13 mile beginner route
Starts and ends in Midtown Manhattan.
B- The Museum of Modern Art
C- Central Park Model Boat Sailing
D- La Fonda Boricua
E- Crack is Wack Playground
F- Sugar Monk
H- Columbus Circle
I checked another biking first off the list with this ride, it was my first time riding the complete Central Park loop! This route is great for someone looking for a slower paced ride with fun cultural stops sprinkled in, as well as some delicious food and drink options!
I recommend starting off at Ess-a-Bagel, a bagel shop first established in 1976. This bagel shop has a ton of positive reviews, and I was really looking forward to checking it out, but I made the mistake of attempting to visit on the weekend of Rosh Hashanah and they were closed! Still in search of a morning bagel I biked down to Zucker's Bagels and Smoked Fish at 370 Lexington, which looked equally promising for bagel deliciousness, but was definitely not an efficient way to get a quick breakfast. I waited in line for around 30 minutes before I realized that there was no way that I would be able to order and eat a bagel before my timed tickets at the MoMa, so it was a very sad egg and cheese from the deli across the street for me. Please learn from this bagel tale of woe! Ess-a-Bagel still seems like the best choice for a morning bagel near MoMa, I would just allow for more time than you think is necessary for those long lines and make sure you check to see if they will be closed on any important Jewish holidays.
After my breakfast flop it was time to head to the MoMa. I was lucky enough to snag a free timed ticket to the recently reopened MoMa, which is currently operating at 25% capacity. The tickets are free for the month of September, and if there was ever a time to enjoy one of New York's excellent museums it is now. With limited capacity entry at the MoMa (and most museums now), it is easier to go at a leisurely pace and enjoy the art. There wasn't a line when I got right before 12 (my timed ticket was for 11:30 but I was late due to the bagel fiasco. Thankfully the window is for 30 minutes.) Upon entering they scanned my forehead for my temperature and then let me right in. It was a little awkward going through the temperature check and security, but once I passed that section the experience felt pretty much like a regular day at a museum, just much less crowded. I haven't made it to the MoMa since they did the re-design, so it was my first time checking out the new space and the updated curation of the exhibits. I checked out the Donald Judd exhibition, and went through the majority of the newly curated regular exhibits. I enjoyed the new curation, each room is designed around a theme or a particular artist, with some unexpected twists. In Picasso's room, there was an re-imagining of Guernica by Faith Ringgold entitled "American People Series #20: Die" that really stood out to me, one for it's striking composition and depiction of the race riots of the 1960s, but also for it's inclusion in the room of an artist that is both extremely well known and widely accepted. I recommend checking out the new MoMa, to enjoy the new space but also to appreciate the thought that is behind the new exhibits.
After the MoMa, it's time for the first half of the Central Park loop! Straight up Sixth Avenue on the protected bicycle lane is the way to go, just be careful of some of the Open Restaurants that are protruding into the bike lane. Take the entrance to Central Park from 6th Avenue and just start up Central Drive, enjoying the wide, car free lanes. Central Park only became car free in 2018, after many years of advocacy by Transportation Alternatives and dedicated activists. Riding through it now, it seems insane that car drivers were ever allowed to traverse through this people centered landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted for picturesque relaxation. It was lovely biking up through Manhattan on a fully car free path, though do be careful to watch out for pedestrians (and be doubly careful to watch out for Lycra clad speed demons!) We biked by the Central Park Model Boat sailing house to see if model boat sailing was available, but unfortunately, it looked like the boat house was closed. If anyone has intel on how that works, please leave a comment! Regardless, it's a nice place to stop with a collection of tables and chairs overlooking the lake.
Google might suggest that you hop out of the park to reach your next destination, but I say take the path to the end of the park and head to your lunch destination at La Fonda Boricua by taking E 110th Street over and then going down Lexington Avenue over to 106th Street.
La Fonda Boricua is a Puerto Rican restaurant located in East Harlem, also colloquially known as El Barrio or Spanish Harlem due to its high concentration of residents of Latin descent. Come to La Fonda Boricua to enjoy some homestyle Puerto Rican food at a local favorite that has been a neighborhood staple since 1996. I thoroughly enjoyed my cod-filled empanada and some yucca fries, as well as a delicious cocktail. It won't take too many plates to fill up here as the portions are quite large!
Next on the tour is just a little further north to check out Keith Haring's 'Crack is Wack' mural at the 'Crack is Wack' playground located on 2nd Avenue and 127th Street. Head up 1st Avenue to 126th Street, and to be honest here, I dismounted around here and walked over to the playground. The playground isn't exactly very accessible by either pedestrian or cyclist, and crossing over the off-ramp from the Willis Avenue bridge to get over there was a slightly frightening experience! I still think it is worth checking out however, because the mural was amazing. Keith Haring is a NYC artist who came into his own around the 1980s and painted this mural demonstrating the perils of crack addiction in 1986 on the wall of a handball court. I was astonished at what great shape the mural was in, with crisp lines and bright colors still intact. While this piece is out of the way, it truly is a part of NYC history.
It's now time to make your descent back down Manhattan's west side! It's a pretty straight shot over on 126th Street, though again, be careful leaving the playground and making the turn. No shame in walking over to 126th Street if you don't feel comfortable fighting the barrage of cars over there. Once on 126th take that either over to Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd and turn over onto 123rd for a drink at Sugar Monk, or keep going onto 126th down to Frederick Douglass Blvd. I stopped at Sugar Monk and had a delicious cocktail in their outdoor sidewalk seating area, but as I was heading back to Central Park I realized that I had missed ample opportunities for outdoor seating and drinking on the Open Restaurant Street at Frederick Douglass Blvd, so given a second chance, I might head down there to check out the offerings.
Either or, once you've finished up your drink or exploration of the Open Street, it's time to head back into the park and wind your way down the west side. Enjoy the equally lovely west side of Central Park and contemplate how we should make more spaces of our fair city car free while you do!
Hi! I'm Rachel.
I'm creating curated bike routes in all 5 boroughs of NYC. Routes include downloadable route map, descriptions of the bicycle infrastructure, and suggestions on places to eat and things to see. Enjoy!