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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 Knoxville.com.

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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.nyc marathon finish line

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.

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 Booking.com – I recommend Booking.com 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.

Hostel

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. 

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 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.

What to bring for 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.

dani nyc marathon 2018 running pouch waist belt
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 more.nyc 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…

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.

Why?

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.

Eat!

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

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 race 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.IMG_7053

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

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

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).nyc marathon finish line 2018

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):

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 walk.new 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

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 😊

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

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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. 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 THREE observation decks – and as soon as 30 Hudson Yards opens in 2020, even a fourth one (here’s a sneak peek!).

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.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been atop all three 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. Read on to find out what I think are each observatory’s advantages, disadvantages, unique features and things to know before you visit. Here is my complete rundown of what’s the best observatory in New York City:

Empire State Building: The Iconic One

Overview

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 most people chose this one 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 / reflections.

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 photos.

Details

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

Overview

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.

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 want.

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

Details

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 Observatory

Top Of The Rock: The One That Has It All

Overview

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 photos.Manhattan view from Top of the RockIf 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.

Details

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 Deck

https://www.flickr.com/photos/globetrottergirls/23039523432/

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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Polaroid Of The Week: Manhattan’s Skyline From The Water

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One thing I wanted to make a priority this year was spending time in New York City. After traveling for almost eight months in 2017 and barely spending any time in my adopted hometown, this year I wanted to take advantage of everything New York has to offer, especially during the warmer months: free outdoor movies, concerts, kayaking, rooftop bars, picnics in the park, beaches, island getaways, and exploring parts of the city I’d never been to. While I feel like I succeeded in some of these things, others got completely neglected, and I only made a small dent in my ‘New York Summer To-Do List’ that I created in the spring. Well, I guess there’s always next year..

Looking back at the summer, among my favorite days were a lazy day picnicking and cycling on Governors Island (a small tranquil island just south of Manhattan with great skyline views), taking in New York from above from both the Empire State Building and One World Observatory, relaxing beach days in the Rockaways, an island getaway to Fire Island (off of Long Island), and more recently a quick ferry ride over to Staten Island to visit a microbrewery I’ve had on my ‘to-do-list’ for a while.

I usually take the ferry every time I have visitors in town, because it is free and it offers some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline, pictured above, especially during the Golden Hour, just before the sun sets. But for some reason, I hadn’t gone a single time this summer, even though I had a long list of things I wanted to do in Staten Island (I admit that most of them included pizza).

I figured taking the ferry would also be a good mental preparation for the marathon – in less than three weeks, I will be taking the ferry again, then to get me to the starting line of the New York Marathon. Running 26.2 miles across the five boroughs has been a dream of mine for years, and I am stoked (and slightly terrified!) that I’ll be running it this year, among 50,000 other runners. Admittedly, I am feeling anything but prepared right now, but I will continue to follow my strict training plan and hope for a great race day on 4 November.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Hiking the dramatic cliffs of Gertrude’s Nose

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Just a couple of days after returning to New York, I found myself at Grand Central Terminal, ticket in hand and ready to board a train to New Hamburg, a small town on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

This wasn’t going to be a long trip, but even a couple of days away from the city are enough for me to recharge my batteries, and I was on a mission to clear my head with another great hike, after all the fantastic hikes I did in Tennessee last month.

The Lower Hudson Valley has enough hikes to keep me busy (and in shape!) for the next few years, but somehow I haven’t made it up there one single time since a long day hike last summer.

We consulted our hiking guide book to find a great day hike and finally settled on a trail inside the Minnewaska State Park preserve: the 7-mile Gertrude’s Nose Trail with a detour to Lake Minnewaska.

The hike started off fairly easy, on a gravel road, until we turned off the road onto a smaller trail. The entire morning we didn’t see a single other person, and the first sign that we weren’t the only ones in the woods were fresh bear tracks which made me slightly nervous. For the next couple of hours, we followed the path along the edge of steep cliffs, always overlooking the vast forest that was surrounding us. It never ceases to amaze me how close I am to so much untouched nature – just a couple of hours north of New York City.

We walked for over three hours until we ran into another pair of hikers, and only when we got closer to Awosting Falls, we started seeing more people, who had taken the shorter trail to the Falls, which we would use to conclude our loop and get back to the parking lot. The waterfalls were nice, but there wasn’t enough water when we went to make them as impressive as they would be after heavy rains, and so we didn’t spend a lot of time lingering there. Instead we decided to make a little detour on the way down and stop by Lake Minnewaska, which we’d seen in the distance at the beginning of the lake and which was now calling us for a quick dip. When we reached the lake, we were sweaty and hot, and we didn’t waste much time – we took our clothes off and ran straight into the lake for a quick dip. I am not sure if this was allowed, but it sure was refreshing!

We left Minnewaska State Park talking about possible fall hikes – not long until the fall foliage hits peak season, and I hope I’ll get to go upstate to see it when the colors are spectacular.

Looking for a fall foliage getaway in the U.S. this year? Here’s a great fall foliage forecast & map.

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Polaroid Of The Week: Austin, Texas

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Last week I returned to one of my favorite cities in the U.S.: Austin! This was my second trip to Austin this year, after a long weekend in February (which was a great escape from the East Coast winter back then). My main reason for this visit was a travel conference, the inaugural TravelCon, which brought 80 speakers and 600 attendees to Austin, and which turned out to be fantastic. (You’ll definitely see me at the next one in Boston in June 2019). But I also wanted to make sure I’d have time to visit all my favorite food haunts and places around the city, and so I booked flights that allowed me to spend three days pre- and three days post-conference in Austin.

And how glad am I that I decided to fly in early – as soon as the conference started, I was busy attending workshops, talks and keynote speeches, attending meet-ups and parties, and bad weather arrived in Austin. While it was still hot and humid, it was overcast and rainy, and a post-conference day trip that I’d been very much looking forward even had to be canceled, because of the high level of bacteria in the water at Hamilton Pool, where I was supposed to go yesterday. But I guess that gives me an excuse for another trip to Texas – that along with my failed trip to Big Bend in 2016.

TravelCon, the conference that brought me to Austin last week, felt like a high school reunion. Among my fellow speakers were some of my favorite blogging buddies (Shannon of A Little Adrift, Dalene and Pete of Hecktic Travels, Laurence of Finding The Universe, Jeremy of TravelFreak) and fellow bloggers I’ve been following for several years but never had the chance to meet in person, such as Kiersten of The Blonde Abroad, AngieAway or Kristin of Be My Travel Muse. I got to catch up with Wandering Earl, Audrey and Dan of Uncornered Market, Cailin of TravelYourself, Alex In Wanderland, Amanda of A Dangerous Business, Matt of Expert Vagabond … to name just a few… and to listen to some inspiring talks, even though I missed the one I was most excited about – internet marketer Pat Flynn’s talk, the man I owe it to that I started making money blogging in the first place.

I missed his talk because it took place at the same time I spoke about LGBT Travel Blogging with my blogger BFF Adam. As every conference I ever went to, I left feeling motivated and inspired by the workshops and presentations of my peers, the success stories of the people I met, and the travel industry professionals I had the chance to network with. It still blows my mind to see how far the travel blogging industry has come since the early days in 2010, when Globetrottergirls was launched.

Before the conference started I managed to check out the latest street art at Hope Outdoor Gallery, I went to Barton Springs (a large swimming pool fed by natural springs), I watched hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from their hiding place underneath Congress Ave Bridge at sunset, I tried out Austin’s awesome new dockless bike sharing system and the new dockless scooters (I preferred the bikes because whizzing around Austin on the scooters was fun but I felt lazy) and I made sure to hit up all my favorite taco places (Veracruz Natural and Pueblo Viejo) as well as my beloved Gourdough Doughnuts. To offset all the tacos and other delicious food I ate, I did some stand-up paddle-boarding and I went for long runs along the Colorado River, finishing strong with a 28k (17 miles) run yesterday (I should probably mention that I am training for the New York marathon, I am not crazy!).

Every time I run along the river and Lady Bird Lake I marvel at how active Austinotes are – kayaking, standup paddle-boarding, running or cycling – and how many of them exercise with their dogs. And every time I see this it makes me think I should just get a puppy and move to Austin. But I am not ready to leave New York just yet – in fact, after enjoying the extension of my summer thanks to the glorious Texas heat, I am ready to return to New York and take in the fall colors before leaving for my next trip in a few weeks.

If you go:

Here’s my guide for 48 Hours In Austin

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Polaroid Of The Week: Nashville’s Famous Broadway

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To kick off my late summer travels, I flew down to Nashville, Tennessee, a city I’ve been wanting to visit ever since watching The Thing Called Love with Sandra Bullock and River Phoenix in 1993. In recent years I kept hearing great things about the city, and after only one quick stop in Memphis years ago, I was excited to finally visit Nashville and to see more of Tennessee. Because Nashville was just the jumping-off point for a Tennessee road trip, or if I want to be 100% precise I should say Tennessee & North Carolina road trip because adding Asheville and the Great Smoky Mountains to our itinerary meant dipping into Tennessee’s eastern neighbor state for a few days.

Nashville did not disappoint – even though the famous Broadway lined with honky-tonks and bars felt a bit tacky, I enjoyed popping my head in some of them and lingering for a while in those that had great live music.

I was glad though that we had time to explore Nashville beyond its famous music district, and got to see striking mural art in various neighborhoods, the famous Parthenon (a full-size replica of the original Parthenon in Athens), check out some micro-breweries and even take a quick side trip to Franklin, a historic town with beautiful Antebellum homes just south of Nasheville.

If you go…

Don’t miss:

  • A Bushwacker, Nashville’s famous boozy milkshake. Apparently Edley’s Bar-B-Que has the best ones, and on Wednesdays they’re only $5!
  • Bearded Iris Brewing if you like craft beer
  • Live music on Broadway – Tootsies Orchid Lounge is the most famous one
  • 21c Museum Hotel for great art inside a hotel
  • Biscuit Love for a great Southern brunch
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Last-Minute, Low-Budget Niagara Falls Itinerary

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As the largest and most magnificent waterfalls in North America, Niagara Falls rightfully holds a place on most people’s travel bucket lists. Yet, due to centuries of world fame, the destination has become a popular tourist attraction, bringing in more than 30 million visitors every year. As a result, Niagara Falls isn’t always ideal for the globetrotter: Prices can be high, and reservations can be necessary.american falls and bridal veil fallsFortunately, it is possible to see the best of Niagara Falls on a whim and on a budget. Here’s how you can see the most of these famous waterfalls and the surrounding countryside on a short, affordable trip to Niagara:

Stay Close to the Falls

Since you likely don’t have much time to explore the whole Niagara region, you should try to find accommodations close to the action. On the Canadian side of the falls, there are a number of affordable, deluxe hotels and resorts within walking distance of major attractions, and many of these accommodations boast rooms with outstanding views. I highly recommend the Marriott on the Falls, which is the closest hotel to Niagara Falls and offers award-winning amenities, including a spa and an upscale restaurant. Plus, you can usually find last-minute bookings for low prices because major hotels like Marriott are eager to fill their rooms.niagara falls

Invest in a Niagara Falls Trip Package

During a last-minute vacation, you don’t have time to waste trying to plan an itinerary, compare prices or perform other preliminary research on your destination. Therefore, it is likely worth your money to buy a vacation package, which will include admission to various attractions as well as some meals during your trip. Because Niagara Falls is a popular tourist destination, you have hundreds of tour packages to choose from, but I suggest choosing one offered through your hotel. These will be more convenient, often including transportation to and from different attractions. Marriott’s Niagara Falls, Canada vacation packages include family-friendly waterpark days, adult casino nights, wine-tastings, luxurious breakfasts, spa services and more.niagara falls american falls &mist from river

Decide How to Get Around At Niagara Falls

As long as you stay in the heart of the tourist areas of Niagara Falls, Canada, you won’t have to worry too much about transportation – you can just use your two feet. Major attractions like Queen Victoria Park, the Rainbow Bridge and boat tours are easily accessible by pedestrians. If you want to venture slightly farther afield, perhaps to the wineries of the Niagara countryside, you might consider renting a bike or even signing up for a cycling tour of Niagara’s vineyards.Niagara Wine countryIf neither of these sounds appealing, you shouldn’t opt for a rental car just yet. Niagara also boasts a unique visitor transportation system called WEGO, which connects hotels with all major attractions in the Niagara area, from Niagara-on-the-Lake in the north to the Floral Showhouse in the south. For two days of unlimited rides, you pay only $12.50 per adult or $9 per child between 6 and 12 years. That’s a steal compared to rental car prices, which can be upwards of $25 per day – and that’s for compact models.

Can’t-Miss Niagara Attractions

Now that you have your logistics sorted, you can focus on the fun. Niagara Falls has grown into a tourist’s playground, filled with adventures and excitement that can last weeks, so if your time is limited, you will have to pick and choose from the following list of low-budget activities you can’t miss.niagara falls horseshoe falls

Niagara parks and gardens. Queen Victoria Park offers the best view of Niagara Falls, but you can also mosey around Dufferin Islands, Niagara Glen, and the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens to see beautiful scenery.

Clifton Hill. Playing any arcade games will cost you a few quarters, but you can also enjoy the lights and action of the iconic Street of Fun for free.niagara falls canada ripleys

Niagara Falls History Museum. If your last-minute trip coincides with a Thursday evening, you can get into this museum free of charge. Exhibits include the history of Niagara Falls, especially the region’s role in the War of 1812.

Niagara Falls Farmer’s Market. Niagara is one of the must productive regions in Canada, bringing forth bushels of fresh produce. You can sample the fare at local farm-to-table restaurants, or you can create your own culinary masterpieces by picking up ingredients at the Farmer’s Market, open 6 A.M. to noon on Saturdays.niagara wine country fruit stand

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Guide to a Romantic Stay in Miami

Beach

Miami is one of the most romantic cities in the United States. With crystal clear oceans, luxury beachside resorts, and some of the best nightlife in the world, it’s hard to go wrong with a romantic stay in Miami. Whether you’re visiting Miami for the first time or you’re practically a local, there are a lot of ways to make your stay in Miami special for you and your partner. Read on for a guide to having the best romantic stay in Miami.MIAMI SKYLINES | 2016

When is the best time to visit?

When you think of Miami you probably think of white sand beaches and walking along South Beach. Those are definitely some of the best sights in Miami, but you might be surprised if you visit them during the wrong time of year. Miami is a popular destination, and that means millions of tourists flock to these favorite spots each year. There’s nothing romantic about fighting through crowds or having groups of people in the backgrounds of your romantic photos with your partner! Avoid the crowds by visiting Miami in the off months. That means skipping popular times of the year like in the winter and over Spring Break. It might be hotter in the summer, but you’ll have much more time to yourself!

Planning romantic activities with your partner

When you visit with your partner, you want to have the best activities planned to make the most of your time together in Miami. You can go as elaborate or as simple as you want in Miami! Relaxing on the beach counts as an activity, right? If you want to spend your time on the beach, consider renting a beachside cabana from one of the resorts so you can lounge the day away with your special someone. For more excitement, go further into the city and explore the many unique neighborhoods like Little Havana or Bayside. Don’t forget about Miami’s diverse food scene! Miami is home to some of the best restaurants in the country, and this is the perfect place to plan a romantic date night! It’s also fun to get out of the city for a bit and see what else South Florida has to offer. There are a lot of great day trips you can take like kayaking through the Everglades or even traveling down to Key West!

Finally, no trip to Miami would be complete without taking in the nightlife! With so many bars and clubs spotting the South Beach streets, it’s impossible to see it all in one trip. Whether you prefer cozy beachside bars or multi-level dance clubs, there’s a party for you in Miami! It’s so much fun, you’ll never want to go home!

Stay in luxury with the right hotel

Miami has so many luxurious resorts and hotels, it’s no wonder so many of the rich and famous spend their free time in this city. For a romantic stay, you can’t go wrong with a romantic hotel with in-room jacuzzi in Miami Beach! Choose from the best hotels in the world and really experience the ultimate luxury in Miami! You and your partner deserve the best quality so you can have a great time together both in Miami and beyond!

Enjoy your romantic stay in Miami!

Miami, Florida is really one of the most exciting cities in the world. It’s known for its international culture, luxurious style, and gorgeous beaches! All these factors and more make Miami the perfect destination for you and your partner to enjoy a romantic getaway. Whether you’re celebrating your honeymoon or your first weekend away together, Miami is guaranteed to take your breath away!miami beach ocean rescue lifeguard tower

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Miami Skyline by Robin Mehdee; (2) Miami by Peter Jakobs; (3) Miami at night by Ferd Brundick; (4) Miami Beach Rey Perezoso

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Why Go on a Tour of Central Park When You are Visiting NYC?

Central Park lake

When you think of New York City, you probably picture the soaring skyscrapers of Manhattan and the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Times Square. But this bustling metropolis is also home to one of the most famous urban parks in the world: Central Park. Spanning an astonishing 843 acres, this beautiful common area has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, and is up for placement on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.central park summer 2015As such, the park is a must-see destination while you are in the Big Apple. Indeed, 35 million visitors explore its lakes, ponds, cottages, and other attractions every year. Nonetheless, it remains a great place to get away from the crowds.

There are many ways you can discover the delights of Central Park. You can venture out on a Central Park suggested walk, or you can take a Central Park carriage tour. But perhaps the best Central Park tours are the pedicab tours.

Why Consider Central Park Pedicab Tours?

If you have never been in a pedicab, it is like a small hooded vehicle driven by a guide on a bicycle. On a pedicab, you are able to travel more quickly than you could on a Central Park self-guided walking tour, but you can ride along the same routes, touring the major sites and enjoying the fresh air. Your guide will provide you with interesting facts along the way, adding to your knowledge and enriching your experience.

Could you ride a bicycle on your tour of Central Park?  Sure, but you would miss out on the chance to chat with a well-informed guide. You also would expend more energy, and there is a lot to see and do in the park. So you will want to conserve your energy for the various sites and activities you will encounter along the way.

Here are just a few of the famous spots that you can explore on the best Central Park pedicab tours:

  • Bethesda Terrace and Fountain: This famous location has been featured in numerous TV shows and movies.
  • Tisch Children’s Zoo: At this park, children (and the young at heart) can pet and feed animals such as sheep, goats and pigs.
  • Dairy: This beautiful structure in the Gothic revival style was constructed in 1870. Here you can view exhibits on the history and architecture of Central Park.
  • Victorian Gardens: This outdoor amusement park is like a year-round carnival. It’s the perfect place to bring small children.
  • Belvedere Castle: This legendary folly combines Romanesque and Gothic architecture and looks like a miniature castle. In it you can view exhibits and also climb to an observation deck where you can survey the park.
  • Conservatory Garden: This formal garden covers six acres and combines English, French and Italian styles. Those who are looking for a quiet place to relax can enjoy a peaceful stroll among the fragrant blossoms.

You can also stop by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Natural History. These are some of the world’s most renowned museums, featuring stunning collections of artwork and scientific specimens.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Central Park however is its simple beauty. No matter where you go on your tour, you will be surrounded in lush greenery and breathtaking tranquillity. With the New York skyline rising over the dense foliage and spacious lawns, you will experience many picture-perfect moments and your pedicab guide will be standing by ready to help you capture them.Central Park pedicab rates are quite reasonable, and it is up to you to decide on the pace of your tour and the length of time you want to spend in the park. You can head out for anywhere from one to four hours either on your own or with one or two other people. Lately, the Gossip Girl Sites Tour in a pedicab has been favored among teens.

While the neon lights of Times Square and the colorful markets of Chinatown have their draw, many visitors to NYC say upon returning home that their time exploring Central Park was the highlight of their trip. Where else can you get away from it all while still being right in the heart of everything? So check into Central Park pedicab tours. There is no better way to see America’s most famous urban park!

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