Things to do in Union Square NYC
Occupying several blocks in Midtown Manhattan, Union Square is a historic district with a blend of traditional charm and modern flair. This neighborhood is home to an urban park that’s lined with bronze statues of iconic leaders, such as George Washington. More than five New York City Subway routes stop in this charming community.
Union Square is a major public square in Manhattan, New York City. It is located at the intersection of Broadway with 4th Avenue, formerly known as Bowery Road. Its name, surprisingly, came about because the site is the union of two main streets in New York City. The neighborhoods surrounding Union Square include the Flatiron District to the north, Chelsea to the west, Greenwich Village to the south, and Gramercy to the east. Streets bordering Union Square include 14th Street to the south, and 17th Street to the north.
Union Square Attractions
An equestrian statue of George Washington greets visitors entering the southern section of Union Square Park. Designed by sculptor Henry Kirke Brown, this bronze statue was unveiled in the 1850s. The first president of the United States of America stands on a Barre granite pedestal. Having an architectural height of more than 26 feet, the George Washington sculpture is one of the largest landmarks of its kind in New York City.
A life-size figure of Abraham Lincoln is installed at the northern end of the park. Also designed by Kirke Brown, the bronze monument was dedicated in 1870. Granite from Maine was used to construct the platform for the statue. This landmark was created to celebrate Lincoln’s heroic political actions during the Civil War.
Sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, a bronze statue of Marquis de Lafayette stands near Park Avenue and 16th Street. Supported by a Quincy granite base, this figure commemorates one of the most prominent generals during the American Revolution. This brilliant French military leader helped George Washington claim key battles against the British Empire.
Nested in a tranquil garden on the west side, the life-size sculpture of Mohandas Gandhi was made by Kantilal B. Patel. The bronze figure of the great Indian leader was dedicated in 1986.
Some other notable landmarks that decorate the park include the Independence Flagstaff, Armenia Grove Plaque, and Liberty Pole. Additionally, the park’s iconic fountain includes a figure of a mother holding two infants in her arms. This decorative fountain was cast in 1881 to raise public awareness of health and sanitation in the city.
Dining, Retail and Entertainment
From late November to late December, the southern end of Union Square hosts the Holiday Market. More than 100 vendors sell items at this community-oriented marketplace.
Held weekly throughout the year, the Greenmarket attracts merchants from NYC and the surrounding suburbs. This venue is considered one of the largest farmers’ markets in the Big Apple.
From fast-food establishments to cafes, there are plenty of dining venues near the park. You’ll find lots of great food options on 17th and 18th streets in this bustling part of Manhattan. Some popular nightlife and entertainment facilities in this district include the Daryl Roth Theatre, Irving Plaza, and Stand Comedy Club.
Union Square Park
Union Square Park is definitely not a high-end park dominated by well-dressed business people and nannies pushing strollers. Instead, it is a lively and popular hangout for a rather diverse crowd of people.
Union Square was opened in 1839. Among the features of the square is the statue of George Washington. Created in 1856, it was the first equestrian sculpture of an American, and the first public sculpture to be erected in New York since the equestrian statue of King George III that was put up in 1770. Later additions to Union Square include the statues of Marquis de Lafayette in 1876, Abraham Lincoln’s statue in 1870, the James Fountain in 1881, and a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in 1986.
Until recently, Union Square was a seedy neighborhood with drug dealers. However, urban renewal has transformed it into a more gentrified neighborhood. A farmer’s market now operates at Union Square bringing farmers from throughout New York State to sell their produce here four times a week.
Political Activism in Union Square
Union Square has long been a popular spot for political activists and demonstrators. The first Labor Day parade took place in Union Square on September 5, 1882. This marked the beginning of an effort to set aside one day each year to recognize American laborers.
The legislation was signed to make Labor Day a national holiday 12 years later. It is because of this event that the park has been named a National Historic Landmark.
Even today it is not unusual to see protests spurred on by current events in the world.
Union Square Events
The Union Square Greenmarket is an open-air farmer’s market with fresh regional foods and plants. It is held four days a week.
You can find artists selling their paintings and other crafts nearly every day.
If you’re visiting for the winter holidays, don’t miss the Holiday Market at Union Square. These crowded little shops are open between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and are a great place to find interesting and handmade gifts.
Location and Directions
Union Square Park is located between Broadway and Park Avenue South and between 14th and 17th Streets.
To get there by subway, take the 4, 5, 6, L, N, R, Q, or W train to 14th Street-Union Square.
Union Square Greenmarket
The Union Square Greenmarket is a local farmer’s market with a New York City twist. To call it a “big city farmer’s market” sounds like an oxymoron, but the green market real does offer the best of both worlds. NYC’s first and largest green market features fresh produce, meats, cheeses, bread, and more in the heart of the big city.
Four days a week all year round, regional farmers and bakers drive into the city to sell their goods at this open-air farmer’s market. This gives millions of city dwellers access to farm-fresh foods and the opportunity to eat locally.
A Trendy Spot for Food Shopping
The Union Square Greenmarket is popular with locals and even frequented by local chefs. The green market caters well to the posh and choosy tastes of the New York City crowd. It offers plenty of organic, vegan, and sugar-free options.
The market has a variety of items ranging from eggs and bread to flowers and wheat grass. Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful. The baked goods are excellent and there is an assortment of dairy and meat products. If you’re lucky, you may be able to pick up some free samples and even taste wine.
The selection varies from season to season but the market is open all year long. Summer has the best variety, but the farmers have plenty to offer in the other seasons too. Apples are everywhere in the fall and hot cider is always a big hit in the colder months.
Essential Visiting Information
- Location: The greenmarket is located in Union Square Park. The park is on Broadway between 14th and 17th Streets.
- Hours: Open all year round on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm.
- Getting There: By subway, take the 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R, or L train to Union Square – 14th Street.
Visiting Union Square
You can get to Union Square by riding the New York City Subway to the 14th Street Union Square Station. Running between Lower Manhattan and the eastern part of Brooklyn, the L Line stops at this underground rail station. The 4, 5, and 6 trains connect this part of Manhattan with Uptown and Downtown. Additional service is provided by the N, Q, R, and W trains.
Several MTA bus routes serve the district, including the M1, M2, and M3 lines. Traffic in this part of Manhattan typically follows one-way paths, so plan your drive accordingly. Defining the neighborhood’s western boundary, Fifth Avenue carries southbound traffic. Park Avenue, which cuts through the heart of the community, accommodates vehicles heading northbound and southbound.
Multiple indoor parking garages are available near the corner of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street. Several Citi Bike stations are also located in this pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.