This park defined the northern reaches of Manhattan until the island’s population exploded after the Civil War. These days it’s a much-welcome oasis from Manhattan’s relentless pace, with a popular children’s playground, dog-run area and the Shake Shack burger joint. It’s also one of the city’s most cultured parks, with specially commissioned art installations and (in the warmer months) activities ranging from literary discussions to live-music gigs. See the website for more information.
It's also the perfect spot from which to gaze up at the landmarks that surround it, including the Flatiron Building to the southwest, the Metropolitan Life Tower to the southeast and the New York Life Insurance Building, topped with a gilded spire, to the northeast.
Between 1876 and 1882 the torch-bearing arm of the Statue of Liberty was on display here, and in 1879 the first Madison Square Garden arena was constructed at Madison Ave and 26th St. At the southeastern corner of the park, you’ll find one of the city’s few self-cleaning, coin-operated toilets (25¢).