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Trip Report How have we missed Madison Square Park in the past?

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I've been to New York many times for business and pleasure, but somehow in these trips I've overlooked Madison Square and the park there. What an omission!

My wife and I were returning from a week in Italy and had 24 hours in New York before catching our plane home. (If you care to read about Florence at Christmas time this year, here is the trip report: http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/florence-in-december-live-trip-reporting.cfm .) We stayed at the Fashion 26 hotel on W. 26th St. (liked it a lot) and walked over to Madison Square Park to split a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake at the Shake Shack there that we've recently heard so much about from friends and the media. Taking advantage of the unusually mild weather for this time of year, we sat outside at the Shack, enjoying the juicy burger and fries and the fabulous "Fair Shake" which they describe as a "vanilla shake spun with 100% certified organic Arabica fairly traded coffee." Wow -- and it's even a lot better than it sounds.

But what caught our eyes was staring up at the amazing architecture surrounding the park on its east and south sides. Sure we've seen the Flatiron Building before while zipping down to Lower Manhattan or up to Midtown, but we've never paid attention to its spectacular surroundings -- north to south: the New York Life Building (topped off with its immediately-recognizable dazzling gold pyramid I'd seen from other vantage points in the city), the squattier Metropolitan Life North Building (designed by one of the architects on the Rockefeller Center project -- you can see the influence), the Metropolitan Life Tower (based on the campanile in Piazza San Marco in Venice, the tower was the tallest building in the world from 1909-13), and the new dizzyingly pencil-thin 50-story One Madison Park high rise on the southeast end of the square ("precarious" comes to mind -- my first thought on looking up at it: damn, I hope there's not an earthquake here someday). And then of course on the southwest corner, the incomparable Flatiron Building.

We enjoyed it enough that we returned the following day for a repeat performance before heading to the airport to catch our plane. If you're visiting New York and enjoy good burgers and shakes, architecture, cool urban settings, or all three, we'd highly recommend a visit to the square and the park.

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