Take the subway down to 14th Street where the now defunct department store S. Klein once boasted it was located, "On the Square". Union Square, a once glorious neighborhood in the 1920s with vaudeville theatres, movie houses, world-class hotels and stately homes, fell on hard times in the 1960s. Graffiti replaced Renaissance gargoyles; crime infiltrated an area formerly renowned for its gentility.
Today the area, (which runs below the Flatiron district around 21st Street; and is centered around Union Square at 14th Street), is undergoing revitalization. Dining, hotels and shopping now draw people to the area. The exclusive Union Square Hotel overlooking Union Square Park attracts discriminating clientele. Union Square is also considered the heart of Off-Broadway with many affordable evenings of entertainment nearby.
Did you know the Flatiron Building is responsible for the expression, "23 Skidoo"? Back in the day, the building's irregular shape caused wind currents that lifted women's skirts. Police shoo'd gaping onlookers away with the term... sort of a modern day "Get Out of Dodge".
Union Square is home to expansive dining choices. Chief among these is Bolo, one of 'American Iron Chef' Bobby Flay's culinary outings, featuring Spanish/Mediterranean cuisine. Flay, featured on the Food Channel, is best known for championing Tex Mex flavors in the 1990s. But Union Square's dining selections delineate the area as a culinary melting pot. Restaurants range from modest store fronts featuring Thai, Indian, Japanese and Vegetarian fare to white tablecloth, four-star dining choices such as Bolo and Craft, which serves fresh takes on classic American fare.
Union Square Park, once the staging ground for numerous historic rallies and demonstrations, now hosts a popular Greenmarket. The market offers market fresh produce to city dwellers. During the Holiday season, the Park hosts a Holiday Market with hundreds of vendors. Plug and Play at Union Square Park! The Park boasts a wireless node, so bring your laptop!
The Union Square Partnership 212-460-1200 offers free tours of the area every Saturday at 2 pm. Meet under the Lincoln statue located off the 16th Street park transverse.
The area also bustles with bargain shoppers year round. This is not an area of trendy boutiques, but of larger stores offering competitive pricing on the latest home electronics, media and music. During the Holidays, the subway and sidewalks are jammed with New Yorkers who know they do not have to flee to the suburbs to find ample selections of 'this year's' hot gift item. To accommodate the throngs, many stores have special Holiday hours, especially for those who wait until the very last minute to Christmas shop.