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While Tompkins Square Park is lesser-visited than other NYC squares, it is bustling with numerous recreational, political, and cultural activities for travelers to explore year-round. Dating back to 1879, this 10.5-acre park is a popular place for locals to gather to play chess, have picnics, and enjoy some drum jams. Several basketball courts are also mounted here, and it is always impressive watching dogs running in a fenced area of the park. The park has come a long way into the fun spot it is today, and visiting it is worth it! Planning to explore Tompkins Park? Here is a guide to NYC's lesser-visited square.

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Tompkins Square Park’s History

The history dates back to the 17th century, the colonial times, when Peter Stuyvesant, the last director general of the New Netherlands’ Dutch colony at the time. The park was named after Daniel Tompkins, the governor of New York State and the United States Vice President in the 19th century acquired the space. The NYC obtained the park in 1834 and converted the then marshland to park space, to a military parade ground, and then back to a public park in 1878. The place then became a popular space for the locals for recreation, political rallies, and public protests. The locals have used the park to air their grievances for centuries.

In the early 1980s, the park became a no-go zone and was turned into a camp for the homeless, who were evicted by the early 1990s. The specific check-in-and-out times were then set in the park. It then went through a series of renovations and modifications, which brought about the installation of more playgrounds. Today, although less visited than other square parks in New York City, the park has transformed into a fun haven for both locals and travelers.

Things To Do At Tompkins Square Park

The park is brimming with incredible recreational facilities, including basketball courts, a fitness center, two beautiful playgrounds, a space for playing chess with tables, a swimming pool for children, and a dog run, the first to be established in the whole of New York City. The dog run, established in 1990, when the park was reopened as a public square park, features fantastic amenities, such as picnic tables, a tree deck, and swimming pools for dogs and horses. The dog run is divided into separate portions for small and bigger dogs. The Tompkins Square Park has active Wi-Fi installed and restrooms for public use.

Tompkins Square Park is full of beautiful trees, but the most striking of them all is the Hare Krishna Tree, located right at the heart of the park, near the benches arranged in a semicircular pattern. Having been associated with riots, heroines, and punk rock, it is hard to believe that this park is the birthplace of Hare Krishna in the U.S. The tree is where chanting sessions were held, led by the Indian founder of the Hare Krishna movement, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It is believed that this movement was behind the founding of the religion, making the tree significant to those who share the faith.

The park houses monuments and fountains that are a must-see, especially for travelers into the city’s history of politics. Tourists will experience a statue of Samuel Sullivan Cox, who was the city’s politician and United States Congressman. Samuel is recognized for his political contributions, such as establishing a Life-Saving Service. There are other fountains in the park to explore, including the Temperature Fountain, which dates back to 1888, installed to encourage the locals to adopt drinking clean water rather than alcohol.

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Tompkins Square Park Hosts Several Events

Tompkins Square Park hosts several events in the city, including those put in place by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. The Tompkins Square Greenmarket is a farmers' market held every Sunday in the southwest corner of the park. Some of the major annual events not to miss include the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival held in August; New Village Music Festival, held in August; and Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, held in October.

Where To Eat In Tompkins Square Park

Travelers visiting the park on Sundays can grab fresh produce from local and regional farmers and producers. Farmstead cheeses, baked goods, and fruits are some of what to eat when exploring the market. One can also have something to eat from several spots outside the park, including Superiority Burger, Tompkins Square Bagels, or Bog Gay Cream Shop for some of the best ice creams in NYC. Gnocco is also a great spot to get some quality pizza.

How To Get To Tompkins Square Park

Tompkins Square Park is within the East Village in the Alphabet City portion of Manhattan. The park is bordered by East 10th Street on the north side, Avenue B on the east; East 7th Street on the south; and Avenue A on the West. Travelers can get to the park by bus, train, or subway. There are several subway stations to board from, and they are just a few minutes' walk. 3 Av, Astor PI, and 2 Av are the stations. Bus Stations near the park include Av A/E 11 St. E 10 St/Av C, and Av C/E 8 St. It takes an average of 67 minutes to get to the park by train, 80 minutes by bus, and about 50 minutes by the subway.

Tompkins Square Park is a great place to visit, especially for history and political enthusiasts, as there is a lot to learn and experience.