New York City Holidays Off the Beaten Path

Last year, I raced the New York City Marathon which firmly placed the "Big Apple" as one of my true loves as a racing destination. This year I returned to this great city for the fourth time in three years for the Thanksgiving weekend.
View from our Midtown Renaissance Hotel looking North

My first love, (not Boston) but my wife planned an amazing week and even signed me up for a race in the city we've both grown to love as a getaway. I'll recap the race (briefly,) but thought I would also share some amazing spots you won't necessarily find in the travel brochures. A number of my amazing city highlights;

Drinks in Grand Central Station's Campbell Bar

For those that live in New York City, Grand Central is merely a transportation but, but it has a rich history and a little hideaway bar that re-opened this year. The Campbell Bar
Once the office of Campbell, another time a jail, and recently reopened as Campbell Bar in Grand Central Station
was once the office of Railroad magnate John Williams Campbell. My wife booked a reservation (as did many of our stops on this trip) with a cozy little candlelit tabletop amidst an ornate room decorated in Florentine decor with ornate painted ceilings and fireplace. NOT a place you would expect in a train station or terminal. Moscow Mules officially kicked off our week in this hidden gem.


Getting completely off Broadway (pun intended,) Batsu is unlike anything you'd find in entertainment by traditional standards. Combine Japanese Game Show, Sushi, Sake, raw comedy, insults, improv, and audience participation and you have Batsu.
BATSU means "torture", but the show is anything but yet the improv actors take a few beatings

Macy's Day Parade

I'm going to give away one well-known (not really) secret and another that's a hidden gem if you're ever considering going to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Last year, I'd hoped to get up to Central Park (West Side at 74th and Columbus) the day before the parade for the balloon inflation event but didn't make it. This year I would not be denied and truly enjoyed it. Up close and personal with all the characters many of us have seen on T.V. If you go, you have to check this out. The other recommendation is the hotel.

Scrat from Ice Age movies wanting to be freed from parade nets

First off, I am a HUGE Marriott fan (with lifetime Platinum status) and with the merger with Starwood, Marriott has some amazing properties in the city but our favorite is the Renaissance Midtown. It's located in the garment district and out the back down is Penn Station and Madison Square Garden which makes it convenient to get around the city. On parade day, you can head out to the patio on the 5th floor restaurant (Rock n' Reilly's) deck and catch the tail end of the parade. No getting out there five hours early as there's little to no crowd here. You have to lean a bit, but the views are great and it's within eyesight of the celebrity limos (we saw Jimmy Fallon hop in his ride!)
View from the balcony of the Rock n' Reilly's Sports Pub in Renaissance Hotel

Polo Bar Restaurant

Save up for this one as it's not cheap. This is a little too "hoity toity" for me, as the Polo Bar is one of the toughest tables to get in town . I'd rather throw back Sake at Batsu, but I do love a great steak. We had to settle for a 5PM restaurant which we were lucky to get
Polo Bar below Ralph Lauren's Flagship store in New York City
weeks in advance. Inside, there's ton's of brass and (of course) Polo Club decor with hunting dogs and "Grey Poupon" types milling about the place. Reservations are required just to get in the door even to have a drink. I'd hoped for the super-model encounter, but alas, I think they dine much later in the evening. Nevertheless, the food was amazing (try the Pigs in a Blanket--I know, blue collar in a white tablecloth joint, but they're delicious.) An amazing meal and date night with my wife.

Racing on Peter Parker Island

Okay, it's not Peter Parker Island, but Roosevelt Island was the host to the New York City Turkey Trot and the famous tram scene in the 2002 Spiderman movie. Like the balloon inflation party, I missed jumping into a Thanksgiving Day race last year, so this was definitely on the list. I opted for the 15K race (they also have the traditional 5K.) The island itself is not that big but super easy to get to (I took the F train. On the return, I could have taken the tram, but I was in a hurry to get to other adventures.)

1st in my AG in Turkey Trot on Roosevelt Island

My workout routine (Old Guy's Training Guide) must be working as I'm only running two days a week, but managed first in my age group with a decent 7:47 pace. I'll take it! The island is fairly small and has quite a colorful history known as "Welfare Island" and home to the New York City Lunatic Asylum (that's not the nickname...that's the name of the hospital.) In talking to one of the locals at the New York Road Runner's Store (as an aside, the New Balance store in Columbus Circle is fairly small but boasts some New York City Marathon memorabilia and history) said they used to ship people with Tuberculosis there.) Regardless, I loved the island for a race, the weather was amazing, the race was well organized, and they pride themselves on the cinnamon rolls at the finish line.

Chelsea Market Food Tour

This is a bit of a repeat as last year we did the Original Greenwich Village Food Tour and absolutely loved it. Greenwich Village Tour was more of a walking tour visiting meat, cheese, bakery and olive oil shops loaded with history. The Chelsea Market is primarily at the original home of the National Biscuit Company (which became Nabisco) and home of the Oreo.
Dickson's Meats where we sampled steak tartar

Not a surprise, one of our first stops was a "deep fried" Oreo in pancake batter. #decadent Our guide was quite entertaining and shared a lot of the history of the building as we tried a variety of food including Korean BBQ and Australian Beef Pie. We ended up where the Kardashians and Lindsey Lohan have partied in the Plunge bar at the Gansevoort Hotel in the meatpacking district. Not really my deal, but a fun place to have an afternoon cocktail with some amazing views. We enjoyed both Chelsea and Greenwich Village, but if I had to pick one, I'd pick the later tour.

Honorable Mentions

There are many other attractions too many to list, but a few other favorites;

The Plaza Food Hall below the Plaza Hotel. Best food court you will ever find with higher end food at reasonable prices on the south side of Central Park.
Can you find Seeking Boston amongst the 100,000 ornaments?

Rolfs at Christmas. Another gem my wife found that has 100,000 ornaments hung in the bar. I lost count.

Running over the bridges. My favorites are the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge which I ran last year. This year, I managed a run over to the Queensboro.

Pizza! Perhaps the best slice of pizza (square Sicilian style) I've ever had at Prince Pizza in the SoHo area of New York City. 

I'm not a huge musical fan, but theatre is a must in New York City and I really enjoyed Kinky Boots at the historic Al Hirschfeld Theatre. The story line is pretty timely considering the discrimination of various stereotypes in our country as it profiles a young man who inherits his father's shoe factory that's fallen on hard times. He partners with a drag queen named Lola who helps Charlie Price (spoiler alert) save the factory while finding his path in life. Laughs, song, love, and inspiration all in a tall pair of red-sequined boots.
Most of these really need video as many at Macy's are moving displays

Window shopping! The window displays at Macy's and Saks are world renowned and well worth fighting the crowds to check out the amazing and creative retail windows.

Have you spent time in New York City? What are your favorite things to do?


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