New York City is one of the most visited cities in the world and is always high on the bucket list of many tourists across the world! Every year we take thousands of runners to ‘The Big Apple’ to compete in the United Airlines NYC Half and the TCS New York City Marathon. These two races allow you to run through New York City and experience the many sights and the fascinating atmosphere that is provided by millions of New Yorker’s. Aside from running a fantastic half marathon or marathon there’s hundreds of things to do in this brilliant city. So we asked our friend over at New York Road Runners and resident New Yorker, Bradley Eckerson what we should do next time we’re in New York City. So over to you Bradley…
I live in Long Island City, Queens and as much as I hate saying it because I know it’s going to become overrun if I keep advertising for it, I really do live in the best neighborhood in the five boroughs. Anyone, whether a first-timer to New York, or frequent NYC traveler is truly remis if they do not check out Queens. And the best part, the area is very accessible to people staying in Manhattan, with most Subway commutes within 30 minutes. My recommendations are for those who seek the different, unique, and off the beaten path experiences.
HANDS DOWN is Queens Comfort. While they’re open for dinner, the experience at BRUNCH is not to be missed. Their host is a gentleman named James Avatar (locals refer to him simply as Avatar) and he entertains the large lines of crowds with jokes, humor, and music while you wait for a table. And if you do not arrive when it opens you will WAIT (and people do and will wait. I’ve seen people wait more than 2 HOURS). The food is all American Southern Comfort, so perfect if you’ve just finished a race, and the best part is they are BYOA (BRING YOUR OWN ALCOHOL). Check them out on Instagram @queenscomfort and on their website: http://www.queenscomfort.com/ as well as definitely look up Avatar on Instagram @jamesavatar
If you’re looking for a good dinner spot, there’s phenomenal Kansas City style American BBQ in Long Island City called John Brown’s Smokehouse. It CANNOT be missed. They don’t even have a real website that’s how underground they are: https://www.johnbrownseriousbbq.com/
My favorite bars: Again I’m a fan of the off the beaten path stuff, and I’m a huge proponent of my neighborhood. There are THREE phenomenal breweries all within walking distance of each other. In order of preference:
Big aLICe is really cool because it’s located right next door to the Queensbridge Projects, where a lot of famous NYC rappers grew up, including Nas.
But if you’re like me and also like inexpensive drinks (breweries are delicious but expensive), my favorite dive bar is PJ Leahy’s, which features inexpensive brews as well as televisions at every booth so you can pick whatever you want to watch. They also typically play football (soccer) matches which of course I really love. Again, they don’t even have a real website 😊 https://www.facebook.com/PJ-Leahys-366856120689/
LIC Bar is also a great and relatively inexpensive option. They are always doing different themed nights, as well as going all out for the big national holidays. They are self-described as a “classic New York watering hole” but why I particularly love them, is they have an outdoor patio where they feature live music during the summer time. http://www.licbar.com/ Who doesn’t love good drinks and live music on warm summer days?
Again, we’re sticking to Queens. My favorite museum in the five boroughs is the Museum of the Moving Image. Located right next to the historic Kaufman Studios (which up until the 1930s, was the biggest film production studio in the country) it’s completely dedicated to the history of cinema. It’s permanent exhibit, is the Jim Henson Exhibition, features many of the original muppet puppets, as well many other unique projects that Henson worked on, not least of which was the original Star Wars trilogy. For any Jim Henson or Muppets fans, it DEFINITELY CAN’T BE MISSED. But my favorite part: included with your price of admission (which is reasonable at only $15) is a showing of one of the classic films that they’re playing on the day. They’re Instagram is GREAT @movingimagenyc but you can also find them at their website: http://www.movingimage.us/
photos via @movingimagenyc
One of the best kept secrets in the five boroughs are all the beautiful parks which anyone can go to for free. My favorite, is Socrates Sculpture Park. As the name implies, the park features rotating exhibitions of different sculptures from different local artists, all located on the edge of the East River with a beautiful backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. Typically, the exhibition is organized around a theme that applies to current day New York life, or American culture. And of course, during the summer time they host summer outdoor movies. Find the park on Instagram @socratespark and at their website http://socratessculpturepark.org/
The other best kept secret of NYC is Roosevelt Island. Located in between Manhattan and Queens, it is now completely residential, but boasts a very creepy history as it’s former title of “Welfare Island”. New York City’s old insane asylum (which isn’t a politically correct term anymore. More appropriate is psychiatric hospital) is located toward the Northern part of the Island, and in typical New York fashion has been converted into luxury apartment buildings. As well, New York’s original Small Pox hospital is located toward the Southern part of the island by the new Cornell University Tech campus. It’s sectioned off so you can’t get too close to it, but is a Landmarked building so nobody is able to tear it down. Only recently have they started rebuilding parts of it with the hopes of turning it into an exhibit as part of a plan to preserve a more complete history of New York City! But my two favorite parts of Roosevelt Island: it has Cherry Blossom trees which bloom beautifully in the Spring, and it’s new park on the Southern most tip of the island hosts Summer Outdoor movies with the most stunning backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. Most importantly for runners, there’s a 5.5 km loop that goes along the perimeter of the Island which makes it a great place to run! More information about Roosevelt Island may be found here: https://www.nycgo.com/boroughs-neighborhoods/manhattan/roosevelt-island
You can’t come to New York and not see a Broadway show. For the more popular shows on Broadway (Hamilton, The Lion King, Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird…) you’ll want to book your tickets far in advance directly on one of their websites (don’t use a third-party website unless the show is sold-out and YOU HAVE TO SEE IT. Just know you’ll pay more than face value). However, a lost tradition of Broadway is rushing a show, which means waiting outside the Box Office several hours before the Box Office opens for last-minute discounted seats, usually in partial view or standing room only sections. If you’re like me and do things on a budget, this is by far the best way (as well as my favorite) to experience Broadway. However, not every show will have a Rush policy, with most shows keeping up with the technology of our day and age and offering a Digital Lottery to see a show for an inexpensive price. For a list of shows and their Rush/lottery policies, check out Playbill’s website here: http://www.playbill.com/article/broadway-rush-lottery-and-standing-room-only-policies-com-116003
Going to stand-up shows and improv shows are two of my favorite entertainment activities to do that are still uniquely New York. There are three improv theaters in New York: Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), People’s Improv Theater (PIT), and Magnet Theater. My favorite of the improv theaters is UCB, since they’ll frequently have famous actors and comedians drop-in and perform. I’ve listed the websites for all three below:
Of the stand-up comedy clubs, nobody does it better than Comedy Cellar: https://www.comedycellar.com/ Every time I’ve gone to a show there somebody famous has dropped in unannounced to try out a new set. It’s incredible.
I’ll typically only eat in Manhattan if I’m going to a Broadway show. My favorite restaurant for a pre-show meal and nice cocktail is Lillie’s: https://www.lilliesnyc.com/ It’s located in an old church so the interior is stunning.
Another pre or post-Broadway classic is Sardi’s: http://www.sardis.com/htmldocs/cms/ They are the restaurant that made famous drawing caricatures of celebrities and hanging them on their walls. It’s also where almost every single Broadway show will have their Opening Night party.
Aside from Lillie’s cocktails, my favorite bar is Rudy’s: http://www.rudysbarnyc.com/ They are an NYC staple, as well as a dive bar (and hopefully you know by now how much I love dive bars). They are most well-known for serving a free hot dog with a purchase of a drink (their least expensive beer is only $3 a pint). As well, they boast the best Juke Box in NYC! They have an outdoor space which they’ll show sporting events on a giant screen. And most importantly, they’re one of the only bars open all day on Christmas Day, so it’s where I’ll go to really enjoy the holiday.
A final bar recommendation I have is Bar Centrale: https://www.barcentralenyc.com/ It’s a much nicer establishment (and therefore more expensive), and they’ll only let you in if you have a reservation (reservations open a week before the day you want to go), but the cocktails are incredible. As such, it’s typically where any celebrity will go after a show if they’ve performed and/or watched.
My Favorite Place to Run/Work-Out:
I’m going to give my employer, New York Road Runners (NYRR) a plug, and honestly, I don’t feel bad about it. Our NYRR RunCenter featuring the New Balance Run Hub is the best place to start a run, to do many other runner-specific work-outs, and of course to purchase all of your NYRR branded running gear (which I know every runner wants to have!). Located on 57th Street (two blocks away from Central Park South) the RunCenter is known across the five boroughs of NYC for being the place to go for runners. We feature free lockers (with locks!) to stash your stuff before going for a run, or attending one of the FREE fitness classes that we host! Some examples of the types of classes offered are;
A lot of my colleagues have ditched their gym memberships because of the RunCenter. On top of that, during the week of one our races, we host Course Strategy sessions for runners to learn the ins and outs of our course from our very own NYRR Coaching Staff. These are BEYOND helpful if you’ve never run that specific race before or if you’re new to running in New York. Again, all of our events and classes are FREE, however, registration is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as they tend to fill up very fast!
To check out our available classes and offerings, you can go to our website here: https://www.nyrr.org/runcenter as well as find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NYRRRunCenter/ and on Instagram: www.instagram.com/nyrr
As much as I hate to admit it, I do enjoy the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. As a fan of television, being inside 30 Rockefeller Center and NBC Studios is very cool, and in my opinion it does have the best views of the city of the observation decks (although I imagine Hudson Yards new observation deck The Edge will beat it). They have timed ticketing, so it is recommended to purchase tickets in advance: https://www.topoftherocknyc.com/
I haven’t been to it yet, but here’s the website for Hudson Yards: https://www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=GMB
My FAVORITE of all the stereotypical tourist activities is taking a dinner cruise on the Bateaux. Not only is the food all local and five star, but it really is the best cruise of all the NYC Harbor cruises. It takes you to all the key sights, including the Brooklyn Bridge, but will stop right in front of the Statue of Liberty for A LONG TIME so that people can take photos of the icon, and just soak in the ambiance of the city! I prefer taking the Bateaux to actually going to Statue of Liberty National Park. They always have a live band which makes the experience more fun, and typically about halfway through the cruise, people are intoxicated enough that everyone is up and dancing, which I appreciate. Of all the touristy things, it’s the one that I will always do as a local when someone is visiting me, or if I’m trying to impress a romantic interest. It’s the most expensive thing I’ll ever do, but I’ve never regretted it. Your ticket includes dinner, but I highly recommend purchasing an alcohol package as well. The servers makes it beyond worth it: https://www.bateauxnewyork.com/new-york-metro