Washington Square Park may be best known for its iconic marble arch, but it’s also a bustling crossroads for city dwellers. Historically a hub for arts and activism, the park continues to be a favorite meeting place for longtime locals, NYU students, tourists and anyone else looking for a quiet, shady bench to reflect (or people-watch). It’s one of our favorite places to spend an afternoon, so we’ve rounded up some of the coolest things to do nearby—bring your family (or your guitar) and check them out.
8 Hidden Gems Near Washington Square Park
1. Ny Dosas
You don’t even have to leave the park to grab one of the best bites around: The “Dosa Man” is the park’s most famous food cart (as evidenced by the long line full of enthusiasts) and has been serving up thin, crispy vegan dosas, a South Indian staple, for more than 18 years. Keep up with the cart’s schedule by following the delightful Dosa Man himself, Thiru Kumar, on Twitter—and don’t miss the coconut chutney.
South side of Washington Square Park; nydosas.com
2. Hamlet’s Vintage
Right around the corner from the park, follow the steps up to Hamlet’s Vintage for a dose of nostalgia. The shop is filled with eclectic, retro fashion from the 1940s to the ’80s, curated by Hamlet, the store’s founder and namesake. The place feels like a neighborhood hangout, especially when Hamlet can be found in between the racks styling your next outfit.
146 W. Fourth St.; hamletsvintage.com
3. Washington Mews
If you walk half a block north of Washington Square between Fifth Avenue and University Place, you’ll find yourself transported back in time…sort of. Washington Mews is a historic private alley that’s been preserved to retain much of the original early 19th-century facade, when Washington Square Park was home to cobblestone streets and carriage houses for New York City’s elite. The gates are unlocked during the week, so feel free to take a peek inside.
Between Fifth Ave. and University Pl., just north of Washington Square Park
Around the block from Washington Mews, you’ll find a sleek meditation den for the Instagram age. But it’s much more than just photogenic, offering 30-, 45- and 60-minute classes by theme, including sleep, energy or sound baths. Book your cushion the night before—there’s a great deal for first-timers.
10 E. Eighth St.; mndflmeditation.com
5. 8th Street Winecellar
Need a drink after your stroll through the park? We found the perfect place hidden beneath Eighth Street (literally). Step down into 8th Street Winecellar to enjoy incredible bar bites and a robust wine list that will impress any vino snob (there’s craft beer and liquor too). Accompany your glass of choice with the baked tater tots with Gruyère and wild mushroom gravy.
28 W. Eighth St.; 8thstwinecellar.com
6. The Comedy Cellar
This hidden gem is really quite hidden. Tucked away a few flights under MacDougal Street, this historic comedy club is where comedic icons are made. The Comedy Cellar welcomes the likes of Chris Rock, Amy Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld for surprise sets on the regular—just make sure you reserve your seat in advance, because tickets sell out fast. Pro tips: Try the homemade pineapple vodka, and once the show is over, hop next door for a bite at the famous Mamoun’s Falafel.
117 MacDougal St.; comedycellar.com
7. The Uncommons
One block south of Washington Square Park, you’ll find “Manhattan’s first board game cafe.” On any given day, the place is filled with fans of all ages and gaming levels—we’re talking Magic the Gathering and Cards Against Humanity. Walk in to put your name on the list for a table, then grab any of the board games from the largest board game library on the East Coast (and a craft beer while you’re at it).
230 Thompson St.; uncommonsnyc.com
8. Red Bamboo
This snug eatery sits only a block away from the park, but it’s easy to miss the small red awning that sits a few steps below Fourth Street. A neighborhood favorite, Red Bamboo serves up plant-based Asian and Southern comfort food (think Creole-style “chicken” or broccoli and sweet potato tempura) and an extensive list of vegan desserts.
140 W. Fourth St.; redbamboo-nyc.com