Tourists often neglect a very vibrant area of New York City: Union Square Park. This is where I often go on the weekends since it is surrounded by shops, restaurants, art, street market, students and, at times, protesters.

Located between 14th and 17th street, this is the place to go shopping, see unique creatures or grab a quick bite. All I can say is: you won’t regret sparing one day of your trip to explore such an eccentric part of Manhattan!

Why Union Square? Because it is an economical, cultural and political location as it gathers all sorts of establishments and people. But more than that, it’s close to everything and incredibly easy to get around. The park is sort of in the center of the island: move south and take pictures at the Washington Square Park. Now, if you choose to walk north, you’ll stumble upon the popular Flatiron Building, Eataly and Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. All the way to the West, you’ll see the Whitney Museum of American Art. On the opposite side, you’ll find East Village – a great neighborhood to explore the local nightlife. 

So here’s what I think you should do:

Start your day with some shopping at the farmer’s market, buy a book at Strand Bookstore or Barnes & Nobles or go thrift shopping at Goodwill or Beacon’s Closet. If you are an athletic kind of person, make a stop at Paragon Sports! But if you’re looking for great brand deals, find Burlington’s store or Nordstrom Rack. Walking left towards Sixth avenue, you can shop at Marshalls, Bed Bath & Beyond and TJ Maxx. Need some new electronics? Best Buy is right there.

If it’s food you’re most looking forward to, don’t worry: I am your person. There are all kinds of options in Union Square. Fast food? Taco Bell, Wendy’s, McDonalds, Joe’s Pizza. Craving sugar? Max Brenner Chocolate Bar for the best hot chocolate (try the Italian one), or Ben’s cookies for dessert. On a diet? Wholefoods Market is right there! Full of healthy options including a salad bar if you want to have a nutritious lunch or dinner. Head east and find Vanessa’s Dumplings for incredibly cheap Asian food. Some tasty Italian pasta?  My pick is Al Vicoletto. 

To end your day on a high note, go for drinks at a petite pub named Park Bar, watch a movie at Reagal Union Square or simply do some good people watching. You’ll be amazed to see how interesting – or crazy – new yorkers can be.

I know there’s a lot to explore and planning a trip to New York demands a lot of work if you want to avoid the obvious. But I’m very surprised many people never include this lively  part in their itinerary. So don’t make this mistake and I’ll see you in Union Square!

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