New York’s 49th Annual Village Halloween Parade was one for the books!
The NYC Village Halloween Parade connects New Yorkers with their inner child. And, despite having wandered through the city streets and bars on Halloween night throughout the years, I had never experienced it properly.
It all changed this year. I finally understood why NYC Village Halloween is the largest and—should I add—most creative and inspiring of all the city’s yearly parades, including St. Patrick’s, Thanksgiving and LGBTQ Pride.
Part of the magic is the spontaneous nature. Individual marchers have been encouraged since 1974 to show up in costume at the starting point on Canal Street and 6th Avenue and join the fun without registering or paying a fee.
Unlike the boroughs, where kids go trick or treating, the New York City Village parade is almost exclusively an adult affair. Participants wear artistic outfits that’d give Broadway and Hollywood a run for their money.
Equally thrilling are the giant puppets volunteers maneuver throughout the parade’s 1.4-mile route (on Sixth Avenue from Spring Street to 16th Street). This year, they preceded a colorful Dia de Muertos section, complete with mariachis—a testament to New York City’s proud multiculturalism.
And because—after all—we’re New York, there had to be a healthy dose of costumes with a social commentary, including someone campaigning for Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin and a group of witches carrying the banner, “Witches Who Vote.”
The participants’ histrionic skills enhance the parade’s energy levels. Monsters, aliens and witches not only look but also act the part. The interactions with the spectators are hair-rising, like witnessing a horror movie in the flesh.
Since 2004, the Thriller Dance has been one of the most expected parts of the parade. The massive flash mob to Michael Jackson’s timeless hit “Thriller” is the parade’s apex of talent and the single most crowd-pleasing goosebumps-inducing moment.
I’ve already started to learn the “Thriller” choreography. Will you join me next year?
A global pandemic, civil unrest and a contentious election: never forget our Year of Discontent.
“Dear New York, I hope you’re doing well I know a lot’s happened and you’ve been through hell“
We were told to work from home—perhaps for a couple of weeks—to “flatten the curve.” I tossed the notebooks in my backpack but left photos and other corporate mementos in my cubicle while people around me were coughing and sneezing. Times Square started to feel like a ghost town.
Our favorite downtown restaurant’s closing party was our last hurrah before the lockdown. When we arrived, everyone was hand-sanitizing, social distancing and elbow bumping. By the end of the evening, the place was packed. There were babies on portable bassinets on top of the bar. People were tasting each other’s wines and taking cheek-to-cheek selfies.
Like Bill Murray’s Phil Connors in “Groundhog Day,” we soon were stuck on the same day of back-to-back Zoom meetings and bizarre presidential press briefings. Dinner was the highlight of our day, as was joining our neighbors on the building’s rooftop to salute healthcare workers.
We fell sick. Was it the last days at the office or our downtown soirée? Despite a shortage of tests at the time, we knew it was COVID when a loss of smell and taste was declared an official symptom. Luckily, we didn’t develop the dreaded shortness of breath that would’ve landed us in the hospital, where makeshift morgues in the way of refrigerated trucks started to crowd the surroundings.
Three weeks later, with our energy back, we left the house to encounter a world where you could hear birds chirping during rush hour. Grand Central Station, Madison Square Park and other city landmarks’ film aesthetic had turned post-apocalyptic. The Big Apple was eerie and unrecognizable without her huddled masses.
And yet, there was a budding sense of hope. We started to meet city friends for outdoor dining. As a post-911 New Yorker, I learned that how the city was pulling through this new crisis paralleled how it came back after the horrific terrorist attacks.
Things would take another wrong turn. I, like hundreds of thousands in the city, got laid off. Civil unrest, triggered by the murder of George Floyd, became the new normal. There was looting resulting in permanent police presence and the boarding up of businesses for months to come. We fell asleep and woke up to the sound of choppers. Was this Kabul or Manhattan?
Equidistant between Union Square and Washington Square Park, we had a front-row seat to the daily action. It started around 5 PM with what looked like students chanting against police violence. As the night fell, a different crowd emerged, welding bicycles and skateboards like weapons and provoking the cops by breaking glass and setting trashcans on fire.
With a contentious presidential election nearing, New Yorkers restored a temporary sense of normalcy by donning their Halloween costumes and marching on Greenwich Village. The iconic parade didn’t occur, but that didn’t stop aliens, harlequins, vampires and witches from making the most of it (refreshingly, there weren’t either pandemic or politics-related costumes).
After a global pandemic, the de facto militarization of the streets and a toxic political campaign, America would elect a new president. In hindsight, expecting a different administration to usher in a new era in this politically polarized world feels naive. The nation would witness more troublesome events, chiefly the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021.
But at least for a day, when the networks called the result, a sense of joy and catharsis descended upon New York City. Unseasonably warm and bright weather provided the perfect backdrop for people to take to the streets for the first time in months not to protest but to celebrate turning a corner in this Year of Discontent.
Can you make it there? It all depends on the story in which you’re bound to star.
The TikTok video shows a group of young Venezuelan migrants dancing salsa in Times Square after a long and treacherous journey through the Darién Gap and the Rio Grande.
“Winter is coming,” comments someone implying the summer clothing-clad youngsters should go somewhere else before the Big Apple chews them up and spits them out.
Like the rest of us, they followed the brochure. “The whole If You Can Make It There business,” as Colson Whitehead wrote.
“King Kong” climbing the Empire State Building, “Friends” sipping coffee in Central Perk and the Schuyler sisters looking around in “Hamilton” are part of the brochure.
With a virtually infinite list of cultural references, all the brochure’s roads lead to New York City. But is it the real or the fictitious one? Walker Percy would say the latter.
In his 1975 essay “The Loss of the Creature,” he described the traveler’s “symbolic complex.”
Why is it almost impossible to gaze directly at the Grand Canyon … and see it for what it is … the thing … has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer’s mind … by picture postcard, geography book, tourist folders, and the words Grand Canyon.
Percy says travelers are set for disappointment as the real thing will never live up to the expectations set by their books, songs, movies, etc.
El George Harris uses the politically incorrect language of stand-up comedy to make the same point.
He jokes in Spanish that his New York City movie-induced fascination shattered when he first saw “the ecosystem of crackheads, prostitutes and homeless persons.”
Similarly, David Sedaris shares Big Apple reality check stories throughout his work.
Raised in North Carolina, he moved to New York City dreaming about working as a writer for his favorite soap opera on day one.
Instead, years before becoming a published author, he made a living as a housekeeper—and a Christmas Elf in the department store Macy’s Santaland.
I didn’t know it at the time, but rock en Español band Mecano’s 1998 song “No Hay Marcha en Nueva York” (“No Party in New York”) also illustrates Percy’s “symbolic complex.”
After fulfilling their lifelong dream of visiting the Big Apple, the band’s frontperson grew disappointed, blaming the TV series for deceiving them all along.
But the mythology is so strong that these counter-narratives do nothing but increase the gravitational pull for some of us.
My brochure was heavy on “Sex and the City,” which my Miami friends and I binged in the pre-Netflix years.
The more episodes we watched, the more obsessed I became with Carrie Bradshaw’s town and the crazier they thought I was for wanting to trade a tropical paradise for “crazy” New York City.
“You’ll freeze in the winter,” “people are rude,” and “the streets smell” were just some of the things they said from their experience.
And (for the most part) they weren’t wrong. But neither was I. The City That Never Sleeps is not for everyone. And all those things that drive some away pull in others.
It all depends on the story in which you’re bound to star.
Here’s your guide to 25 of the most recognizable places and how to get there via Subway.
Like everything else, social media has transformed the traveling experience.
For a few years now, the phrase, “if it’s not on the ‘gram, it didn’t happen,” has been the official mantra.
And nowhere it’s this more accurate than in New York City, the most Instagrammed place in the world.
1. Times Square:
Where: The intersection between 42nd Street, Seventh Avenue and Broadway.
Subways/Stops: 1, 2, 3, 7, A, F, N and Q to 42nd Street/Times Square.
Famous for: Brightly lit by numerous billboards and advertisements, New Year’s Eve Time Square Ball and the theater district.
Price: Free if you don’t shop, eat or go to the theater. Street performers pose for photos for tips.
2. Empire State Building:
Where: 20 West 34th Street (Fifth Avenue).
Subways/Stops: F, D and W to Herald Square and 6 to 33rd Street.
Famous for: Art Deco design, observation deck and featured in the film “King Kong” (1933).
Price: Observation Deck tickets from $44 up to $129.
3. The Vessel:
Where: 20 Hudson Yards.
Subways/Stops: 7 to 34th Street Hudson Yards.
Famous for: $200 million, structure with 16 stories and 154 flights of stairs offered “remarkable” views of the Hudson River until it was indefinitely closed to due to a series of suicides.
4. Grand Central Station:
Where: 89 East 42nd Street.
Subways/Stops: 4, 5, 6 and 7 to Grand Central.
Famous for: Has been the set and background of many films and its main concourse clock is depicted in NBC’s show “Saturday Night Live.”
Price: Free if you’re not taking the Metro-North or Subway.
5. Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
Where: Central Park (72nd Street).
Subways/Stops: B to 72 Street or 6 to 68th Street Hunter College.
Famous for: Designed by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in New York City, in 1868.
6. Brooklyn Bridge
Where: East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Subways/Stops: 4, 5, or 6 to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall or J or Z to Chambers St.
Famous for: Scenic backdrops of the city for pedestrians, bikers.
7. Statue of Liberty:
Where: Liberty Island, New York Harbor.
How to Get There: Via ferry from Battery Park (New York) or Liberty State Park (New Jersey).
Famous for: Being a gift from the people of France, which metal framework was built by Gustave Eiffel, and for the sonnet “The New Colossus” written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”).
Price:Tickets, including the ferry ride, are $23.80 for adults, and there are discounts for children and senior citizens.
8. Christopher Street Pier:
Where: Hudson River Park (west 10th Street and West Side Highway).
Subway/Stops: 1 to Christopher Street.
Famous for: Unparalleled views of the World Trade Center and Jersey City for pedestrians, runners and bikers.
9. Central Park:
Where: From 59th to 110th Streets between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West.
Subways/Stops: 1, 2, A, B, C and D to Columbus Circle or R, W to 5th Ave/59th St.
Famous for: Blueprint for American urban parks and most filmed location in the world.
10. Union Square:
Where: From 14th through 17th Streets between Union Square West and East.
Subway/Stops: 4, 5, 6, L, N, R and Q to 14th Street-Union Square.
Famous for: Historic surrounding buildings, statues, markets, street performers, artists, chess players and demonstrations.
Price: Free, though the Green Market is pricey.
11. Flatiron Building:
Where: 175 Fifth Avenue.
Subways/Stops: R, W and 6 to 23rd Street.
Famous for: Sitting on a triangular block formed by Fifth Avenue to the west, Broadway to the east, and East 22nd Street to the south resembling a clothes iron.
Price: You can enter the lobby for free, but can’t go upstairs.
12. The National September 11 Museum:
Where: 180 Greenwich Street.
Subways/Stops: 1 to Cortland Street, 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J and Z to Fulton Street and R, W to Rector Street.
Famous for: Commemorating the September 11, 2001 attacks, which killed 2,977 people.
Price:Tickets go from $26 up to $46 for adults with discounts for children, college students, senior citizens and veterans.
13. Whitney Museum of American Art:
Where: 99 Gansevoort Street.
Subway/Stops: L and M to 14th Street-Sixth Avenue.
Famous for: Patron and socialite Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney founded it in 1930 to promote modern American artists tired of the Eurocentric Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum, which kept relegating her gifts to the storage room.
Where: 40th and 42nd Streets between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas.
Subways/Stops: D, F and M to 42th Street-Bryant Park.
Famous for: Outdoor Movie Nights.
Where: 1000 Third Avenue.
Subways/Stops: 4, 5, 6, N, R and W to 59th Street-Lexington Avenue.
Famous for: 161-years old high-end retail store with iconic window displays and Christmas decorations.
Price: Free to window-shop.
Where: World Trade Center.
Subways/Stops: 1, R, W to Cortland Street or 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton Street or E to Park Place.
Famous for: $4 billion Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center PATH terminal station opened in 2016.
Price: Free, aside from the subway o PATH fares.
17. Moynihan Train Hall:
Where: 351 West 31st Street.
Subways/Stops: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to 34th Street-Penn Station.
Famous for: Recovering some of the splendor of the original Penn Station, controversially demolished in the early 1960s by its builder Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), for the construction of Madison Square Garden.
Price: Free if you’re not using the trains or shopping.
18. Little Island:
Where: Pier 55 at Hudson River Park.
Subways/Stops: A, C, E, L to 14th Street-Eight Avenue or 1, 2, 3 to 14th Street-Seventh Avenue.
Famous for: $260 million artificial island park supported by 132 pot-shaped structures called “tulips,” one of the city’s newest landmarks.
Price: Free, although timed-reservations for peak hours are needed. Some amphitheater’s performances are paid.
19. Foley Square:
Where: Lafayette, Worth and Centre Streets, south of Chinatown and East of Tribeca.
Subways/Stops: 4 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.
Famous for: Also know as Federal Plaza, it contains a small triangular park named Thomas Paine Park and is surrounded by various civic buildings, including the United States Courthouse and the New York County Courthouse.
20. Little Ukraine:
Where: East Village between Houston and 14th Street, and Third Avenue and Avenue A.
Subways/Stops: 6 to Astor place or R, W to 8th Street-NYU.
Famous for: Historic cultural epicenter for Ukrainian Americans in New York City. It contains the St. George’s Catholic Church, the Ukrainian Museum and McSorley’s the oldest Irish Pub in the city (established in 1854).
Price: The Ukrainian Museum admission for adults is $8.
21. Washington Square Park:
Where: At the base of Fifth Avenue, bordered by Waverly Place, University Place, West 4th Street, and MacDougal Street.
Subways/Stops: A, B, C, D, E, F and M to West 4th Street.
Famous for: Downtown icon that serves as a meeting place for cultural activity, recognized by The Washington Square Arch, its Fountain and surrounded by various New York University buildings.
22. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt:
Where: East 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.
Subways/Stops: 4, 5, 6, 7 and S to Grand Central.
Famous for: New York City’s fourth-tallest building with a glass-bottom observation deck.
Price:Tickets go from abut $30 and up to $70 depending on the “experience.”
23. Chrysler Building:
Where: 405 Lexington Avenue.
Subways/Stops: 4, 5, 6, 7 and S to Grand Central.
Famous for: One of the most recognizable buildings globally and classic American example of Art Deco architecture, it’s the world’s tallest brick building with a steel framework.
Price: Visitors are welcomed in the lobby for free.
Where: 30 Hudson Yards.
Subways/Stops: 7 to 34th Street-Hudson Yards or 1, 2, 3, A, B, M, N, W to 34th Street-Penn Station.
Famous for: It’s the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, with a protruding 100-stories-high observation deck, glass floor, and a 360-degree view of New York City.