre’s success to a carefully curated film selection. Showings can include foreign and American classics, director retrospectives, documentaries, foreign art films, and independent films. A large renovation in 2018 also upgraded seating, sight lines, and added a fourth screen. It’s the perfect chance to see a film you never considered before on the big screen, especially if a rainy day strikes in the middle of your visit. Check out their website for current showings.
Located just steps away from Washington Square Park on Macdougal Street, the Comedy Cellar’s been a favorite Village hangout for over 30 years. A classic case of looks that can be deceiving, this basement venue was the birthplace for the careers of many comedic greats, including Ray Romano and Jon Stewart. Occasionally, some of them drop by to share in the laughs and nostalgia. Before a show, grab dinner at the Olive Tree Café upstairs. The Mediterranean-style cuisine pairs memorably with the silent films projected on the dining room walls. Weekend nights tend to be busiest, so plan accordingly, and check out their website for the latest updates on each night’s lineup.
Even in the heart of Manhattan, it’s possible to get the freshest produce and other food items thanks to the Union Square Greenmarket. Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays year-round, vendors from surrounding counties in New York and New Jersey converge on one of the city’s busiest public spaces. Started by a few farmers in 1976, the market now boasts 140 vendors during peak season. Selection ranges from produce and dairy products, to handmade baked goods and maple syrup. Whether you’re picking up ingredients for that picnic in Washington Square, or some cheese to sneak home in your suitcase, you’re bound to find something unique. In addition, special events, including cooking demonstrations and book signings, are open to the public. A complete schedule is available on the market’s website.