Tompkins Square Park
The East Village’s “backyard” is a humble patch of reclaimed swamp land where urban dwellers come to play chess, play with their kids, watch birds of prey, kick a soccer ball, practice guitar, join a pickup basketball game, or just watch. The bandshell (site of performances by Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, and hundreds of hopeful punk bands) has been torn down, but a walk through the heart of the park is still entertaining. Worth stopping and watching: The dog run (two adjacent areas, one for big dogs; one for small) in the center of the park, and the paved playground at the corner of A and 10th where skateboarders hone their skills. There’s an uncrowded shady corner with benches and tables entered by walking through the park building. Avoid the public bathrooms. Open dawn–midnight.