Over the past 2 years, I’ve walked over the BMW (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg) bridges, which connect Brooklyn and Manhattan. Recently, I walked over the George Washington Bridge and highly recommend it to any urban explorer.
As a car owner who lives in Pennsylvania, I drove as close as possible to the pedestrian entrance on the New Jersey side of the bridge. If you are a history buff (like myself), I recommend parking at Fort Lee Historic Park. Their website says they charge a fee, but I did not pay anything and very few of the many spaces were occupied. There’s an interesting, but not overwhelming 11,000 square foot visitor center, which is dedicated to Fort Lee’s role in the American Revolution. Before heading to the bridge, I recommend exploring the 33-acre grounds for a picturesque view of the George Washington Bridge and New York City.
It was a 10 minute walk (at most) to the bridge. Like the BMW bridges, the GWB can get very crowded. As nice (but not quite as nice as the bridges connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan) as the view is and as much as you will want to put your camera (or in my case iPhone) to good use, you need to watch out! You’ll be competing for space with bicyclers and joggers who will not be as phased by the scenery as a tourist. This may be a once in a lifetime experience for you and I, but we are outnumbered by the people who are just getting some exercise and see no need to stop and take a picture every 20 yards. While it took me less than 45 minutes to cross (the length of the Rolling Stones Tattoo You which I chose as the soundtrack to my walk from one state to another), it can take you more or less, depending on how fast you walk and how many pictures you take.
The New York side of the GWB will put you “close” to Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse. Yes, it’s just a lighthouse, but you will get to walk across a highway, through woods (yes, woods in Manhattan!!!), near train tracks and most importantly, Fort Washington Park. After all this, you can play tennis in the tennis courts, sunbathe on the grass, take advantage of the picnic tables or do like me and and stand UNDER THE BRIDGE (like the Red Hot Chili Peppers song) for my favorite shots of the day. In my opinion the opportunities for excellent shots only get better once you cross the bridge.
From Fort Washington Park, the nearest neighborhood is Washington Heights, which is an often overlooked part of Manhattan, with access to the 1, A & C subway lines. I was in the mood for French macarons and my favorite place is Macaron Parlour, which has a location on the Upper West Side. From Washington Heights, you can take the 1, B or C train to 86th Street, which does not have express stops. I chose the C, from where you would exit at Central Park West. From there, head west to Columbus Ave and they are at 560 Columbus Ave. (between 87th & 88th Streets). This is not a place for a huge meal, BUT if you are a macaron enthusiast like myself, it’s worth buying a box of either 6 of 12 for the road (especially if you live 2 hours away). If you are a David Chang fan, Momofuku milk bar is across the street.
From there, you can head west, cross Amsterdam Ave. and (at Broadway) arrive at the 86th Street (1 train) station. I took it north to 181st, which will leave you at St. Nicholas Ave., which is very crowded and filled with street vendors selling Dominican specialties. The rice pudding is worth trying as well as the dulce de leche candy.
I don’t know Washington Heights very well. Unlike other NYC neighborhoods, I can’t recommend the best places to eat, BUT I came upon a Thai restaurant in a neighborhood not known for its Asian population. It turned out to be worth trying and I had an excellent bowl of Thom Kha soup before heading back across the bridge. Although I consider myself a foodie and NYC is my favorite city for food, the point of this perfect day walking from one state to another was not to have a life changing dining experience. I can, however, recommend Bangkok Heights to anyone who ends up on the New York side of the GWB. I took me less than 45 minutes (the length of U2’s War) to get back across the bridge. I wasn’t taking pictures, but I was walking slower after a perfect day in my favorite American city.
What & Where:
Bangkok Heights; 812 West 181st St. – NYC 10033 – 212.568.2630
Fort Lee Historic Park Visitor Center; Hudson Terrace – Fort Lee, NJ 07024 – 201.461.1776
Macaron Parlour; 560 Columbus Ave., NYC 10024 – 212.799.9169
Momofuku Milk Bar; 561 Columbus Ave. – NYC 10024 – 347.577.9504