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A Guide to Visiting Greenwich Village

Category General

|by Mark Robinson |


Don’t miss the must-see sites in this iconic NYC neighborhood

New York City is a magnet for those in search of history, culture, entertainment, excitement, and unique experiences. Those who visit with limited time tend to do the expected: see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, take in a Broadway show, and stroll through Central Park. Manhattan offers so much more beyond these iconic choices, but visitors to the city (and even, to be fair, less adventurous locals) aren’t always confident in choosing things to do in the communities outside of their comfort zone. One of these sometimes-avoided places is Greenwich Village, an area where non-numbered streets cutting at strange diagonals can be confusing. Have no fear! Greenwich Village is easily navigable, and bursting with great ways to spend a day or evening.

Washington Square Park is an icon of Greenwich Village (Photo: iStock)

Washington Square Park is an icon of Greenwich Village (Photo: iStock)

The Fat Cat Jazz Club
For those who enjoy a wide range of jazz music, from the traditional and iconic to the contemporary and cutting edge, the underground venue of The Fat Cat Jazz Club is a must-stop on your itinerary. Drop in on any given night, and you might find legends of genres ranging from jazz to Latin, classical and world music. They also have a tradition of late night jam sessions. The Fat Cat also features games, art space and innovative educational programming, and can be found at 75 Christopher Street at 7th Avenue.  

The IFC (Independent Film Center)
Are you a fan of independent films, and particularly enjoy watching them on the big screen as they were originally intended to be viewed? If so, the Independent Film Center is guaranteed to please. Featuring five state-of-the-art cinemas with luxurious seating, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, 3D capability and 4K and 2K digital and 35mm projection, the theater often plays host to premieres of new independent, foreign and documentary features. The Independent Film Center can be found at 323 6th Avenue, not far from Washington Square Park.

The Friends Apartment
It’s a quick stop and a photo op, but if you are a fan of the long-running ‘90s sitcom Friends, a detour to 90 Bedford Street at the corner of Grove Street will be a must. There you will find the building that was used for the show’s exterior shots. You may not get to have coffee at the Central Perk with Monica, Ross, Joey, Rachel, Phoebe or Chandler, but you will be able to feel like you are a part of one of television’s most beloved shows.

The Whitney Museum
Once a cultural destination of New York City’s Upper East Side, the world-renowned museum closed its doors and moved to a new location in the Meatpacking District of the West Village. Found at 99 Gansevoort Street, The Whitney is an art museum named for Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a patron of the arts. Focusing on 20th and 21st Century American Art and boasting more than 23,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, etc., in its permanent collection, the Whitney is a great destination for the whole family.

New York City Fire Museum
Here is a museum that you didn’t know existed, but that tells a fascinating story of NYC from a compelling angle. The New York City Fire Museum at 278 spring street is just a hop, skip and a jump outside of Greenwich Village where it borders with Soho. The mission of the New York City Fire Museum is “to collect, preserve and present the history and cultural heritage of the fire service of New York and to provide fire prevention and safety education to the public, especially children.” Walk through the evolution of firefighting in the Big Apple, from the early bucket brigades of New Amsterdam to the colorful history of volunteer firefighters and modern firefighting techniques and equipment. There is also a memorial to the firefighters who sacrificed their lives on 9/11. The museum is housed inside a 1904 firehouse and is open 7 days a week.

Children’s Museum of the Arts
New York City’s South Village plays host to an exciting day-out for the kiddies at the Children’s Museum of the Arts (103 Charlton Street). The museum is the home of over 2,000 pieces of international children’s art. Programs at the museum offer kids to create using a variety of mediums, including drawing, painting, sculpture, textiles and stop-motion animation. Visit their website for more specific details about their programs and special exhibits.

Washington Square Park
No trip to Greenwich Village is complete without taking in the historic Washington Square Park, most identifiable by its northern gateway, the Washington Square Arch. There is also a lovely fountain that visitors love to sit around, especially in warm weather enjoying the mists that come from its refreshing spray. Wandering around, you will find little reminders of both the park’s and the city’s history. On many weekends, visitors will find special events being held in the park, from art exhibits to street fairs, so it is always a surprise what you might find there.

Keep in mind that, even if you feel lost in Greenwich Village, it is a friendly neighborhood where you can ask for help. A little wandering in any direction will ultimately take you back to the comfortable street/avenue grid system. With so much to be found there, including a whole lot of charm, it is worth stepping outside that comfort zone. Happy exploring!

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of MusicalsThe Disney Song Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. His forthcoming book, Sitcommentary: The Television Comedies That Changed America, will hit the shelves in October, 2019. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

 

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