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The lake at central park with buildings reflected in the water.
Photograph: By Rossilynne Skena Culgan | A tranquil moment in Central Park.

Let me tell you—take a walk to discover the best of NYC

Savor this city with every step.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan
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“Let Me Tell You” is a series of columns from our expert editors about NYC living, including the best things to do, where to eat and drink, and what to see at the theater. They publish each Wednesday so you’re hearing from us each week. So far, Food & Drink Editor Amber Sutherland-Namako has dished on her wishes for the dining scene this fall and New Editor Anna Rahmanan has queued up ways fall in NYC is the very best.

The sunsets over the Hudson, the joy of counting how many dogs a single dog walker can handle, the street art in East Harlem, the surprise of finding remnants of a Toynbee Tile embedded into the pavement, the sound of trombone music outside of Grand Central Station, the floral aromas in West Side Community Garden—they’re all slices of life in New York City and all things I’ve spotted on my walks around town recently.

There’s no better way to see the city than on foot. Now that the temperatures are dropping, this is the perfect season to lace up your sneakers and explore. 

Perhaps you, like me, are just preposterous enough to walk from the tippy top to the very bottom of Manhattan. It’s a 14-mile (almost 15-mile) trek, but it was so worth the blisters on my feet and sunburn on my face because it helped me discover the sights and sounds of the city through fresh eyes. Here’s a guide if you want to try it.

Or if a daylong trek isn’t your thing, I implore you to take even just 30 minutes for a stroll. Whether you’re walking the same normal streets of your neighborhood or exploring a new part of the city, do your best to stay present—no music and no podcast in your ears, just the sound of the city—like it’s a walking meditation. I bet you’ll find some moment of delight, even if it’s on a street you’ve hustled down hundreds of times.

As someone who logged 501,000 steps in July alone, I’ve got some Time Out Tips to help you start pounding the pavement with precision. 

Set a destination

Sometimes an aimless wander is just the ticket, but other times it helps to have a specific destination in mind. Pick something you’ve always wanted to see or a coffee shop you’ve been wanting to try to use as your halfway point, then take a different route back home.

Phone a friend—or bring one along

When you have a friend to chat with, the miles seem to fly by. An in-person walk offers a second set of eyes to make even more discoveries. If you’re scheduling a phone chat, choose a quieter area, like your favorite park, rather than when you’re navigating a noisy street at rush hour. 

Try a walking tour

  • The Flatiron Nomad walking tour meets every Sunday at 11am rain or shine, and it’s completely free. You’ll hear from a professional tour guide while taking in the sights of the neighborhood, admiring the architecture, and learning scandalous tidbits of the area’s history. Or you can take a DIY version of the tour with this guide.
  • A self-guided literary walking tour of Brooklyn from Brooklyn Public Library tells the stories of real and fictional people with roots in the borough, from Patti Smith to Biggie Smalls and Howard Zinn to Tanwi Nandini Islam.
  • Village Voices, a new pop-up art exhibition placed 22 shadowboxes throughout Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo, each one marking moments from the neighborhood, featuring Jean-Michel Basquiat, E.E. Cummings, Martha Graham, Billie Holiday, and Edward Hopper, to name a few. It’s on view through October 30; see if you can find them all.
  • Central Park offers a wide variety of walking tours, including one focusing on iconic views, another exploring the North Woods, and yet another visiting statues and monuments. There’s also a DIY tour of the Ramble. Or just meander through on your own like I do as often as possible.
  • Weekday Walks has long been on my list. Local history buff Jim Mackin leads tours all over the city on Wednesday mornings for just $5. Upcoming walks include The Hub in the Bronx, Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, and Washington Heights in Manhattan.

Sure, walking is a way of life here—we rush to the nearest subway stop, we walk over to the bodega, to the dentist, to school, just about everywhere. But I think we ought to celebrate and cherish the act of walking a bit more, especially right now when the sun is a little less intense the sidewalks aren’t yet coated in slush. Let’s take a moment to savor this city with every step.

I’ll see you out there.

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