Saturday, 19 February 2011

New York City Greenwich Village Running Route

Click here for route map
Length: 6 km (3.7 miles), terrain flat

New York Running Routes:
Downtown  
Greenwich Village  
Midtown and Central Park 

Riverside Park
For other running routes, see Route List.

NYC pictures from GoogleMaps StreetView. Thanks!

We've begun making some vacation plans, including a stop in New York City, and the idea of running along the Greenwich Village streets again got me all excited to get back there. Greenwich Village has always had a special hold on my imagination: as a teenager in the 1960s, it was home of the flourishing folk music scene of the time: Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Simon and Garfunkel, Tom Paxton. They, and the leafy Greenwich Village streets and the coffee houses that they played in, were my inspiration.

The NYC neighborhood on the lower west side of Manhattan has been inspiring people in wave after wave, with a vibrant literary scene, with writers and poets like Hemingway, Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot and ee cummings, the beatnik scene in the 1950s, then the folk scene in the 1960s, then the gays starting in the 1970s.

The area seems to attract free-thinkers and creative outsiders like few other neighborhoods, thanks to nearby New York University, the New University, design schools, music conservatories, you name it. People as diverse as Jimi Hendrix and Dustin Hoffman have lived here. The neighborhood is brimming with cool shops, restaurants, creative energy, a wonderful mix of history and cutting-edge thinking. It has everything an urban lifestyle needs.

Typical Greenwich Village scene: corner of Bleeker and Charles
To set our bearings, Greenwich village sits between Chelsea to the north and Soho to the south. It's bounded north and south by 14th Street and Houston Street, and it stretches from Broadway in the east to the Hudson riverfront in the west. The east-west cross-streets are the nicest: tree-lined, with historic brownstone houses, and occasional shops, clubs or taverns. The big north-south streets, though, 6th and 7th avenues, are loud and unscenic.

The NYC Greenwich Village Route
This will be a zigzagging trail along the most beautiful and interesting streets (This is the most back-and-forth run I've ever mapped, but I wanted to get as many scenic spots in as possible. Please put up with my frequent changes in direction!). We'll start the run at the heart of the neighborhood, in Washington Square Park.

The first time that I saw the park, I was captivated. A guy was playing a piano right under the archway (George Washington memorial) to a crowd of happy listeners, while in the southwest corner of the park various chess-players were brooding over their next moves, as lookers-on followed in silent appreciation, a mixed group like a mini United Nations. Mothers were pushing strollers, kids were climbing the monkey-bars. What a hangout!
Washington Square Park
So let's start out by doing a loop of the park. Start at the archway and run clockwise around the park, with the fountain to your right side. In the southeast corner you are looking at the main campus of New York University. It stretches for several blocks to the south, but big, new, boring university buildings have made those streets fairly unscenic. That's modern academic life.

The street along the north side of the park (Washington Square North, appropriately named) is the nicest side, especially the last part, east of the archway. So leave the park once you've returned to the archway and continue running east along the street. At the end of the block, on University Place, turn left and go just half a block and turn left again into the gated Washington Mews alleyway. Follow this short cobblestone alleyway to the end of the block and then turn left and run back through the arch and into the park again (hey, why not, it's a great place).

But this time, at the fountain, turn right and head northwest, straight out into the Washington Place side-street, past the chess-players. Cross 6th Avenue and its subway station and run for one more block to Sheridan Square, where you turn left onto Barrow Street. This is one of the most pleasant, tree-lined streets. After it curves to the right, turn right onto Hudson Street to run northwards for 2 blocks to Christopher Street.

Along Barrow Street
Turn right here and run past the shops on this shopping street, made famous for its gay Christopher Street Parade celebration each year, and the center of the gay scene in New York. There's a weird mixture of sex shops and nice restaurants here. When you pass the little triangle of the Christopher Street Park, turn left on Waverly Place and head north for 2 blocks.

You gotta live and let live in the Village... (photo by Chris Hauser)
When you hit Charles Street, turn left and run westwards again, towards the Hudson River. Charles is one of my favorite tree-lined streets (why did New York forget this important detail in so many other neighborhoods?. Luckily, the city has made an effort in recent years to bring back green areas all over the city. May it continue on this great path!)

Follow Charles all the way to the river, crossing 6-laned West Street to run along the waterfront. Here, you can see the fruits of the green-movement in the city, with the street lined with bike-ways, trees, flowers and lawns, and the piers were converted into waterfront parks. Run out to the end of the next pier-park and enjoy the view there, it's worth it!
Hudson Riverside at Charles Street
Keep running north for 2 blocks, and then cross West Street again at the first chance, at 11th Street. Run east, passing the Spotted Pig restaurant/pub and the Annie Liebovitz studio (think of all those great Rolling Stone cover stories that she's done!), and one block later the Village's most famous tavern, the White Horse. It was once a hangout for people like Jack Kerouac, Ezra Pound and Alan Ginsberg, and the story says that Dylan Thomas drank himself to death there. Maybe that wasn't such a bad idea: here's the place to come back to later for a beer and a burger, with tables outside and in, if you can find a free table. But its reputation has let management get lazy and slip on the food/service quality: expect just average. NOTE: the Spotted Pig has the reputation for the best pub food around, and better service, but you might have to wait a long time for a table.
The White Horse Tavern
Keep running straight east for 3 blocks, in one last zig-zag,  by turning right on Waverly Place again, and then turning right on Perry Street, one of the nicest streets in the neighborhood. When you get to house number 66, you'll probably see some tourists staring at it, because it was filmed as Carrie Bradshaw's make-believe home in the TV show Sex and the City. (NOTE: At 90 Bedford Street, you can also find the fantasy entrance to the Friends apartment.)
Along Perry Street
When you come to Bleeker Street (made famous by Paul Simon's lonely song), turn left and head south again. This is the Village's nicest shopping street. Keep running straight, crossing the streets where we've already been: Christopher Street, Barrow Street, past 7th Avenue.

When you reach the little triangular park at Carmine Street, turn left and then cross 6th Avenue at the end of the park (Winston Churchill Square), and continue through narrow Minetta Lane until it runs into MacDougal Street. Turn left on MacDougal and run the last 100 meters back to Washington Square. On MacDougal, you'll pass my favorite entertainment spot, the Comedy Cellar: great comedy for a decent price.

NOTE: If you continued down Bleeker for a couple more blocks, you'd come to the famous Bitter End night club on the left side, where a lot of great entertainers got their start: Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Peter Paul and Mary, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Arlo Guthrie, George Carlin, etc. 
Lower Bleeker Street