walking tour of manhattan

Where the Sidewalk Ends (the final part)

We are now down to the last mile! If you haven’t read my earlier posts, I am recounting the walk my husband and I took a few weeks ago. From the northern tip of Manhattan to the southern tip, 13.5 miles, over 200 blocks, we really got to see the city I call home.

In the last post, we had just finished dinner in Little Italy. It took us a little while to find our bearings after dinner. Once you walk south of Houston St., the easy to navigate grid of Manhattan all but disappears and you’re left wondering the twisted, diagonal streets of downtown. If you’re interested in the urban planning of Manhattan, I recommend this interesting article. The grid of Manhattan was originally described as the “republican predilection for control and balance … [and] distrust of nature.”

After the hectic crowded streets of Little Italy and Chinatown, the city bursts into a collection of impressive, European-looking municipal buildings and lit-up sky scrapers. I always expect to see Batman flying around this area.

During the daytime, Wall Street is bustling with pedestrians and cars, but at night it is nearly empty. This is a really great place to visit (during the day) if you have kids. The South St. Seaport has fun museums and a boardwalk. You can take a boat ride around the city, or just walk the cobblestone streets.

No trip to the Wall Street area is complete with out a visit to the famous bull. It’s always fun to watch people pose in front of the bull and wait for them to come up with the brilliant idea of posing next to the giant bull testicles in the back of the sculpture. This happens almost every time. People are very predictable.

It’s also worth it to visit this area at night to see the construction lights of the new World Trade Center.

By this point in our walk, Broadway, the avenue we had been walking down for the entire day, disappeared and we were just hoping that we were still going in the right direction. I hate to admit how many times I’ve walked this area thinking I was going east when really I was going north. It’s super confusing, I tell you!

Finally finally finally, we reached the Staten Island ferry; the southern tip! We quickly posed for a picture and then ran in to use the bathroom and got some more water.

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We made it!

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The Statue of Liberty is hiding somewhere out in that darkness.

We were tired and exhausted at this point, but we couldn’t go all this way with out stopping by the water and enjoying a few moments of peace. It was now 10 pm, but the docks were busy with men who were fishing. They all seemed to know each other and looked at us like we were the odd ones. Perhaps we were the odd ones. After all, who walks the length of Manhattan in one day?

Would I do it again? Absolutely.  I had been to almost every neighborhood we walked through before but it was so nice to see how they all fit together in the massive quilt of diversity that is New York City. Nowhere else can you see so many different styles of architecture and so many different kinds of people. Nowhere else can you eat so many different kinds of food and hear so many different accents and languages. Walking down Manhattan felt like a tour of the world.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (Part 5)

Sorry for the delay in this series – I was in L.A. and Santa Fe for the last few days. I’ll tell you all about that soon, but, first things first, I need to finish telling you all about our journey from the northern tip of Manhattan to the southern tip.  In the last post we were enjoying some tasty dogs in the flatiron district.

For the next ten blocks, we kind of stumbled around in a tired, over-stuffed stupor. At first I thought I was imagining all the bells and singing, and then I realized that we were in Union Sq. just in time for the Hare Krishna show. For my first few years in New York, Union Sq. was definitely my favorite part of the city. My sister went to NYU and her dorm was right around the corner. When I’d come to visit her, I’d tried to spend as much time in the square, watching all the skateboarding punks, the old men playing dominos, the street performers, and the people selling jewelry and apple pie. Even now, with a Whole Foods, DSW and three Starbucks, I still think it’s the perfect spot to spend the afternoon people-watching and getting a true sense of the diversity that makes NYC so unique.

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The Hare Krishnas in Union Sq.

Just when I thought I couldn’t walk any farther, we crossed the 200 block marker, and I felt a sudden rush of energy. “Let’s walk to New Jersey!” I joked.

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200 blocks!

A good representation of Little Italy

We made it to Little Italy just in time for dinner. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures because I was too focused on finding a restaurant and it was pretty dark, so this is someone else’s picture of the garlic scented streets.

Here’s my advice for eating in Little Italy: be careful of the specials. We chose a restaurant where the entrees were all between $15-$20. I ordered one of the pasta specials and as the waitress was leaving to put in our order she casually said, “oh yeah, because it’s a special it’s going to cost a few extra dollars. That’s ok, right?”

“Sure,” I said, and then fortunately added, “Wait, how much exactly?”

“$69.”

At which point I nearly choked on my water, and immediately ordered something else. Pasta needs to be covered in gold if I’m going to pay that much for it. That really rounded out my experience of feeling like a tourist.

Ok, we’re so close to the end – only a mile and half to go.

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Where the Sidewalk Ends (Part 4)

In the middle of our 8 hour walk of Manhattan (which you can read about from beginning here), we started to pass through the region that most non-New Yorkers think of as “New York.” Oh Times Square, I have such a love-hate relationship with you. While I can sing every line of Rent and Les Miserables, and I love knowing that so much culture and creativity is jam packed into about an acre of land, the never ending hoards of tourists who don’t know how to walk in a straight line brings out the most spiteful, bitter New Yorker in me. When I walk through Times Sq. I have Al Pacino’s voice repeating in my head, “hey, I’m walkin’ here!” And while I’m ranting, why does anyone go to the M&M store? Seriously? You can get M&Ms at any grocery store.

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Why do I always forget that Letterman is based in NY?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how many t.v. shows are filmed in NYC. From Good Morning America to Saturday Night Live, from The Daily Show with John Stewart to The View,  you can see the live filming of almost any show here.

On this particular day there was a campaign to raise money for breast cancer research. What better way to raise money than sending out a bunch of naked models clad only in paint and feathers, asking for donations? I never saw the Elmos and Mickey Mouses so neglected.

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At this point we were super tired and hungry but I refused to eat in Times Sq.

We made it out of Times Sq. without tripping over any kids, or getting sold comedy tickets – phew. Next up, the Flatiron district. Mad Sq Eats, a collection of food booths that represent some of the tastiest restaurants and food trucks in the city, sets up across from Madison Sq. park during the spring and fall. There’s nothing like having a beer in the middle of busy intersection and watching the sun set on an icon of New York City architecture, the triangular Flatiron building. I got to try Asiadog for the first time, but if you ever get to this spot during the right time of the year, I recommend Roberta’s, or Red Hook Lobster. Warning: it’s super crowded and it sometimes takes 30-40 minutes to get your food.

OK, we’re getting so close to the end, but there’s still Union Sq., Little Italy, Chinatown, Wall St... on man, I’m getting tired just thinking of it. Stay tuned!

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Where the Sidewalk Ends (Part 2)

In my last post I wrote about the beginning of our walk from the northern tip of Manhattan to the most southern tip. Walking south of the George Washington bridge, we stumbled on some churches with unique architecture. At one point, we crossed a Jehovah’s Witness church that was just getting out, and we walked through a crowd of people who were more dressed up than I’ve ever seen in my life (lace gloves, hats, canes as accessories, parasols, you name it). We felt pretty shabby.

In another twenty blocks, we arrived on the hallow blocks of Columbia University. It’s very easy to think you haven’t aged at all since college until you surround yourself with college students. Mike and I felt ancient. It didn’t help that we were sore from walking for over an hour.

We almost reached the hundred block mark without realizing it, but we were distracted by a party for the Pope. One of the great things about NYC is that there is always a party go on.

100 blocks down, nearly 200 to go 🙂 In the next installment, I’ll show you some of my favorite buildings!

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Where the Sidewalk Ends (Part 1)

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bright eyed and bushy tailed at the beginning.

I’ve always wanted to walk the length of Manhattan and watch how the neighborhoods change from block to block. Two weeks ago, Mike and I grabbed our water bottles, donned our sneakers and headed  up to the northern tip of Manhattan.

We rode the A train till the last stop in Manhattan, Inwood 207th St. The subway ride was pretty typical: From 42nd St. to Columbus Circle, there were the usual hoards of tourists, pouring over their subway maps, scratching their heads in confusion. When the A train raced past the next few stations (because it is express), a group of Italian tourists jumped up demanding to know why the train wasn’t stopping. This happens every time. We explained that the next stop was in Harlem and they could turn around there. Upon mention of Harlem, they gave us a look that said, “Please don’t mug us.” The next twenty minutes of the ride was silent – the car filled with depressed looking people who just wanted to get home. We got off at the last station, eager to see Manhattan by foot.

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The entrance of Fort Tryon Park

We were immediately taken aback by the beauty of Ft. Tyron Park. It’s easy to forget that Manhattan was once a wooded, swamp land. This park is a great reminder of what Manhattan might have looked like hundreds of years ago.

A stranger asked if we wanted our picture taken (something I always offer to tourists to prove that New Yorkers are not as mean/rude as the stereotypes suggest). It was fun feeling like a tourist in a city I practically grew up in. Everyone knows to go to Central Park when they visit the city, but I’d highly recommend this park. It has a wide open courtyard (with clean bathrooms), rocky hills to explore, and stunning vistas of the Hudson river.

 

If you’re planning a trip to the city, I would recommend a visit to the Cloisters, a medieval castle in Manhattan, and then a picnic in Ft. Tryon. The fall is really the best time to visit because the colors of trees are stunning.

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I’ve never seen this view of the George Washington bridge.

The next twenty blocks were uneventful, but we did eat some pretty amazing empenadas. It’s pretty remarkable how quiet some parts of Manhattan are – I’m so used to the constant noise of midtown. Just as we were getting used to the peace and quiet, we started to notice a lot more honking and traffic; a sure sign of the George Washington Bridge. We tried to take more pictures of the bridge, but there were too many aggressive bikers in their neon spandex, yelling at us to get out of their way – they were in a rush to enjoy the day.

So far that covers the first 2 miles of our journey. Stay tuned for the next 11 miles!

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