East-West Thoroughfares: Hiking 57th Street
November 16, 2013

East-West Thoroughfares: Hiking 57th Street

The children were off school for Election Day and in need of flu shots so we began the day at the pediatrician’s office near Columbus Circle. As we've written before, once an appointment or errand takes us out of our own neighborhood, we like to go exploring as often as possible. On this particular day—a beautiful, cold, crisp one—we decided to check out 57th Street, and in so doing, we discovered just how much Riley and Halina, who are ages 8 and 10, are getting to know the city without us.

Memory(ies) Lane

Turning east out of the doctor’s office, we immediately came upon the legendary Carnegie Hall at Seventh Avenue, an elegant saffron-colored brick behemoth that we wouldn’t have recognized if we’d walked straight into it (which we almost did). The children were duly appalled by our ignorance because of course they immediately recognized it from several years’ worth of wonderful class trips.

“OMG, you haven’t been to Carnegie Hall?” Halina asked incredulously. “It’s fabulous!” Thus the memories of learning about instruments and orchestras, listening to classical music, and getting on stage and making music with “real musicians” ensued. This conversation propelled us another few blocks east until we hit Madison Avenue.

Midway down the block there is an indoor public park where we ducked in to warm up (there is also a restroom and a food court). Through the vantage of the soaring glass atrium, Riley spotted another class-trip memory over on 56th Street: Sony Wonder, a free, hands-on technology museum that he visited with his class and raved about earlier this year.

Continuing along, we learned that the inviting-looking outdoor courtyard at 200 East 57th Street is not a public space!  Fortunately, the lovely, bench-lined brick patio of a park at Sutton Place South is. Situated just south of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (which we covered in a previous post), this green space features mature trees and stunning views of the East River. The picturesque scene included two mothers slowly strolling slumbering babies around in strollers. The northern perimeter is bordered by an ivy-covered brick wall, and a wrought-iron fence rims the space to the east and south. We had found the perfect picnic spot! 

A Tale of Two Streets

The Hudson River end of this walk couldn’t be much more different than its eastern terminus. The further west you go from the very tony Columbus Circle shopping center and luxury high-rise complex, the neighborhood evolves into bodegas and small, independent grocery stores, low-rise brick tenements, warehouses and parking garages, and finally a luxury automobile and motorcycle dealer.

All up and down 57th Street the pedestrian traffic is fairly light, compared to, say, the street two to the north, and east of Columbus Circle, there is good window shopping to be had—although nothing compared to what Fifth Avenue is already becoming in preparation for the holidays.

There was of course no shortage of stuff we could have done at home on the day off—and there were homework assignments looming large over our heads—but if we hadn’t made the time for this excursion, we wouldn’t have realized just how much Riley and Halina are growing into New Yorkers in their own right. It was a small turning point, with them leading us to destinations they already knew, rather than the other way around—or all four of us discovering something new together.

Getting There

To begin on the western side, take the 1, A, B, C, or D train to Columbus Circle and follow the signs to the 57th Street exit. Depending on how much time you have, meal and nap schedules, and/or the walking abilities of the children in your group, first head west, which is slightly down hill, to check out the Hudson River views. Then double back east and take in the East River views.

To access the street at about the midpoint, take the N, Q, and R trains to Seventh Avenue and 57th Street, or the N and R to Fifth Avenue and 59th Street (aka: Central Park East and Central Park South, respectively). You can also take the F to 57th Street itself, and finally, the 4, 5, or 6 to 59th Street and Lexington Avenue.



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