Well, Manhattan at least. With a little bit of Brooklyn. A couple of people asked me to write something like this, but classic me, went a little bit overboard. Pretty sure I got finger tendinitis.
This is a fun and safe way to spend a day in the city, for locals and tourists alike. All you need is $10 and a dream (a little lotto humor). The $10 is for a 24 hour Citibike pass you can purchase at any Citibike station. The dream is the dream you’ve been carrying with you ever since you’ve seen Home Alone as a young Glasgow lad. There’s only one little catch about those little blue bikes that many tourists miss somehow. You need to return them every 30 minutes. Even if it means getting a new code, and getting the same bike back right away (though new rule may require 2 minutes wait). This itinerary is devised to accommodate this, however if you miss your 30 minutes on a particular ride, you will only get charged $4 extra. Its keeping the bikes for much longer that could prove costly
I’ve been biking all over Manhattan and Brooklyn since the bike sharing program started, and I’m fairly familiar with all the danger involved, especially for folks unfamiliar with the city or any large city. Our bike system has improved by leaps and bounds over the years, but its not there yet. This is a relatively safe route that covers some of our best parks, and the west side of the island. I was tempted to include some of the east side as well but that side isnt as ‘connected’ as the west, and could prove challenging for some. Even the bridge I chose is a relatively safe one as far as getting in and out. Contrary to what you may think, I do care about my readers. But, I will also touch on the fun alternatives for the less novice.
You can obviously make whatever you want with this, but if you follow the entire plan, it will take much of the day if not all of it. There’s relaxation time, fun bathroom breaks, and great, wonderful food. The food options are fairly diverse to accommodate a wide range of tastes, but I will touch on alternatives in each stop. The tour starts on Columbus Circle and ends in Hell’s Kitchen on 9th and 44th
The color coded map that took me two days to manufacture is at the bottom. A Citibike app that will show you bike availability in real time will be useful. Also pay attention to stations that are full when returning a bike. Try to start before 9 if you can, and take it slow, this is not Amazing Race. Stay hungry, stay safe, and most importantly, stay hungry! Here we go…
Start in Columbus Circle, and get your 24 hour pass from any of the stations nearby.
Walk the bike to the main road of Central Park and turn right. Within minutes you will find yourself racing other bikers in the every morning Tour de Park. Making this short loop is not the best way to see the park obviously, but its one of my favorite morning rides. Unless you take lots of photos by Bethesda Fountain and Strawberry Fields, this loop around should take you about 10 minutes. If you opt to spend a lot of time to take pictures, get a new bike on Broadway and 60th.
Cross the street to Broadway/60th, head west on 60th, and turn left on Columbus (9th ave). If its Wednesday or Saturday you’ll see a Farmers Market between 56/57. Carefully turn right on 47th, and return the bike right before 10th, next to Hell’s Kitchen Park, the most popular park among families in HK. If by now this is not going well, and you realized you havent ridden a bike since you were about zero, there’s Hell’s Kitchen Dental around the corner.
Walk on 47th toward 11th until you reach Sullivan Street Bakery. This is perhaps New York’s premier Italian/Roman bakery, owned by celebrity baker/author Jim Lahey who went to Rome one day and discovered the art of baking. When I went to Rome for the first time, I discovered the art of a Strike. Try a Bomboloni (donut, or more like a Jewish Sofganyot), almond croissants, Canotto, or a simple focaccia, or pizza bianca with pecorino if they have. You may see trucks outside getting ready or returning from deliveries to some of our premier Italian restaurants like Maialino, Scarpetta, and great Italian stores like Di Palo’s.
Sullivan’s quality means higher prices. A cheaper but nice alternative is The Jolly Goat Coffee on the same block. Great latte, and even a flat white for my ozzies.
Go up to 11th and turn left. On the next corner, you’ll see an Hell’s Kitchen institution with a twist, Landmark Tavern established in 1868. A popular speakeasy among actors during the prohibition (3rd floor became a speakeasy). For much of its days it was a waterfront property until the west side was expended. Its an Irish pub, with Irish music on some days, dating back to the Westies days, the Irish gang that ruled Hell’s Kitchen in the 70’s and 80′. All sorts of ghosts apparently reside on every floor – a confederate soldier who got stabbed and died in a bathtub, an Irish girl who died of Cholera, and actor George Raft. Come say hello!
Hop on a bike across the street in front of Daisy May’s BBQ (best BBQ in the Hell’s Kitchen) and head west toward the Intrepid. Cross the highway, take the mandatory selfie with the ship and head south… but before you do that, if we are still good with time, lets go the other way, North (not marked on the map) for a rather short distance. You will pass the city’s most ambitious, craziest project, dubbed the Hell’s Kitchen Pyramid, on 57th. This is actually my view from my office in Hell’s Kitchen. I had no idea what it was until I read about it on a flight somewhere. Bjarke Ingels is this Danish architect sensation, and this is his first project in NYC
Pass the floating sanitation dep’t on your left, and immediately after that you are in one of my favorite little parks in the entire city, Riverside Park South. There’s always some public art here, and even though there’s a highway nearby, it feels kinda serene. I like to come here early in the morning to read my emails and catch up with Kardashian news. BTW, inside one of those little parks you need to walk your bikes.
Head back south. Watch the tourists cross 42nd st, and try not to make fun of their choice of transportation. Right before Chelsea Piers and another beautiful park near pier 63, carefully turn left on 22nd… Park the bikes on 22nd right passed 10th. Walk to 23rd, turn left and take the stairs up to the The High Line. Chances are you already had The High Line in your plans, so this is a good day to do it. Soak in the atmosphere including the art and the fake monks while walking south toward Chelsea Market, our next stop. Try to rest those hips a little. Tip: Take a coin from the first fake monk you see, and pass it to the next one!
Exit the High Line on 16th st, and enter Chelsea Market from 10th. In a city filled with food halls, as packed as the place is, there’s nothing like the Chelsea Market. Walk around, try some Adobada tacos from Los Tacos #1, perhaps a
Pastrami sandwich from Dickson’s (In preparation for this, I just had it after a year hiatus, and sadly its not the same, but the hot dogs are still good including the Mortadella dog. Simple, but solid). You can also try some Halvah (for free), including their homemade goat milk ice cream. Right behind it is the future home of Dizengoff, promising to be an excellent source for Hummus and other Israeli snacks. Might be open by the time you do this. Or you can splurge for a Chirashi bowl at Lobster Place, or a lobster roll, or a better lobster roll at Cull & Pistol. But for the purpose of this day, I suggest a taco or 2. Good time as any to go to the loo here ladies
Ok, enough with the crowds. Time to escape. 10th and 14th there’s another blue bike with your name on it (after you get and enter the proper code that is). We had south, but immediately north from that turn there’s Pier 57 which may look like a dump now, but its the future home of the much anticipated Anthony Bourdain market. Turn back and go south. On this short stretch, notice the bike/walk lane splits into 3, you need the middle lane.
You will shortly reach the West Village area and one of the nicest parks along the route. This is where I ask you now to do something in return for all this hard work (Ahh, a catch! but No, there’s no donations involved). Take a selfie or a picture, or ask someone to take a picture of you by The Apple and send it to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Apple, by the Hudson, and Charles st., “designed by Stephen Weiss, the late husband of world-renowned fashion designer Donna Karan, this bronze is part of his Larger than Life series and honors New York City by symbolizing the city’s heart and the core of life”. I’m not sure at this point what I’ll do with the pictures, maybe Tweet them, put them on my site, or may even appear on a Citibike site, but it will be fun if enough people do this
Turn on Christopher, and return the bike on Christopher between Greenwich and Hudson. Walk around one of the liveliest, most expensive, fake monk free areas of NYC, West Village. And yeah, if you need to visit Carrie Bradshaw’s House on Perry st, knock yourself out, I marked it for you. Our food stop here is a falafel plate at Taim. While this is not the best falafel in NYC (that honor I still give to Nish Nush), I really like this falafel plate to share. They give you 9 small ball (try the mix), along with hummus, Israeli salad, and pita with zaatar seasoning. Share one of those babies, complain to the cashier on their spelling of “S’chug” (they spell is S’rug, and it annoys me), and move on.
Give West Village a good hour or more. I marked Magnolia Bakery, and Joe’s pizza as well (latter in case you are not into falafel or simply want more). Washington Square Park means veering way East, but if you havent been and not planning to visit, this is an absolute must IMO, so I marked it as well just in case. Back to the bike on Christopher (unless you are much closer to another location)
Heading South again, you’ll be passing more parks, children playgrounds, dog playgrounds, skateboards, beautiful people, and beautiful skateboarders. Even New Jersey will start to look beautiful. You’ll be passing Tribeca, another great NYC neighborhood. Turn left carefully on warren (look back before you turn and use hand signals. You can return the bikes on Warren and Greenwich, and go up to Barnes & Noble to use their bathrooms, and browse their great Travel section just to show them that you are not just there to use their bathroom. Although for me it always means buying a new Italy book, so these bathrooms can be very expensive. And as per a comment from a trusted source, good place to refuel at Kaffe 1668 across on Greenwich.
Walk or bike (if you didnt stop for bathroom) on Warren toward City Hall Park and Brooklyn Bridge, our next destination. Here’s why I chose Brooklyn Bridge over the other bridges. Its Brooklyn Bridge! Any questions? Yes the other bridges are more bike friendly, and much less crowded, but BB is an icon, it yields better views, and although the other bridges are more bike friendly, BB is the easiest ride and easier to get to. Although if its me, I’d hop on Williamsburg bridge, head to Best Pizza in Williamsburg for a slice or 3, maybe Brooklyn Brewery and head back via the same bridge. Then get on the East River Promenade and ride it toward midtown. At some point the views of Midtown get quite spectacular, but the bike lanes dont continue much after 20th st or so, and you’d need to ride on the streets. Although, riding on 1st avenue is not that bad. If my wife can do it…
Another idea is to take Manhattan Bridge, bike to Wiliamsburg, and visit the ever changing Brooklyn Navy Yard (over 200 year old shipyard). Much of this route is fun and bike laned
But for the purpose of this post, we are heading back west to the Hudson, and drop the bikes near Chambers (in front of Stuyvesant High School, one of our specialized high schools for the academically gifted), or if you choose to walk from City Hall Park, its not very long. Next food stop is a doozy, a DOOZY I tell ya. Walk to The Grand Banks on Pier 25, an old wooden schooner parked from May to October. Indulge in some oysters, lobster roll, or anything else you feel like eating. This is a very cool spot to just unwind, and soak in the views. The views of downtown from pier 25 alone is reason enough to stop by
Alternatively, you also have the many options at Brookfield Place, and if you opted for a Joe’s slice instead of Taim, Nish Nush is your last chance at Falafel awesomeness.
And while in the area, check out the Irish Hunger Memorial, that so many visitors in that area easily overlook. – “The Memorial represents a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls, fallow potato fields and the flora on the north Connacht wetlands. It is both a metaphor for the Great Irish Famine and a reminder that hunger today is often the result of lack of access to land.” Its important to know what you are looking at in this case, and read about how the famine helped shape NYC. Ironically, this memorial was being built during the 9/11 attacks right across the highway.
Grab a bike on Chambers and head North. Fatigue may start kicking in at this point (I’ve already hospitalized twice while writing this) so I suggest dropping the bikes on Bank (cross highway on west 11th) and relax on the lawn by the Hudson. Maybe bringing a blanket on this day could prove handy. Then, perhaps one last bike ride to 46th and 11 for the final food stop of the day, Gotham West Market. Grab a burger at Genuine. Pig’s head sandwich at Cannibal, or my fave at the moment, the all day Breakfast Ramen at Ivan. Or whatever looks good really, as long as you finish with the slated crack caramel at Ample Hills. This is a perfect last stop to spend an hour or so.
Walk along 44th st, between 10th and 9th is one Hell’s Kitchen prettiest blocks. Pass by the Actor’s Studio, the most famous ‘church’ in the area, and if open, Domus, my favorite concept store in the area. Two women close each January, travel to some remote, usually third world destination, and bring back lots of interesting stuff. Check it out
Ivan Ramen Breakfast Ramen