Help me waste 4 hours in NYC
June 26, 2006 2:53 PM   Subscribe

I'll be arriving at Penn Station in NYC about 4 hours prior to an appointment about a mile away on 66th street. What would you do if you had 4 hours to kill in that area? If the weather continues to suck, suggestions for a coffee shop with free wifi?
posted by COD to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
MoMa is on 53rd and may be convenient if you're on the East side of the island.
posted by smackfu at 3:02 PM on June 26, 2006

I would immediately hop on the subway and get out of that area. If you are talking west 66th St., there is a big barnes & noble there at Broadway & 67th. Ollie's noodle shop across the street, Lincoln Center.... a much cooler place to waste 4 hours than the Penn Station area. If it's East 66th Street then it's near Hunter College and I'm sure someone can suggest some coffee shops near there.
posted by mattbucher at 3:06 PM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: I am talking about West 66th.
posted by COD at 3:08 PM on June 26, 2006

What are you interested in doing? Eating? Sightseeing? Shopping? Have you been to NYC before? There are a gazillion options (even with just four hours), so it would help if you could identify more specifically what you like to do.
posted by brain_drain at 3:10 PM on June 26, 2006

Have you been to the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle? You can walk around there (there's a starbucks across the street) and then walk up Broadway to 66th Street (you'll pass Lincoln Plaza cinemas if you are inclined to catch a film.)
posted by mattbucher at 3:14 PM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: I've only been to NYC on business trips - in and out in one day trips. Ideally I'd like to do a little sight seeing / picture taking in the area. it looks like Cental Park is is in the nieghborhood so that an option. However, I'm headed up on Wednesday and the forecast is not pretty - so indoor options may be what I need!
posted by COD at 3:16 PM on June 26, 2006

The Natural History Museum is pretty cool, and not far from you, and on the way to Central Park (81st and Park).
posted by bingo at 3:19 PM on June 26, 2006

I was going to suggest Bryant Park (between Fifth and Sixth, 42nd-41st St., behind the NY Public Library), which has free wifi and is a pretty spot to hang out, but if the weather's lousy that won't be your first choice. Bear it in mind in case the sun is out, though (and do visit the NYPL!).
posted by languagehat at 3:20 PM on June 26, 2006

I second MoMA.
posted by awesomebrad at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2006

To start, four hours is a lot of time in Manhattan. You can get to most places above Houston St. and below 86th in half an hour or less. Getting to the east side can be a pain, particularly during the day, so you are wise to stick to the west side.

As for sightseeing, you have easy access to a lot of traditional tourist stops: Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Empire State Building, etc. You could easily visit all of those destinations and take plenty of photos in four hours.

You could also do a boat tour around (or halfway around) Manhattan. They last around 2-3 hours and leave from 42nd and 12th, which is a pretty quick cab ride from Penn Station.

If the weather is bad, you like food, and you have some money saved up, you could go for a lavish lunch at Per Se, which remains the hottest table in the city and is located at the Time Warner Center right near your appointment.

MoMa is a good idea if you like museums, and it's sort of on your way to your meeting. A more offbeat rainy day option would be the Musem of Television and Radio, which is on West 52nd Street. They have a collection of over 100,000 tv shows and advertisements you can browse and watch in their archive room.
posted by brain_drain at 3:48 PM on June 26, 2006

Another vote for MoMA even though it's slightly to the east. Four hours is a long time.

My second choice would be the New York Historical Society which is right next to the Museum of Natural History -- too many noisy kids for my taste in the Museum.

If you're looking for something more reasonably priced than Per Se, there's the Bouley Bakery up on the 2nd or 3rd floor of the Time Warner Center. Or for a really cheap but effective (and healthy lunch), I'd go to Whole Foods which is downstairs in the Time Warner Center.

Finally, "where's a good place to eat" near XXX type questions are regularly addressed in the Manhattan section of Chowhound (the whole website of which has just been nicely) redesigned. Check it out.
posted by bim at 4:42 PM on June 26, 2006

Another cultural institution to consider is the Morgan Library on Madison Ave and 36th. It's a quick walk from Penn Station and has an incredibly diverse collection of art, music and books. It recently reopened in a Renzo Piano designed space.
posted by dickyvibe at 4:45 PM on June 26, 2006

My office is at Penn Station, and I've always found the area a bore. Head uptown. At the very least, go to Times Square to kill time, but don't hang around the Penn Plaza area.

But then, I'm only a visitor to the NYC area on occassion, not a NYC-lifer, I can only tell you my experience.
posted by benjh at 5:20 PM on June 26, 2006

BY all means get away from penn station and don't even look back until you move up north past the 40's and 50's...

. once you hit 60th street the Time Warner building is great to hang, there is a whole foods and a Border's books. If you get bored you are a minute stroll from Central Park..or just go north to the Lincoln center area where you can find a Barnes and Noble,Tower Records, and more than a few bars/restaurants/cafe's to hang in.

and with all that around you you will have escaped the tourist trap hell of midtown. and you'll be mere minutes away from your meeting, so no worries about some last minute subway screwup or traffic jam delaying your ride uptown.
posted by stavx at 7:53 PM on June 26, 2006

It's already been said, but I would like to reiterate that Penn isn't far from the Empire State Building. It's definitely touristy, but if you haven't done it, it's something you might get a kick out of.

I also second (or third) the MoMA, the Museum of Television and Radio, and the Time Warner complex, depending on your personal interests.
posted by etc. at 8:21 PM on June 26, 2006

Yes, avoid Times Square at all costs. It's chock full of tourists, so crowded that you frequently can't move and it's wall to wall neon.

A lot of visitors never leave midtown and think that represents New York! Holy moly!!!
posted by bim at 8:33 PM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great advice. Now I just hope Amtrak is actually running tomorrow!
posted by COD at 2:05 PM on June 27, 2006

E train from Penn Station takes you right to MoMA.
posted by ofthestrait at 3:48 PM on June 27, 2006

If it’s really pouring when you get to Penn Station, stay completely indoors: walk back downstairs to the 8th Avenue subway and take a B or C train north to 81st Street, where you can enter the Museum of Natural History, and the planetarium, from the subway station straight into the basement. After 2 hours, if the rain has stopped you can walk across the street into Central Park at 77th St. and stroll ten blocks south past Strawberry Fields, etc., to 67th Street, and Sheep Meadow, where you can exit at Tavern on the Green. (If it’s still raining, maybe take the #10 bus south along Central Park West and get off at 66th St.)

brain_drain is right -- It’s not likely productive to make suggestions if we don’t know your interests. MoMA’s fine, but it will be crowded. You also have time to check out, weather permitting, Chelsea galleries, East Village hipsters, ferry to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty (Maybe. Call ahead.), Madison Avenue high fashion, and any number of other museums that may entertain you in particular. Consider the Frick Collection on Fifth Avenue and (East) 69th St., from which you can walk to the 66th Street crosstown bus and ride one or two stops to your appointment.

Wednesday is matinee day at all the Broadway theaters, and Lincoln Center, so traffic will be even worse than usual. MoMA will be crowded. I’m assuming you don’t have time for theater (or ballet – ABT has a matinee of Swan Lake). Maybe just avoid mid-town -- anything anywhere in or around the theater district.

And maybe skip the 66th St. Barnes & Noble and Tower Records; don’t need to come to NYC for that. There’s really nothing to do at Lincoln Center in the rain if you’re not attending a performance. Nor would I bother with the Time Warner Center unless you will in fact dine at one of the ultra-expensive restaurants there, or like to browse high-end shopping malls. Across the street from there, if you want a special meal and New York style, there’s lunch sitting at the bar at Nougatine, which is Jean-George’s slightly-less-expensive front room (60th St. -- call ahead to see if they'll take walk-ins).

Two more suggestions for your route: One of the great photo/video stores in the U.S. is one block west of Penn Station. One of the LDS Family History Centers (for genealogy research – family trees) is on West 65th Street.

You’re right about Amtrak: you might not arrive early.
posted by Dave 9 at 6:14 PM on June 27, 2006

Just curious, COD, what did you end up doing?
posted by mattbucher at 7:23 AM on June 30, 2006

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