Battery Park is the perfect respite from the winding, narrow roads of the Financial District, especially during the week when the streets are jam-packed. The park juts out at the southernmost point of Manhattan and has gorgeous flower gardens, lush trees and an amazing waterfront. Even if you just relax on one of the park benches for a few minutes, take in the scenic beauty, people watch or gaze at all the great historical sites in and around the park, you’ll start to feel the stress of the day begin to melt away.
On clear days, you can see all the way from Port Elizabeth’s cranes, which seem to mimic Lady Liberty’s stance, to Governors Island, a former Coast Guard installation, now managed by the National Park Service. You can also see hilly Staten Island in the distance, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the old railway terminal in Liberty State Park on the mainland in Jersey City, NJ. If you look in the opposite direction and gaze upon the city’s magnificent skyline, you can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation for all of the history that surrounds you.
One of the park’s most interesting architectural structures is the Castle Clinton National Monument. It was one of New York’s Harbor Forts and was built just before the War of 1812 to defend the city. In 1823, the fort was deeded to the city and the following summer an entertainment center opened at the site and the name was changed to Castle Garden. From 1855 to 1890, the site served as America’s first official immigration center until Ellis Island opened in 1892.
Saved from demolition in 1946, the Castle was restored to its original condition. In 1975, the structure reopened as Castle Clinton National Monument. Today it houses the ticket office for the Statue of Liberty and is also the takeoff point for ferries going to the Statue and Ellis Island.
There are also several other impressive monuments and statues inside the park, including The Sphere, which stood for three decades on the plaza at the World Trade Center as a symbol of peace. Damaged but still intact after the towers collapsed, it was relocated to the park and serves as a temporary memorial to those who lost their lives.
The southern link in a chain of parks connecting Battery Park, north to Chambers Street, is Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park, which has a wonderful mix of gardens, well-manicured, open lawns and wide benches to view the harbor, the stream of runners and the in-line skaters on the promenade. At the southeast section of Battery Park, there is a brick structure with public bathrooms and a restaurant with breathtaking views from its flat roof.