4, 5 at Bowling Green; R, W at Whitehall St.; J, M, Z at Broad St.; 1 at South Ferry
Manhattan’s first public park and sporting field lies on what is arguably the city’s most historic traffic island. (Take that, Times Square). It was here, after all, where the Indians are said to have sold Manhattan to the Dutch in 1626. Despite recent beautification efforts, there still isn’t much to recommend the modest egg of grass and gravel, though its birchlike London Plane trees, simple fountain, wooden benches, and wi-fi access make it a popular lunch spot. When the park was established in 1733, its promenade and bowling lawn fronted Fort Amsterdam on land that was formerly a Dutch cattle market and parade ground. A popular gilded statue of King George III stood there until 1776 when revolutionaries supposedly recycled His Majesty into bullets while Washington’s troops—stationed at the southwest corner (1 Broadway)—heard the Declaration of Independence read for the first time. Since 1989, another icon has sat at the head of the park: the 7,000-pound Charging Bull. It was moved to Bowling Green shortly after being illegally deposited in front of the Stock Exchange by sculptor Arturo Di Modica. East of the bull, on the site of Alexander Hamilton’s law offices, the fortresslike seat of the late John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil (now home to the American Museum of Financial History and the Tribute Museum) curves along Broadway. On the sidewalk below, sequential plaques commemorate the 200-some ticker-tape parades that have started at Bowling Green and proceeded up the Canyon of Heroes past Trinity Church, City Hall, and other nearby landmarks. For more sedentary types, endangered peregrine falcons roost on a ledge at nearby 55 Water Street.Tours
Every Thursday and Saturday at noon, the Downtown Alliance sponsors a free one-and-a-half- to two-hour walking tour that starts at the front steps of the U.S. Customs House and visits Trinity Church, the New York Stock Exchange, and other architectural sites. On any day, local maps and pamphlets can be had from the security guard stationed at the park’s southern entrance.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, a Greenmarket is set up on Broadway and Battery Park Place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.