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City Daytrip: Bryant Park attracts couples, kids

It's summer. School’s out and vacation time is here, so it’s time to play and explore.

Why not put Bryant Park on your to-do list?

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Bryant Park Corporation, the private nonprofit group that manages Bryant Park, located between Fifth and Sixth avenues behind the New York Public Library. There’s a lot to keep you busy at the Manhattan park, which is an easy walk from Grand Central Terminal.

The park dates back to 1847 and was originally called Reservoir Square. It was renamed Bryant Park in 1884 after civic leader and former editor of the New York Evening Post, William Cullen Bryant.

The nearly 10-acre park went through major renovations in the late 1980s, closing for four years before it was re-opened in 1992. The transformation made Bryant Park a destination for those living in Manhattan, tourists and daytrippers. 

It serves as a popular meeting place for lunch and other outdoor gatherings, but there's a lot  to do if you're looking for a quick getaway.

“There are many activities where a suburban couple can spend an enjoyable couple of hours in an urban setting,” says Dan Biederman, executive director of Bryant Park Corporation.

The park is divided into nine areas so there is no shortage of options for families, couples and singles.

Attractions include lawn games such as Petanque, the French version of lawn bowling, or the Swedish game of Kubb. Budding artists can join the art club for an afternoon and readers can sit in the shade with a good book or magazine borrowed from the outdoor reading room.

Take a juggling clinic. "You can learn to juggle if you show up a couple times per week," says Biederman. "You will become a very proficient juggler."

Interested in learning a new language? This summer patrons can take an introductory class right in the park.

“It’s about 15 or 20 people with an instructor,” explains Biederman. “It's a wonderful to have an event in the park that gets you excited about learning the language.”

Another crowd-pleaser is the annual HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, which screens movies on an outdoor screen. 

“We only play movies that are 30 years or older,” says Biederman. "It (the film festival) draws 5,000 to 10,000 people on the lawn at one time. It's the oldest in the country, and the most sophisticated, so it gets good attention.”

The lawn opens at 5 p.m for seating, with films beginning at sunset, typically between 8-9 p.m. Upcoming films include "The Muppets Take Manhattan" (July 3), "Sabrina," (July 10) and "Wall Street," (July 17).

A mix of food options will keep guests in the park during lunch and dinner with a sampling of different cuisines from outdoor kiosks including Belgian waffles, Israeli, French, and American burgers. Diners can sit down for a meal at Bryant Park Grill or the most casual outdoor Bryant Park Cafe.  

Expect to see more activities scheduled for later on in the evening including Shakespeare in the Park, presented by The Drilling Company. They'll do "Twelfth Night," July 28-30 on an outdoor stage. 

"We are making it a late night destination not just an after work destination," says Biederman. 

For more information:

Most public places have less than comfortable or clean bathroom facilities but Bryant Park visitors won't have that problem. A $300,000 renovation of the bathrooms has given the public a considerable upgrade when it comes to using the potty.

"It’s aimed at women, who are very skeptical of public restrooms," says Dan Biederman, executive director of Bryant Park Corporation. 

The facilities feature fresh cut flowers, classical music and full-time attendants. While using the loo, visitors can also enjoy paintings by Bryant Park's painters-in-residence.

The 310-square-foot comfort stations, which opened in May, are environmentally-friendly, feature imported floor and wall tiles with energy-saving LED lighting, all in the Beaux-Arts style.