The Gramercy Park and Union Square neighborhood is home to not one but two major music venues, Irving Plaza and Gramercy Theatre. And if rock music, pop, or hip-hop isn’t your jam, you’ll find plenty more to keep you busy. For contemporary fine arts there are Talwar Gallery (specializing in artists from India), Susan Sheehan Gallery, and Gordon Robichaux, to name a few. That’s in addition to cocktail bars and old-school taverns, ping-pong parties at Spin, playgrounds, and parks—including the two that give the area its name.
The 6.5-acre Union Square Park has just about everything you want in an urban green: lush lawns for soaking up the sun, benches for admiring the flora, tables and chairs for eating alfresco, a playground, a dog run, and regal monuments (including sculptures of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Mohandas Gandhi). And unlike most other parks, it has something more: the Union Square Greenmarket. Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays year-round, this farmers’ market hosts more than 120 regional farmers, bakers, winemakers, cheesemongers, and other purveyors during peak seasons. If you arrive first thing in the morning, you’re apt to see chefs from some of the city’s top restaurants assessing the goods.
Membership in the National Arts Club certainly has its privileges. For starters, it gains you access to the private Gramercy Park, located across from the club’s 19th-century landmark townhouse. (In addition to club members, the park is open only to residents of the other buildings surrounding it.) But even nonmembers can visit the club to admire its art collection and attend numerous readings, lectures, concerts, screenings, and other cultural events throughout the year.
A newly renovated Irving Plaza reopened in August 2021. Since then the ballroom-style venue has hosted scores of rock, rap, hip-hop, and pop concerts, including Jesse McCartney, the Lemonheads, the Reverend Horton Heat, and Beck. While Irving Plaza can accommodate 1,200 fans, its nearby sister venue, Gramercy Theatre, holds only about 650 people. Along with live music by up-and-coming rock bands, hip-hop artists, country performers, and rappers, Gramercy Theatre hosts tribute bands and dance parties.
Since opening in 2012, The Stand has become one of the city’s, if not the country’s, top comedy clubs, with shows every night. Judy Gold, Jim Norton, Dulcé Sloan, Rachel Wolfson, Roy Wood Jr., and Ramy Youssef are just a few who have commandeered the mic at the club’s two stages. The Stand also encompasses a restaurant whose dinner menu includes more than a dozen types of pizza as well as oysters, clams, steak, and pasta, and you don’t need to attend a show to tuck in.