When I told Jess, “I want to walk the length of Broadway,” she looked at me like I was crazy.
I know it sounded crazy, but I meant it. This wasn’t an impulsive declaration. Broadway splits Manhattan north to south 15 miles (24km), and when I looked into it further, Broadway actually runs through Manhattan, and then an additional 18 miles (29km) across the Harlem River through Yonkers up to the town of Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County.
What better way would there be to really absorb New York, I thought, than to walk at least the 15 miles south to north to the top of Manhattan – watching the neighborhoods, people, architecture and overall vibe morph and shift throughout the day. I thought this was an amazing idea, genius in fact. Jess wasn’t entirely convinced. Luckily our friend Jaime came to town and he thought the idea was as perfect as I did! So, that settled it.Spoiler: We didn’t exactly make it the whole way. We started from 1 Broadway at 10am and ended at 125th and Broadway in Harlem seven hours and 13.7km (8miles) later.
The day begins:
We still bounced full of energy here, past ornate buildings and modern skyscrapers,Wall Street and the World Trade Center. This felt ‘so New York’ to us all!
20-odd blocks later, and we ended up in Noho, an area of trendy lofts and great shopping. We may have slipped in to a few stores and shopped for a half an hour here and possibly bought shirts, shorts and shoes which we then carried 100 blocks north to Harlem. (We got a couple of great deals!) Plus we got some fabulous pictures of the wrought iron fire escapes and intellectual graffiti in this trendy area North of Houston (where the name comes from).
By midday this area is pulsing with as many break dancers as businessmen, and those poor survey takers jumping out in front of camera-toting tourists like us with their ‘excuse me, miss, do you have a a minute?’ line. The farmer’s market here is excellent, but we didn’t want to carry anything else.
Arriving here after hours of walking through New York, it was amazing how this part could feel like we had somehow now arrived to the quintessential part of New York City. Yellow cabs, traffic, and of course, the Flat Iron building, which Jaime and I spent ages here photographing.
Now a three hours in to our Broadway walk, we stopped for pizza and an eggplant Parmesan sandwich, ironically near Korea Town, as we knew, without a doubt, restaurant prices would double as soon as we reached the next section of Broadway:
I love Times Square, I don’t know why. I am still wowed by the lights and the chaos and the fact that it feels ‘so New York’ even though there are only tourists here. For all those reasons, Jess can’t stand Times Square, but we had fun taking crazy photos of the naked cowboy and cowgirl and other oddities that you can only find here!
Surrounding Times Square is the famous Broadway Theater District, but we ended up being distracted here by a bit of New York drama. The platform holding two window washers, high up at the top of a building just off Broadway, split in two. A crowd of confused tourists (which we joined) stood and looked up, commenting, questioning and actually talking to each as helicopters packed with news crews thundered overhead. We later heard they survived. The whole thing felt like the scene right out of a movie.
It felt like a huge accomplishment once we made it to the corner of Central Park. I thought back past Times Square, the Flat Iron Building, Union Square, Noho and Wall Street, it felt amazing how far we had come and now finally we were getting to an area of Manhattan we hadn’t spent much time…
This is where Manhattan and the scenes along Broadway slowly but completely changed. There were no more obvious tourists, the road has more trees, it widens out, the buildings turn into elegant condos and there is more of a calm, sophisticated neighborhood feeling. Our feet ached, time was running, and I had to accept we weren’t going to make it to the top of Manhattan. But would we make it to Harlem?
There was a bench where Jess and Jaime sat down, if just for a minute, to rest their feet. I knew we needed more of a break, but I was suddenly completely re-energized at just how far we had come. So I gave them my best ‘stern’ look and got them to their feet. Onward to Harlem!Harlem
Unlike much of the walk which changed progressively along the way, the shift between the university and reaching Harlem was much more pronounced. Although this had to do with the time of day – rush hour had now begun and people were rushing back and forth in what felt like a frenzy compared to the sleepy feeling of the upper west side, there was a complete shift in demographics. In the same way that the tourists began to disappear and we reached a more neighborhood vibe after Central Park, these last 10 blocks had a much more mixed population similar to Brooklyn than the whitewashed feeling from whence we had just come. Black, white, Latino, and hipsters pounded the pavement here to get home. As for us? Jaime and Jess hit a huge wall and got super giggly, while I was both sad that we still had 100 blocks left until the end of our walk and relieved that we could head home and finally have a nice cold beer after a long summer day out on Broadway!
That’s right – there will be a next time. We will finish this walk from 125 St all the to Broadway and 220th and the river!