Bryant Park in April 2022, New York City

© Pia Peterson/Lonely Planet

European coffee kiosks, alfresco chess games, summer film screenings and winter ice skating: it's hard to believe that this leafy oasis was a crime-ridden hellscape known as 'Needle Park’ in the ’70s. Nestled behind the beaux-arts New York Public Library building, it's a whimsical spot for a little time-out from the Midtown madness. Fancy taking a beginner Italian language, yoga or juggling class, joining a painting workshop or signing up for a birding tour? There's a daily smorgasbord of quirky activities.

Among the park's attractions is the French-inspired, Brooklyn-made Le Carrousel, offering rides. Frequent special events include the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, popular with post-work crowds lugging cheese-and-wine picnics. Come Christmastime, the place becomes a winter wonderland, with holiday gift vendors lining the park’s edge and a popular ice-skating rink sprouting in its middle. Lovely Bryant Park Grill is the site of many a New York wedding come springtime, and when it’s not closed for a private event, the patio bar is a perfect spot for a twilight cocktail. Next door you'll find its more casual alfresco sibling Bryant Park Cafe, a much-loved spot for after-five catch-ups that's open mid-April to November.

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