New York City walks: Walk # 1
By Jennifer Bechem
Published April 26th, 2006
It maybe your first/only/100th time here and you want to make sure you see all the tourist stuff, but you also want to see what the locals do/how they live—well then this series of walks will be perfect for you. All walks can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours, depending on how long you decide to spend at each sight.
For today’s walk we’ll begin at Times Square, arguably the Cross Roads of the World, 42nd Street and Broadway. Where billboards are the main attraction birthing a few careers. Delis and souvenir shops will claim to be part of Time Square within a ten block radius; however unless you can see it from one of the islands at the heart of the where Broadway and 7th Ave intersect, then its probably just a tourist and money trap.
For starters, while standing at 42nd and 7th Ave face west towards 8th Ave. (insert picture 1 here) After your eyes adjust to the gleaming lights you should be able to see where the Lion King plays. As the city’s most infamous street for its history with ladies of the night you can see that NYC has really been cleaned up because you’d be hard pressed to find someone from that profession in the middle of Times Square. But you will see Madame Tussaun’s Wax Museum where you’ll find replicas of The Hulk and celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg, Nicholas Cage, and Samuel L Jackson. There are plenty of other interesting sights in this direction, but today instead of west we’ll go North.
We’ll first make our way up through Times Square. Notice Virgin Records three blocks up on the right where three levels of music, movies, and books promise hours of entertainment (Make sure to check out their stellar jazz vinyl selection if you choose to stop inside).
In the very middle of the square at 47th Street you’ll see TKTS—where you can purchase same day tickets to Broadway shows at very discounted prices. Sometime you can find great bargains for shows like Rent and Avenue Q for as little as $30. TKTS is an eye catcher, but a real NY story lay just in front of the read and white signs, Father Duffy. The father was a soldier and priest who preached to the people (beggars, prostitutes, rich, snobby, poor, tourists, basically just about everyone) in Times Square in the twenties; a New York hero in a time when heroes were few. (place picture 2 here)
Straight ahead and North is the building that is the home of the roof where the New Year’s Eve ball drops, the needle is not up year around, in case you’re wondering. Right now it is just another office building that makes money by selling itself for advertising. So it’s really nothing to stop and see, just a place to be able to say you’ve been there.
Northeast on Broadway you’ll see the Hershey store at 48th Street; if you want a five pound chocolate bar, overly priced chocolate Kiss’s, or a Reese’s letter jacket then this place is for you.
If you’re done gawking at all the giant candy wrappers stuck on top of a building, and you’re still hungry, then walk another three blocks north to the right side of the street and stop in at 51st and Broadway, Ellen’s Stardust Dinner. At Ellen’s, the wait staff sings oldies but goodies on the tabletops in between serving customers. It’s a fun place and a lot of singers get their first Broadway gig singing “Rollin’ Down the River” or “Chapel of Love.” A fun and exciting place, with or without kids, that has a full bar and a great dessert menu. Definitely check it out if the walk has already made your tummy grumble.
After you’ve put on ten pounds from eating a five pound candy bar and a vanilla shake to wash down that great greasy burger from Ellen’s, pick yourself back up and head East. Just one block over on 6th Ave you see where millions of people go every year to see a Christmas Show—Radio City. To find out what’s playing go to www.radiocity.com.
Continuing our walk we’ll head further east towards Fifth Ave, with a detour at Rockefeller Center. First you’ll walk past a sign for the Rainbow Room and Observation deck, this sign also points you to where you can wait in line for tickets to see Saturday Night Live, which starts at about 5AM.
But keep moving…just a little further east and you’ll hit Rockefeller center’s ice skating rink. Here ice-skating is more like ice shuffling, as the ice gets very crowded even though they charge you an arm and a leg to rent skates and then proceed to charge you for rink use. It’s a great view for a photo-op if you want something nice to send people back home.
Now if you keep walking east you’ll pass Teusher Chocolatier (place picture 3 here.) –a place that looks more like a florist lives there, or even worse a fairy godmother on LSD. But if you can get past all that, the chocolate is quite scrumptious.
Pressing onward, at the end of the center you’ll be directly across the street from Sak’s and Co. a place that has more people looking at the store windows than the merchandise in the store. Which really isn’t a bad thing in NYC, as many department stares compete with each other for the best window displays.
Now if shopping and chocolate aren’t for you, then maybe the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral is. Go inside, sit for mass, or just take pictures. The church is very welcoming and has services all around the clock and all week long. But before you jump inside and start snapping pictures with the saints, check with a church/building representative because they do not always allow photography.
Back out on the street, keep walking up the most famous shopping block in the country and you’ll pass some fancy places. Don’t be fooled though, just because its on 5th Ave, doesn’t mean it’s actually worth all that money (like Mexx, H&M is much cheaper and made better).
5th Ave is home to many jewelers, famous ones such as Cartier and Tiffany’s, but the best place to go for something original is Travers (place picture 4 here). The sign is wearing out and it’s a small store, but they do sell fine jewelry and beautiful art (like a diamond in the rough).
Coming up soon on your left is the NBA store, which isn’t too much different from any other sports paraphernalia store, and if you’re just window shopping then, move on to Hickey Freeman. At good ol’ Hickey’s you can find $100 cotton underwear that looks just like my $5 Jockeys as well as fur coats under lock and key. From pricey t-shirts to stylish hats that you can buy in Chinatown for 1/20th of the price, Hickey Freeman has it all.
Still yet to come is of course the infamous Louis Vuitton and Bergdorff Goodman at 58th Street, but my favorite store on this strip is FAO Schwartz. The main man from The Apprentice bought the toy store and is remodeling it so it looks like another construction sight but inside it looks all new. With a lavish ice cream shop in the first floor kids of all ages love to eat then play on the store’s giant pianos featured in the movie Big. The ice cream is delish, the toys are there to be played with, and they even have an exhibition about The Simpsons, right next to their magic showcase.
Directly across the street from FAO Schwartz is the historical, Plaza Hotel. Sadly, it too is undergoing construction to become a place for condos. But, as life goes on, across 59th Street, at Central Park. Along the outside you’ll find horse drawn carriages, prices range, but most are around $25 for a nice stroll through the park. But if you choose to continue your journey through NYC’s biggest park on foot then enter on the same corner where the horses are and you’ll find the beginnings of a beautiful lake. Ducks and turtles inhabit the area and bring a quiet calm to an otherwise noisy and rowdy city. It’s a great place for two lovebirds to sit and enjoy life, or to sit and read a book, write, etc.
If you walk up the hill a ways you see another ice skating rink that is quite large, the Wollman Rink. This ice skating rink is much easier on the pocket and allows you to stay for a whole day. So bring a lunch with you and skate from 10am to 8pm. Have fun!
Past the rink you see a bridge that leads to a carrousel. The carrousel in Central Park is amazing, only $1.25 to ride. Loads of fun…During your peaceful walk through the park you’ll probably start to see why so many New Yorkers love it there. Once you enter you can feel as though you’re not actually in the city if you close your eyes and try to listen to the birds and water. (Central Park does a bird sighting club www.centralpark.com).
The journey is almost over, just keep walking and you’ll past Tavern on the Green; a great restaurant where they’ve shot movies such as Trading Places and Ghostbusters. Just across the road though, you see another church, one a little smaller than St. Patrick’s, but still very beautiful, with lots of stained glass windows. If you choose to keep walking, then pass the church with it on your right side heading west on 65th street. Right after the church you’ll find the best parking garage on the Upper Westside (the neighborhood you’re in). Here the garage booth is even in the shape of a ticket booth that plays to the audiences for Lincoln Center.
Lincoln Center, the last stop on our tour. (Place picture 5 here) It’s magnificent. Here, there is every kind of classical art possible at some time performing. Opera, musicals, plays, jazz music, symphonies, the list goes on….But if you do manage to snoop around a little, which is encouraged, you should check out the library of performing arts. They have a wide range of plays and musicals from Broadway’s history on archive and always have an exhibit with relevant costumes and historical references.
Well folks, that’s the end of the line. You can hop on the 1 train to go uptown or downtown, a few minutes and you can be right back to Times Square to see the show you purchased tickets for earlier. But if you want to see more of the city, spend $2 and hop on a bus and see the city from top to bottom. Maybe start with the downtown M104…happy trails!!