Nothing like fall in New York, especially the first Sunday in November when 50,000 runners descend upon the city to race arguably the most iconic marathon in the world. When the race and the destination are equally attractive, it turns into a delightful race-cation trip. This can cause a bit of friction in relationships but at this point in our lives, my significant other calls himself the “military spouse of races” well versed on schlepping my stuff around (particularly cumbersome for triathlon) and my needs for a low key early night prior to the race. Thankfully we have come to an understanding. He supports me during training and coordinates the trip logistics, and during the race he does his own adventure with minimal/zero expectation of cheering for me. He gets the vacation he wants and I get the race I want. Everyone wins!
New York fits like an old glove, I spent several months in the city during my internship and usually visit once a year for 3-7 days depending on the function. Many of the activities we did over the long weekend of the NYC Marathon are not all the first timer activities you would want to include in your own itinerary. If you’re planning to run (or watch or cheer) the NYC marathon and still enjoy your vacation, check out our itinerary below.
Day 1: Fly Day
- Accommodations for the duration of the trip: Gild Hall, a Thompson Hotel
- Breakfast: Breakfast Tacos at Papasito’s To Go (took 45min disregard the “to go”)
- Lunch: Fraunces Tavern
- Dinner: Birdland Jazz Club
- Activities: Flight and subway ride into Manhattan followed by a quick luggage drop at the hotel. Lunch at a historic restaurant, Elevated Acre, stroll along Financial District, New York Stock Exchange, The Fearless Girl, The Charging Bull, Stroll along Battery Park and waving to the Statue of Liberty, Birdland Jazz Club show
Bright and early we were on our flight out to JFK, and thankfully by the time we dropped our things we still had half a day left in New York to enjoy. The Financial District is much quieter than what you would experience in Midtown and other neighborhoods and was a great ease into the chaos that NYC typically radiates.
We started off on foot towards a historical restaurant called Fraunces Tavern, which is a landmarked building that once served as a watering hole for many of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. This building is most famous as the site where, on December 4, 1783, George Washington gathered a group of his officers, nine days after the last of the British troops left American soil, to thank them for their service and bid them an emotional farewell before returning home.
After a hearty lunch of chicken wings and chicken pot pie (YUM!) we ventured out to the hip and undercover Elevated Acre, which is essentially a park over a 4-story building overlooking the water. It was quiet in the offseason, however in full summer and spring hours there is a bar and a manicured lawn to lay out.
If it is your first time and you can dedicate a day to it, the Statue of Liberty is lovely. We’ve been there done it and were happy with our monument walk by of the Status of Liberty, NYSE, Charging Bull and Fearless girl. Unlike our go-to of a Broadway show, this first evening we opted for a different entertainment choice; Birdland Jazz Club! Back in the day, jazz clubs were on every block of New York and are a cultural staple of the city. We enjoyed amphitheater style restaurant seating and a piano and saxophone duet for nearly 2 hours. The musicians were very talented and the food was voluminous for NY serving standards. It was a great way to spend the first night in the city.
- Breakfast: The Red Flame
- Lunch: 2 Bros Pizza
- Dinner: The Dutch
- Activities: NYC Marathon Packet Pickup, The Vessel, waving to Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, FAO Schwartz, New York Public Library, shopping near Bryant Park, The Frick Museum, drinks out with friends
The best way to see a city is on foot. After enjoying our time at packet pickup (more in my race recap) we strolled around The Vessel and hitched a ride to a family favorite diner – The Red Flame. We strolled our way through MidTown, enjoying the various large retailers and destinations like Rockefeller Center. Patrick had a strong urge to play the massive floor piano at FAO Schwartz, but opening hours were nearly mid-day. It is probably a good outcome his 28 year old self wasn’t goofing around a toy store. Eventually we meandered into the New York Public Library to enjoy the architecture and grandiose stairways.
We quickly squashed all sense of intellect and perused the Christmas shops at Bryant Park. It is the third time I’ve visited Bryant Park during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and I must say they do a fantastic job. There are so many small businesses selling their wares and food vendors with seasonal treats. It was my first time seeing the ice-skating rink and it was already filled with skaters of all ages. It is a delightful park year-round, but especially fun during the holidays.
In the early afternoon we toured the Frick Museum (another family favorite) followed by a slice of pizza on the street (I count this as an authentic NY experience). Later that evening we had date night at The Dutch in Soho. It felt very NY Native going out to eat in Soho. We were surrounded by folks meeting friends after work and date nights.
- Breakfast: Hard Rock Café JDRF Charity Team Breakfast
- Lunch: Pastry snack at Dominique Ansel Workshop
- Dinner: Frank Restaurant in Lower East Side
- Activities: JDRF Charity Breakfast, Nordstrom Rack, Madison Square Garden, Moulin Rouge Broadway show, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Saturday Mass with Runner’s Blessing
Most charities that are beneficiaries of the NYC marathon will have some sort of event to celebrate all the runner’s efforts. Our day started bright and early at the Hard Rock Café at a breakfast hosted by JDRF. If you opt for the charity route in the future – it is a must do to attend their events. Hearing people speak passionately about Type 1 Diabetes, the experience and the science was a highlight of the weekend. Given I’m not usually one for activities the day prior to a big race, we decided to see a matinee Broadway show, the perfect way to be both sedentary and enjoying the city. And let me just say, Moulin Rouge was phenomenal.
Our other must do for marathon weekend is attending Saturday 5:30pm mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There was a priest (Father Bob) who for many years walk/ran the marathon each and every year. In 2019, Father Bob was the homily speaker and at the end of his pep talk merging Catholicism, the marathon, and New York, he unveiled his marathon bib beneath his robes. Calling all runners up to the alter, he gave probably 2/3 of the attendees a blessing for the marathon. 2021 had a bit less pomp and circumstance but it was nice to get a priest’s blessing on us prior to the big day.
Day 4: Race Day!
- Breakfast: Dunkin coffee, peanuts and a bagel at the starting line village
- Lunch: N/A
- Dinner: Felice at the Gild Hall, a Thompson Hotel
- Activities: Run the New York City Marathon!
- Breakfast: 34th Bagels & More
- Lunch: N/A
- Dinner: Gabriel Kreuther
- Activities: Vessel, High Line, Guggenheim Museum, Walk around Central Park, Union Square, Bryant Park
A high priority to Patrick was walking along the High Line, an activity I dodged him on until after race day. A bit sore and achy, we started the day with bagels and a stroll along the highline starting from Hudson yards. We are early risers, so it is perfect before the city really opens up in the morning. We waved to the hot new park – Little Island as well as the highest overlook in NYC at Hudson yards, The Edge. At that point we were tired of spending money and the guestimate of how much each would cost is probably $30-50 per person. Our free stroll down the high line hit the spot.
Mid-day called for reservations at the Guggenheim Museum, a beautiful swirling building that is art in itself. The Guggenheim holds a lot of Kandinsky art so it isn’t “pretty” in the traditional sense, but very interesting to look at. If you want a workout you can start at the bottom and walk the swirling path up, or the sore-post-marathon vibe is to take an elevator up and walk slowly down to the bottom.
Each trip Patrick likes to slip in a Michelin starred restaurant somewhere. In 2019 we went to NoMad for brunch, which has sadly closed since then. This year Patrick budgeted for a dinner at Gabriel Kreuther. My source of comparison with any Michelin star restaurant is Restaurant Gordon Ramsey in London, and Gabriel Kreuther was wildly different. It was a bustling, dark, elegant but also young feeling restaurant compared to Restaurant Gordon Ramsey’s silent and intimate dining experience. The pre fixe menu was artistic but we both left full – the going concern for any fancy dinner spot.
- Breakfast: La Parisienne
- Lunch: N/A
- Dinner: N/A
- Activities: Walk along Battery Park, 9/11 Memorial and Freedom Tower, brunch and fly home!
On our final day we kept it easy, strolling about the financial district and Battery Park on foot. There is a lot to see in that area alone, so we woke up, grabbed a dunkin’ coffee and walked along the east coast of the island all the way around to the west coast. We allowed ourselves to get lost a bit among the buildings and stumbled upon the 9/11 Memorial. It is a very challenging museum to walk through and take in given how impactful that day was. I spent 5 hours at the museum in 2013 and really needed a drink after it. It is very well done, however our plans were to keep it light and easy with our flight out that evening.
We happened to find a reasonably priced (what???) and delicious French bistro (La Parisienne) near the 9/11 memorial and indulged in French toast brunch. We got the “its too late to start anything” mentality while enjoying our meal and after scanning the flights, we realized we could catch one to Dallas 2-3 hours earlier than our scheduled flight. The one good thing about COVID is that it has forced airlines to be more flexible with people. We popped back to our hotel, checked out, took the subway to JFK and managed to leave NYC 2 hours earlier than anticipated.
Check out related posts:
New York City Marathon 2021 Race Recap
What to Bring to the Start Line of the New York City Marathon
New York City Marathon Long Weekend Trip Packing List
How to Train for a Marathon While on Extended Vacation
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