Tips for a Miami Trip with Kids


Traveling is going to look very different this year for most families, as we’re still navigating during the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people are staying in the U.S. this year, and when they are traveling, they’re taking additional safety precautions such as wearing facial coverings.

Miami is one destination you might be considering, and if so, there are certain things to keep in mind if you are traveling as a family. Here is everything you need to know about navigating Miami with kids: what to do, how to get around, where to eat and where to stay.

Collage of Kobra Murals

Miami with Kids

Getting Around in Miami

If you’re driving to Miami, then you’ll use your car to get around. If not, you might want to rent a car, which makes getting around simpler than getting a taxi with kids. If you’re staying at a resort with a lot of onsite dining and entertainment options, you only need to think about how to get from the airport to the resort, and probably won’t need a rental car, unless you are planning a day trip out of the city.

A taxi from the airport to many areas of the city will cost around $50 each way. If you’re staying in an area like Miami Beach, you will be able to walk to restaurants and other attractions without having to pay for a rental car or an Uber.

There are trolleys that run in Miami, but with kids, this might not be the most reliable option because they tend to run late. It is a fun thing to do with kids though – just plan in some extra time.

There’s also the Metrorail that will take you to Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, and South Miami for around $5 round trip.

Miami Trolley

Where to Stay in Miami

The area of Miami that most people think of first is Miami Beach, as well as South Beach. The beaches are beautiful and there are wonderful family-friendly resorts in this area like Loews Miami Beach. With that being said, you should also be aware that this area can get raucous and has a party vibe.

If you want the beach, but you want to be in a quieter area, you might think about heading to Key Biscayne.

A fabulous family-friendly hotel that’s in a more residential area is the Biltmore Hotel Miami Coral Gables. Coral Gables has beautiful old homes, and the hotel itself is stunning architecturally. It also has one of the largest pools in the country.

If you want to splurge, there’s the Fisher Island Hotel & Resort which is located on a private island in Biscayne Bay. The hotel has plenty of amenities include multiple outdoor pools, 18 tennis courts, and a nine-hole golf course. The rooms and suites are spacious and work well for families, and you can get a cottage with a kitchenette, which always comes in handy when traveling with kids.

If you want an urban environment, stay in downtown Miami. The Miami Kimpton EPIC is a good option, and most rooms have double beds. There are junior suites with pull-out sofa beds, too.

Loews Miami Beach

Where to Eat in Miami

If you can deal with sugar overload, for a fun restaurant think about the Sugar Factory on Ocean Drive. It’s a massive 3,000 square feet restaurant with a patio overlooking South Beach located inside the Hotel Victor, with an adjacent sweets store, as the name suggests.

The menu is extremely kid-friendly, and the focus is on the crazy drinks and deserts.

The Wharf is a venue on the Miami River and you’ll find different food pop-ups from local chefs. You can have a scenic lunch during the day, and in the evenings there’s often music and even dancing. Children can go to the Wharf until sundown on the weekends.

Joe’s Stone Crab is an icon in Miami since 1913. It’s very family-friendly and the seafood is wonderful and fresh because the owners of the restaurant have their own fisheries.

Miami Beach: Joe's Stone Crab - Florida Stone Crab

What to Do in Miami with kids

You won’t be bored in Miami, that’s certain. There are beaches, of course, but there’s more to the city than that if you’re traveling with kids.

If you rent a car, there are a number of Florida road trips you can take from Miami. A popular day trip is going to the Everglades. If you opt for that, you can take an airboat tour in Everglades National Park.

Other things to do with kids in Miami include:

    • For a cultural experience and delicious food, go to Little Havana. You can get authentic Cuban fare and stop for ice cream with flavors like coconut flan.
    • The Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach is popular for families. You can walk down the pedestrian street, and there’s a farmer’s market on the weekends.
    • The Seaquarium is located on Virginia Key and there is a 300,000-gallon tropical reef, as well as a pirate playground, sea turtles, sea lions, and flamingos.
    • The Thriller Miami Speedboat Adventure leaves from Downtown. You can take a boat ride of a 55-foot catamaran that goes at speeds up to 50 MPH. You might see South Beach, the Cape Florida Lighthouse, and Fisher Island, depending on the specific tour you take.
    • Key Biscayne is quiet and beautiful. Crandon Park is a must-do with kids. This two-mile beach has calm water, you can rent a cabana, and there’s a beach playground. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is also on Key Biscayne, and you can climb to the top of the Cape Florida Lighthouse.
    • Coconut Grove features the CocoWalk outdoor shopping center, and there’s Peacock Park.
    • The Venetian Pool is in Coral Gables and it’s the most luxurious public pool you might ever see. It’s also the only pool on the National Register of Historic Places. It features Mediterranean architecture, a water cave, and a waterfall.
    • Also in Coral Gables is Matheson Hammock Park. The beach has no waves because it’s a human-made atoll pool, so it’s a good option even for young children. There’s a snack bar, and a restaurant made in coral at the park. There are also nature trails.

Green Iguana - Iguana iguana, Fairchild Tropical Gardens, Coral Gables, Florida

Miami might not be the first place you think of for a vacation with your kids, but it can actually make a great option. There’s natural beauty, culture, energy, and fantastic food.

Photo Credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Kobra Mural by Arthur T. LaBar; (2) Miami Trolley by Phillip Pessar; (3) Loews Miami by Bob B. Brown; (4) Joe’s Stone Crab by Wally Gobetz; (5) Green Iguana in Coral Gables by Judy Gallagher

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Navigating Philly When Visiting

philadelphia brick houses

Philly has a lot to offer for tourists. You can easily spend a few days just visiting all the iconic sights like the Liberty Bell, the Rocky Statue, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin Museum, a trip to the waterfront, the Schuylkill River, to name some of the most famous ones.

Getting around Philly to visit the tourist attractions is fairly easy, and you have a lot of options. The first thing to decide is how to get around. On foot, bike, ride share or public transit. All are good options for visitors, and the place to do all of this is City Center.philadelphia theater

All of the main tourist attractions are in the center, and it has everything you need. Hotels, grocery stores, shopping, shopping, and more shopping, and then eating. The restaurants range from food carts (some of the best options) to fine dining.

One Big Grid

What makes navigating the city center so easy is that it’s just one big grid. Downtown is to the north and the Schuylkill River is on the west and to the east is the Delaware River. Inside that there are six districts: the Parkway Museum District, Rittenhouse District, Convention Center District, Washington Square District, Old City District, Historic Waterfront District.philadelphia belle steam boat

Philadelphia on Foot

An advantage of walking is that you get to experience more of the city. If you ride to each destination, you are missing out on some of the feel and charm the city has to offer.

In fact, Philadelphia has been listed as one of the most walkable cities in the U.S. of cities of more than 1 million people for years. In 2019 they were 4th with a Walk Score of 79. William Penn gets the credit for designing the city this way, and it makes it easy to navigate. Other than some potential hazards due to construction zones and distracted drivers, there’s not much to be worried about – you can comfortably explore Philly on foot.philly game square domino

From the Waterfront on the Delaware River, the streets going north and south are numbered 1st to 26th ending at the Schuylkill River, then there are named streets going east and west completing the almost perfect grid.

It’s a great system if you want to know where you are and to figure out where you want to be. So, get a map or a map app and start walking. Once you get out there, you’ll find colorful “Walk! Philadelphia” signs all around that will help you navigate around the districts, but my guess is, you soon won’t need them, but it’s nice to know they are there.

Philly by Bike

Not only is Philly walkable, it is also very bikeable with its 44+ miles of bike lanes, 300 miles of bike, and shared-use trails with another 350 miles planned. There are around 1300 e-Bikes available around the city with a great deal of those in Center City. Stations are located all around the center making it easy to find an e-Bike, rent the bike and return it.

You can also rent pedal bikes at spots all around the city center or you can bring your own. In any case, getting around the city on a bike is fairly easy. If you do bike, know that cycling on the sidewalks in the city center is not allowed (you didn’t hear it here, but it’s rarely enforced) so you’ll have to use the streets, but most of those have bike lanes making traveling fairly comfortable without too much accident risk.philadelphia street with flag

Philly by Uber and Lyft

There is almost no free parking anywhere in Philly and you most definitely will not want to drive. When your next stop is more than a mile away and your feet are getting tired you’re better off taking an Uber or a Lyft. In most cases, your ride will be with you in under 3 minutes. Take a look around – at lease 25% of the cars on the street in Philly are ride sharing vehicles.

Philly by PHLASH Downtown Loop

One of SEPTA’s bus routes is dedicated to helping those in the city center to get around fairly cheaply. It makes a loop from river to river down the center with plenty of stops. Individual rides are $2 a ride, but if you are going to ride more than twice, then get the day pass for $6 for some savings.philadelphia downtown

Philly by Public Transit

If you want to go outside of the city center, you can use SEPTA public transit. You can access the greater Philly system at various points downtown and use the buses, trolleys, or subways to get around the city.

As of May 2020, the cost of public transit in Philly is $2 a ride. The day pass for $6 is a good deal, but be aware that it is limited to 8 rides. The pass can be used on buses, trolleys, and subways.philadelphia streets

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What it’s like living in New York City during COVID-19

deserted brooklyn bridge

I live under the flight path of JFK Airport, and I am used to hearing the roaring noise of planes descending over Brooklyn as they are making their way to New York’s largest airport – usually every few minutes. Right now, however, I hear barely any planes, and what used to be a familiar sound now startles me every time it occurs. The sound of airplanes over New York City has become rare – which is something that I didn’t think was even possible.empty brooklyn streetEmpty street in Brooklyn

But that’s only one of the many changes that I’m experiencing in New York City right now, one of the many things I am getting used to as I am adjusting to what’s referred to as “the new normal” by the media. When I leave my apartment to go grocery shopping, I don’t double check anymore if I have my wallet and my lip balm – instead, I am checking if I have my face mask and my hand sanitizer. I didn’t even carry hand sanitizer on me on a daily basis until only a month ago. And the only reason I even own a small bottle of hand sanitizer is because a friend of mine happened to find a few bottles in her parents’ pantry (finally, their hoarding of pretty much everything for an “emergency” was paying off.). Because a month ago, it was absolutely impossible to find hand sanitizer anywhere in New York in New York City during COVID-19On 10 March, a friend of mine arrived in New York; she was visiting from Europe. When she boarded her flight in Spain, she didn’t expect to be scrambling to get on a flight back to Europe just ten days later – cutting her 3-week U.S. trip considerably short. But when she arrived, New York City was still “open”. We were able to do some sightseeing, we had dinner at TimeOut Market, we climbed the Vessel, we walked the High Line. On 12 March, I took the subway after work to meet my friend to see a Broadway show when I got a text message that all Broadway theaters were closing until further notice – effective immediately. I was in disbelief. All Broadway theaters closed.. had that ever happened before? I knew what this meant: the city would shut down completely, it wouldn’t stop at the shuttered galleryAnd within days, everything in New York City changed. In less than a week, the entire city had transformed: TimeOut Market closed two days after we ate there, the High Line closed, all the museums closed. Schools and universities closed. On 15 March it was announced that all restaurants would be closing on 17 March (with the option to stay open for take-out and delivery).living in New York City during COVID-19When I walked through my neighborhood the day after restaurants and bars closed, it already felt considerably emptier. New Yorkers were bracing themselves for a “shelter in place” order, which basically meant a lockdown of NYC. Most of the shops were already closed. Back then, New York City had “only” around 800 Coronavirus cases, and a handful deaths. A week later, New York City had 15,000 Coronavirus cases.

Now, four weeks later, walking through my neighborhood feels strange. New York has been on lockdown since 20 March. All the shops have their roll-down gates down, barely any people are outside. It is eerily quiet. I take a stroll around the neighborhood and see some people outside the few shops that are still open. They all have hand-drawn signs on their doors, stating how many people are allowed inside at a time. Some stores allow four people, others only two. Most people cover their mouths with face masks, while others use bandanas or scarves to cover their mouths and noses. Every once in a while, I see someone without a face mask.brooklyn store sign 2020 COVID-19While walking through this strange new world, I keep hearing sirens. They come and go, but they are recurring. A constant reminder of the fact that I am not walking through the movie set of a post-apocalyptic thriller, but that this is still very much New York City. A city that, sadly, has been hit harder than any other city in the world by COVID-19. Every time an ambulance passes me, I can’t help but think of the person inside the ambulance. A month after the “Shelter in place” order went into effect, New York City has just under 139,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases, and over 10,000 people have died. Over 10,000 people in my city have died from COVID-19  in less than a month – let that sink in for a in New York City during COVID-19It didn’t take very long for me to be personally affected by this virus: while my friend from Europe was still in town mid-March, someone close to me started feeling very ill. All the symptoms sounded like COVID-19, and she went straight to the doctor. There, they ruled out a number of flu strains, and told her that she probably has Coronavirus, but at the time, they didn’t have any tests to verify their suspicion. They told her to go home to self-quarantine for 14 days, since her symptoms weren’t severe enough for hospitalization.

Since I was still feeling well and was able to leave the house to pick up groceries, I became her personal delivery person, supplying her regularly with fresh produce and the occasional treat, to keep her spirits alive. Seeing her struggle through this disease, which took the typical course of first improving before symptoms worsening a week later, made me even more scared of the virus than I already was. A field hospital had been erected in Central Park to treat overflow Coronavirus patients  that hospitals had run out of room for, and a similar makeshift hospital had been set up inside the Javits Convention Center in Manhatten. My biggest fear was ending up in one of these field hospitals, so other than the occasional grocery haul I stayed away from people as possible, and I became so obsessed with washing my hands that my skin started to suffer.Thank you signsI thought I had seen the worst when I saw a person being taken out of an ambulance outside the local hospital one day, a person that looked to be in such a bad state that at first, I didn’t even know if they were alive. But then I saw the morgue trucks. What I saw first was a flower bouquet on the ground, and a big poster thanking the healthcare workers. I wondered why they’d left the flowers there, on the side of the road, when I noticed the humming coming from a truck right behind the sign. And that’s when it hit me. This was one of these morgue trucks in which they stored the bodies that they didn’t have room for inside the hospital’s morgue. I had a hard time breathing when I realized I was standing in front of a truck filled with corpses.Brooklyn COVID-19These images – the morgue trucks, the sick person on the stretcher, but also my sick friend who I’d see every week through the entrance glass door of her building, and whose face looked ashen, with hollow eyes – are images I cannot erase from my brain, and probably will never forget. The sound of sirens will always remind me of these dark times, and I am not the only one. “I feel their presence in my body as an ever-increasing tightness in my shoulders and neck. It is as though, around the clock, the city itself were wailing for its sick and dying.”, writes Lindsay Zoladz in her New York Times article about the ever-present in New York City during COVID-19Going grocery shopping has turned from a routinely task into a wearying and sometimes nerve-wrecking undertaking (depending on how many people decide to shop that day, ie. how many people I come in contact with) that requires preparation and caution. Before I leave my house, I have to make sure that I have some wipes in my bag, my mask, hand sanitizer and gloves. Then I make my way to the grocery store on the bike, no matter if it is raining or hailing – I have only used the subway once since the “shelter at home” order went into effect, and that was when I did my first big quarantine shop. I wasn’t even supposed to be here in New York when the city started shutting down, so my fridge and my pantry were as deserted as the shelves in the supermarkets.NYC Covid-19 targetThat first shop was so big that I wasn’t able to haul it back home on a bike, which is why I took the subway for two stops. But I shouldn’t have been nervous about it: There were barely any people on the train. Every time I went out do my grocery shopping, the restrictions got tighter. First, they limited the amount of people inside the store, which is how I ended up in a line that went all the way down the block one time, thinking to myself in panic, “I am too close to too many people.” The next time I ventured outside for groceries, they had drawn lines on the sidewalk with chalk, marking the required six feet safety distance in between each person. These markers were also added inside the grocery store, so that when you get in line at the checkout, you keep your distance, as well.COVID-19 shopping NYCSince 16 April, masks have been mandatory when entering a grocery store. A day later, on 17 April, the governor announced that “New York on Pause”, which had initially been issued until 30 April, would be extended until 15 May – for now. That means a total of nearly nine weeks of New York City on pause. And to be honest, I don’t think that New York City will ease restrictions in mid-May – at least not to the extent that life in New York City as we know it will be possible.COVID-19 screenLast weekend I ventured into Manhattan for the first time since the lockdown started, and it was a bizarre experience. I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, which was deserted. It was a beautiful spring day, and normally, the bridge would’ve been packed with tourists. Chinatown felt like a ghost town. I only saw two restaurants that were open there, and I saw almost no people out on the street. I cycled up Broadway in SoHo, where you usually find hundreds of shoppers on any given day, but Broadway was empty. I passed only a few people who were taking their dog out for a walk or ran some errands. Some shops were boarded up completely, as if they were expecting looting and riots. This just added to the dystopian feel SoHo had.chinatown april 2020Chinatown feels like a ghost town

I rode my bike past Washington Square Park and Union Square, which, again, would’ve been busy on a sunny spring day. I missed the familiar sounds you usually hear in these places: singing buskers, chatter, laughter, the hip hop music that the dancers usually blast from small portable speakers. The only places that were busy were the Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s supermarkets, where people lined up outside. A few blocks further north, in Madison Square Park, a few people were sitting in the park, and there was a line in front of Eataly, but the little square right across the Flatiron Building was grocery shop line covid-19The line outside a grocery store

Grand Central Terminal felt like a shadow of its former self. On a regular day, you’d see thousands of people rush through the Grand Concourse, on the way to or from their train. Now, all I could think was how strangely quiet it was. The only people in the station that day were people who wanted to take photos of the abandoned station. Instead of announcing train departures, the announcements that came through the speakers were all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.grand central terminal nyc during COVID-19Grand Central Terminal completely deserted

I walked over to Times Square, and 42nd Street was so empty that I could’ve walked in the middle of the street. Normally, this is one of the most congested streets in Manhattan. Experiencing the city “on mute” was heartbreaking. Not only the hustle and bustle of the city had disappeared, but also that pulsating energy that makes New York feel so unique. There’s usually a vibrancy in the air that makes me walk with a spring in my step, and it made me realize how much of New York’s energy comes from its busy street life. The hot dog vendors, the yelling of people, the traffic noise, even the honking of the cars.Times Square April 2020Silent New York is not the same. You don’t realize how much things like cafes, street kiosks, restaurants, bodegas, and street vendors contribute to the overall atmosphere of a city until they’re gone. Seeing the Broadway theaters shuttered was depressing – theaters, comedy clubs and other performance venues are such a big part of the social life in New York.Times Square without any tourists was something I never thought I’d see. Even when I walked through Times Square at 5.30am in a snowstorm a few years ago, there were more people around than now. I also never thought I’d say this: Times Square without any tourists feels kind of dull.Times Square NYC April 2020I’ll be the first one to admit that I curse the crowds every time I have to pass through Times Square on the way to something, but seeing it so empty changed the entire atmosphere. The ever so bustling area felt like a sleepy square. The only two things that were the same: The glitzy billboards which were still advertising clothes companies and streaming services, and the Naked Cowboy, who was entertaining the few people that were lingering in Times Square.street vendor selling face masksInstead of souvenirs, the street vendors are now selling hand sanitizer and face masks

What’s the most devastating about the city on lockdown is how many people’s livelihoods are affected or even destroyed by this pandemic. My heart breaks for all the owners of the small independent shops, the bodegas, the coffee shops and restaurants that contribute so much to the lively, social atmosphere of New York City. They are now struggling to pay the rent for their shops while they cannot use them, they had to lay off employees, and they may not even be able to reopen their businesses. Every week I read about restaurants that announce will not re-open, about people who were laid off and aren’t able to pay their rent and bills now. Over 40% of layoffs related to COVID-19 happened in the restaurant industry. In a city with a restaurant scene as thriving as New York City, the impact of the lockdown is absolutely devastating. Over half a million restaurant workers are out of work right now in New York State – and this number is still growing.boarded up shop soho nycLife in New York is never easy, even when the economy is doing great, a lot of people work harder than elsewhere to make ends meet. But now, with the city heading into a recession, piling up debt, life in New York will be even challenging, and it’ll take a long time for things to go back to normal. And what does that even mean, normal? Nobody even knows what the “post-COVID-19 normal” will look like. When will the theaters be able to re-open? When can we go to bars and restaurants again and will it be possible the same way it was pre-COVID-19? Will sports bars be ever as packed again for major sports events as they were before this pandemic? When will we be able to enjoy concerts again and watch a baseball game in Yankees Stadium? When will tourists return to New York?park slope shuttered storesAll large parades scheduled for June, including New York Pride, have been canceled. It was announced that public pools wouldn’t open at all in 2020. Beaches may not open this summer either. This summer will not be like any other summer, because most of the things that make New York in the summer so great will not be possible: enjoying beaches, rooftop bars, outdoor concerts and movies, having drinks in a backyard patio of a bar, strolling around flea markets and street in New York City during COVID-19 The unemployment rate in NYC was at around 4.3 per cent before COVID-19: in the entire month of February, 137,391 people filed for unemployment in New York City. In the first week of the lockdown, 521,112 claims were filed. That’s more than three times the amount of claims the city usually sees in a month. Unemployment claims have now increased by 2,637%. During the financial crisis in 2008, the entire state of New York lost around 300,000 jobs. New York City alone has already lost more jobs than that. NY ToughThe Mayor of New York City is facing a projected $7.4 billion deficit in the city budget (mostly in lost tax revenue) and the economic impact of COVID-19 can be compared to the Great Depression. This deficit means that many city programs will be canceled, for example summer camp programs and the youth employment program which usually enrolls about 75,000 low-income students. social distancing brooklyn storeEven when this pandemic is over, New York City will struggle to get back to its former glorious self. But instead of with a depressing and gloomy outlook on post-COVID-19 New York City, I want to finish this article with this beautiful video and the optimistic words of New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo:

“And we’re going to get through it because we are New York, and because we’ve dealt with a lot of things, and because we are smart. You have to be smart to make it in New York. And we are resourceful, and we are showing how resourceful we are. And because we are united, and when you are united, there is nothing you can’t do. And because we are New York tough. We are tough. You have to be tough. This place makes you tough. But it makes you tough in a good way. We’re going to make it because I love New York, and I love New York because New York loves you.

New York loves all of you. Black and white and brown and Asian and short and tall and gay and straight. New York loves everyone. That’s why I love New York. It always has, it always will. And at the end of the day, my friends, even if it is a long day, and this is a long day, love wins. Always. And it will win again through this virus.”

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Where To Stay In Brooklyn

brooklyn brownstones

Ten years ago, people would still raise an eyebrows when you told them you were staying in Brooklyn on a trip to New York, but oh how things have changed! These days, it is almost cooler to stay in Brooklyn and NOT in Manhattan, and more and more people are seeking a more authentic New York experience that goes beyond the Midtown hotels that visitors usually stay in during their first visit to New York.

The thing with staying in Brooklyn is: this borough is massive! When you take a closer look at the map of Brooklyn, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, because there are so many neighborhoods (over 60!), and so many different places to stay.

While some people opt to stay in Brooklyn for the ‘cool factor’, others want to stay in Brooklyn simply because it’s cheaper than staying in Manhattan. If you are familiar with Manhattan hotel prices, you know what I’m talking about. More and more hotels have been opening in Brooklyn over the past few years, especially around the Brooklyn Bridge / Downtown Brooklyn area, as well as in the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood. The Williamsburg hotels are great if you’re looking for a splurge (check out some of my favorite hotels below) and want to base yourself in the most “happening” part of Brooklyn.

Your budget is definitely something that plays a crucial role when deciding where to stay in BrooklynIf you’re more of a frugal traveler, you’ll be happy to hear that Airbnb’s are still very affordable in Brooklyn – especially if you consider staying in a room instead of a full apartment (if you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, use my referral code to sign up and get up to $40 off your first booking). I am sharing some of the best neighborhoods to rent an Airbnb in Brooklyn below.

Remember that Brooklyn is larger than most of the major cities in the U.S. and Europe – larger than Barcelona, Boston, Dublin or Washington, D.C. Also remember that there are 70+ neighborhoods in Brooklyn, which means that even traveling within Brooklyn can easily take around one hour – and getting to Manhattan and the New York City’s other boroughs can even take longer. It’s important to know the layout of New York City when booking an Airbnb or hotel in Brooklyn to avoid getting frustrated with long commutes.

Where to stay in Brooklyn

The Airbnb map gives you a better idea of the layout of New York City, and also shows you how large Brooklyn is. My recommendation would be to stay as close to Manhattan as possible, especially if you are looking to spend a considerable amount of your time outside of Brooklyn. The further south you go in Brooklyn, the cheaper it gets, but that’s because the commute to Manhattan gets notably longer. You have to decide what’s more important to you: convenience and less time spent on public transportation / in Ubers, or a cheap place to stay.

The closest Brooklyn neighborhoods to Manhattan are:

    • Williamsburg
    • Greenpoint
    • Brooklyn Heights
    • Downtown Brooklyn
    • Dumbo

Dumbo Brooklyn Pebble Beach

These neighborhoods also have the best public transportation access to Manhattan, i.e. a direct subway connection (except Greenpoint).

Note: Neighborhoods south of Prospect Park and east of Prospect Park are quite far from Manhattan. Many Airbnb hosts boast in their description “20 mins from Manhattan” (by subway) but in reality that usually means just across the East River. To give you a few examples:


This is a neighborhood you’ll definitely come across if you look for an Airbnb in Brooklyn, because Bed-Stuy, as the locals call it, is one of the neighborhoods in Brooklyn with the most Airbnb’s. They’re usually around the Utica Ave subway station (on the A / C lines).

  • Utica Ave to Fulton Street (first stop in Manhattan on the A Express Train): 15 mins
  • Utica Ave to Central Park: 40 mins
  • Utica Ave to Times Square: 35 mins


Bushwick is another neighborhood with lots of Airbnb’s, and while you’re quickly in Midtown with the M or L train, you’ll have to change trains in Manhattan to get to places of interest:

  • Myrtle-Wyckoff to Delancey Street (first stop in Manhattan on the M train): 15 mins
  • Myrtle-Wyckoff to 1 Ave (first stop in Manhattan on the L train): 20 mins
  • Myrtle-Wyckoff to Central Park: 40 mins
  • Myrtle-Wyckoff to Times Square: 35 mins

Flatbush / Kensington

A neighborhood south of Prospect Park, which has many inexpensive Airbnb’s. Here are the travel times to Manhattan:

  • Beverly Road to Fulton Street (first stop in Manhattan on the 2 / 5 Trains): 30 mins
  • Beverly Road to Canal Street (first stop in Manhattan on the Q Train): 25 mins
  • Beverly Road to Times Square (on the 2 train): 45 mins
  • Beverly Road to Central Park (on the 2 train): 55 mins

These are just a few examples to show you the actual travel times to some of the places of interest you may want to visit in Manhattan. Before booking an Airbnb in Brooklyn, I would recommend doing the following things:

Tips for booking an Airbnb in Brooklyn

1 Get in touch with the host and ask what the closest subway station is. Then use GoogleMaps to map out some of the routes you know for sure you’ll be taking. For example, if you want to see a Broadway show, how long will the ride back to your Airbnb be? Are you planning to visit Harlem or the Upper West Side, or places in other boroughs such as Queens or the Bronx? Map out how long the commute will be. Once you know how long these rides will be, decide if (possibly) long commutes are worth the cheap accommodation. I had visitors tell me that they wished they’d booked something closer to Manhattan because it was usually too far to go back to their place in between activities.

2 Read the reviews of previous guests. Guests usually mention in their review how long the commute to major sights is, and they will also mention other issues – if there were any. Airbnb’s in Brooklyn can be hit or miss. Unfortunately, there are quite a few not-so-great Airbnb’s listed, which is why it’s important to read recent reviews.

3 Research the neighborhood your Airbnb is in. Just a quick search on GoogleMaps to see if there are good restaurants nearby, a coffee shop, a supermarket.. that will give you an idea of what’s around your Airbnb. Bed-Stuy and Flatbush for example are huge neighborhoods – you want to make sure you have a few things nearby so that you don’t have to get on the subway or take an Uber every time you want to go out to eat or to shop at a grocery store.

Where to stay in Brooklyn: The best areas for Airbnb’s in Brooklyn

Williamsburg: This is the most popular neighborhood in Brooklyn, a young crowd, lots of restaurants, bars and nightlife in walking distance. You’re also just one stop away from Manhattan on the L (subway). There is a big WholeFoods supermarket on Bedford Ave, the main commercial street of the neighborhood, if you’d like to make some of your meals in your Airbnb, but there are also plenty of good restaurants and coffee shops nearby.williamsburg brooklyn

Greenpoint: Greenpoint is just north of Williamsburg, a charming neighborhood with a plethora of restaurants and cafes, beautiful architecture and a tranquil vibe. The only thing that’s not great about Greenpoint is the fact that there’s no direct connection to Manhattan. You have to take the G (subway) either south to Williamsburg and connect to the L, or north to Queens and connect to the E / M / 7 trains to get to Manhattan.

Park Slope: A beautiful historic district close to Prospect Park, popular with families. This neighborhood has many great places to eat and drink along the two main commercial drags, 5th Ave and 7th Ave. There are supermarkets nearby, and you have several subway connections to Manhattan: the 2/ 3 from Grand Army Plaza, the G / F from 7 Ave and 4 Ave, the R from Union Street.

Bushwick: A quirky neighborhood with lots of street art and a large artist community, but also home to a large Hispanic community. There are excellent places to eat, cool bars and some places to go out in Bushwick. This neighborhood is popular with a younger crowd and alternative travelers. It takes about 30 mins to get to places of interest in Manhattan, and there are two subway lines, the L and M (and the J / Z lines in South Bushwick).

Clinton Hill & Fort Greene: There are some great Airbnb’s in these two historic neighborhoods, where you find gorgeous Brownstone architecture and historic homes. There aren’t as many restaurants and bars as in Williamsburg, but still a decent number of very good eateries nearby. If you’re Airbnb is in Clinton Hill, you’ll be close to the G line (subway), which connects to the A train in Downtown Brooklyn to get you to Manhattan. If you’re staying in Fort Greene, you will be close to Atlantic Terminal, where lots of different subway lines go to Manhattan (the 2, 3, 4, 5, N, R, Q, B, D) as well as a direct train to JFK Airport (the LIRR).where to stay in Brooklyn

Where to stay in Brooklyn: Airbnb vs Hotel

Airbnb’s are definitely cheaper than hotels in Brooklyn, especially if you’re only renting a room in somebody’s apartment – you can find rooms for as little as $50 a night.

With hotels, it’s similar to Airbnb’s: the closer to Manhattan, the more you’ll be paying for your stay.

The best hotels to stay at in Brooklyn

Downtown Brooklyn is the neighborhood in Brooklyn that has the most chain hotels, like:

Downtown Brooklyn is also close to a large number of subway lines and it is close to Manhattan.

The best (read: fanciest!) hotel in this part of Brooklyn is the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (rooms start at $249 per night), which has an exquisite rooftop pool and stunning views right over the Brooklyn Bridge and the Downtown Manhattan skyline.

Image via

Budget Boutique Hotel in Brooklyn

A cheaper option in Downtown Brooklyn is the NU Hotel (rates start at US$164), as of now the only boutique hotel in that area. The NU Hotel has a great artsy vibe and features street art from local artists in the room.

Hotels in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: the trendiest area of Brooklyn

Most people who visit Brooklyn want to stay in Williamsburg, which is known as Brooklyn’s hipster neighborhood. Because of its popularity, many boutique hotels have opened in Williamsburg over the last few years, and if you love boutique hotels as much as I do, you’ll want to treat yourself to a stay at one of these five hotels – they’re all in a great location near the East River, just one stop on the subway or the ferry from Manhattan, and surrounded by dozens of fantastic bars, restaurants, cafes and shops.

The Williamsburg Hotel via

Budget option in Williamsburg: The Pod

The Pod Brooklyn is located right in the heart of Williamsburg and Queen Pods start at only US$85! (Note that rates fluctuate drastically, depending on what season you’re visiting New York).

High-quality budget hotels in Brooklyn

Most of these hotels are a bit further away from Manhattan, but offer great value for money. Before booking any of them, I recommend putting the address into GoogleMaps and get directions to a place you’re planning to visit in Manhattan, so that you’ll get an idea of what your commute will be. For someone who plans on seeing a Broadway show, the 45-minute commute to the RL Hotel in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood might be too much of a hassle.

Here are the best Brooklyn budget hotels that are further away from Manhattan but that offer great value for money:

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Five Mistakes Travelers Make When Visiting Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon9

Antelope Canyon is a destination that has exploded in popularity over the past few years – and rightly so. This canyon in Arizona is, despite its rather small size, one of the most remarkable canyons in the entire United States. The increase in popularity and visitors means that more and more travelers are arriving at Antelope Canyon unprepared.  If you’re planning to visit Antelope Canyon, give this article a read to make sure you don’t make mistakes like…. 
antelope canyon

1 Not booking tickets in advance

Antelope Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in the American West. People come from all over the world to see the beautiful slot canyon, and many travelers feel that a trip to Las Vegas or the Grand Canyon is incomplete without a visit to Antelope Canyon. The problem with that is that the number of people that are allowed to enter Antelope Canyon has a daily cap. To ensure that you don’t get shut out on your trip to Antelope Canyon, it is extremely important to book your tickets in advance.  This will guarantee that you get access to the wonder and that you get to see it at the time you desire. We recommend booking your tickets as early as possible, particularly if you are going to visit Antelope Canyon over a holiday or the summer.  It is recommended to book direct with a local tour company, check out this list of Antelope Canyon tour operators.Antelope Canyon rockIf you end up visiting Antelope Canyon during a busy holiday and you didn’t plan ahead, some online travel agents have started listing tickets on their sites, beware as the reviews are mixed for these Antelope Canyon tickets sold via a third party.  Another option if you are shut out of Antelope Canyon tickets is to book a tour to Antelope Canyon, and the tour operator will provide the tickets for tours they lead to Antelope Canyon.Antelope Canyon

2 Not wearing the right shoes

Antelope Canyon is a hike—there is no getting around it. There is over a mile’s worth of walking and millions of grains of sand you will encounter along the way.  The right shoes are essential for a great tour. Open-toed shoes should be avoided. Wear something that can keep sand out and will help you navigate stairs.  Something comfortable and athletic is advised, but full-on hiking boots are not necessary. We like to wear trainers (tennis shoes, athletic shoes, sneakers—whatever you want to call them). These will keep you comfortable, safe, and the majority of the sand will stay in Antelope Canyon and out of your shoes!antelope canyon arizona

3 Not following the rules

Antelope Canyon tours are offered by a local tour operator.  These tour operators run tours with permission from the Navajo Nation Parks service.  The Navajo Nation Parks service has a set of rules that must be followed while inside Antelope Canyon. It is the job of the local tour company to make sure its guests follow these rules. Without tight control over their guests’ behavior, they risk losing their right to lead tours at Antelope Canyon.  For this reason, they can be very strict when it comes to rule enforcement. 

The two rules that guests most often come up against are that there are no bags are allowed, and no photos are allowed on the stairs.Antelope Canyon outside

We have witnessed hundreds of guests make a mad dash from the tour waiting room back to their cars to put their bags away before the tour begins. Slower ones don’t make it back in time and miss their tour. Despite the numerous and clear warnings at multiple stages before the tour starts, there are always a few people who think they will be the ones to get a bag into Antelope Canyon (or, more likely, they just didn’t pay attention to the signs along the way). Don’t risk missing your Antelope Canyon tour; don’t bring a bag with you.

Another rule that often trips up a visit to Lower Antelope Canyon is the “No Photos on the Stairs” rule. There are a few sets of stairs throughout the canyon, but guests are most likely to break this rule when they first enter. There are four flights of stairs when you first enter the canyon, all of which are a bit steep and require all of your attention and both of your hands.  The problem is that this is the first time guests enter Antelope Canyon, and it is gorgeous! And what is most people’s first reaction when they see something gorgeous? That’s right, they grab their phone to take a photo of it! The problem is: if you’re caught taking photos while you’re on the stairs, they will simply kick you out of the canyon! We tell our guests that it isn’t worth the risk.  Follow the rules, and focus on the stairs.Antelope Canyon Stairs

4 Not paying attention to time differences

Time zones are generally pretty easy to follow within the continental United States. There are four major time zones, and your phone automatically detects them and adjusts accordingly. There is one place where this strategy does not work, and that is northern Arizona. Let’s talk about why cell phones get tripped up on time in the region and what you can do about it.

Warning! The next three bullet points may make your head spin. If you want to know how to get the time right when visiting Antelope Canyon, skip these three bullet points and skip to “An Easy Fix” below.antelope canyon1

  • Arizona is located in the Mountain Time Zone, but unlike almost everywhere else in the United States, Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time. That means that while most Americans change their clocks in spring and fall, Arizona does not. Therefore, during the winter months, the time in Arizona is the same as the rest of Mountain Standard Time, Utah included.  During the rest of the year, the time in Arizona is the same as the Pacific Standard Time, Nevada included. Visitors who drive from Nevada or Utah can easily get tripped up by this situation. It doesn’t help that some very popular technology also get tripped up by the time zones.  Be careful using Google Maps. When driving from Nevada to Arizona in the summertime, it may show your arrival time as one hour later than your actual arrival time.
  • Antelope Canyon is located on the Navajo Nation. Unlike the rest of Arizona, the Navajo Nation does observe daylight savings time, meaning for half of the year, the time on the Navajo Nation is different from the rest of Antelope Canyon.  Fortunately for visitors, Antelope Canyon doesn’t observe Navajo Nation time, they observe Arizona time. This can still confuse your phone.  See “An Easy Fix” below to remedy this.
  • Antelope Canyon is located fewer than ten miles from the Utah border. When you are visit Antelope Canyon and the surrounding areas, it is not uncommon for your cell phone to ping a tower that is actually in Utah, which will change the time on your phone.

visit Antelope Canyon

An Easy Fix

There is an easy fix for the above problems. When entering Arizona, set your phone for a manual time switch and set the city to Phoenix—that’s it! Do this and you won’t have any time troubles while visiting Antelope Canyon.

5 Expecting to see light beams outside of light beam season

Before visiting Antelope Canyon, the iconic image that everyone thinks of is a beam of light shooting down through Antelope Canyon. It is natural that people hope to see this when booking a tour.  What many people don’t know is that the light beams aren’t as frequent as photos make it look; you must plan carefully if you want to see them.

To start, light beams are only visible between March and October. Any tour booked outside of these months won’t be able to see the light beams. Additionally, the light beams can only be seen from approximately 11 AM to 1 PM. Finally, the light beams can be seen best at Upper Antelope Canyon, it is important to know the difference between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. If it is light beams you are looking for, Upper Antelope Canyon is the one you want to choose.antelope canyon light

The biggest mistake people make is showing up in a month like November expecting to see the light beams. This isn’t going to happen, so it is best to be prepared.  The light beams may be overrated; we don’t recommend planning your entire trip to Antelope Canyon based on the chance of seeing a light beam.  The canyon itself is many magnitudes better than the light beams and looks beautiful year-round.antelope canyon entrance and exit

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Top hiking trails in Los Angeles for the hiker in you

redondo beach california

Hiking is one of the most fun activities to do in LA, allowing you to take in the stunning scenery around – and right within – the city. Whether you are someone who has been raised in the city or a traveler visiting LA for the first time, you should check out one of the many hiking trails in L.A. The hike doesn’t have to be overly strenuous or long: there are plenty of shorter hikes in L.A., too. Even if you’re not an avid hiker, trust me: you will enjoy every single of the hikes below – all of which are trails I consider to be the best hikes in Los Angeles. Get packing today and return with a backpack full of memories and adrenaline rushes.

Head out to the Hollywood Hills

Though this is a three-mile tame loop, which doesn’t sound like much, it’s the 1,821-foot elevation is that makes this hike quite challenging – especially for novice hikers.  The Wisdom Tree at the top should be your goal as it is said to be the only survivor of a 2007 wildfire. Check out the tree on its personal Instagram page. If you wish to extend the loop, climb further up to see the Hollywood Sign. The downhill journey is easy, and even though you’ll huff and puff your way up to the top, the views from the top are absolutely worth it. Don’t forget to pack water and sunscreen! Since there is no proper trailhead parking lot, you’ll have to park your car in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, ideally along along Lake Hollywood Drive. Don’t leave valuables in the car while you’re on the trail, especially if you want to head up to the Hollywood sign for sunset (in that case, make sure you pack a flashlight for the way down, or make sure your phone has enough battery). Luggage storage services in Los Angeles can be found easily, if hikes in Los Angeles

Malibu’s Grotto trail is fascinating

You must be wondering what gave this trail such a name. Well, it is the standing water that has done the honors. But there’s more – the surrounding geographical features are just as stunning, which is why the Malibu Grotto Trail is considered one of the best hikes in Los Angeles. There are tall boulders, some of the friendliest frogs, and shady nooks that complete the scenery. Though the hike is fairly easy, you can expect to get stained clothes by the end of it since you will be scrambling into the grotto, so don’t wear your fanciest hiking attire on this trail. If you are heading out with a car or bike, park at the Circle X ranch campground.

Take your dog to Wilacre Park

Are you a dog-lover? Are you traveling with your dog? Then why not go on a hike with your furry, woofy, paw-buddy? Wilacre Park at Studio City has a dog-friendly trail with moderate inclination. There will be a point when you reach the fork. Continue to the right for a quick hike, or turn left for a longer, more challenging and beautiful route. The local fauna is bound to leave you enchanted. Also good to know: the parking lot at the trail head is free!

And if you want to take your dog on more than just one hike – here are seven more scenic off-leash dog walks in Los Angeles.

Explore the less traversed Los Liones Canyon

Los Angeles can be overwhelming – the traffic, the smog, the noise.. If you are someone who is looking for some time away from people and want to get some solitude, then the Los Liones Canyon is the best hike in L.A. for you. It is one of the most stunning spots on the Westside where you can sit and sip coffee, enjoy a book, or walk and explore and vicinity. The trail isn’t very long – it stretches for approximately 1.5 miles and is perfect if you’re looking for a short pre-lunch hike. If you want a longer loop, then you can opt for the 7-miles Parker Mesa Overlook trail, which starts via the Los Liones Canyon trail but goes further into the Santa Monica Mountains. If you opt for the longer hike, don’t leave any valuables in your car. Luckily, luggage storage Los Angeles is never a hassle for anyone.

How about the rock pools at Malibu Creek State Park?

For some of the best hiking trails in LA, head to Malibu Creek State Park. There are a number of hikes here: the Cage Creek Trail, the Lookout Trail, the Cistern Trail and the most popular one: the Rock Pools Trail. The rock pools are easily accessible and make for a picturesque spot for photography lovers. Since this is one of the most popular spots for hiking in the area, you’ll definitely come across other hikers on the trails here. Diving into the creek is forbidden yet it is not uncommon to see people in the water here. This is a trail that is perfect for the entire family – kids will love it, too.

Read also: Five cities surrounding Los Angeles that you need to visit

Malibu Creek State Park

These hiking trails in L.A. have something for everyone: stunning ocean scenery, rugged forest tracks, and rocky canyons. There is no perfect age or time to go hiking – just do it. Some hiking essentials you always need to have: light backpacks, comfortable shoes and clothes, a water bottle, and some snacks.

Photo Credit: Images 3 and 5 used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (3) Los Liones Trail by Megan Rosenbloom; (5) Malibu Creek State Park by Melody
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Boggy Creek: Park Guide & Gruesome Legend

When we talk about Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, we are drawn to the city of Orlando in Florida, and when we talk of Florida, the Everglades or its vast swamplands. When talking about swamplands, we think about those fast airboats to go around. If you’re looking for a tourist attraction that combines both extraordinary adventure and hair-raising legend, look no further than Boggy Creek.

Where Is Boggy Creek Located?

Although commonly tagged as an Orlando attraction, it is actually located in the neighboring city of Kissimmee, Florida. Nevertheless, it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in this part of the state. The inviting weather, the vast expanse of greenery and water combined and the festive mood of the place make Boggy Creek Airboat Rides a place tourists do not miss out visiting when they reach the state of Florida.


What Are The Activities in Boggy Creek?

There is actually a lot to do at Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures. They have different tour sets of activities for any part of the day, including day, sunset, night or private. The place is complete with amenities and a landscape that gives an authentic feel of the Florida landscape. The park also has restaurants and bars where you can have your fill of the mouthwatering barbecue and chug on your favorite beer, wine or soda while you await the activities that you have for the day.


Airboat Rides

No trip to Boggy Creek park is complete without experiencing an airboat ride and getting front seat view of the authentic Florida landscape and natural outdoors. You are guaranteed a safe ride through the guidance of US Coast Guard Certified Master Captains. The park’s fleet of airboat provides many tours for visitors day and night, as they continuously dock and set out again with certified and friendly captains who will guide you and provide you useful information about the area. To keep up with the hype of the tour, you’ll need to bring with you a Boggy Creek airboat attraction guide. This way, you’ll always be in the know of the places that can be visited, areas that can be passed through, the location of restrooms and concession stands and the different wildlife in the area. The airboat captains would be more than willing to show you the beauty of nature and the spots where you get to alligators, turtles, birds and flora and fauna native to the Everglades.


A plus to the airboat ride experience is being able to drive one yourself! Availing of the VIP package tour allows you to experience driving the airboat with the certified and experienced airboat captains. Just a short moment’s training on the controls and getting the feel of driving, the captain will let you take control of the boat and let it fly over the water. 

Native American Village

Get to know and be in touch with history and the original settlers of North America. Tourists can get to visit an authentic Native American home with genuine artifacts and hand-made creations. You’ll also get to observe some of the daily activities of Native Americans and develop a sense of respect and appreciation for their unique culture, heritage and contribution to society. Tourists will be amazed and appreciate the primitive way of living and demonstrations of how native tools such as spears, blowpipes, and bows are used and how “man’s first cooking technique” is shown. Learning history and culture don’t have to be all books and pictures. You can get the first-hand experience of these lessons at Boggy Creek.

Photo Swamp Shack

Want an Instagrammable souvenir from your Boggy Creek tour? Visit the Swamp Shack to try putting on the “Old Florida Outdoor Wear”, ranging from camo to overall. You’ll be the talk of your circle of friends as you give them a glimpse of old Florida through your photos. Share your selfie to show you appreciate what the old folks of Florida wore. Just pose with your old outfit around the shack and say cheese.


The Legend of Boggy Creek – Fouke Monster

Although it shares the same name with the film, it should not be confused with the urban legend from Fouke, Arkansas. The Boggy Creek theme park in Orlando, Florida doesn’t have anything to do with the Arkansas monster. For the uninformed, The Boggy Creek or Fouke monster is Arkansas’ version of the Sasquatch legend.  

The Boggy Creek theme park is something you should include in your bucket list of places to visit in Florida. This is a place where adventure, nature, history, and culture all get rolled into one amazing tour. This is an ideal tour destination whether you’re a solo tourist, touring with friends or touring with your family. There are many activities to do and enjoy and the food and drinks just as equally exciting. Orlando, Florida should definitely be included in your vacation map.


Photo Credit: All photos shared via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Boggy Creek by Ronald Woan; (2) Boggy Creek by Ronald Woan; (3) Boggy Creek Airboat by Ronald Woan; (4) Boggy Creek Sign by Romana Klee; (5) Monster Mart by Romana Klee

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48 Hours in Knoxville, Tennessee

greetings from Knoxville

When people think about traveling to Tennessee, Knoxville is usually not the first destination that comes to mind, and Knoxville is often overlooked in favor of more famous Nashville or Memphis. However, you may want to reconsider your travel plans next time you find yourself in the Volunteer State.

I just spent a few days in Knoxville and was surprised how many cool things to do I found in Tennessee’s third largest city. From whiskey to craft beer, hearty Southern cuisine to upscale dining, from street art to contemporary art, from historic architecture to local shops, from kayaking to hiking – there’s something for everyone in Knoxville.

If you have a couple of days to spare, spend two nights in Knoxville – and you’ll barely have enough time to get a little taste of everything the city has to offer. Read on for my guide on how to spend 48 hours in Knoxville – including where to eat in Knoxville, where to drink in Knoxville, where to shop in Knoxville, and what to do in Knoxville.Knoxville Tennessee

Day 1 (Friday)

3pm: Explore Downtown Knoxville

Start your explorations of Knoxville right in the heart of the city: the historic Market Square. This large, rectangular square was established in 1854 as a marketplace for local farmer and is now a pedestrian area with several independent shops and restaurants.

If you enjoy shopping, make sure to check out Earth to Old City, which has a fantastic selection of unique gifts, accessories, clothes, furniture and decorative items and Earthbound Trading, where you find clothes, jewelry, and some home goods like candles, soaps, glasses and artisanal body care products. Fizz is another shop right in Market Square that is worth a visit, a boutique selling women’s clothes and jewelry. If you happen to visit on a Wednesday or a Saturday, you can also visit the local farmers market and bring back local produce such as honey.Knoville Market Square

Continue your stroll to Charles Krutch Park, just south of Market Square, where you find a number of sculptures – almost like a sculpture garden. Every spring, many of the sculptures are replaced with new art installations, making this an interesting park to check out every time you visit Knoxville. From Charles Krutch Park, turn east towards Gay Street, the main street of Downtown Knoxville. In the mid-19th century, most of Knoxville’s commercial activity took place around here, and many historic buildings have been preserved.

Architecture lovers should take note of the Italianate-style Fidelity building (502 Gay Street), the historic Farragut Hotel (which now houses a Hyatt Place Hotel), the Tennessee Theatre (604 South Gay Street), the East Tennessee History Center (601 South Gay Street), the Bijou Theatre (803 South Gay Street), and the Neo-Classical building that used to house the Holston National Bank, built in 1913, which was the city’s tallest building for a long time (531 South Gay Street).knoxville Gay Street

For a sweet treat, stop at Cruze Farm, a beautiful ice cream shop modeled after an old-fashioned soda fountain. This shop is worth visiting for the creative ice cream flavors, such as blackberry topped with lemon cookies and cheesecake bites, and drizzled with honey. They also have a couple of dairy-free options. Just across the street, a little further north on Gay Street, you find The Phoenix Pharmacy, which is an actual old-fashioned soda fountain serving house-made ice creams, milkshakes, floats and sundaes and is more of a sit-down place than Cruze Farm. The Phoenix Pharmacy is in fact an independent pharmacy in the back of the soda fountain.

If you are a history buff, you’ll want to continue your stroll further south towards the Tennessee River. Just one block from Gay Street on E Hill Street you find the Blount Mansion, designed by William Blount, a signer of the United State Constitution, who was also the first and only governor of the Southwest Territory and who played a significant role in Tennessee becoming the sixteenth state. The mansion is also known to be the first frame house built west of the Appalachians, and one of the oldest houses in the Southern interior, dating back to 1792. Blount Mansion is open Tuesday to Friday from 9:30am – 5pm (March through December) and Saturday from 10am to 2pm. Guided tours run hourly, but note that during the winter months tours are by appointment only.Blount Mansion

Tip: If you are planning to tour more historic homes, consider buying the Historic Homes Of Knoxville Combo Ticket. For $25, you get admission to seven historic homes: Blount Mansion (1792), James White’s Fort (1786), Marble Springs (ca. 1797), Ramsey House (1797), Crescent Bend (1834), Mabry-Hazen House (1858), Westwood (1890).

If you prefer shopping to history, turn west on Union Avenue (south of Market Square) for some shopping: The Tree & Vine has an amazing assortment of olive oils and balsamic vinegar, spices, hot sauces and salsas, as well as kitchenware. The Casual Pint, right next door, is a craft beer market for beer lovers selling rare artisanal beers from small U.S. and global microbreweries, and Union Ave Books is a well-stocked independent bookshop. Coffee lovers should stop for a quick caffeine fix at Pearl on Union, right next door to Union Ave Books, which has amazing espresso creations, including Café Miel, a honey latte.Union Ave shops

6pm: Get on the whiskey trail

For an aperitif, head to Knoxville’s Old City. At the northern end of Gay Street, turn right on W Jackson Ave and you’ll find yourself in what used to be the industrial hub of the city. The former Jackson Freight Terminal (205 W Jackson Ave) is now home to PostModern Spirits. The distillery has a small bar where you can sample handcrafted whiskey, gin, vodka and a liqueur made from natural botanicals, grains and fruits while watching them being made right next door in a large depot.

PostModern Spirits is one of two distilleries in Knoxville that are part of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail, a group of 26 distilleries across Tennessee. You can choose between tastings (they have whiskey, gin and amaretto flights) or classic cocktails. I had my eyes set on a whiskey flight, but ended up going for a cocktail from the seasonal gin cocktail menu, because every single one of the gin drinks sounded divine (and my strawberry gin cocktail did not disappoint!)Postmodern Distilling

7.30pm: Dinner – Burgers & Bourbon

For a hearty dinner, head back to Market Square. At Stock & Barrel, you can combine gourmet craft burgers (made with locally sourced ingredients) with bourbon. The whiskey menu is mind-boggling: in addition to Tennessee bourbon, you can choose from a large range of rye whiskeys, Japanese whiskeys, Irish whiskeys, and Scotch. Stock and Barrel Knoxville

For a more upscale dinner, I recommend J.C. Holdway, which focuses on farm-fresh Appalachian dishes with a unique twist by James Beard award-winning chef Joseph Lenn. The sophisticated dishes – many of which are made using a wood-fire grill – are creative and unique, and I loved the bright dining room with large windows. If you enjoy cooking, sit at the counter facing the open kitchen to watch the chefs – an added treat to a memorable meal. I recommend reserving a table.

JC Holdway
Buckwheat Risotto with Broccolino and Carrots

9pm: Live Music

Nashville and Memphis may be more famous for live music, but do yourself a favor and finish your evening with some live music – this is Tennessee after all! It is worth checking out a listing of live music events on the dates you’re visiting Knoxville, because there is live music seven nights a week, and many artists include Knoxville in their tour itinerary. I was lucky enough to catch Amy Ray live at the historic Bijou Theater, which was a great concert in a beautiful venue, but also check out this full list of live music venues in Knoxville and this Knoxville event calendar to see what is going on where.

For jazz, head to The Bistro at the Bijou, where you can listen to live jazz every evening Wednesday through Sunday while sipping on a handcrafted cocktail. This is one of things to do in Knoxville you shouldn’t miss.Knoxville Live music

If you want to skip live music, head to Peter Kern Library, a speakeasy bar accessed through a little alley next to The Casual Pint on Union Ave (the bar is located inside the Oliver Hotel). The library-themed bar has an exquisite cocktail menu that come in antique books with drinks named after literary characters such as Holly Golightly and Anne Shirley. I loved the intimate feel of the bar itself, which has a fireplace, cozy booths with comfortable couches and bookshelves filled with literary classics.Peter Kern Library

Day 2 (Saturday)

9am: Brunch

Head to The Bistro at the Bijou for a large breakfast in Knoxville’s oldest restaurant – there has been a dining establishment continuously since 1820 in this space, and the Bistro at the Bijou has been open since 1980. The menu combines classic brunch dishes and southern fare, and brunch cocktails are only $3.50.

Bistro at the bijou
Summer omelette with squash, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese at The Bistro At The Bijou

10am: Time for art!

Knoxville has some fantastic art, and the Knoxville Museum of Art, which is free, is the best place to start your artsy morning. The art museum is located on the western side of the World’s Fair Park, which is just southwest of Downtown Knoxville. It focuses mainly on regional Tennessean art and has a small section dedicated to contemporary art.Knoxville Museum Of Art

You can combine your visit of the Art Museum with a stroll through World’s Fair Park, which is where the World’s Fair took place in 1982. The only two structures remaining from the World’s Fair are the Sunsphere, a 266-feet tall tower that houses an observation deck and the amphitheater. The Sunsphere can be visited for free – take the elevator to the top and enjoy a 360-degree view over Knoxville. The park is also home to several fountains and lawns, making for a pleasant stroll.worlds fair park knoxville

Tip: If you happen to visit Knoxville on the first Friday of the month, I recommend checking out the Knoxville ArtWalk. It takes place on each first Friday of the month, and art galleries, artists studios and art collectives offer special evening hours, open houses and artist exhibits. You can find more information here.

12pm: Explore Knoxville’s Old City

From the World’s Fair Park, head back downtown. The northern part of Gay Street is part of Knoxville’s Art District, and there are a number of galleries here. Don’t miss the Emporium – Arts & Culture Alliance, a spacious arts space showcasing art and photography by local artists. The University Of Tennessee Art Gallery is worth a visit, as is Jack’s Of Knoxville, a small shop focusing on locally made items, such as prints, mugs and cards – great for gift shopping.Knoxville Old City

From here, head further north to the Old City, the part of town that became Knoxville’s industrial hub when the railroad arrived in 1850s. Many of the old factory buildings that were abandoned after the city’s significance as industrial center have been renovated and over the past couple of decades, revitalizing the Old City. Most buildings are now home to cafes, restaurants, independent shops, boutiques and art galleries and were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Southern Terminal and Warehouse Historic District.

Take a stroll along W Jackson Drive, where you find galleries and shops, including Rala (112 W Jackson Ave), which is worth a stop for its unique gifts by local artists, and Awaken Coffee (125 W Jackson Ave), which has tasty coffee creations in an artsy setting. Turn right on S Central Street, where you’ll find more restaurants and shops. If you love beer, stop at Pretentious Beer Company to sample some of their craft brews, and to watch them blow beer glasses. Pretentious Beer pride themselves or being the only in the world where you can drink beer made in-house, out of glasses made in-house. But Pretentious Beer would be worth a visit for the names of the brews alone – you’ll find beers with names like ‘Embrace Joy, Dammit!’, ‘Masturdate’, ‘Pillowy Fluff Fluff’ and ‘Basic Beach’ on the menu here.pretentious beer company

1pm: Gas station lunch

If you are already hungry, I recommend having lunch in the Old City. There are a number of great restaurants around here, including OliBea (they focus on breakfast, but also have yummy bowls and tacos, and you can enjoy food from OliBea with your beer at Pretentious Beer next door) or Good Golly Tamale (they have different tamales, including several vegetarian and vegan options).

If you’re not hungry yet, continue your walk to North Knoxville. Walk north on Central Street all the way up to the Central Filling Station, a food truck park on the site of a former gas station. In addition to food trucks, there are games for kids and a large sitting area, and a bar that sells craft beers.central filling station

2pm: Craft Beer Crawl

Speaking of craft beer: there are two breweries right by Central Filling Station: Schulz Bräu, which is modeled off of a traditional beer garden, and Elkmont Exchange, which in addition to beer also has an extensive food menu. Both of these breweries are part of the Knoxville Ale Trail, which is why they make the ideal starting point for a beer crawl. There are around 20 breweries in Knoxville, and many of them are in walking distance of one another: perfect for a self-guided brewery tour.

The Knoxville Area Brewers Association developed a Knoxville Ale Trail Passport which you can get for free in any of the participating breweries and which also contains a map with all participating breweries. In each place you visit you can ask for your passport to be stamped and you can claim a reward at the end, depending on how many breweries you manage to visit: Four breweries get you a sticker, ten breweries a glass, and if you manage to visit all breweries, you’ll be rewarded with a T-shirt.balter beerworks

For a beer crawl, include the following breweries in your tour:

  • Schulz Bräu
  • Elkmont Exchange
  • Crafty Bastard Brewing
  • The Pretentious Beer Co
  • Balter Beerworks

These are all within walking distance from Downtown Knoxville. A little further away, but easy to reach in an Uber, are Abridged Beer Company, Alliance Brewing Company and Last Days Of Autumn.

Alternatively, you can just hop on a guided craft beer tour with Knox Brew Tours – this way, you’ll get to learn more about craft beer brewing and you also get to experience some of the further away breweries.Breweries Knoxville

Alternative afternoon: North Knoxville Antiques Shopping

If beer is not your thing, don’t worry! There are plenty of things to do in Knoxville that don’t require downing beers, and North Knoxville will satisfy shoppers, and especially antique aficionados.

You can start your afternoon with a sweet treat at Wild Love Bakehouse, in “The Happy Holler” district. The bakery sells French pastries, biscuits, cookies and other pastries – and everything is incredibly tasty.

Right next door are Mid Mod Collective, a shop for mid-century modern furniture and accessories, and The Book Eddy, a great used book store. Walk further south along N Central Street, and you’ll pass several other stores worth peeking inside: Chance’s Antique & Auction, Magnolia Records, Chance’s Antiques, and Friends Antique & Collectibles.

If you are a fan of antiques, you will love all of these, and make sure to also stop at Time Warp Tea Room, amazing vintage biker club / restaurant filled with motorbike memorabilia and old motorbikes – a must-visit for any motorbike fan. Across the street from Time Warp Tea Room is the excellent Central Flats and Taps, a restaurant that specializes in flat breads and has, as the name suggests, plenty of beers on tap.North Knoxville Shopping

On the way back to Downtown Knoxville, don’t miss Old Gray Cemetery. Old Gray was established in 1850 and is known for its grand monuments, Celtic crosses, Victorian-era marble sculptures (often angels), obelisks, elaborate carvings on many of the grave markers and headstones. The cemetery was created during a time when it became more popular to create larger, park-like cemeteries, rather than simply placing headstones next to a church. There are weeping willow trees and oaks, making for a beautiful, peaceful atmosphere. Look out for the Horne Monument – an almost life-size Confederate soldier guarding the graves of two Confederate veterans.Old Gray Cemetery Knoxville

Saturday Evening Entertainment in Knoxville

For your evening entertainment, check out the This Weekend events section on the VisitKnoxville website to find the best events – there is always live music, or you could join a Paranormal Adventure Tour, join a sunset dinner cruise or, if you spent the afternoon brewery hopping, continue your craft brew tour.

For dinner, head to Kefi in the Old City for sophisticated Mediterranean food (with a focus on Greek food) or to Cru Bistro & Wine Bar on North Gay Street for a wide variety of wines and shareable small plates.

kefi knoxville
Kefi in Knoxville’s Old City

Day 3 (Sunday)

9am: Brunch

Head to Balter Beerworks for their scrumptious weekend brunch – they don’t only know how to make beer here, but Balter also serves a delicious brunch (some people say it’s the best brunch in all of Knoxville!). In addition to beer, they serve wine and cocktails. And did I mention $1 mimosas and a special $4 beer cocktail named “Baltering Mary”?balter beerworks knoxville

11am: Time to be active – Paddle, hike or zip across the woods

Knoxville has some great outdoors activities, and after eating and drinking your way around Knoxville, it is time to burn some calories.

SUP & Kayak: If you are a water enthusiast, rent a paddle board and do some stand-up paddling on the Tennessee River. I rented a board at Volunteer Landing Marina for $10 per hour, but Billy Lush Boards & Brew also rents paddle boards and kayaks (single kayaks / board are $20 per hour or $31 for two hours; tandem kayaks / canoes are $30 per hour or $41 for two hours). If you want to spend time out on the river with a larger group, consider renting a pontoon at Volunteer Boat Rentals – a half day rental (9.30am – 1.30pm or 2.30pm – 6.30pm) is $217.41; a full day is $272.03 and the boat fits up to ten people.Knoxville Outdoors

Hiking: Another great activity is the hike to Fort Dickerson Quarry. From Downtown Knoxville, this is just a 30 – 40 min. walk, and you can reward yourself with a dip in the turquoise water at the end (depending on the time of year you’re visiting). The hike is pretty year-round, offering scenic vistas over the quarry from a couple of viewpoints along the way.

The most extensive network of trails is a 10-min cab ride from Downtown Knoxville in the Ijams Nature Center. This Nature Center consists of forests, wetlands, an abandoned quarry, wildlife, and 40 miles of trails. No matter if you enjoy walking, kayaking, rock climbing or mountain biking: you will love Ijams.

Canopying: If you are an adventurous traveler, you will love Navitat Canopy Adventures, an obstacle course through the treetops. This is a fun challenge in a beautiful nature setting: you traverse ropes, balance over narrow elevated bridgeways (and some of them include a few hanging chunks of wood, to make it more difficult to get across), zipline between trees – all high up in the air. I thought a couple of hours here would be enough, but I could have easily spent all afternoon challenging myself to all six ample canopy adventure trails.Ijams nature center

1.30pm: Lunch south of the river

Before leaving Knoxville, there is time for one more great lunch. I suggest venturing down to the south side of the river, where you find a number of great eateries (and a couple of breweries, if you’re still thirsty!) along Sevier Street. SouthSide Garage has food trucks and a well-stocked bar with local craft beers, South Coast Pizza has divine pies in a rustic setting, Landing House serves Asian food (with a focus on Cambodian and Vietnamese dishes),

the landing house
Asian-style eggplant frites at The Landing House

Beer lovers will appreciate Alliance Brewing Company and Printshop Beer Company, as well as Hi-Wire Brewing, which just arrived from Asheville, NC.

For dessert, stop at Gelato Brothers, where you can indulge in flavors like lemon pie, mango or Belgium dark chocolate, or enjoy one of their unique coffee creations.

Where to stay in Knoxville

  • The Tennessean – Elegant 5-star hotel in World’s Fair Park, just west of Downtown Knoxville. Named ‘The top hotel in the South’ by Southern Living. Rooms start at $179 per night
  • The Oliver Hotel – Fabulous boutique hotel in a remodeled 1876 building; part of the Southern Living Hotel Collection. Rooms start at around $250 per night.
  • Hyatt Place – Located right on Gay Street in the heart of Knoxville. Great rooftop bar. Rooms start at $195 per night
  • Residence Inn by Marriott – In the center of town, one block from Gay Street. Large suites with a seating area and a flat-screen TV. Breakfast included in room rate. Rooms start at $178 per night
  • Courtyard by Marriott – Shared building with Residence Inn, one block from Gay Street. Courtyard offers less amenities and smaller rooms than Residence Inn, slightly cheaper. Rooms start at $168 per night
  • Holiday Inn – Solid budget choice, located right in World’s Fair Park. Rooms start at $145 per night
the tennessean
The Tennessean and World’s Fair Park

How To Get Around Knoxville

Both the Uber and the Lyft taxi apps operate in Knoxville, and I never had to wait long for a rideshare. But I opted for other modes of transportation more often than I requested a Lyft – because Knoxville also has bicycles and electronic scooters which make it easy to get around the city.

The Pace bicycles are the cheapest option, offering the first 30-minute ride for free and then only charging $1 for every half-hour ride. In half an hour, you can get pretty much anywhere in Knoxville. Download the Pace app and click on the map to find the closest bikes.

As for scooters, you can choose between two companies: Spin and VeoRide. I would’ve used either one – because in some locations I could only see Spin scooters, in others I spotted VeoRide scooters but no Spin scooters – but wasn’t able to take a Spin for a spin because I needed to upload a valid U.S. driver’s license to access the app, which I don’t have. To ride on a VeoRide scooter, a driver’s license wasn’t required.

The scooters are easy to unlock and use via each respective app, but be aware that they only work between 7am and 9pm, and that there are several ‘No Ride Zones’, where the scooters don’t work. Both companies charge $1 to unlock a scooter and $0.15 per minute during the ride.

You can download VeoRide here and Spin here.

If you enjoy walking, it is also possible to visit all of the places mentioned in this article on foot, except for the Ijams Nature Center, which may be a little far.spin scooters knoxvilleFor more ideas what to do in Knoxville, check out Visit

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Everything You Need To Know About Running the New York Marathon

nyc marathon mile 26

This guide includes everything you need to know about running the New York marathon, especially if you are traveling to New York to run this iconic race. Topics covered in this guide include:

  • Where to stay during the New York Marathon
  • The TCS NYC Marathon Expo: When and where to pick up your race number
  • Where to eat before the New York Marathon
  • Where to store luggage during the New York Marathon
  • What to bring to the marathon, including a checklist
  • What to put in your checked bag (post-race recovery)
  • How to get to the Start Village on Staten Island (bus vs. ferry)
  • Places to eat near the ferry terminal
  • Where your friends can cheer you on & tips for your out-of-town cheering squad
  • After the race: Checked bags pick-up and family reunion area
  • Where to eat after the New York Marathon
  • What day to book your flight back home for
  • Marathon Monday Information
  • How to connect with other runners

…and other things you should know when you’re running the New York Marathon.

In 2013, I happened to be in New York for the weekend the New York marathon took place, which a friend of mine happened to run that year. Back then, not even in my wildest dreams was I picturing myself running the New York marathon, or any marathon, as a matter of fact. But I had picked up running again after a 10-year Break earlier that year – coincidentally also in New York, lured in by scenic running routes, I suppose – and decided that I wanted to watch my friend race through the finishing line in Central Park.

And that’s when I caught ‘marathon fever’. Seeing all the runners from all over the world on the final stretch of their 26.2, and thousands of people along the course cheering for them gave me chills and made me wonder if I could run 26 miles one day. At the time, I’d never run more than eight kilometers, but the plant was seeded in my head: one day I would run the New York marathon.running the new york marathon

After looking into how to sign up for the race and how much it would cost, I started entering the annual drawing which gives about 10,000 runners every year entry through a lottery-like drawing system. If you’re wondering how good your chances are to win the NYC marathon drawing: In 2019, 117,709 runners applied to the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon drawing, and 10,510 runners were accepted. The number of runners accepted via the drawing varies, however, depending on the number of guaranteed entries that are claimed in that year. In 2016, for example, 19,083 runners got into the marathon through the drawing, which is almost twice as many as in 2019.

It seemed like the easiest option, since the 9+1 program seemed quite tedious (and expensive, looking at the prices for the qualifying races), and I didn’t want to ask other people for money by going down the fundraiser route. But for anyone based in New York, the 9+1 program is a valid option to gain guaranteed entry for the marathon – all you need to do is complete nine qualifying races and volunteer at one NYRR race / event (all in the same calendar year to gain entry for the following year’s marathon). Of course there’s also the option to qualify if you meet a certain time, but let’s just say that I am not the fastest runner, so this wasn’t an option for me.

In 2018, I won the lottery, well – I was selected in the drawing, but it felt like winning the lottery! Five years after watching my friend racing towards the finish line, I’d run through Central Park myself, the last couple of miles of the marathon.

Instead of going into detail about how I trained for this race and got myself in shape for 26.2 miles, or break down the marathon mile by mile (there are enough articles on the internet covering these topics), I want to share some of logistical questions I saw pop up over and over again while I was preparing to run the New York marathon.

Now that I’ve moved to New York, I have a better understanding of which areas to stay in if you’re traveling to New York to run this iconic race, how to get to the start line in Staten Island, how to get around New York City (especially important for your cheering squad, if they want to support you along the course), where to store luggage in New York should you have to check out early out of an Airbnb, where to pick up your race number, and where to eat before and after the race.

running the new york marathon

So, without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about running the New York Marathon:

Where to stay during the New York Marathon

My first piece of advice: book your hotel as soon as you know for sure that you will be running the New York Marathon. I’ve seen people struggle to find a place to stay because they waited too long to book their hotel – and hotels do fill up for marathon weekend, especially around Midtown Manhattan, which is the perfect place to base yourself.

The closer to Central Park, the better

The race ends on the west side of Central Park, so the closer to the park, the better, because that means you can walk back to your hotel after the race and you won’t have to deal with public transportation or the clogged streets when everyone is trying to get back to their place in an Uber or taxi.

where to stay during the New York Marathon

This is the ideal area to look at hotels in – but don’t stress if there aren’t any places available there anymore, New York City is relatively small and you’ll be anywhere in Manhattan within 30 minutes (via subway) and can reach some places in Queens and Brooklyn in 45 minutes (see below for further away hotel recommendations).

Here is a list of the best-rated hotels in New York on – I recommend because of their great cancellation policy: most hotels can still be canceled for FREE until three days before your booking which means that should you have to drop out of the race for whatever reason, you won’t get charged for a hotel reservation. I recommend staying in a hotel that is rated at least 8 out of 10 on the site – there are some cheap hotels in areas like Chinatown, but they often have terrible reviews, so make sure to read some recent reviews before booking a place.

Click here => Hotels with excellent reviews in New York City

Some great hotels in Midtown Manhattan are:

Budget hotels in New York City

If you’re on a tight budget, check out this list of cheaper hotels in New York City:

Click here => Budget hotels in New York City

The Jane Hotel in the West Village is constantly rated as one of the best budget hotels in New York City, rates start at $109 per night.

If you’re planning to use rewards points, all the hotels with reward programs have hotels around Times Square and Midtown Manhattan: Hilton, Hyatt, Choice, Starwood, Wyndham, Best Western, Accor, IHG. Don’t wait too long to book your hotel, these are the ones that usually fill up first.


If you’re on a tight budget, consider staying at a hostel. The best hostel that’s close to the finish line is the HI Hostel on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side. They only have dorm rooms, which means you’ll be sharing with other people (male / female dorms), and the smallest dorms are four people sharing. The hostel has a communal kitchen which is great if you want to prepare some of your meals (especially on race day).c

Airbnb vs Hotel

Many runners prefer an Airbnb over a hotel, because staying in an Airbnb usually means that you have access to a kitchen and can prepare meals for yourself, which is especially nice the night before the race and the morning of the marathon. Renting an entire apartment can be pricey, but if you’re traveling with your partner or the entire family, it often is a more convenient option. There are many Airbnb’s in Hells Kitchen, a neighborhood close to Midtown Manhattan, in walking distance from the finish line.

If you’re on a budget, look for Airbnb’s in Brooklyn, in Queens and the Bronx (the outer boroughs), but you’ll want to check how long it takes you to get from the Airbnb down to the ferry (or the Midtown buses) – which can easily take an hour from the neighborhoods further away from Manhattan. You don’t want to have to get up at 4am when you’re running the New York Marathon.

Another budget option is to look at renting only a room, instead of an entire Airbnb apartment. If you go for this (considerably cheaper!) option, make sure you have access to the kitchen.

Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up through my referral link to get up to $55 toward your first trip. 

Running the New York Marathon: Before the Race

What to pack for New York

Monitor the weather the weeks leading up to the race to get an idea of the weather in New York City if you’re traveling from another state or another country, and keep in mind that the race takes place in November. On the East Coast, November means COLD.

Over the past five years, the temperatures on race day ranged from 43°Fahrenheit (6°Celsius) to 64°Fahrenheit (18°Celsius), which is quite a difference. To be on the safe side, pack for cool autumn weather and bring some rainproof gear (rain jacket or poncho, umbrella) – in 2018, it rained the day before and after the race, and there have been several rainy race days over the past few years.

See below what to pack for the race.

Sightseeing & Running in New York City

Most people arrive several days before the race to see New York City. And of course you should d some sightseeing – but don’t forget that you’ll still need to preserve some energy for the big day. Many New York visitors leave the city completely exhausted because there’s just so much to see – and they aren’t even running the New York Marathon! So when planning your sightseeing schedule, take it slow and plan realistically.

The day before the race would be great for a Broadway show – but you might want to see a matinee instead of an evening show so that you get enough sleep. Download the Today Tix app for cheap last-minute tickets – this app uses the same software that is used by TKTS, where people line up for hours for discount tickets. Save yourself the time to stand in line and use the app instead.

If you are planning to get in a few more training runs in New York City, the 10k loop around Central Park is a beautiful run in the fall, and I shared some of my favorite running routes in New York City here.

The Marathon Expo: Pick Up Your Bib & Race Pack

Three days before the marathon (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), the Health and Wellness Expo will be hosted at the Jacob K. Javits Center (655 W 34th St; closest subway station is 34th Street / Hudson Yards on the 7 line).

This is where you pick up your race number (with the attached B-Tag scoring chip that tracks you) and your race pack, which also includes your marathon shirt. If you’re not sure about what size to pick, don’t worry about that: you can try on the shirts right there at the Expo.

marathon expo

You will have to pick up your race pack in person and you will have to show your race confirmation as well as your ID.

The Expo is also a great way to meet other runners and there are around 100 vendors selling running-related products and energy snacks (don’t overdo it on the free samples!).

If you arrive a few days before running the New York Marathon, I recommend visiting the Expo on the first day, since it tends to get very busy on Saturday (the day before the race). Don’t forget to stop at the big wall with all the runners names and find your name 🙂

You can NOT pick up your race number the morning of the marathon, and the Expo closes on Saturday at 5pm – take this into consideration when you book your flight / bus / train to New York.

Saturday: Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K

If you want to get a quick 5k in the day before running the New York marathon and already do a practice run crossing the finish line, I recommend the popular Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K. This race also gives you a quick tour of Midtown Manhattan, starting near the UN Building, past Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library, Bryant Park and 6th Avenue up to Central Park. You don’t need to run the marathon to run this race, everyone can sign up, and this race usually sells out.

Where to eat before the New York Marathon

Obviously, there are hundreds of great food options in New York City, and I recommend consulting GoogleMaps for recommendations in the area you’re staying, but here are some great places to carb load the day before the race:

  • Carmine’s (well-known chain for Southern Italian family-style dining with giant portions) Times Square, 200 W 44th Street, near 7th Ave
  • Casa Barilla (pasta-focused Italian restaurant with generous portions) Midtown, 1290 6th Avenue (corner of W 52nd Street)
  • Tony’s Di Napoli (Italian comfort food, family-style menu as well as individual dishes) Times Square, 147 W 43rd Street (near Broadway)
  • Quality Italian (Italian-American dishes – they’re famous for their chicken parm – and steakhouse) Midtown, 57 W 57th Street (corner of 6th Ave)
  • Eataly (Italian marketplace with several restaurants. Famous for artisanal Italian food / pasta dishes) 200 Fifth Avenue (near the Flatiron Building, next to Madison Square Park) and 101 Liberty Street (inside the Westfield in the Financial District, World Trade Center Tower 4, 3rd Floor)
  • Celeste (Neapolitan brick-oven pizzas and pasta dishes. Cash only) Upper West Side, 502 Amsterdam Ave (between 84th and 85th Street)
  • John’s of 12th Street (Old-school Italian restaurant with great vegan options) East Village, 302 E 12th Street, near 2nd Ave

organic pasta langkawi

Where to store your luggage during the New York Marathon

You cannot bring any backpacks, Camelbaks, any kind of luggage or even just a tote bag to the start village – the only bags allowed are the official clear TCS Marathon bags that you receive at the Expo (the bag your race number and T-shirt are in).

Luckily, you have the option to check a ‘post-race recovery bag’ with your own stuff. If you opt to have a bag checked, you’ll receive the bag you can fill up with post-race essentials at the Expo along with your Race Pack. See below what to pack in your checked bag.

If you’re not staying in a hotel but have to catch a flight after the race, there are several options to store luggage in Manhattan while you’re running the New York Marathon. Be aware that it is a bit of a hassle to get your luggage stored before the race – since you’ll have to leave for the race early in the morning, it’ll pretty much impossible to put your luggage in storage on race day, so you’d have to do it the night before.

You can not check any luggage, duffel bags or larger backpacks, and you cannot enter the Start Village with any of the above items, only with the official see-through TCS NYC Marathon bags.

If you need to store luggage, here are some companies that offer storage throughout Manhattan – but check beforehand if storage is possible on a Sunday.

This article has a comprehensive list of all your luggage storage options in New York City.

Running the New York Marathon: What to bring to the Race

The New York marathon takes place on the first weekend in November, and the weather can go two ways: glorious Fall weather, or absolutely miserable November weather. Either way, the race starts early in the morning and runners get to the Start Village as early as 7am, which means it is definitely going to be cold.

You will need to bring a hoodie or fleece or sweater that is warm, but that you won’t regret parting with. I was wearing TWO warm layers over my running tank top, and even though it was a sunny morning, there was a cool breeze on the ferry, and I was glad that I was wearing both a fleece and an extra-large hoodie.

I learned that most of the clothes that are left behind by runners are donated, and indeed, there were big donation boxes throughout the start village. Before I went into my coral to get lined up for my start wave, I took off my hoodie and put it in one of the donation bins. If you don’t have any spare clothes, definitely hit up a cheap second-hand or Red Cross store before you’re traveling to New York, or shop for a cheap fleece on Amazon.

Note that you’ll still be spending some time waiting around in your coral (from where you can’t access the donation bins anymore) before you make your way to the Verrazano Bridge and start running. I was happy that I still had another layer, which I planned to take off as soon as I’d warm up during the first couple of miles. The Verrazano Bridge is 228 feet (69 meters) high, so especially on the upper deck, it can get pretty cold and windy. You’ll be on that bridge for a quite a while – in fact, crossing it means you’ve already finished 1/10 of the 26.2 mile course, since the bridge is 2.6 miles long (4,176 meters). I eventually dropped my second layer towards the end of the bridge, and you will see piles of clothes left behind on both sides of the bridge by runners before you.

marathon runner with phone
You’ll definitely want to bring your phone!

Marathon Checklist

Here is a checklist with the few things you will definitely need when you’re running the New York Marathon – but remember, as I outlined in the Luggage Storage section above, you can only bring the official clear TCS New York Marathon bags into the start village area.

  • Extra layers (hoodie / fleece / long sweat pants / gloves / scarf – whatever is weather appropriate)
  • Pre-race snacks (Energy bars, banana, water, energy gels)
  • Pre-race breakfast (if needed)
  • Metro Card (if you’re planning to take the subway to the ferry or bus / subway back to your hotel after the race. You can also buy single tickets for $3 inside the subway stations)
  • Credit card
  • ID
  • Some cash
  • Phone (duh)
  • GPS Device (if you want to track the race)
  • Headphones (if you want to listen to music – some people say listening to music is a big NO during a marathon, and listening to the cheering crowds feels amazing, but if you have certain songs to push you through difficult parts of the race, for example the Queensboro Bridge where there are NO CROWDS and it is terrifyingly silent, you may want to bring your headphones)
  • Ziplock bag for your phone – if it rains
  • Sunglasses (if needed)
  • Sweatband / visor / hat (if needed)
  • Waist belt / waist pouch – running vests are NOT allowed

I used a small waist pouch (make sure it’s water resistant) to store my cards, phone and keys, but if you don’t bring much, a running belt also works. There are some fancier pouches that hold a water bottle on each side, but I thought the water stations along the course were sufficient.

running the new york marathon
The small running pouch I wore during the race

If you want to track your run on your phone but your phone has terrible battery life (like mine!), bring a small portable charger that fits in your waist pouch. I recommend this kind of ultra-slim portable charger to make sure it fits in your pouch. I used a regular-length power cord, but during the race I wished I had a super short one (which would’ve been easier to fit in my pouch, too). 

Should I bring…?

I looked at a lot of marathon checklists before the race and noticed that there are usually many things on these lists that I found unnecessary. Here are some things that you might want to pack though:

Vaseline: If you’re prone to chafing, pack a small tube of Vaseline or anti-chafe balm. I personally didn’t need it.

Nipple tape: I didn’t think nipple chafing was really a thing – until I saw this poor guy. Male runners especially might want to invest in some nipple tape.

Energy gels: A lot of runners had one or two energy gels in their pouches / pockets, but I don’t think you need any snacks or energizers – there are plenty along the way (at every mile, starting at mile 3). I thought the hydration stations were plentiful, and there were a couple of nutrition stations in the second half of the course: an energy gel zone after mile 16, and bananas after mile 20.

And the spectators fed us well – there were cut-up banana slices, nuts, salt pretzels, cut-up granola bars, orange slices, chocolate, leftover Halloween candy, shots of Coca Cola, and much marathon banana

Toilet Paper: The porta potties are well equipped with toilet paper, but to be safe, I’d pack some toilet paper, or a couple of tissues, because the porta potties often run out of toilet papers, especially in the start village.

What not to bring to the New York Marathon

There are a number of items that aren’t allowed in the Start Village, including some things you may consider bringing to sit on / wrap yourself in to stay warm, so I want to point out a few things that are NOT allowed:

  • Glass containers
  • Any container that holds more than 1 liter
  • Blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Camelbaks
  • Backpacks
  • Vests with multiple pockets
  • Selfie sticks
  • Folding chairs

You can find the full list of prohibited items here.

Should I bring food to the Start Village?

I strongly recommend eating before running the New York Marathon, and NOT to rely on the food in the start village (unless you get there super early). Apparently, there is food in each of the different start areas – you will head to the color you’ve been assigned: green, orange or blue. Food and drinks available in the start village include: Bagels, tea, Dunkin’ coffee, water and Gatorade products.

However, even though I walked around quite a bit, I never found the food area (I would’ve really liked a coffee and regretted not getting one before I hopped on the ferry!), and was happy I brought my own food, plus I am a picky eater.

The greatest piece of advice I’d received prior to the race was to eat two small breakfasts before the race: one before I left for Staten Island, and one either on the way there or when I arrived.


Because I ate my first breakfast at around 6am, and I was in the 11am start wave. I would’ve been starving again by the time I started running, and wouldn’t have enough energy to last me for the entire race. I was happy I packed half a peanut butter banana bagel to munch on while I was on the bus to the Start Village – I would’ve definitely gotten hungry while running the New York Marathon! Since food and drinks can also run out in the Start Village, you may want to pack at least a RX Bar, Kind Breakfast Bar, or your preferred brand of energy bar.

Most people are used to early marathon starts (7am or 8am), but if you’re in a later start wave (10am or later), you’ll probably be hungry again by the time your start time rolls around.

What to put in your checked bag

If you opt to check your bag at the Start Village, think about all the things you’ll want after the race. UPS will transport the checked bags to the finish line in Central Park, so you’ll have the stuff you pack in the bag waiting there for you.

Remember that you can only use the official UPS Bag Check Bag. The bag doesn’t fit an awful lot, so be strategic with what you stuff in there.

Here are some things you might want after the race:

  • Warm clothes: a hoodie or a lightweight packable down jacket or even a full change of clothes
  • Shoes: You might want to get out of your shoes as soon as possible
  • Socks: You’ll definitely want to change into some fresh, clean socks!
  • First aid kit: You might need some band aids / bandage roll, Ibuprofen or the pain reliever of your choice
  • Food: If you’re picky when it comes to food, like me, you might want to pack some foods that you usually eat after a long race. I didn’t want anything that I got in my recovery bag – instead of an apple I wanted a banana, instead of Gatorade I wanted coconut water. Pack a few snacks to hold you over until dinner
  • Water (only if you think you need more water than the bottle provided in your official TCS Marathon Recovery Bag)
  • Wipes: I wanted to stay out after the race to celebrate with my friends, so no shower for me. I had some shower wipes in my bag which did the job.
  • Portable charger / Phone charger: If you don’t have a portable charger on you during the race, you might want to pack one in your recovery bag, or at least your charger cord, to charge your phone somewhere.

It’ll take about 20 – 30 mins after crossing the finish line until you are reunited with the bag you checked before the race.


As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t rely on grabbing some food in the Start Village. Depending on what time you have to leave your hotel to get to the bus / ferry, and what food options you have around your hotel / Airbnb, you might have to plan ahead and grab some food the night before. In the area I was staying in the night before running the New York Marathon, nothing was open yet on a Sunday morning before 7am, and I had to leave at 6.30am to make the 7am ferry, so I had to buy my breakfast the day before the race.

I had a quick bite before I left, and the other half of my breakfast on Staten Island, closer to my start time. By now you should be further along in your training and are likely to have done a few long runs – so you know what works best for you when it comes to fueling yourself for a long run. Try not to experiment with anything new, obviously, and I recommend to look up places around your hotel the day before the race – if you have a fridge, you can store things like a juice, fruit or a bagel overnight, because as you can see below, there is not much food near the ferry terminal (if you’re taking the ferry), and there aren’t any places around the Start Village either, so come prepared.

How to get to the Start Village in Staten Island

There are three ways to get from Manhattan to Staten Island: by car, by bus, or by ferry.

ITP Runners: If you’re participating in the marathon via an ITP (International Travel Partner), you don’t have to worry about transportation to the Start Village Area, your ITP will arrange it for you.

If you decide to take a taxi / Uber or you’re driving to New York from Long Island, be aware that the Verrazano Bridge from Brooklyn to Staten Island (the bridge you’re crossing during the race) closes for traffic at 7am.

If you’re planning to drive, you will have to get there either before 7am (and have a long wait until the start of the race), or park your car in Manhattan and take the ferry.

There’s no parking near the Start Village, so you’ll have to plan in some time to look for parking – and also remember that you will finish in a completely different part of New York than you’re starting in. Getting to Fort Wadsworth, where the marathon starts, without the TCS Marathon shuttle buses would be quite an effort for me after running 26.2 miles (you’d have either take the subway from Central Park to the ferry, the ferry, and then a Lyft/ Uber, or an Uber from Central Park to Fort Wadsworth which would be between $75 and $100, depending on demand and weather).

If you have someone to drop you off in Staten Island, there is a dedicated drop-off area about half a mile from the Start Village Area.

Note that the Start Village and all arranged transportation to the Start Village is for registered marathon runners only – family / friends / spectators are NOT allowed in the Start Village Area.

Bus vs Ferry

First of all: A lot of runners seem to get frustrated about the transportation options to the Start Village, but remember that it is a huge logistical undertaking to get over 50,000 runners to an area on Staten Island that is large enough to set up Start Villages for thousands of runners – you can compare this to a huge music festivals. All I can say is: Be patient. It’s worth the wait ?

There are buses from Midtown Manhattan and from New Jersey to the Start Village in Fort Wadsworth (the buses from Midtown Manhattan take about 90 minutes, the buses from New Jersey take about one hour), or you can take the Staten Island ferry from the southern tip of Manhattan (the Financial District), followed by free shuttle buses from the ferry terminal on Staten Island to the Start Village.

You’ll have to choose your transportation option before the race (registration opens in August and closes in early September – don’t forget to register!) and once you’ve selected a transportation option, you can’t change it anymore later on.

When deciding between bus and ferry, keep in mind that the buses go very early since the bridge closes hours before the race starts. That means you’ll arrive in the Start Village early and have a lot of time to kill. I believe the last bus leaves Midtown at 6.30am, which means you’ll arrive in Staten Island around 7.15am.

On the plus side, the bus option is easy if you’re staying in Midtown Manhattan because you can walk to the bus (they leave outside the New York Public Library on Fifth Ave) and you don’t have to change transportation. Just be aware that you’re likely to have a long wait time in the Start Village – bring something to entertain yourself with, or you may drain your phone’s battery before you even start running the New York Marathon.

If you decide to take the ferry, you’ll have to travel to the ferry terminal in southern Manhattan, make your way to the ferry, and take yet another transport on Staten Island (there are free buses from the ferry terminal to the Start Village). This may seem like too much of an effort for first-time marathoners / out-of-town runners, but I took the ferry and I loved it. The cheerful atmosphere and the excitement in the ferry terminal, the beautiful views over the Manhattan skyline in the warm light of the morning sun – if I run the marathon again, I’d go for that option again. If you don’t like crowds, this option is NOT for you! One ferry holds 4,400 people – lines are to be expected.

I’d probably opt for a bus if I was in an early start wave, but if your start time is 10:40am or 11am, a 5:30am bus would mean a lot of down time in the (cold!) Start Village.

nyc from the staten island ferry marathon morning 2018
View from the Staten Island Ferry on the morning of the marathon

Which ferry time to pick?

Go early.

Definitely plan in more time than you think – I opted for the 7am ferry to err on the safe side, and boy was I glad that I decided to leave early. I initially thought it might be a bit too early for an 11am start time, but it turned out to be just enough time.

Even though the ferry only takes 25 minutes, the wait for the shuttle buses was loooooong. I got on a bus around 8.25am (waiting outside – I was glad I was wearing several layers over my running gear) and arrived at the Start Village around 9am. There, you’ll have to go through another security screening. I didn’t get to my Start Village until around 9am and had about an hour to get ready, i.e. brave the long lines for the toilets, warm up and stretch, eat an energy bar, find my corral. If you check a bag, you’ll also have to add in some time to drop off your bag at the UPS trucks.

I’d rather plan in some extra time than cutting it close – you may miss your ferry, you may have to wait a long time to get on a shuttle bus like me, and you may wait half an hour in line for a porta potty.

I’ve now read several runners’ accounts of missing their start wave because they didn’t factor in enough time for the ferry & bus ride to the Start Village.

Places to eat that are open near the Ferry Terminal

  • Starbucks: Most of the Starbucks in the Financial District open late on Sunday (around 8am), but the one at 2 Broadway (7 mins from the ferry) opens at 5.30am. The Starbucks at One Battery Park Plaza (4 mins walk to the ferry) opens at 6.30am. The Starbucks at 110 Pearl Street (8 mins from the ferry) also opens at 6.30am.
    • Starbucks has oatmeal, bananas, bagels and other breakfast sandwiches.
  • Leo’s Bagels: 3 Hanover Square, 8 mins walk to the ferry. They only open at 7am – if you want to grab a bagel there before hopping on the ferry, you’ll have to get there at 7am sharp. If you get there when they open, you should be able to make the 7.30am ferry.

That’s about it when it comes to food near the ferry terminal on a Sunday morning – none of the juice bars open before 8am. The ferry terminal has a basic snacks / concessions stand, but sells mostly processed foods.

Staten Island Ferry NYC
The Staten Island Ferry

Running the New York Marathon: Start Times & Corrals

Start Villages / Corrals: You will be assigned a start village prior to the race: green, orange or blue. There are different corrals and start waves, all of which you can find in your confirmation form, as well as on your race number.

Make sure to get your Start Village at least 60 minutes before your start time. Factor in time for bag check (if needed), waiting in line for the toilet, a quick warm-up, and just enjoying the pre-race atmosphere in the Start Village.

nyc marathon start line
At the start line

Bag Check: If you check a bag, you will have to drop off your bag at the UPS trucks in your respective start village at least one hour before your start time.

The New York Marathon: During the Race

Where your friends can cheer you on

If you plan it right, you can have your family and friends cheer you on at several points throughout the race. I recommend printing out this TCS NYC Marathon course map which has the closest subway stations marked near every mile.

You’ll have to instruct your cheering squad to text you where exactly they are – they will not be able to see you in the midst of the 50,000+ people who are running the New York Marathon. They will have to position themselves somewhere that stands out, for example a prominent shop sign or on a certain street corner. It has to be something that is easy for YOU to spot as you’re running along the course. And of course they’ll want to tell you what side of the street they are on.

If they have something to stand out of the crowds – even better! A helium balloon or a sign will make it much easier for you to spot your cheering squad.

NYC marathon signsYou will have to look out for them when you get close to them – I was only able to say Hi to friends who had told me precisely where they were, and didn’t see the ones who were cheering me on somewhere along the sidelines, but who failed to give me their exact location.

If you want to see your friends at least twice during the race, I’d recommend sending them to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood first, which is just one stop from Manhattan on the L line between mile 11 and mile 12. Bedford Avenue, the street that you’ll run up in Williamsburg, is not very wide, which makes it easy to stop for runners for a quick hug or a snack. To get back to Manhattan, your cheering squad take the L line (which they probably take from Manhattan to Bedford Ave), which is only a 6-min ride from Union Square, where you can transfer to the Q or 4/5 trains (see below) to cheer you on again later in the race.

If you want to see them earlier, another easy spot to get to from Manhattan is Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn – just before mile 8 – where the following subway lines stop: 2, 3, 4, 5, N, R, Q, D, B.

There, the runners will pass the Barclays Center basketball arena, Atlantic Terminal, and then turn east on Lafayette Ave. There are plenty of good spots to watch them, and these areas aren’t too crowded. From there, it’s also easy to get back to Manhattan or even to the Bronx to catch you again later in the race. If your cheering squad wants to see you again, they can hop straight on the subway and have the following options:

Q train

  • Lexington Ave / 63rd Street (Manhattan)
  • 72nd Street (Manhattan)
  • 86th Street (Manhattan)
  • 96th Street (Manhattan)

4 / 5 train

  • 59th Street (Manhattan)
  • 86th Street (Manhattan)
  • 138th Street / Grand Concourse (The Bronx)

2/ 3 train

  • 72nd Street (Manhattan) – to cheer you on near the finish line.

Watching the New York Marathon in Manhattan

No matter if your friends come out to Brooklyn to see you run or not, they can cheer you on in Manhattan two times. The best way to do that is to take the 4/5 or the Q to 86 Street or 96 Street and walk over to 1st Ave where the runners run from 59th Street all the way up to 127th Street before they’re crossing over into the Bronx. The 4/5 runs along Lexington Ave, which is three blocks from 1st Ave, the Q runs along 2nd Ave, one block from 1st Ave.

From there, it’s easy to walk over to 5th Avenue to see the runners again before they turn into Central Park, and they’ll have enough time to walk over there. It’s a 15-min walk from 1st Ave over to 5th Ave (plan in some extra time though to score a good viewing spot, 5th Ave can get crowded in places.)

Tips for your out-of-town cheering squad:

If you have friends and family who are traveling with you and are from out of town and aren’t familiar with the subway system, here are some tips how they can keep track of you while you’re running the New York Marathon:

  • Make sure they download the TCS Marathon app so that they can live track you and see where you are.
  • Make them download or print the marathon course map, which has all the closest  subway stations marked.
  • Download the PDF version of the subway map onto their phone. It’ll help them get around.
  • GoogleMaps’ route mapper is usually the most accurate route planning tool – I find it more accurate than apps like Citymapper.
  • If they visit from abroad and don’t have data on their phone, they can access the WiFi via the LiNK NYC HD displays (there are 1,600 spread across the city) or in most subway stations (connect to the ‘Transit WiFi’ network).
  • If they/you want to buy a local SIM card to be connected while you’re in the U.S., your cheapest option is T-Mobile’s tourist SIM card, but I recommend looking at the best SIM card options for tourists in the U.S. and see which one works best for you.

Should your friends / family want to cheer you on in several spots, I’d suggest they familiarize themselves with the course map and the subway map the day before the race and plan out their own route for the day.running the new york marathon

Biofreeze™ Relief Zone

If you tend to get heavy legs or experience pain in your joints during long runs, you’ll be happy to hear that there is a Biofreeze™ Relief Zone at mile 20 (double check the race course map – they might change the location) where you can apply Biofreeze spray or gel.

Toilets during the New York Marathon

There are portable toilets every mile along the entire course, starting at mile 3.

Running the New York Marathon: At the finish line

Have your photo taken

If you’re planning to buy the marathon photo package, don’t forget to smile for the cameras as you’re crossing the finish line, and stop for one of the official photographers who are waiting just behind the finish line to take everyone’s photo with their newly achieved medals. I wasn’t planning on buying the photos, which is why I blissfully ignored the photographers along the course, but I was gifted my official marathon photos after the race by someone and in hindsight I wish I would’ve gotten a good photo of me with my medal after crossing the line (or looked up when I crossed the line, like many others did.. see photo below).running the new york marathon

Marathon Recovery Bag

At the finish line, you will receive your medal along with a recovery bag. This bag usually includes a bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, some pretzels, an apple, and Biofreeze gel.

Checked Bags Pick-up

Picking up a checked bag? You will retrieve it at the UPS trucks which are not far from the finish line (between West 81st and 85th Street), but quite a walk from the Family Reunion Area. If you are meeting your family / friends after the race, you might want to consider giving them your post-race bag, rather than checking a bag – not checking a bag will get you to your family / friends faster and save you a L O N G walk.

Exiting the park through the Checked Bags Area? You might want to agree on a different meeting point with your family / friends – further north. I had a difficult time walking down to the Family Reunion Area from the finish line – and I did NOT check a bag. To save you the extra walk, consult the map below to see what other meeting point would make sense for you and your family. (They could meet you at the Natural History Museum, for example).

Important: If you signed up to have a bag checked prior to the race and change your mind at the last minute and decide NOT to check a bag on race day, you’ll still have to exit the park through the Checked Bags Area.

No Checked Bags / Family Reunion Area

If you didn’t send a checked bag to the finish line, you will exit at West 77th Street, which is still a good half-hour walk from the finish line. This is where you will get your post-race poncho (insulated and waterproof). If you have family or friends waiting for you, get ready for more walking: the Family Reunion area is about ten blocks further south, at 66th Street. It took me about 50 minutes after crossing the finish line to be reunited with my friends.

This map gives you a good idea of how the finish area is set up (this might change in future marathons):

The New York Marathon: After the Race

New York Marathon Post-race Meal

If you’re thinking about eating a proper meal right after running the New York Marathon, be aware that all the restaurants near Central Park West where the race ends will be PACKED – not just with marathon runners, but also with the regular Sunday brunch crowds. Unless you make a reservation, you won’t be very lucky finding food nearby.

I recommend packing a few snacks in your post-race bag to hold you over and look up places to eat near your hotel / the area you’re staying in. That way you can also take a shower and change into proper clothes before sitting down for a celebratory meal.

If you’re planning to eat near the finish line, here are some good options (they all require reservations except for the first one which is a take-out place):

  • Pasta by Hudson (casual inexpensive take-out for a quick carb-heavy meal) Turnstyle Underground Market at Columbus Circle, 1000 South 8th Ave
  • Parpadella (pasta-focused Italian restaurant) 316 Columbus Ave (on the corner of W 75th Street)
  • Noi Due Café (Italian restaurant with pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas) 143 W 69th Street (on the corner of Broadway)
  • The Smith (bustling brunch restaurant with egg dishes, egg & steak, protein-loaded salads) 1900 Broadway, between 63rd and 64th Street                  
  • The Ribbon (popular brunch spot with plenty of egg dishes, burgers and fried chicken) 20 W 72nd Street
  • Lincoln Ristorante (upscale Italian restaurant in Lincoln Center) 142 W 65th Street, Lincoln Center Paza
  • Burger Joint (hidden burger place in Le Parker Meridien Hotel New York – cash only). Parker New York, 119 W 56th Street

What day to book your return flight for

If you haven’t booked your return flight yet, I recommend not leaving right the next day (or take an evening flight, if you have to go back to work on Tuesday) – especially long-haul flights aren’t great for your legs after running 26.2 miles and can cause blood clots. If you have to take a long flight back after the marathon, make sure to take some blood-thinning medicine like Aspiring and pack compression socks. Read more about how to prevent blood clots after a marathon in this article.

Marathon Monday

You should definitely stay in New York for Marathon Monday to take in all the post-marathon glory, but there are also a couple of other things that happen the day after the race:

  1. Medal Engraving

There is a ‘Finisher’s Pavilion’ right near the finish line which is open all day on Monday. It’s in Central Park at West 67th Street. The pavilion is open from 7am to 5pm. You can get your medal engraved ($25) and also pick up a commemorative edition of the New York Times. You can also purchase New Balance Finisher Gear there.

  1. Pick up a New York Times with your name in it!

The New York Times has a Marathon Special Section the day after the race, including a list of all runners that finish in under five hours.

  1. Wear your medal around town today.

You’ll get Congratulations and High Fives abound!

Monday is also the day when you can finally walk all around town without fearing you’re tiring yourself out. That is if you can still york marathon 2017 mile 8

Post-race Medal Engraving

As mentioned above, you can get your medal engraved for $25 at the Finisher’s Pavilion in Central Park (at 67th Street) the day after the marathon, but if you can’t make it on Monday for whatever reason or you encounter long lines and don’t want to waste time waiting – you can also get your medal engraved on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The medal engraving on Tuesday and Wednesday usually takes place at the NYRR RUNCENTER & NB Run Hub (320 West 57th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue), Tuesday from 9am to 6pm and Wednesday from 9am to 3pm, but double-check the times, since they might change.

Connect with other runners before the New York Marathon

I’ve found it super helpful to join a couple of NYC marathon groups on Facebook. That way, you can easily connect with other people running the New York Marathon, even meet up for a communal dinner the night before the race or celebratory drinks after the race, and most importantly: ask about anything.

I tried to cover as much as possible in this article, but if you have other questions (a good massage therapist, a place where you can have your name printed onto your running shirt, NYC recommendations, and more..) – I’ve found the marathon groups on Facebook incredibly helpful and am still active in them.marathon runners manhattan

Click here => The Best NYC Marathon Help Group on Facebook

More Questions? Reach Out To Me!

Of course I’d be happy to answer any other questions you may have – message me or leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Ready to run New York City? I’ll be cheering you on from the sideline ?

running the new york marathon

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Empire State vs Top Of The Rock vs One World Observatory: What’s the best view of New York City?

empire state building view

One thing I do in every place I visit: I get a bird’s eye view of the city. If there is a high point in town, a high building, or even better, an observation deck, I head to the top. New York City is especially mesmerizing to see from above, thanks to its unique architecture and island layout, which is why the observation decks are on the list of the ten best New York attractions.


Seeing the city from the unique vantage point of the best observatory in New York City helps you to better understand its layout, helps you to understand how to city is set up, where the other boroughs are, see how close New Jersey is. But not just that: it’s a truly memorable experience and it will make you appreciate the grandeur of the Big Apple even more.

But what’s the best observatory to see New York City from above? Do you even need to go up to an observatory or will a rooftop bar suffice for the best view of New York City? NYC is lucky enough to have not only one, but FOUR observation decks – the newest one, The Edge, opened in March view over NYC

As for rooftop bars – there are over 50 rooftop bars in New York, and while they are fantastic in their own way and make for a spectacular backdrop for sunset drinks, they can’t quite replace the observation decks, simply because they aren’t as high and can’t provide the same far-reaching panoramic views. (More info on rooftop bars at the end of this article). By the way, you don’t have to go high up for a great skyline view – here are five places with amazing views of Manhattan – and all of them are free.

Which one is the best observation deck in New York City?

I’ve been lucky enough to have been atop all three iconic observation decks in Manhattan: The Empire State Building, the Top Of The Rock, and the newest one, One World Observatory, which opened in 2015 – some of them I’ve visited several times. So which one is the best observation deck in New York City? Read on to find out what I think are each observatory’s advantages, disadvantages, unique features and things to know before you visit.

Empire State Building: The Iconic One


Long gone are the times when the Empire State Building held the title of the highest building in the world – it was in fact the first building in the world to top 100 floors – but it is still the most iconic skyscraper in New York City, and the oldest observation deck. Today, the Empire State Building is still the 5th tallest skyscraper in the U.S. and the 28th highest building in the world. The Empire State Building’s observatory has been featured in dozens of movies and TV shows, and for most people this is the best observation deck in New York City simply because it is the most famous one.

The main observation deck is located on the 86th floor, and there is an additional observation deck on the 102nd floor, which you have to pay extra for. I personally wasn’t too fussed about the 102nd floor deck – you can barely call it that because in reality, it is a tiny space around the spire. Here you don’t have open-air vistas, as there are glass windows. While I thought it was unnecessary to go up there (and pay an additional $20 for it), my friend loved it. So, up to you if you want to spend $38 or $58 for the experience, I didn’t think the views from the 102nd floor were better than the ones from 86th floor, and the glass windows made it difficult to get pictures without glare / observation deck in New York City

Height: 1,250 feet (381 meters); 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) including its antenna

The actual observation decks are at a height of 1,050 feet / 320 meters (86th floor) and 1,224 feet / 373.1 meters (102nd floor) respectively.

Floor(s): Indoor and outdoor deck on the 86th floor, which is the highest floor in the actual tower. There is an additional observatory on the 102nd floor (see below for details of closure). The 16 floors between 86th and 102nd floor are empty (part of the prominent Art Deco spire, which is hollow).

Advantages: You have great views over Midtown Manhattan from here, and the viewing platforms are outdoors. That means you don’t have any windows to deal with, and no glare in your photos.

Disadvantages: The downside of the Empire State Building is that taking your photos atop this unique structure, it won’t feature in any of your observation deck in new york city


Admission: 86th floor observation deck: $38 general admission; $65 express ‘skip all lines’ pass; $55 for double admission, once in the AM and once in the PM (ideal to experience both the day and the night view); sunrise experience $125 (limited to 100 people per day)

If you want to go up to the 102nd floor, it’s an additional $20.

Address: 20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001. The main entrance is on Fifth Avenue.

Closest subway stations: 33rd Street (4, 5, 6 lines) 5 min walk; 28 St Broadway (R, W lines) 7 min walk; 34Street – Penn Station (1, 2, 3 lines) 7 min walk; 34 Street – Penn Station (A, C, E lines) 10 min walk. Times Square – 10 min walk. Grand Central Terminal – 15 min walk.

Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 2am. Additional hours at sunrise for a special sunrise experience (times vary depending on time of year).

Website: Empire State Building

One World Observatory: The New Kid On The Block


One World Observatory is located in the top three floors of One World Trade Center in NYC’s financial district, near the southern tip of Manhattan. The observatory was opened in May 2015, a few months after the skyscraper, which was built to replace the Twin Towers, was finished after nine years of construction.

One World Observatory is currently the 13th highest observation deck in the world. The elevator experience alone is worth checking out this observation deck: In only 60 seconds, you’re zoomed all the way up to 102 floor, and during the ride, you are entertained with visuals of the development of the New York skyline from the 1600s to today. Fun fact: Even though the building officially has 104 floors, the number of actual stories is 94. The two floors above the Skydeck, floors 103 and 104, as well as floors 91 to 99, are mechanical floors.

I wouldn’t say that this is the best observation deck in New York City, but if you’ve already done the other observatories and you want to get a different vantage point of the city, this one is for observation deck in new york city

Height: 1,776 feet (541.3 meters) – a symbolic height with a nod to the year 1776, in which the Declaration of Independence was written. The height includes the 408-foot spire, so the height of the actual observation deck is 1268.4 feet (386.6 meters).

Floor(s): 100 to 102nd floors

Advantages: This is the highest observation deck in New York City, considerably higher than the Empire State Building. That alone makes it the best observatory in New York City for many people. It also offers a different vantage point of the city: instead of being in the middle of the Midtown skyscrapers, you are surrounded by the higher buildings of the Financial District. On clear days, you have a great view of the entirety of Brooklyn, all the way down to Coney Island and the Rockaway Islands. From no other building in the city, you have such a fantastic view over the Bay Of New York, including Governors Island.

One World Observatory also offers views of the Brooklyn and the Manhattan Bridge as well as the Statue Of Liberty. This is something you cannot get on any of the other observation decks.

You can enjoy a glass of wine or prosecco with your view. There are a couple of concession stands inside the actual observatory where you can buy alcoholic beverages (and soft drinks).

Disadvantages: The observation deck is indoors, and while you have large floor to ceiling glass walls on all sides, it can be difficult to get photos without glare (especially if you want to be in the photos).

You have to buy your ticket for a specific time slot – so head to the tower with ample time to make your selected time slot. Only the entering time is set, by the way. Once you’re inside the observation deck, you can stay for as long as you observation deck in new york city

In this photo, you can see the glare I mention, caused by the window reflection


Admission: $34 general admission; $44 admission with priority line; $54 with priority line and flexible arrival time.

Note that if you choose general admission, you have to select a specific time slot for your visit.

Address: One World Trade Center, 285 Fulton Street, New York 10007

The entrance is on West Street.

Closest subway stations:World Trade Center (E train) 6 min walk; Park Place (2, 3 lines) 7 min walk; WTC Cortlandt Street (1 train) 2 min walk; Cortlandt Street (R, W) 6 min walk; Fulton Street (4,5,A, C, J, Z, 2, 3) 8 min walk.

Opening Times:

  • Sept. 5 – Dec. 20: 9:00am – 9:00pm (last ticket sold at 8:15pm)
  • Dec. 21 – Jan. 3: 8:00am – 8:00pm (be aware of special holiday hours)
  • Jan. 4 – April 30: 9:00am – 9:00pm (last ticket sold at 8:15pm)
  • May 1 – Sept. 4: 8:00am – 9:00pm (last ticket sold at 8:45pm)

Please note that there are adjusted Holiday hours on all major Holidays, such as Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas – check the website if your visit falls on a Holiday.

Website: One World Observatorybest observation deck in new york city

Top Of The Rock: The One That Has It All


The Top Of The Rock is the observatory atop the Comcast Building. Not a lot of people know the building by this name – by most it is referred to simply as 30 Rock, short for its address 30 Rockefeller Plaza. From 1933 to 1988, the building was known as the CA Building, from 1988 to 2015 as the GE Building, and ever since as the Comcast Building. Many people know the building as the home of NBC Studios, and it is here where popular TV shows such as Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Seth Myers and the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon are taped.

The 66-story building is only the 22nd tallest building in New York City and 400 feet (122 meters) shorter than the Empire State Building – the observation deck is 200 feet (61 m) lower than that of the ESB. And yet it is my personal favorite of all the observation decks. And that’s simply for two reasons: It’s the only observation deck in New York City that offers a view of Central Park, and you also have the Empire State Building featured in your panorama pictures, which you obviously don’t have when you’re standing on top of the ESB. Since that one is the most iconic skyscraper in NYC though, I like having it featured in my observation deck in New York CityIf you prefer a dinner or a cocktail 65 floors above the streets of Manhattan, you can also opt for one of two restaurants inside the Rockefeller Center: The Rainbow Room, which reopened in 2014 after extensive renovations, and bar SixtyFive, which is part of the restaurant. It’s worthwhile to splurge on a pricey drink (expect to pay around $20 for a cocktail) instead of paying for the observation deck, especially if you decide to check out one of the other observatories..

***Note that both the Rainbow Room and SixtyFive are only open from 5pm to midnight, and CLOSED on Saturdays, and sometimes closed for private events, so definitely check your preferred date. It’s also recommended to make a reservation. Also note that there is a strict dress code.***

Height: 872 feet (266 meters)

Floor(s): The three-level observation deck spreads out over three floors: 67th, 69th and 70th.

Advantages: As stated above: you have the Empire State Building in your photos, and you can see almost the entire Central Park. Plus, you’re right above Midtown, which is the part of Manhattan with the largest number of skyscrapers and tall buildings, making for an interesting vantage point. Part of the observation deck is outside, which means you get great photos without any glare.

Disadvantages: The observation deck is located at a lower height than the Empire State Building and One World Observatory.


Admission: $36 general admission; $54 special Sun & Stars tickets which allows you to visit twice within 24 hours, once during the day and once at night. $92 VIP Access (skip the line, no set time).

Note: You have to choose an exact time slot for your visit, unless you purchase the VIP ticket (for which you have to select the date, but not an exact time).

I recommend the ‘Flexible Date Ticket’ because if it rains or if it’s cloudy on the day you chose for your visit, your screwed. With the flexible date ticket you can visit the Observatory whenever the weather is best.

Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, NY 10112. You can access the building from 5th and 6th Ave. The entrance is on 50th Street.

Nearest subway stations: The subway station 47-50 Streets Rockefeller Center on the B, D, F, M lines is literally right underneath the building.

Other subway stations are: 5 Avenue / 53 St (E & M) 7 min walk; 49 Street (N, Q, R, W) 4 min walk; Times Square is a 10-min walk away; Grand Central Terminal is about 12 mins away.  

Opening Hours: Daily from 8am – midnight. Last elevator up at 11:00pm.

Website: Top Of The Rock Observation Deckbest observation deck in New York City

Rooftop bars vs observatories

As I mentioned above, NYC also has plenty of rooftop bars, and particularly those in Manhattan offer excellent views of New York City. None of the rooftop bars are as high as the observatories, however, which means you don’t get the same vantage point. You also don’t get a full panoramic view, because most of the bars are located on one side of building, rather than covering the entire rooftop.

If you want to check out some of the best rooftop bars, here are some recommendations:

  • Bar 54 (54th floor, on top of the Hyatt Hotel Times Square); 135 W 45th St, NY 10036
  • Monarch rooftop (18th floor, great Empire State Building views); 71 W 35th St, NY 10018,
  • Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel (30th floor); 145 E 50th Street, NY 10022
  • The Skylark (30th floor, Mondays – Fridays only); 200 W 39th St, NY 10018
  • The Crown (21st floor, on top of 50 Bowery Hotel); 50 Bowery Street, NY 10013
  • The Heights (31st floor, on top of the Arlo Hotel, this one has a glass bottom); 11 E 31st St, NY 10016
  • Rooftop bar on top of Pod39 Hotel (17th floor); 145 E 39th St, NY 10016
  • PHD Lounge (15th floor, atop the Dream Hotel Downtown); 355 W 16th St, NY 10011

Also check out this comprehensive list of 41 New York rooftop bars; or the 17 best New York rooftop bars as chosen by Conde Nast Traveler.

Have you visited any of New York’s observation decks or rooftop bars? Which one is your favorite?

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