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What to do in DUMBO Brooklyn

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

This post is a self-guided tour takes you to see charming and historic locations and cutting-edge art and architecture in DUMBO, the historic Brooklyn neighborhood known by the acronym “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”

 

 


GETTING THERE

DUMBO is located in the northeast of Brooklyn, just across the river from Lower Manhattan. Regardless of how you get here, we recommend using this Google Maps link for directions.

Why not let us take you here. We visit the area on our Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Tour, which takes place daily at 9:30 with additional seasonal times.

 

How to get to DUMBO NYC

 

By subway:

•   A/C Train to High Street: Take the exit that says Cadman Plaza West. When you exit, there will be a big park across the 4-lane street. Cross the street to the park, walk directly across the park to the pathway that curves to the left. You will see plenty of people coming and going from the bridge. Walk downhill on Washington Street.

•  2/3  Train to Clark Street: Exit the station and turn left onto Henry Street. Pass Cranberry Street and make a right on the footpath; you will see the A/C train station. Then follow the instructions above regarding walking through the park.

By foot from the Brooklyn Bridge:

If you have walked from Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge, you can get to DUMBO very easily. To make the most of your walk over this splendid and beloved bridge, be sure to read our post our guide to walking the Brooklyn Bridge.

As you walk through the second tower of the bridge, you will be nearing one of two exits from the bridge. You will come to a fork in the walkway – to the left, there is a small set of stairs going down off the bridge.

On the right, the walkway and bike path continues. Be sure to take the exit on the left with the stairs and be sure to watch for speeding bicyclists as you must cross the bike path to get to the stairs). Walk down the stairs and you will be at the perfect spot to start the tour.

By bike: 

Despite some bumpiness along cobblestoned streets, DUMBO is a great neighborhood to bike around. Not a lot of car traffic and plenty of places to lock your bikes and several nearby docks for bikes rented from the city’s Citibike Share system.

For information on the best bike rentals, see our post, Best Bike Rentals in New York City.  Click here for information related specifically to biking in DUMBO.

By ferry:

The East River Ferry operates to and from Brooklyn Bridge Park from several locations along the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts. When you disembark, leave the ferry landing located inside the park, exit the park and you will find yourself on Water Street. Turn left onto Water Street and walk 3 blocks until you reach Washington Street for the first stop on the tour.

Our post on the East River Ferry Service has all the details you will need.

 


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THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN DUMBO

It is one of New York City’s hippest, historic neighborhoods with unsurpassed views and the city’s best pizza! Best of all, this tour takes you to the spots where you can take some of the best photos of New York City. Make sure your camera battery is charged and ready to go!  

What makes DUMBO so interesting is how its past as a mecca of American manufacturing in the late 1800s-early 1900s has not been erased by the influx of wealth into the area. DUMBO embraces its past by re-purposing the 100-year-old warehouses into luxury condos, hip restaurants, cutting-edge performance art spaces and tech start-ups like Etsy.

Click on the icon on top-right of the map to open in new tab. This is an interactive map as well

 


1 – Iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge 

Corner of Washington Street and Front Street.

Manhattan Bridge

Your grand greeting from DUMBO is a photo op you will not want to miss. As you walk down Washington Street, look straight ahead and you will see the blue-gray steel of the Manhattan Bridge, built in 1912.

Far off in the distance you can see the Empire State Building perfectly framed in the archway of the bridge. If the view looks familiar that is because this exact vantage point is one of the several iconic photos of New York City.

Although cars are active along these streets, most drivers go slow knowing that lots of people stop here to take photos. Still, be careful when standing in the middle of the street.

The streets surrounding the base of the have been used as locations for many films including The Naked City (1948), The French Connection (1971), Serpico (1973), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Scent of a Woman (1992), American Gangster (2007), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), The Amazing Spider-Man (both 2012).

Walk half a block east on Water Street. (East is walking against the direction of the car traffic).


2 – Gleason’s Gym 

130 Water Street

Gleasons Gym

Gleason’s Gym is one of the most famous boxing training gyms in America. The original Gleason’s Gym was located in the Bronx, having opened in 1937 by the late, great boxer Bobby Gleason. It moved to DUMBO in 1984.

Over the years, many legends have trained for fame at Gleason’s. At the original Bronx location, stars like Jake LaMotta, Roberto Duran, and Mike Tyson trained.

In 1963, a young man named Cassius Clay learned how to box like a champ as he prepared for his famous match with Sonny Liston. Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and the rest is history.

The gym has also been the setting for a number of boxing movies. Robert DeNiro trained in the gym’s Manhattan location to prepare for his role as LaMotta in Raging Bull. Wesley Snipes trained in DUMBO to prepare to play Roland Jenkins in the 1987 film Streets of Gold.

Actress Hillary Swank, in preparation for her Academy-Award winning role in Million Dollar Baby, was trained by Gleason boxing trainer Hector Roca.

Continue East on Water Street.  The corner of Water and Adams Street is our next stop.


3 – PowerHouse ARENA 

28 Adams Street

Powerhouse ARENA

In 2006, the critically acclaimed publisher PowerHouse Books opened PowerHouse ARENA in DUMBO as a venue for creative thought and top-notch art exhibitions, installations, presentations, performances, and readings.

It drew lots of locals, and travelers as well, who came to see famed authors and artists. Powerhouse ARENA helped to put DUMBO on the “map” as a world-class venue for arts and literature.

The original location which was at 37 Main Street was a massive 10,000-square-feet with 24-foot ceilings and large glass windows. As is so often the case, original renters in DUMBO are priced out of their own homes. In 2016 the rent doubled in 2016 and they moved to a smaller nearby location. 

Just a few of the authors who have read there are Salman Rushdie, Paul Auster, Gary Shteyngart, David Sedaris, Mary Gaitskill, Jonathan Lethem, Joyce Carol Oates, Jennifer Egan, T.C. Boyle, Jonathan Franzen, Pete Hamill, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith. Check their website to see if anyone famous will be stopping by when you are there.

Across the street, you cannot miss the giant archway of the Manhattan Bridge. Cross over to the archway – and mind the cars and bikes! 


4 – Archway of the Manhattan Bridge

A century ago, who would imagine that the desolate dark space underneath the noisy bridge would become a unique venue available to rent for special events, markets, art exhibitions, commercial photography shoots and  — believe it or not — weddings!  

In Spring and Summer, concerts, light shows, and even sports events viewings are opened to the public for free. In 2014, the Archway installed a large Jumbotron TV to air the World Cup. Viewers came with folding chairs, some wine, cheese and even flags of their favorite teams!

In the below pictures, you can see (from left to right) 1) the archway used as a film location for a movie set in the 1920s; 2) the archway on an average day; 3) the archway with a fun night of beer!

Archway Collage

By now you should have noticed that many of DUMBO’s streets are cobblestone. While it is not the original cobblestone laid down by the very first settlers of New York City, much of DUMBO’s cobblestone was laid down in the early 1900s. 

Other areas of New York City are known for their cobblestone streets are Tribeca, Greenwich Village, and SoHo, all of which we offer free tours of – see our tour calendar to find out more.

The area around the archway has an aged look to it, with its small shop storefronts and large industrial buildings in the background. The area’s unique characteristics make it a perfect location for filming movies that take place in the past.

Stephen Spielberg filmed some scenes from Bridge of Spies here as the film takes place in the 1960s. Here is a video of the filmmakers filming by the archway. You can see how the shops were fitted with era-appropriate signs and the streets are lined with old automobiles.

 

Walk all the way through the through the Archway and you will hit Anchorage Place. If it is Spring and Summer you will walk right into our next stop.


5 – DUMBO Flea  

April through October, Sundays 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Brooklyn Flea

This well-known ‘upscale flea market’ is a must-see event that happens every Sunday throughout the Spring and Summer. It is a unique blend of artisan crafts, vintage clothing, handmade jewelry, and retro furniture.

Even if you don’t plan on shopping, a visit to the Brooklyn Flea can be great fun! Dig through old dusty records, find unusual funky clothing, and souvenirs unique to Brooklyn. It’s good vibes all around!

You will also find unique food vendors – save room for a treat, you will definitely want to try something. DUMBO Flea was ranked as one of the world’s best flea markets by Travel + LeisureCountry LivingBudget Travel, and Fodor’s! 

Turn left on Anchorage Place walk and walk one block to Plymouth Street. Make a left onto Plymouth Street and walk one block to Adams Street.


6 – Jay Street Connecting Railroad 

Jay Street Connecting Railroad

As you have been walking around you may have noticed what appear like trolley tracks. These are what is left of the former Jay Street Connecting Railroad (JSC). It was created by Arbuckle Brothers, Brooklyn’s original coffee kings.

By 1900, the Arbuckle Company had a factory and a group of warehouses on the Brooklyn waterfront. Believing that a railroad was the best way to effectively move cargo through the buildings, they created the JSC.

The railroad had terminals to serve the various industries and factories in the area. With the rise of trucks as the dominant means of transporting goods, the small local railroad stopped operating by 1958.

The tracks remain and are yet another aspect of DUMBO that is a reminder of days gone by. For history buffs and train aficionados, you can find out more information here.

Continue walking along Plymouth Street until you reach Washington Street. Here you will find the entrance to a delightful waterside park.


7 – Main Street Park 

This 3.5-acre park offers spectacular views of the East River and Manhattan. (Importantly, there are public bathrooms available just a hundred feet into the park!) So many things go on every day in this neatly groomed park with some shady trees but mostly open grass.

Bring a blanket and laze for an hour or more. When sitting in this park, located between the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge to the south, be prepared to pause your conversation approximately every 3 minutes as the subway traverses the Manhattan Bridge). Click here for the Park’s website.

Once you are in the park walk southwest toward the Brooklyn Bridge and the water’s edge. You will see a small curved beach of rocks level with the river. Head down there and get your camera out for some of the most monumental photos you will get on your trip to New York City.

Pictured from left to right 1) Main Street Park; 2) Pebble Beach with Empire Stores in the background; 3) Kayaking at Pebble Beach.

 

Main Street Park and Pebble Beach

 


8 – Pebble Beach 

When you planned your trip to New York City you probably didn’t contemplate being able to dip your toes into the East River! At Pebble Beach, you can walk down to the water, watch it lap up against the land and take a pebble for a souvenir. 

The water is clean enough that the Brooklyn Bridge Boathouse sponsors a free kayaking program every summer where you can get 20 minutes free of kayak time and get out into the river – it is really an unusual experience that not many travelers know about. It is NOT something you will forget. Bring a waterproof camera! Find out more information here.

Read our post on the number of free ways to get on the water in NYC.

From Pebble Beach, turn away from the water, look back at the buildings and you will see a building several stories high.  At the top, the building is fitted with a 14-foot glass clock.


9 – 1 Main Street

(aka Clocktower Building)  corner of Plymouth Street and Main Street

Clocktower Building and Empire Stores

The Clocktower has special significance in that it was the first of the old, abandoned industrial buildings in the area to be converted into a luxury apartment building.

In the 1980s, property developer David Walentas had the brilliant foresight to purchase the area’s mostly empty big loft-like spaces. At the time, the entire Clocktower Building cost just $12 million – a real steal for a building so large. Walentas bought up so much property and converted them into luxury condos that DUMBO got a nickname, Walentasville!

While all the apartments in the Clocktower have great views, the penthouse triplex is like no other. It has four 14-foot-high (4.2 m) round windows each with four working clocks.

In 2010, the penthouse was listed on the real estate market and the asking price was asking price was $25 million. (Remember that the entire building was bought by Walentas for half that amount!). There were no takers and the building sat empty until March 2017, it was finally sold for the bargain price of…$15 million! Still, you will never be late for an appointment!

Continue walking south through the park along the footpath toward the massive brick warehouse-like structure known as Empire Stores.


10 – Empire Stores

53-83 Water Street

You cannot miss this 500,000-square-foot brick warehouse situated close to the waterfront. This is the Empire Stores former warehouse, built between 1868 and 1885.  

In those days, Brooklyn was America’s coffee capital. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the vast majority of the country’s coffee supply arrived through New York Harbor. As industry slowed down along the Brooklyn waterfront in the 1940s and ‘50s, many of the area’s warehouses were torn down for the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.  (A must-see location visited on our pay-what-you-wish Dumbo, Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights tour.)

Photo left to right: 1) Empire Stores in its warehouse days; 2) during its unused era; 3) first stages of renovation and repurposing in 2017.

Empire Stores Collage

By the 1960s, Empire Stores was abandoned. But with the rise of DUMBO as a vibrant neighborhood and the development of its splendid waterfront, Empire Stores is being brought back to life.

In 2013, investors and real estate developers have been converting the warehouses into a mixed-use project with 420,000 rentable square feet of office space and 80,000 square feet of retail.

To see a listing of the dozens of retail stores, click here. You will also find a list of places to eat, cultural spaces, such as galleries 

 


11 – Jane’s Carousel

Brooklyn Bridge Park. The carousel is one of our top 10 family-friendly things to do in Brooklyn.

Janes Carousel

This 1922 carousel, featuring 48 carved wooden horses was built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and stationed in Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio. When Idora Park closed in 1984,  Jane and David Walentas bought the carousel at auction for $385,000 and had it stored in a warehouse.

Jane spearheaded its restoration and in 2011 it was installed at its current location. It is a fully functional carousel and fun for kids and adults to ride! And it is only $2 to be part of this beautiful historic carousel with great views of Manhattan and the river.

While some people find the juxtaposition of a glass box on the grassy lawn by the river to be odd and unattractive. But in 2012 Jane’s Carousel won Travel & Leisure’s 2012 Design Award for Best Public Space. Impressive!

It was designed by world-renowned architect, Jean Nouvel who designed another wonderful structure, a residential building located just north of the Chelsea Piers. From the High Line Park in Manhattan, you’ll get a great view of his stunning work. If you haven’t heard of the High Line, do yourself the favor and read our post about it.

Carousel Hours 

  • For Fall to Spring, September 17, 2018 – to May 12, 2019  (check here for summer hours when they are announced)
  • Thursday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
  • Tickets: $2 

From the carousel, start heading out of the park walking along the path. On your left,  is the side of Empire Stores and on your right is another former warehouse turned art center.


12 – St. Ann’s Warehouse 

45 Water Street

St Anns Warehouse Theater

Housed in this former tobacco warehouse is St. Ann’s Warehouse, a state of the art performance space. Founded 34 years ago when DUMBO was not the hotbed it is now, St. Ann’s Theater was located in another nearby space.

They are known for their cutting-edge and innovative theater and concert presentations. Among many performances are highly acclaimed productions by the late Lou Reed, Deborah Harry, Al Pacino, Marianne Faithfull, Charlie Kaufman, and the Coen Brothers. 

St. Ann’s Warehouse played an important role in both the New York City arts scene but also helped put DUMBO on the map. It still draws large crowds. Check their website to see what events are going on.

When you exit the park, you will be on Old Dock Street. If you have a sweet tooth, make a left on Water Street and walk halfway down the street.


13 – Jacques Torres Chocolate

66 Water Street

Jacques Torres

This shop is the first of several locations for the world-famous chocolatier. It opened in 2000 and is a must-see, or rather must-eat, destination. Torres pioneered mixing unusual flavors into filled chocolates such as Pastis licorice liquor with milk chocolate ganache, chocolate infused with the tingle of fresh mint tea, and Earl Grey tea infused in a dark creamy chocolate square. They are not only delicious but quite beautiful.

In winter, it is practically required in DUMBO to go and get a Chili Hot Chocolate ideal for cold days in DUMBO.  Get information about hours and directions by clicking here.

Turn back on Water Street and head west, in the same direction of the cars. Walk one block to Dock Street and make a left. Dock Street merges into Front Street. Walk on Front Street for about 100 yards and you will arrive at Old Fulton Street.


14 – Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s 

Pizzerias

You have probably heard of Grimaldi’s Pizza, long believed to be one of the best pizza pies in New York City. Before DUMBO was a destination of its own, crowds of people came down to Old Fulton Street to wait for hours in line for a taste of Grimaldi’s famous pizza.

Well, in 2012 a new kid moved into town – Juliana’s Pizzeria. Turns out that Juliana’s is not new at all. It was opened by the original owner of Grimaldi’s! It’s a long story of a pizza war. You can get all the juicy details if you read this article.

Both pizzerias are very good. Some say that Juliana’s is overtaking Grimaldi’s in popularity. The best advice is to go to whichever had the shorter line! The recipe is the same, it’s all in the family.

TIP: If you are a pizza lover, see our post The Best Pizza in New York City by Neighborhood.

Look across the street at the imposing red brick building with the large arched entrance.


15 – Brooklyn Eagle Warehouse

28 Old Fulton Street

Eagle Warehouse

This neo-Romanesque building was constructed in 1893 on the site of the old Brooklyn Eagle Newspaper building. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle began publication on October 26, 1841. At that time, Brooklyn was still a city independent of New York.  For two years, 1846 to 1848, a young Walt Whitman was the paper’s editor.

The paper relocated in the late 1800s, making room for the warehouse to be built. It is now, of course, luxury condominiums.

Walt Whitman is best known for “Leaves of Grass”, the revolutionary collection of poems he authored in 1855. Lines from his famous poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” have made an everlasting impression at our next site on the tour.

Continue toward the water along Old Fulton Street until you come to the end of the street and the entrance to Fulton Ferry Landing and Brooklyn Bridge Park.


16 – Fulton Ferry Landing 

Evacuation Memorial Plaque

On your way to the wooden landing, stop by the large boulder with a plaque commemorating one of the most important historical locations in DUMBO, and perhaps all of New York City.

In 1642, the first ferry service between Brooklyn and Manhattan was based along the shoreline. That alone is historic. But what is truly exciting about this spot (besides the amazing Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory) is that it was here that one of the most important strategic moves of the Revolutionary War took place.

In what is now known as the Battle of Brooklyn, George Washington found himself between a rock and a hard place in August of 1776. Washington and his troops had almost been pushed out of Brooklyn by the British Army. He was faced with the choice of remaining on land to fight the much superior British forces or evacuate his troops and avoid what would surely have been a bloody defeat. 

Washington made his decision and under the cover of night on August 29th,  9,000 troops secretly departed from the Fulton Ferry shoreline via boat, canoe, raft and any other object that could float. All night long, troops were shuttled to safety in Manhattan.

At sunrise, with troops, and Washington himself, still waiting to evacuate, a heavy fog formed which concealed the last leg of the retreat. By 7 am, the entire Continental Army had arrived safely on Manhattan Island. The British didn’t know what happened until a few hours later.

Of course, the rest is history! (To see other landmarks related to this epic evacuation try our Brooklyn Heights Tour.)

As you walk to the end of the landing, your eyes will be focused on the skyline of Manhattan. If you can take your eyes off the view for a minute, look down and you will see bronze relief drawings of historic local scenes embedded in the wooden pier. Also, the landing’s railings are engraved with lines from Walt Whitman’s famous poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”.

 

Fulton Landing Skyline View

 

As for why it is called Fulton’s Ferry Landing, that is because, in 1814, Robert Fulton launched his steamboat ferry service which instantly became the foremost means of transport between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The ferry remained successful until the 1883 opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Eventually, ferry service tapered off and ceased completely in 1924. Excitingly, ferry service began again in 2006. To learn all about the new ferry services, see our post on the East River Ferry service or read about all of the other boat tours that make stops or pass by here.

That concludes the tour, although there is so much more to do in the area. Below are suggestions for places to shop and eat, in addition to Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s Pizzerias. We have also included other activities nearby. If you are ready to head home, here are the nearest departure points.

If you are ready to leave DUMBO, you can walk up Old Fulton Street along the right side of this busy street. After two long curved blocks, you will come to Henry Street. Make a right onto Henry and walk up the slight hill.

Walk one block and make a left onto Middagh Street. Walk one short block on Middagh and you will come to the High Street Station for the A/C train. If you prefer the 2/3 train, continue on Henry Street four more blocks and you will be at the Clark Street Station.

 


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WHERE TO EAT & SHOP IN DUMBO

DINING

Two of the best pizzerias in NYC are right next to each other!  Grimaldi’s  at1 Front Street or at Juliana’s  19 Old Fulton Street.

For family-pleasing “fast-food” you have ShakeShack on 1 Old Fulton Street.  This small chain of shops is known for what some believe are the best burgers in NYC. They are also known for having long lines on occasion.

Luke’s Lobster Rolls is near Jane’s Carousel in the historic Smokestack building in Brooklyn Bridge Park. They serve up much more than fresh lobster rolls. You can get soup and salads as well. Closed during winter.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory  Located in a 1922 firehouse on the Ferry Landing. Expect long lines for very scrumptious ice cream. Cash Only!

For many other places to eat, click here.

SHOPPING

Dumbo is filled with artsy, unique stores as well as some chain shops you are familiar with such as West Elm. Be sure to stop at Brooklyn Industries to buy their famous T-Shirts with all sorts of graphic designs of Brooklyn on them. They also have the best hoodies around! 

For an extensive listing and a map of retail stores, click here


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NEARBY ACTIVITIES

Guided Tours 

We do offer a number of pay-what-you-wish guided tours of these Brooklyn neighborhoods:

  • Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Tour – a 3-hour tour that begins with a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, a stroll through Brooklyn Heights, and a taste of DUMBO ending at the Fulton Ferry Landing.
  • Brooklyn Heights Tour – a 2-hour tour of charming historic homes, stunning views and plenty of history.
  • Williamsburg Brooklyn Tour – explore one of New York’s hippest neighborhoods in flux. See the art, the restaurants, the watering holes, and most importantly, the people of Williamsburg.

Outdoor activities 

  • Free kayaking at Brooklyn Bridge Park between Piers 1 and 2 is a unique opportunity to see the Bridge from a different perspective without paying anything. Starts the first weekend in June through the end of August. Click here for more information.

TIP:  Want to get out on the water without getting too wet? See our post on Free New York Boat Tours.

  • Athletics –  South of DUMBO is even more of Brooklyn Bridge Park. This huge waterfront park has several piers offering different activities from including basketball, handball, bocce, shuffleboard, a roller rink, and rock climbing.

Cultural Events

  • Free outdoor movies  In summer, the park is host to Movies with a View, a free outdoor movie showing every Thursday nights. For more information about other free outdoor movie screenings see our post, Free Concerts, and Movies.
  • All the World’s a Stage See free performances of Shakespeare plays. A great alternative if you can’t get tickets to the famous free Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park.
  • A very well-known local event called Bargemusic, for free one-hour classical music performances. Doors open 15 minutes before the performance – no reserved seating is available.
  • For all the amazing offerings in the park, see their events calendar.

For even more ideas, check out our Things to Do in Brooklyn post.

 


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Written by Courtney Shapiro 

Intrepid Museum Tickets and Discounts

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Tickets and Discounts

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

This post will help you plan your visit to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Below you’ll find information on hours, ticket prices, and directions to get there. Or click here to purchase tickets with 24-hour cancellation. 

 

 


TICKETS

Entry to the Intrepid is free with the purchase of several tourist discount passes.

Prices as of 2018

Read more »

New York cheap flights

12 Secrets to Finding Cheap Flights to New York City

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

New York City is one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. However, sometimes getting there can be a bit expensive.

Though there are three major airports near NYC, affordable fares are not guaranteed.  Fortunately, there are some tricks to seeking out the cheapest flights to New York City.

 

 

Below we’ve put together the best secrets to finding cheap flights to NYC, but probably the best thing that you could do for yourself is to know when the cheapest times to visit NYC are. 

You should consider checking out TripAdvisor’s booking system. They are affiliated with many of the discount search agents.

Or take a look at Hotwire, which specializes in last minute discount deals.

For more money saving ideas, read our post comparing tourist discount passes and our guide to NYC on a budget. Read more »

Central Park Movie and TV Tour

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

This post covers many of Central Park’s movie and television filming locations, including a self-guided tour and map, guided tours and links to more in-depth details.

 

 


OVERVIEW

Central Park has long inspired filmmakers and television writers. Its 843 acres (340 hectares) of greenery, dozens of bridges, statues, and more provide a perfect backdrop for a variety of New York City tales.  

Below is our list of the top 11 film and television locations in Central Park. We have set it up as a 90-minute, self-guided walking tour, but we suggest pairing it with our self-guided or our GPS-enabled audio tour of Central Park, both of which include the 11 stops. Read more »

NYC Subway Bus and Other Ways to Get around New York

HOW TO GET AROUND NEW YORK CITY

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

This post covers how to get around NYC with the NYC Subway, buses, bikes, taxis, Uber, boats, walking and even a sky-tram! We also have a guide for getting to and from NYC’s 3 airports.

 

 


SUBWAY

The subway system is a very efficient way to get around the city. It may seem confusing when looking at the map, but as long as you know how to use it before you hop on a train, you will discover how convenient the subway is.

Read our post for everything you need to know about riding the subway, from understanding the difference between the local and express trains, transferring between stations and finding the right station when there are multiple stations with the same name.

Read more »

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting 2018

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

This post provides you with information on how to attend the annual lighting ceremony of the gigantic Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center on November 28, 2018, as well as viewing the tree throughout the holiday season.

 

 


HOW TO GET HERE

The tree is located in the middle of the Rockefeller Center complex between West 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Regardless of how you choose to arrive, we recommend using this Google Maps link for directions to the tree.

For information on the best spot to take that perfect picture, see our Tips section below.

 

rockefeller-center-tree-map

 


How to Get Here?

By subway:

  • B, D, F and M trains to the 47-50th Street Rockefeller Center stop.
  • 1 Train to the 50th Street stop and walk along 50th Street in the direction of the cars to Rockefeller Center between 5th and 6th Aves.
  • N, Q, or R trains to the 49th Street stop and walk along 49th Street against the traffic to Rockefeller Center between 5th and 6th Aves.
  • E or M to the 5th Avenue/53rd Street stop and walk south on 5th Avenue in the direction of the cars.
  • 6 train to 51 Street Station and walk in direction of cars until 5th Avenue and make a left turn onto 5th Avenue. Walk one block down.

By bus: 

  • Take the M1, M2, M3, M4 or M5 bus to 50th Street. Buses run north and south.

If you are new to the subway system our posts may be of some use to you: Navigating the New York Subway and Which New York City Subway MetroCard to Buy? 

NYC Tourist Passes and Discounts

 


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THE LIGHTING CEREMONY

Although the tree is erected in mid-November, the lighting ceremony does not take place until Wednesday, November 28, beginning at 7 pmPrior to the lights being turned on at 9:00 pm, there are live performances by top singers and bands, as well as the Radio City Rockettes. 

Performers for 2018 have yet to be announced, and we will update this post once they are.

In past years, performers included Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, Josh Groban, Tori Kelly, Sarah McLachlan, Dolly Parton, Jordan Smith, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, and more! 

We recommend that you arrive by 3 pm, and absolutely no later than 4 pm, though going early is even better since the event is always very crowded. 

See below for our tips on where to stand to have a view of the tree and the live performances. 


Seeing the tree at other times

You can see the tree on other nights at Rockefeller Center until January 7, 2019, at 9 pm. Note that the lights are only on from 5:30 pm until 11:30 pm each night.Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Visiting the tree is one of our top free, seasonal things to do at night in NYC

On Christmas Day, December 25, the tree remains lit for a full 24 hours. On New Year’s Eve, December 31, the lights are turned off early at 9 pm. 

The best location to for that perfect picture is from 5th Avenue at the entrance to the Channel Gardens. This is part of the Rockefeller Center complex. The entrance is on 5th Avenue between West 49th Street and West 50th Street.

Our Guide to Rockefeller Center has information and a map of the complex and can help you find your way around.

You could also see the tree with us on one of our Midtown Manhattan Walking Tours or let us guide you around the neighborhood with our GPS-enabled audio tour app.

Free New York Tours

 


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TIPS FOR ATTENDING THE CEREMONY

Where to stand to see the Tree Lighting:

The tree is located in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The area with views of the tree is very small and will be very crowded. Again, go early, by 3 pm the latest if you want to be in a prime location.

You can see the tree from these locations:

  • On Rockefeller Plaza, a short street that is located between West 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues and also surrounds the ice skating rink (in orange in the image below)
  • In the Channel Gardens, a very narrow pedestrian walkway entered from 5th Avenue between West 49th and West 50th Streets (in green in the image below)
  • You can also see from a segment of 5th Avenue that is between 49th and 50th Street (red star in the image below)

 

Best Spots for Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

 


Where to stand to see the live performances:

The live performances take place in front of the Prometheus Statue in the lower concourse square, which is surrounded by Rockefeller Plaza (in orange in the image above). 

In the photo below, you can see people on the lower level, standing near the stage, lit in red. These people are “VIPs”. This area is not open to the general public. Where to View the Performers for Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

To be able to see the performers you must be in the first few rows of people along the north, south and east perimeters of the rink. 

If seeing the performers is a priority you should aim to get there by 12 pm or earlier.

Good to know: 

  • The celebration is open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. You do not need a ticket.
  • Aim to get there by 3 pm, and no later than 4 pm or you may not be able to find a spot to see the tree.
  • Street closures for vehicles between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 48th to 51st Streets begin at 3 pm that day, so taking mass transit is advised.
  • Security: no umbrellas, backpacks or large bags are allowed into the event. There are many places where you can store your bags for a few hours. See our post on Where to Store Luggage in New York City
  • If you can’t make the lighting in person, it is broadcast on TV live on NBC (local channel 4) from 7 pm – 9 pm. It is also streamed live from NBC and other live stream sources.

 


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ICE SKATING AT ROCKEFELLER CENTER AND OTHER RINKS

If Rockefeller Center is out of your budget or just not your scene, there are a number of great places to skate, some for free even (provided you have your own skates).  See our post on Where to Go Ice Skating in New York City.

 


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THINGS TO DO AT ROCKEFELLER CENTER AND NEARBY 

There is no shortage of things to do at or near Rockefeller Center. Here are our suggestions:

Visit the Top of the Rock 

Get unparalleled views of New York City at the observatory. See our post with details, prices and how to even get discounts.  Note: Top of the Rock admission is included in all 3 New York City tourist discount cards.  

If you aren’t sure that Top of the Rock is the view you want, read our post comparing the 3 best observatory decks: Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, or One World Trade Center Observatory?

Take a tour of Radio City Music Hall  

This majestic and lush theater can be viewed on a paid tour. Learn more about the tour, ticket costs and discounts by reading Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour.

Take a walking tour

We invite you to join our pay-what-you-wish guided walking tour of Midtown Manhattan which includes Rockefeller Center. If you can’t join us, please feel free to enjoy our self-guided tour of Rockefeller Center and also our Midtown Manhattan Self-Guided Tour.

See St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Located right across the street from Rockefeller Center, this historic and impressive cathedral is worth a pop in. You can also take a free St. Patrick’s Cathedral Tour.

Visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Just two blocks away, this is one of the premier modern art museums in the world. Here’s how you can visit it for free! Check out our MoMA post for the details.

 


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OTHER HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES 

See the insanely over-the-top holiday lights of Brooklyn‘s Dyker Heights neighborhood. 

Shop at the many Christmas Markets in New York City

Take our New York Holiday Lights Tour (see video below).

Look at our Guide to Christmas in New York City for even more information!

 

 

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HISTORY AND FUN FACTS

Although the first official Rockefeller Tree was lit in 1933, the very first Christmas tree at the center was erected in by the construction workers who were building Rockefeller Center in 1931.  

This first tree was just 20 feet tall and was decorated with paper garlands, cranberries, and even a few tin cans. Remember, 1931 was a year in the midst of the Great Depression in America. But if all the workers could get hold of were tin cans, they were not going to let any obstacle prevent them from celebrating Christmas. (A great history of Rockefeller Center can be found here.)

  • The tree must be at least 65 feet tall and 35 feet wide, but the preferred height is usually between 75 and 90 feet tall and proportionally wide. 
  • The tallest Rockefeller Tree in history was in 1999: 100 feet tall!
  • Most of the trees are Norway Spruces.  Because this tree doesn’t typically grow to this size in the New York area, most of the trees are cultivated in peoples’ yards.
  • A helicopter flies over New Jersey and Connecticut to scour the area for potential candidates.
  • There is no monetary compensation offered for the tree if yours is selected.  It is a donation and considered an honor to have your tree as the official Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
  • The tree is only decorated with lights and a star.
  • There are over 30,000 lights on the tree (about 5 miles of strands!)
  • The star used on the current trees was made of Swarovski crystal.  The star is 10 feet tall, weighs 550 lbs and has 25,000 crystals.
  • The tree now uses LED lights.  As compared to the old incandescent bulbs, the LED lights save enough energy every day to power a 2,000 sq ft home for a month!
  • The tree stays up until the Christian Feast of the Epiphany (the official end to the Christmas season).
  • The tree is recycled after it is taken down.  Over three tons of mulch can be made from the trees.
  • In 1942, in honor of the war effort, the traditional large tree was replaced with three smaller trees, decorated in red, white and blue.
  • The Rockefeller Christmas Tree is seen in the films Home Alone 2 and Elf, as well as several others.

Happy Holidays!!

 


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November Main image

What to Do in November in New York

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

This post covers the best things to do in New York City in November, updated for 2018, including a top 10 list, nighttime activities, free and family-friendly things to do. Be sure to check out our master post, Things to Do in NYC, for even more ideas.

 

 


TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN NOVEMBER

This section will feature our top 10 activities to enjoy in New York City throughout November. Whenever possible, we will make note of attractions and events that are free, family-friendly or great after dark.

For tips on the most popular activities in NYC, check out our schedule of pay-what-you-like walking tours, our bus tours, and boat cruise pages. 

Several of the items below are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass

New York Tourist Discount Passes

Read more »

Tickets for the Central Park Zoo

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

This post is about visiting the Central Park Zoo, including how to get here, the animals you will see there, hours and ticket prices. We also share some ways to get discounts on the cost of admission. 

 

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How is the weather in New York in October?

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

This post is a summary of the October weather in New York City, with tips on what clothing to pack and suggestions of things to do. You could also check out our other monthly weather reports

 

 

AVERAGE TEMPERATURES  

Daily temperatures range from about 55f (13C) in the early morning to near 70f (21C) during the afternoon hours early in the month, cooling to 46f (8C) to near 60f (16C) by month’s end. Read more »

Abandoned City Hall Subway Station

How to Visit NYC’s Abandoned City Hall Subway Station

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City.

This post tells you how you can the old City Hall subway station on your own or on a guided tour through the New York Transit Museum.

 

 


NOTE: THIS POST IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. FREE TOURS BY FOOT DOES NOT OFFER GUIDED TOURS OF OLD CITY HALL STATION. PLEASE REFER QUESTIONS ABOUT TOURS TO THE NEW YORK TRANSIT MUSEUM


The station was the very first subway station in NYC, opening in 1904 and closing in 1945.

For many decades it wasn’t possible to visit the abandoned station, which remained pristine and stunning over the years despite its disuse.

Below, we detail how you can visit on your own. We also list how you can take a tour through the New York Transit Museum

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