Exploring New York City’s Midtown West: a Javits Center survival guide

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If you attend a conference in New York, chances are that you’ll end up at the Jacob K. Javits Center, New York City’s IM Pei-designed, trade-fair go-to since 1986. Like thousands of others, you’ll find yourself wondering what to do and how to have fun nearby. Fortunately, the opening of the 34th St–Hudson Yards subway station in 2015 makes a day at Javits feel a little less like being stranded in the middle of nowhere. And with the nearby Hudson Yards development now in full swing, there are more options for staying entertained and well-fed.

Here are a handful of the best things to do to break from the Javits scene, all reached within a short walk or Citi Bike ride.

Citi Bike station just outside the glass facade of the Jacob Javits Center in New York CityWith a Citi Bike station right outside, exploring the area around the Javits Center is easier than ever © Mikki Brammer / Lonely Planet

Best eats: Gotham West Market

Don’t even consider filling your belly within the confines of the Javits Center, where you’ll almost certainly be overcharged and undernourished. Instead walk north to Gotham West Market, the Hell’s Kitchen food hall that not only purveys hearty fare of all kinds – think tapas, ramen, pizza, tacos, burgers and gourmet ice cream – but has plenty of places to sit and eat it.

Best place to clear your head: High Line Park

The perfect salve to the dreary artificial lighting at Javits, the elevated and artsy High Line is a must-walk experience for anyone visiting the west side of Manhattan. The elevated train tracks turned modern park begin at the southern side of Javits, allowing you to meander all the way down to the Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District. Cutouts frame the streets below like moving urban artscapes and vendors peddle high-end coffee and gelato, while art installations and creative neighbors turn the walk into one of New York’s most inspiring galleries.

Best biking: Enoch’s Bicycles

If the weather’s nice, the best way to recharge yourself amidst (or after) a day at a trade show, is a leisurely loop by bike. You could grab a Citi Bike from the station out the front of Javits, but if you want an upgrade, this shop rents road bikes, cruisers, hybrids and tandems. You could ride up and take the Central Park loop in around 90 minutes, or head west to the Hudson River and ride up past sculpture parks and tucked-away basketball courts to the surprise under the George Washington Bridge: the little red lighthouse that inspired a classic children’s book. Enoch’s Bicycles is one block east of Javits Center via West 37th Street.

Best shopping: Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market

On weekends all year, West 39th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues transforms into one of the city’s best open-air flea markets. It’s held 9am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday, and is only a five- to 10-minute walk away. You’ll find everything from antiques and furniture to jewelry and vintage fashion.

old warehouse turned bar porchlight is a good place to hear live musicThe unassuming Porchlight is the best live music venue near Javits © Mikki Brammer / Lonely Planet

Best live music: Porchlight Bar

This laid-back watering hole from New York restaurant doyen Danny Meyer offers Southern-inspired cocktails and light bites every day of the week. But the best time to head there is on Monday nights from 6–9pm for Live from the Porchwhich showcases blues, country, bluegrass, folk and jazz performers.

Best space shuttle: Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

By far the best space shuttle in the neighborhood is the Enterprise, which resides at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Pier 86 (46th St.) Immerse yourself in the 17 fascinating exhibit zones that explore the science and history of the Enterprise and the space shuttle era through original artifacts, photographs, audio and films.

Best riverside drinks: Frying Pan

Pier 66, at 26th Street (eight blocks south of the center), transforms into a fun, lively open-air bar on a former ‘lightship’ anchored to an old railroad barge. It’s usually standing-room only on nice afternoons. There’s some food, but the focus is on drinks. It’s open May to October only.

Best spooky experience: Sleep No More

Let off some steam from a day spent cooped up at a conference by being scared silly at the McKittrick Hotel on West 27th Street, which is home to the immersive theatrical experience Sleep No More. Putting the audience right in the middle of the action, the show takes place across several floors of the building while telling the story of Shakespeare’s Macbeth through a film noir lens.

coffee in a cup and saucer and pastry on a matching plate The coffee and pastries at La Colombe are several notches up from the fare at Javits © Mikki Brammer / Lonely Planet

Best pastries: La Colombe

Since it’s likely you’ll be trying to avoid the coffee at Javits at all costs, head south to the city’s westernmost outpost of La Colombe on West 27th. The locale serves up not only coffee and tea, but also a selection of sweet and savory treats from lauded New York pastry purveyors François Payard and City Bakery.

Best view: New Jersey (yes, really!)

Honestly, there’s something empowering about skipping the taxi line at the end of a Javits day and just going to Jersey. More specifically, traveling to Hoboken by boat (the short trip to Hoboken is $9.00 one way) grants you one of the greatest, though lesser-known, views of New York. Hoboken, Frank Sinatra’s hometown, gets a broader look at the long Manhattan skyline than any vantage point in New York’s outer boroughs. The waterfront is charming, with piers, grassy island parks and eating spots with outdoor seating off the shady promenade. Oh, and there’s also a weird cave linked to Edgar Allan Poe.

Afterwards, you can take a PATH train back into Manhattan from Hoboken’s historic train station, or boat back to Javits or points in southern Manhattan. NY Waterway ferries leave from the pier at 39th Street for Hoboken’s 14th Street stop (don’t get out at Weehawken by mistake) every 20 minutes through the day. Check schedules here. The pier is a block northwest of Javits.

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