At the top of Central Park

I tend not to spend much time on weekends in Manhattan. It’s not that there aren’t great things to do in Manhattan – there are, and I’ve written about them. But when you spend a solid hour and a half commuting Monday through Friday, sometimes on the weekend, you need a break.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

But this weekend I made the trek, and not just my normal trek to downtown, or to midtown for a show. I headed up to 110thStreet and Central Park West. My friend and I both had parties to go to that evening around 100th Street on the east side of the park, so we met up at a café near the northwest corner, got something to eat and drink, and had a nice chat. On my way to meet her I stopped to snap a few photos of St. John the Divine. Sometime I’ll go back and take some pictures of the interior, since when I was there seven years ago it was under renovation.

 After we ate, we meandered into the park to make our way across and slightly south. I’d only ever seen this bit of Central Park from a bike, so it was neat to explore a little and see what the north end has to offer. It was definitely way less touristy than the southern end of the park, which is in itself a recommendation.
There’s a lake, and a swimming pool, and some really gorgeous little gardens. Some of the buildings we could spot along the east border of the park were pretty too. We passed a man in a tux, hands in his pockets and blowing bubble gum, and then a wedding party, out for photos. We assumed the man wasn’t the groom…

 We got turned around a little as we left the park because some streets dead-end at the train line up there, but eventually we both made it to our parties. It was a really lovely outing, made better by the fact that despite some threatening rain clouds, we didn’t get wet.
 This doesn’t count as my “getting lost” outing (I really need to do that soon) since my friend knew where we were, but it was great to wander through an area of the city that I hadn’t explored before. Are there any parts of Central Park, or any other park, that you’ve stumbled upon and loved?



Walking the High Line

I can’t believe I haven’t written about the High Line before. It’s been five years since I first walked it with friends, when I was an intern, and fell in love with it. But if I’m being honest, the reason I haven’t written about it is that I’m not sure I’ve walked it since I started writing this blog. I know, it’s crazy – how can a place be one of my favorites in New York if I haven’t been there in a year? But the High Line is pretty far west, and not the easiest place to get to by public transit. I walked there last night from my office and it took me about half an hour – only ten minutes longer than the subway option would have taken me.

But it’s worth the hassle it can be to get there, because this above ground subway line-turned-park is gorgeous. The buildings that surround it are interesting, and the contrast between the green trees and plants and the buildings is the perfect level for an urban park. It reminds me a little of Bryant Park, except the focus of the High Line is walking.

I went last night with a friend and we walked along the whole length, and much of the way back, stopping along the way for a gelato and a drink. There were people sitting at benches and on the grass all along the High Line, but there was also the steady stream of people strolling. We strolled, and talked, and I took these pictures to remember what a beautiful summer night out can look like.

I love the spot where you can turn around and see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, tiny but present, and the spot nearby where you can sit at a window overlooking the street and watch the traffic in front of you.
Part of the path was wet, maybe from irrigation for the plants, and kids and adults were cooling off their feet.

If you’re interested in the history of the High Line (or, you know, how to get there), you can read more about it here. If you want to read a beautiful children’s book about places like the High Line, pick up a copy of The Curious Garden by Peter Brown.

Lazy writing, or, forgetting the details

Sometimes I write these posts in a bit of a hurry. Life is busy, time gets away from me, and it’s the night I’m supposed to post and I have nothing written yet. When I first started the blog (almost a year ago!), I had a few entries in the bank, which was an excellent plan. I also had a list of topics I might someday write about. The bank is now empty, and while there are a few items still on the list, mostly I come up with new topics on the spot. Often, now, they’re timely: I write about something I just did or just heard about.

But when rushing to get something written, sometimes I summarize instead of really taking time to show what an experience was like. So, without further ado, five details that got left out of recent blog posts!
1.       The Empire State Building. On my recent trip up the Empire State Building, I found that while we didn’t stand around waiting in line for very long, it did take some time to get to the top. This was partly because, in order to accommodate the lines that are usually there, there are some hallways you have to walk through. Some of these hallways have rope barricades that zigzag back and forth. These are surely very practical when there are a bunch of people, but for us they were like low hurdles: after zigzagging a couple times, we just started hopping over them. On the way out, we had almost made it the elevators when someone told us we couldn’t go that way – and pointed us to the gift shop instead. Of course. They did have a pretty neat 4D puzzle of NYC there, though!
2.       Summer Streets. (Coming up this Saturday, 8/9, and next, 8/16) When I went to Summer Streets a couple years ago, my roommate ended up on rollerblades because the bike line was too long. What I didn’t mention was how we procured those rollerblades. Around Astor Place, she hopped on the subway to make her way up to 42nd where we thought there was a skate rental. I biked up to meet her there and along the way happened upon the skate rental, somewhere in the 30s. I guessed (wrongly) at her rollerblade size, checked out a pair, hung them over my handlebars, and met her up at 42nd. It’d been years since she rollerbladed, but she gamely put on the too-large blades and whizzed down the dark Park Ave tunnel ramp at Grand Central – and didn’t get hurt!
3.       Freestyle Love Supreme. Early on in the show, the beatboxer set up the beat in an unusual way. While beatboxing, he started miming out… something. What he was doing, we couldn’t quite tell. At one point he seemed to be pulling a heart out of a body (or maybe he was putting one in?), and then a helicopter came by, and then he seemed to have a soundboard that he was messing with. I honestly have no idea what was supposed to be happening, but the noises and gestures he was making were funny, so we all laughed, despite being confused.
4.       King Lear in Central Park. Lear’s fool was wonderful. He was so angry when Cordelia was sent away, and he chastises the king but also supports him. There was so much thought behind every line of his and every action, and my heart broke a little for him, watching him watch his king fall apart. The show runs till August 17, so if tragedy is up your alley, check it out!
5.       Getting lost in NYC. Easiest way to get lost: Let someone else navigate. If I’ve decided that I’m not making the directional decisions and I stop paying attention to where I am, it’s a lot easier for me to get turned around. I once walked around Prospect Park with a friend, before I’d spent much time there, and when we found ourselves back where we’d started I realized my sense of direction had utterly failed me – but I still had a lovely walk.

Going forward I hope to be a little less lazy and a little more detail-oriented with these posts, but I’m making no promises! Any posts or stories you’d like a few more details about?

Summertime in Bryant Park

I love parks – I write about them enough, don’t I? – but Bryant Park is a very special kind of park. As my friend said on Friday when we ate our pizza there before seeing a show, in Bryant Park you are still very much in the city. It’s ringed with tall buildings that you can see above the tree line, and it’s filled with people at all times, people who are sitting and reading or sunbathing or talking or doing yoga or doing nothing. There’s food to eat and a carousel to ride and an outdoor bar and ping pong tables and a library space – and space to just be, even in the midst of hundreds of other people. It’s only been that way for a little over twenty years, after a renovation that turned it from an unsafe space to a celebrated public asset – with public bathrooms worth raving about.

I’ve waxed poetic about Bryant Park before, I know. And if you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, or have ever talked to me about Bryant Park, you’ll have heard at least a bit of this story. So, sorry. But every time I go to Bryant Park, especially in the summer, I flash back to a summer night in July, a few years ago, when I came to NYC for an interview. It wasn’t for the job I ended up taking, but it was in my industry, and it had gone well. I’d met some friends for happy hour and the three of us had wandered over to Bryant Park afterward.

Summer nights are long in New York. The sun doesn’t set till about 8:30. That night years ago in Bryant Park, the light that was left before the sun went down, along with the streetlights and lights from nearby buildings – Times Square, after all, is very close – cast strange and lovely blue-tinted patterns across the pavement as I sat with two friends at a table under the trees. I looked around at the park, at the shadows, at my friends, and at the city around us, and thought, “Okay. I can do this.” A month or so later I moved to New York and I’ve been here ever since.


There’s a movie series, and like last summer I imagine there will even be dancing lessons, but what defines Bryant Park is that it’s a gathering place, whether you’re alone or with others. If you need time with nature, go get lost in Prospect Park. If you need to be reminded of how beautiful New York is in the summer, head to Bryant Park.

Free Saturday at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

My dad came to visit this weekend and on Saturday morning we knew we needed to spend time outside. It was a gorgeous day, in the upper seventies, and after brunch at a diner we wandered over to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Famous for its cherry blossom festival each spring, the Botanic Garden is located in the northeast part of Prospect Park, near the Brooklyn Museum and the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. When we got there, we made a lovely discovery: admission is free on Saturday mornings between 10 am and 12 pm.

We wandered into the park and found ourselves in the native flora section, where some of the bushes smelled like the ones we had in our old backyard. There were wide paths and narrow ones, and while we could hear traffic and catch an occasional glimpse of it, this little bit of woods could have almost been a trail in a park upstate. At the head of one of the narrow paths we came across a young couple and their tiny twin toddlers. One of the girls was walking sturdily along until she saw us, at which point she hid behind her mother’s leg.

We emerged out of the flora paths and passed a pond, complete with turtles and lily pads, then walked into the rose garden, my favorite part of the Botanic Garden. I took picture after picture, trying to capture the vibrant colors. There was a couple who looked to be taking engagement photos, and a little later a woman asked me to take a photo of her in front of the roses.

Alongside the rose garden was a beautiful lawn that I think was the esplanade where the cherry blossoms would have been in early spring. Families were sprawled out on the grass, and while you’re not supposed to bring food into the garden, it looked like a perfect place for a picnic – or at least for a quiet afternoon with a book.

Our last stops were the Japanese Tea Garden and the Shakespeare Garden. The pool of water the Japanese Tea Garden sat on was lovely, but the flowers in the Shakespeare Garden were lovelier. There’s also something especially neat about a garden populated with flowers and plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. I went to a Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park a few weeks ago, and while it was bigger, more like one of the private courtyards at the end of the movie Notting Hill, it didn’t have quite the impact that this smaller garden, packed with flowers, did.

There are other times when the Botanic Garden is free, so check out the website to plan your visit! Has anyone else spent any time there? What’s the best season to go?

Sunday in the park

It’s my first real Prospect Park Sunday ramble of spring. I’ve been here a couple times over the last few months on those weekends where we’ve gotten a taste of warm weather or sunshine, but today I’m in shorts and a t-shirt and flip flops.

I’m regretting the flip flops, but everything else was the right call.

I met up with a friend for pizza, then convinced her to put off her to do list for a little while and take a walk. We meandered from about 6th Street down to 15th and then she left to buy groceries and I walked down to the lake.

The lake is my favorite part of the park, probably because it was the first part I really got to know. My roommate and I used to bike down from Clinton Hill, and when you’re riding the bike loop, the lake is a perfect place to stop and take a breather.

Today I’m sitting on a bench right near the water. On any other day this summer that’s not the first lovely Sunday we’ve had, this little nook might be a quiet spot, but I had a lucky break finding this empty seat – and now there’s a kid standing directly in front of me, maybe two feet away, fishing.


There’s also a large group of kids with a couple of moms standing nearby, and now the fisher boy’s dad or grandpa is sitting next to me. I’m a little annoyed, but as long as I don’t get hit with a pole it’s fine.

I’m glad, though, when the group of kids leaves. There are ten or so of us now and yet it’s much quieter. All the people noise is on the other side of the trees and hedges and I start to hear birdsong, and dogs barking, along with planes overhead and cars far away.

There’s an Eastern King bird flying over the lake. I only know because a dad pointed it out to his kids, noting the white fringe at the bottom of its tail. There are also geese, and ducks, and turtles sunning themselves on a log. If I watch the water carefully enough sometimes I spot a turtle poking its head above water and then going back under.

The sky is bright blue, fading to a paler color by the horizon, and what clouds there are seem delicate against the blue.

There’s a swan in the distance swimming alone, parallel to shore. It turns and now it’s swimming towards us slowly, looking side to side as if unconcerned with us and curious about better prospects. It sticks its head under the water, long neck bending, and when it comes back up it shakes its head like a dog. A few minutes later a black bird with orange on its tail starts dive-bombing the swan and the swan turns in circles a few times like it’s chasing its tail, before the bird leaves it alone and the swan swims away.

The man catches a fish and when he notices a girl, maybe eight years old, watching in fascination, he calls her over to look at it. She comes, but politely declines when he asks if she wants to throw it back for him.

My allergies are acting up a little, but not enough to make me leave. Not quite yet.

There’s a bird perched on the branch of a fallen tree, its wings spread like it’s trying to get a tan. I wish that dad would come back and tell me what it is.

The buoy floating nearby says, near as I can tell: “Danger Thin Ice.” They’ve got that right.

There’s a kid leaning over the water, his face six inches from the surface, and I’m relieved when he sits back up rather than toppling in. Once we saw parents hold a tiny toddler near the water to “meet” a swan and I wanted to go yell at them. Swans can be mean, and even if they aren’t, why put your kid that close to a wild animal?

A little boy wearing a Rainforest Café shirt has walked up, saying “Ducks!” and carrying a roll. He tosses pieces of it at the two ducks nearby, who ignore it at first. The woman next to me tells her children that there’s a sign saying not to feed the water fowl, and that while we can’t control what others do we can control what we do.

The quiet’s been broken – more people again, lots of talking. I’ll try putting my headphones on and reading for a bit, but it’s almost time to go home, and soon I do.

PS New piece for Effed in Park Slope here.

In the limbo between winter and spring

Yesterday I bundled up like it was winter again. The temperature was in the upper thirties in the morning today as well — not terribly cold when you figure in all the weeks of temps in the twenties and even the teens, but I pulled on my gloves and covered my ears like there was a Polar Vortex, because I don’t do well when the weather changes quickly. A thirty-degree drop in temperature or a quick shift from dry weather to wet can bring on an attack of the sneezes. A quick Google search shows I’m not the onlyone to deal with this.

So far I’m sniffle-free, with only a hint of a sore throat, so I’m hoping to stay allergy-free for a little while longer, but I’ve been thinking about the way the seasons impact my motivations.

I’ve been going to the gym on and off (mostly on!) since last summer, even through some of the very cold weeks this winter, but after experiencing the warmth of last week it’s been easy to give myself a pass these cold mornings. It should get easier as the weather gets nicer, but I’ve also known myself to become inert once the weather’s been nice for a while. Too many hot, busy days and I’ll stay at home in front of the AC even on a perfectly pleasant day because I’m too lazy to leave home.

I think this means I should always live somewhere that has seasons. If I lived someplace where the weather was nice all the time, I’d eventually get complacent and never leave the apartment, knowing I could always do it the next day. And if the weather was terrible all the time – well, you get the picture. I can be a bit of a homebody when left entirely to my own devices, so it’s good I have the contrasting seasons to remind me to step outside.

I’ll be getting out this weekend to go see a show with a friend, but I also want to take a walk and see how the tiny park near my apartment is doing. I spotted some daffodils last weekend; I hope the frost hasn’t hurt them. About a year ago, on a warm, sunny, April morning, I had an appointment to see my apartment for a second time and ultimately to put down a deposit. On my way over I walked by this tiny park. I’d walked by it many times before, but I’d never been there in spring, and I managed to catch it while it was in full bloom. There was a full palette of colors and flower varieties, and I just sat on a bench and took it all in. By the time I got to the apartment, my vision was a little rosy, and the sunlight streaming in through the windows didn’t hurt either. It was a good decision even so.

The temperature is supposed to climb back up to 63 degrees on Saturday. I can hardly wait.

Has everyone recovered from the winter? What are you most looking forward to about spring?

And, a post by me about that Toughest Job in the World video over at F’d in Park Slope.

When you need a restroom on 42nd Street…

I am something of an expert on NYC restrooms.

Okay, that is probably not true. But I am very good at finding restrooms, and I am very good at remembering where they are for future moments of need. You laugh, but when you live in Brooklyn and you’re wandering Manhattan, out-of-town friends in tow, knowing where to find a restroom can be pretty important. This means, of course, that I have a few favorite restrooms scattered across the city, and today I’m going to share two of them.

The first is in Bryant Park. You may have qualms about park restrooms —believe me, we all do—but the ones at the northeast corner of the park, on 42ndStreet, are unique. They are staffed by an attendant who makes sure they are clean, and the toilet seats have ROTATING SELF-DISENFECTING PLASTIC COVERS. You think I’m kidding? Stop by sometime when you’re on 42nd Street and need to pee. All in all, if the line isn’t too long and it’s not raining, it’s a good choice.

Another of my go to restrooms is just a minute down the street—inside the New York Public Library. If you slip in the side entrance on 42nd, you’ll find yourselves right near a ladies’ room (men, I’m sure there’s one nearby, but I’ve never looked). It’s a little dingy, but it’s also right near the library’s children’s room, where you can usually pay a visit to the original Winnie the Pooh and the rest of Christopher Robin’s stuffed animal friends. (I say usually because right now they’re on display in the Gottesman Exhibition Hall as part of the exhibit “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter”, which is there through September 7, 2014).

These two restrooms are clean, easy to find, and, importantly, don’t require buying a cup of coffee for entrance. They’re also conveniently located near many places that friends and family visiting from out of town want to check out, like Times Square, the library itself, Grand Central Terminal… you get the picture.

What are YOUR go-to public restrooms when you’re showing tourists around the city?

Along the Hudson on the Greenway

Sometimes I forget that Manhattan is an island. This is because I rarely see the water. I live less than a mile from water, and I have not yet walked down to see what it looks like by me, because I’m pretty sure it’s not pretty.

But that’s just near me! Plenty of New York is surrounded by beautiful water, and the closest I usually get to it is a few moments look as my train goes over the bridge on my commute. This is a shame.

Last summer I discovered the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, and while I haven’t taken advantage of it nearly often enough, I’m glad to know it’s there. According to Wikipedia the Greenway is 32 miles long. The part I’m most familiar with runs along the Hudson, and all along this cyclist/pedestrian path you can find green spaces that face the Hudson River.
There are parks, there are piers—there’s even the Frying Pan (pictured at left), an outdoor bar made up of a couple of old boats. Because the Hudson is on the west side of the city, it’s the perfect place to watch a sunset. I once walked from Battery Park, at the tip of Manhattan, all the way up to the Frying Pan at W. 26th Street with a friend, and every bit of the walk was beautiful. I biked all the way up to Riverside Park last summer, and the view from up there was just as gorgeous.
I already expressed my love of the Hudson when talking about the view from the train, but along the Greenway you are right beside the water. Visiting can include a long walk from the subway, but hopping on a bus is always an option. If you have free time while you’re on the west side some day, or you’re wandering the city with no destination in mind, consider walking west till you hit the water. You won’t be disappointed.

Has anyone checked out other parts of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway? What are your favorite bits? I think I’m going to have to start posting about indoor things soon—if anyone has suggestions of places off the beaten path to check out, let me know!

Visiting the Prospect Park zoo

There is a zoo in Prospect Park. I’m sure many people who live in Brooklyn know that. I know that. But while I’ve meandered around the park a fair bit, and seen signs for it, I’d never been there till this past Sunday. And now I can officially say, it’s worth the visit!

I would, however, suggest approaching the zoo from its Flatbush Ave entrance, rather than trying to find it from inside the park. My friend and I didn’t have too much trouble, once we were officially heading to the zoo, but we did notice that the signs pointing toward various attractions in the park did not always seem to point at paths at all, and sometimes the paths they pointed to did not make sense given the map that was usually posted nearby. So you’ve been warned.
Admission for adults is $8 (compared to $23 for the Bronx Zoo, a price I learned from the loud, odd, and impatient guy behind us in line, who I overheard talking to his friend). I wondered as we went in if I’d feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth. I definitely did.
In the center of the zoo is a large habitat for sea lions. There was an adult pair, and two or three babies. The babies would jump out of the water and then go back under immediately, so it was hard to keep count of them. The adults pushed themselves up onto the side of their pool to look at people, like in the photo above. I wanted to watch to see if one of the babies would stay out of the water long enough for a good photo, but after a few unsuccessful minutes we decided to check out the Discovery Trail.
The Discovery Trail has some great structures for kids to climb on or take pictures in (including prairie dog-inspired glass bubbles in the prairie dog habitat; unfortunately we saw no prairie dogs). There’s also an aviary, peacocks, adorable otters, dingoes, and of course, the famous red pandas. I believe there are two red pandas, though we only saw the one. It paced around its enclosure, following a well-worn track. It did not, unfortunately, show off its climbing skills, except for climbing onto a stump.
We also saw emus. I wondered why they were separated by a fence, until it became clear that they were having great success annoying each other in spite of the fence.
There were ducks, and swans, and turtles, and if that had been that, it still would have been a very satisfying day at the zoo. But then we visited the Animal Lifestyles and Animals in Our Lives houses, where we saw a Pallas’s cat, a White-faced Scops owl, frogs, geckos, meerkats, and a family of baboons.

Then it was off to the Barn, where we visited a number of sheep, a miniature pony, goats, and alpacas. You could buy feed for a quarter and give the animals a treat—some of the goats were especially excited to eat what visitors had to offer.

As it started to rain, we headed toward the exit, pausing long enough to see some more exotic birds and pick up a snack for the road. The bus picked us up just across the street on Flatbush, making the trek home pretty easy. All in all it was a stellar outing, and I’d highly recommend it to people with kids—and people without. I know I’ll be back, especially in the warmer weather!
Has anyone been to the other NYC zoos run by the Wildlife Conservation Society? What are some highlights?