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Subway Tours of New York City
New York City by Subway
By Dave Hilbert
Although New York City might tempt us with great restaurants, museums and shopping, it often seems off-limits to RVers. After a day on the road, however, a traveler needs culture.
By making use of New York’s extensive network of clean, modern and efficient train and subway lines, and by designing a few walking tours, we need not give up on the city’s great museums, boutique-shopping and exotic foods by day and the best in theater, music and dining at night. Several RV parks are located near enough to rail transportation to make trips to the city possible – one even has a New York Harbor view.
Junket from Jersey
You can’t beat the convenience of Liberty Harbor RV Park and Marina in Jersey City, N.J. You’ll have the city at your doorstep, commuter ferry service to Manhattan from its dock on weekdays and daily rail service just a short walk away. It even has a view of the Statue of Liberty.
Once you reach Manhattan, you will realize that the island is only two miles wide and five miles long from Central Park to the Battery. You can easily divide the city into gentle walking tours and reach most neighborhoods by just three of the eight subway lines: the Red Line from Penn Station, the Yellow Line, which follows Broadway the length of the island, and the Green Line from Grand Central Station.
Your first walking tour, The Museum Mile, starts at the 86th Street station’s exit to Central Park. This 843-acre oasis of green in the heart of the city offers 58 miles of pedestrian paths, two nature centers, and a pond with gondola rides, a wildlife center, and a strawberry field memento to John Lennon, a zoo and a carousel with 58 hand-carved horses. The park also offers the Museum Mile, eight museums within walking distance, foremost among them, The Metropolitan Museum of Art with its Egyptian, Greco-Roman and American Art and its extensive collection of Impressionist paintings. The staggering extent of the Met’s collection might have you pausing for afternoon tea at the rooftop patio with its splendid view of Central Park and the seven other museums on the border. Your choices are the American Museum of Natural History and its Hayden Planetarium, the International Center of Photography, The Jewish Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Frick Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum. You might consider ending your day on the southwest corner of the park at the restaurant featured in so many romantic movies – Tavern on the Green. Here you will find nostalgic dining under chandeliers and trees draped with Chinese lanterns. The restaurant also hosts evening dancing under the stars in the blush of candlelight.
Toe-Tapping Tour Two
The second walking tour, Midtown Entertainment, starts at the Times Square Station in the heart of the theater district. This revitalized intersection, now devoted to family entertainment, gleams brightly day and night under the brilliance of seven-story TV screens and blazing billboards. Watch as Diane Sawyer hosts Good Morning America, shop for the grandkids at Toys-R-Us (with a giant indoor Ferris wheel) or catch the latest game at the ESPN Zone Sports Bar: big screen TV coverage throughout, including a TV set for each lavatory stall – even for the ladies. At the third floor arcade you can shoot hoops, try your slap shot, or toss a football through a moving target. Hello Deli owner Rupert really does have a shop at the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway; - you can visit the spot often seen on the Dave Letterman Show when cameras roam through this neighborhood poking fun at shop owners. For more of the TV theme, walk a few blocks east to 5th Avenue and 48th Street: Rockefeller Center, the home of the Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes. Here the Today Show broadcast live each morning and NBC runs tours of the TV studios where they produce Conan’s Late Night, NBC Sports, Dateline, Nightly News, and Saturday Night Live. To attend one of the 40 or so Broadway shows, pick up half-price tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square for an evening performance. After the theater, walk north on Seventh to the Carnegie Deli for gigantic pastrami or corned beef sandwiches, tangy pickles and homemade cheesecake.
The third walk, the Uptown Shopping Tour starts again at the 86th Street Station and heads south on Fifth Avenue. For more luxurious shopping than you could ever cover in a day, work your way south on Madison and Fifth towards Bloomingdales and pass dozens of old-money emporiums as you near Saks Fifth Avenue. Nearby you can find respite in cavernous Saint Patrick’s beneath its 330-foot spires topping the largest Gothic-style cathedral in the country. Walk south on Park Avenue to the Art-Deco Chrysler Building, New York’s second tallest, and then two blocks east to The United Nations Headquarters where you no longer stand on United States territory. Here you can join a guided tour of the General Assembly and Security Council chambers so often seen in the news.
The fourth tour, the Boutique Walk, takes you through the heart of boutique shopping in the SoHo district starting at the Canal Street Station. Walk cobblestone streets where refurbished buildings hold dozens of boutiques clustered around Spring, Grand and Broome Streets. Minimalism prevails here as the young designers counter the gaudy uptown shops with sparse and on-the-edge displays that define the direction that these fashion seers would take the world of clothing and furnishing. Nolita, the latest trend setting neighborhood, offers more boutiques and sidewalk cafes as you walk north on Broadway to Washington Square in the heart of Greenwich Village. Walking south again to Houston you enter Little Italy and Mulberry Street’s 30 restaurants for sidewalk dining. Prefer Chinese? Continue south on Mulberry through the largest Chinatown in the country.
Five and Time
The fifth tour, the History Walk, starts at the Wall Street Station near the Federal Hall National Monument. The current building, built in 1842, occupies the site where George Washington took the oath of office as our first president, when New York City was the nation’s first capital. To walk the Brooklyn Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world at its opening in 1883 and the first to light its roadway with electricity, start at City Hall. Beneath the bridge, the East River Promenade leads to the historic square-rigged tall ships of the South Street Seaport Museum. Walk farther south to the New York City Police Museum, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and the National Museum of the American Indian and the Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington gave a farewell speech to his officers at the end of the Revolutionary War. At the Battery Park you can catch the boat for a tour of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and the Statue of Liberty.
Not in the mood for walking? Circle Line Boat tours offer a harbor ride on a 45-mph speedboat called The Beast that includes a visit to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid at the Air, Sea and Space Museum. Tour a submarine and a destroyer, and see 30 vintage aircraft, including a MiG 21, the supersonic airliner Concorde, and the fastest jet in the world – at more than 2,100 mph – the SR-71 Blackbird. For the brave, Trapeze School New York, located in Hudson River Park, offers two-hour trapeze lessons where you fly through the air and into the hands of a catcher – a safe and exciting finale to your New York City walking tour.
Overnight in the Big Apple
If you choose to spend the night in the city to attend a Broadway show, the Milford Plaza Hotel offers great value and is just one block from Times Square. So don’t avoid New York City; let Amtrak and Metro North get you to the city and then take the subway for the hundreds of fine art galleries, the ethnic neighborhoods with exotic foods and the endless shopping. Turn a walk on any street into an adventure and let the subways of New York City make getting there easy and fun.