Your Destination Guide to New York City

Destination Guide NYC - Your Destination Guide to New York, NY

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© Phillip Capper

Nestled between bustling areas like Union Square and Murray Hill, this residential neighborhood sets itself apart as a safer, quieter part of town. The name Gramercy is derived from the Dutch word "Krom Mesje", meaning "little crooked knife", a nickname given to the brook that ran along 21st Street into the East River. This section of Manhattan is surrounded by 23rd Street to the north, 14th Street to the south, and stretches roughly from 1st Avenue on the east to Park Avenue South on the west.

Gramercy's primary claim to fame is Gramercy Park, the only private park in the city, teasing passersby with lavish gardens that overflow and spill through wrought-iron gates. The brainchild of Samuel Ruggles, a lawyer and developer of open spaces, Gramercy Park was designed in 1831 and has remained as exclusive as many of the elite dance clubs in the city. Residents around the park pay an annual fee for keys, and members of the National Arts Club and guests of the Gramercy Park Hotel can enjoy limited access as well. But this is no Central Park -- running, Frisbee playing and feeding the birds is strictly forbidden in this space. Feeling left out? Head over to the park on Christmas Eve, the only day it's open to the public.

Gramercy was once the home of many historic figures – Theodore Roosevelt, Oscar Wilde and John F. Kennedy lived there and individuals such as Carol Burnett and Mark Twain were members of the Player's Club, an organization established by Edwin Booth in the late 1800s. The brother of John Wilkes Booth, an acclaimed Shakespearean actor of the day, held club meetings at his home at 16 Gramercy Park South. Visitors can look to the middle of the park to view his statue, a testament to his popularity at the time.

Just past the park lies Irving Place, a quaint street laden with beautiful architecturally - detailed buildings and restaurants. Friend of a Farmer (77 Irving Place) is a popular brunch spot, where hour-long waits are common on weekends, and 71 Irving Place Café is bustling with hoards of anti-Starbucks coffee fiends. Across the street on the corner of 18th stands Pete's Tavern, the oldest standing saloon in the city – barely escaping Prohibition by donning a clever flower shop disguise. The Fillmore at Irving Plaza on 15th Street holds a variety of nightly concerts, almost always drawing a rowdy crowd. Not your typical tourist destination, Gramercy's local hangouts and peaceful tree-lined streets offer a different type of attraction for the weary traveler.

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