Have you finished reading my post about our decadent food extravaganza and need a little moving around? Well, I’ve got you covered. In 5 days, we walked 42 miles and took public transportation everywhere. Zero taxis, Ubers or Lyfts. We like saving money and we love walking. It’s the best way to see what’s happening and the people-watching is off the hook in a thriving city.
Tuesday (9.67 miles walked) – At LaGuardia Airport, we bought 7-day unlimited passes for the subways and buses. Living in Manhattan for 9 years, I had only used cabs and private bus companies to get between my home and the airport. Well, there’s a convenient bus and subway system that is easy and cheap (all covered by the pass). It was so quick, we were too early to check into our accommodations. We popped above ground and walked around the West Village with our luggage. It helps to pack lightly! We spent a few minutes at the Stonewall Monument and made our way to Washington Square Park to kill an hour.
Washington Square Park:
Since we arrived at our Brooklyn Airbnb at 6:30PM, we made the most of the remaining time and headed to Brooklyn Heights. There’s something about the majestic Brooklyn Bridge that makes my heart skip a beat. We spotted Michael Cera hustling past us on our way to the Brooklyn Promenade. The best views of the Manhattan skyline requires a little distance. A twilight walk along the stunning pedestrian walkway and through the tree-lined brownstone-filled streets set the tone for our trip.
Brooklyn Bridge and Promenade:
Wednesday (11.32 miles walked) – I planned late nights so our mornings started a bit lazy. We took the subway into the city and loved the “New York” moment of catching a young bride and groom heading to City Hall. What a fabulous start to the day! We exited at Union Square to soak up their Greenmarket. It’s open 4 days a week and sells lots of ingredients and prepared foods vs. what I see in most farmer’s markets…home goods, body products, sometimes everything but food. I’ve never seen popcorn on the cob. Who knew? 🙂
While I have (mostly) given up buying stuff, I am still enchanted by ABC Carpet & Home. I have an addiction to pretty plates, French placemats, glassware, gorgeous napkin rings, serving platters and on and on. ABC is THE MOST GORGEOUS store I’ve ever seen. They’re also not in the realm of my budget. I can’t imagine I would have retired at 46 if I’d been buying $250 (small) throw pillows. I attached a photo just so you can see what a $250 (small) throw pillow looks like. Please indulge me with all the photos. I’m obsessed.
Union Square Greenmarket:
ABC Carpet & Home
We joined a lifelong friend for lunch in midtown and took a touristy walk past the Flatiron Building, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the creative store windows of Saks, Barneys, Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman, the Plaza Hotel, Rockefeller Center and Times Square. We stopped into the theater playing Hamilton to understand their last-minute ticket options. Seems that we would have a good chance for tickets if we signed up for getting in line at noon. I had way too much planned to take a long break so it will have to wait for another trip. The crowd outside of the Wednesday matinee of The Great Comet made us stop for a moment to see who might be popping out. Well, hello Josh Groban!
I took a college class last winter that covered the history of jazz and learned all about New York’s contribution to the genre. How did I miss experiencing Birdland when I lived in NY? Time to check it out. Goldstar offered a 5:30PM show that was priced at $20 per ticket plus $10 minimum food/beverage spend per person. Live jazz so early seemed a bit odd but the price point fit our budget. David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band plays every Wednesday night. If you walk up and find an open seat at the bar, $20 gets you into the show and includes a drink. While there was a lively crowd, it wasn’t in danger of selling out the night we visited. The band of 6 included a talented woman on trumpet who also had a velvet voice.
We were happy to see it was still light outside after the show. We started walking the High Line (a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side) at 34th Street and made our way to 14th, ending up at the Chelsea Market for dinner just before they closed for the night at 9PM.
We enjoyed a little more live music on the subway platform as we waited to head “home”.
Thursday (10.25 miles walked) – We started our day with a free 90-minute walking tour of Central Park. It began on the east side of the park at 72nd Street and cut across to Strawberry Fields on the west side. The flowers were in bloom and the weather was perfect. Our guide was knowledgeable and passionate about the iconic park and its history.
In 1853, more than 750 acres of land central to Manhattan Island were set aside to create America’s first major landscaped public park. Central Park was built as a space “for the people”. It continues to be the most visited urban park in the United States. We learned about the lakes and bridges, statues and plants. I love that the bridge underpasses were designed to give a sense of mystery as to what lies ahead on the other side. There are a few photos below that show what I’m talking about.
Central Park Walking Tour:
More live music added to the beauty of the space.
After our visit to the park, we wandered past Lincoln Center and met a friend for lunch at a new food hall in Columbus Circle. I was scheduled to participate in an Airbnb focus group so we bailed on the bus and walked another 2 miles through midtown to my session. Tim took the opportunity to hustle to Brooklyn Brewery. Boo…he didn’t check it out beforehand and they were closed. Of course, there’s no lack of beer in Brooklyn so he made the best of it.
Somehow, I’d never taken a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and wanted to add it to our trip. It’s free and it runs 24 hours a day. Because it passes pretty close to the Statue of Liberty, I timed it so we could see it (and the downtown skyline) during the day and at night – totally different experiences in my opinion. Unfortunately, all passengers were kept inside the ferry so pictures had a thick plastic window obscuring the photos. My night shots didn’t work out.
Views from the Staten Island Ferry:
Friday (7.34 miles walked) – I’ve been fascinated by immigrant stories and neighborhoods in New York my entire life. From books (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and movies (The Godfather) to historic places (Ellis Island) and neighborhoods (Lower East Side) – it all captivates me. The Tenement Museum is located on Orchard Street. Built in 1863, the building housed nearly 7,000 immigrants through the years. I believe the building was shuttered when the its wooden staircases and wood-paneled hallway walls made it too costly for the landlord to get the building up to the new fire codes. The apartments sat dormant for 50 years and came to life in the nineties as a museum. There are 6 restored apartments and a tour of each is a separate ticket and reservation. The spots are popular so we were glad to reserve early. We booked the Irish immigrant experience and were captivated by the story of a young couple in 1869. We learned about the discrimination that Irish men and women faced in their new land and it was heart-breaking.
With the purchase of a building tour, they offer a discount on neighborhood walking tours. We opted for a food tour. Wow! Our guide brought the neighborhood to life for us with photos and realistic stories. She was able to place us in the different periods with amazing dramatic flair. In addition to sampling many of the food items immigrants brought to our country, we learned about the cultures and people from Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean.
After our own little food crawl of the area, we didn’t want to call it a night too early and found a sketch comedy show. Lots of notable comics we enjoy have been through their program but neither of us found the material funny that night. We didn’t regret it
and would try it again. Live comedy can be hit-or-miss (and totally subjective).
The Pit’s Past Performers:
What’s that? A little more live music in the subway on our way to the show:
After the show, we wanted one more tourist hurrah and ended up in Times Square as the Broadway shows were letting out. Who did we see? None other than the Divine Miss M (aka Bette Midler) leaving Hello, Dolly! with a massive crowd waiting to catch a glimpse of her. On our way to the subway we waited far too long outside another stage door for Kevin Kline but instead saw Cobie Smulders from How I Met Your Mother.
Broadway Stage Doors:
For your late-night listening pleasure, one last subway musician:
Saturday (walked 3.31 miles) – We were fortunate to have terrific sightseeing weather during the first 4 days of our trip. Our last day was cold and non-stop rain. We were wiped out, too, after hitting the city hard since arriving. Our Airbnb host had a class to attend and needed to lock the doors so we were out by 11AM and had 3 or 4 hours to kill. Made our way to the Food Hall at the Plaza Hotel and camped out for a few hours. Easy ending to our trip and the subway/bus back to LaGuardia was a breeze.
Plaza Food Hall:
Long days and lots of walking meant I crashed pretty hard when we got home. Well worth it!
What does your dream day in New York City look like?