Walking Directions: Tips for Seeing New York on Foot

Many readers arrive on this site looking for help with directions in New York City, especially the distances between transit Point A (Penn Station, Port Authority, Grand Central, etc.) to well-known landmarks or neighborhoods (Rockefeller Center, MoMA, Greenwich Village, etc.) They want to know how long it would take to walk from place to place or if such a walk is even possible. Smart people do not want to wear themselves out.

Walking in New York can be immensely pleasurable, but it sometimes helps to review some of the prominent features of our urban geography before setting out. Tips for walking in the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn are included here. Other boroughs will be added later. The pace of walking varies from person to person, but from my own experience, it takes about 30 minutes to walk a mile in New York, accounting for stop lights and quick window browsing.


• Walking 20 streets uptown or downtown in Midtown generally covers a distance of approximately one mile. Doing the math means that walking 10 streets generally measures a 1/2 mile. Walking from W. 33rd St. north to W. 53rd Street along 8th Avenue, for example, a distance of 20 blocks, measures one mile.

• Walking the long crosstown streets, especially on the west side, is another matter and seems endless in comparison to walking uptown or downtown. Walking three longer blocks crosstown equals about .5 miles. 6 crosstown blocks in Midtown along the avenues = 1 mile. The important exceptions are the distances between the avenues on the east side: 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue, Park Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and 3rd Avenue. These are shorter.

Let's look at this map. Look familiar? It's the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route, a distance of about 2.67 miles. By looking at the map, it's easy to visualize the streets flying by while walking uptown or downtown along the avenues. Even when not on a float and waving to people, this is a pleasant walk.

View An Unofficial Guide to Macy's Parade Route in a larger map

• But none of these measurements will help with measuring distances in the off-grid circular world of Greenwich Village and in other older areas of Manhattan. You are on your own.

• Village Directions Quiz: OK, I've written about this in another post, but let's say you're sitting on a park bench in First Park at the corner of E. 1st St. and 1st Avenue, and then someone calls you on the phone and says they want to meet you in an hour at the Chelsea Market. Well, that's not exactly close. The market is on the west side near 9th Avenue and W. 15th Street, and it's going to take some thought about how to get there. You could take the subway - the F to W. 4th and then transfer to a C to 14th Street, but it's a nice day for a walk. You'll tell the person that you will be there. Quiz: How to get there?

Two answers:
1. Walk in a zigzag pattern from 1st and 1st to 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street, then up to 3rd Street and over to the Bowery, and then up to E 4th and Lafayette, and so forth.

View A Zigzag Walk from the East Village to Chelsea in a larger map

2. The most efficient way, however, is to take Bleecker Street. Look at the map and notice how the southern end of Bleecker begins at the Bowery just north of Houston. Bleecker curves west-northward, and then around 6th Avenue, it turns north by northwest. When Bleecker ends at Abingdon Square Park, take Hudson Street the rest of the way. At 14th St., the street flows into 9th Avenue. The way Bleecker makes this abrupt curve north explains why people get lost in Greenwich Village. W. 4th Street makes the same parallel curve, so that's why. Understand how these two streets work goes far in helping to not get lost in the Village. See more details at the post From the East Village to Chelsea Market: A Zigzag Walk by Intersections.

Broadway is the famous street that runs the length of Manhattan, so apologies to those visitors who become confused when confronted with either West Broadway or East Broadway. West Broadway, parallel to Broadway on the west side, runs through tony sections of lower Manhattan below Washington Square Park and is lined with art galleries, boutiques, and several fine restaurants. For fun, we've decided to name the northern stretch as LaGuardia Place. East Broadway, fortunately to the east of "real" Broadway on on the Lower East Side, stretches from a confluence of streets (Bowery, Worth, Park Row, and more) on the west to Grand Street on the east.

Central Park is about 6 miles around the perimeter, but it's more fun to walk through it and not around it. Walking the length of the park is fairly easy - about 2. 5 miles plus extra roaming yards. Walking across is easy, about a half mile.


• Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is highly encouraged. The walk is sweeping, majestic, full of wonderment. The bridge links City Hall in Manhattan with Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn. On the Brooklyn side, the end of the bridge provides easy access to Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

View Brooklyn Walking Directions (examples) in a larger map

• Many Manhattanites become disoriented when they travel to BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) for a performance. They emerge from one of the nearby subway stations and spend a couple of minutes or longer trying to understand where they are. It's hilarious to watch! First, it's important to distinguish BAM's two main theaters - the BAM Harvey and the Peter Jay Sharp Building. Both are close to one another in the Fort Greene neighborhood, but BAM Harvey is on Fulton Street and the Peter Jay Sharp Building (Howard Gilman Opera House) is on Lafayette Avenue. Fulton Street Mall, just to the west of BAM Harvey, links Borough Hall to Fort Greene. In fact, walking from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade to BAM Harvey is a little over a mile. A nice walk! Similarly, a mile walk from the southern Heights neighborhood known as Willowtown to Fort Greene Park makes a fine stroll through leafy streets.

This post is now a permanent reference page on Walking Off the Big Apple, available anytime by accessing the Walking Directions tab on top.

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