7 mile beginner route
Starts at Columbus Circle, ends at the New York Stock Exchange
A- Columbus Circle
B- The Plaza Hotel
C- Rockefeller Center
D- Saks Fifth Avenue
E- New York Stock Exchange
The weather outside may be frightful, but the bright light displays in Manhattan are still delightful! While those looking for a dazzling holiday lights display might attempt to trek down to Dyker Heights, this ride is a slightly more attainable short route that can be completed in under an hour - great for these colder days and beginner riders.
A quick sidebar on this route- it was inspired by a group ride that I attended, and my original intention was to write up this route and plug this group as a great place for bikers who would prefer to ride together. However, I ending up leaving the ride and completing a different route, the one shown here. This ride got off to an uncomfortable start as the group was running lights at a fast clip and not staying together, a jarring experience for even me, as a city rider with lots of group riding experience. The ride escalated about 10 minutes in when one of the members hit a pedestrian and proceeded to throw their headphones at a car after they had gotten up and left. Instead of an enjoyable group ride, I was left completely shaken by this experience. I'm relaying this incident not to scare people off of group rides, but rather to encourage anyone that leads a group ride to be more cautious and to encourage any group rider to leave if they do not think a ride is being done with everyone's safety in mind. Also, if you are trans, non-binary, queer, or an allied cis woman, you should definitely check out Nightcap for group rides. I went on one of their rides over the summer and it was an empowering experience with people who took care, time, and effort to ensure the safety and comfort of all participants.
Okay, on to the route! Columbus Circle is a good starting point here, and a good meetup location if you want to do this route with other riders. No light displays around Columbus Circle, unfortunately, but it's just a quick jaunt over to The Plaza Hotel to check out their light display in front of the fountain in the plaza. This was a fun one, with a variety of light up trees, stars, and ornaments. Once you've stared hard enough at the lights, take your hopefully not too blinded self down 5th Avenue. 5th Avenue is really dazzling to bike down this time of year because each store still indulged in decorative window displays that are fun to see while biking by. I went ahead and took the bus lane here, as there was a fair amount of traffic, but it felt okay because it was moving relatively slowly. Once on 5th Avenue, make sure to stop by Saks Fifth Avenue - they have an amazing light show on the outside of the building that is timed to music. I was surprised by how genuinely delighted this light display made me, definitely worth a few minutes of standing on the sidewalk in the crowds going to the tree (thankfully, they are much smaller than normal this year). If you are feeling inspired, you can get in line to view the tree at Rockefeller Center, or if you are like me and hate crowds, you can walk down on E 50th Street and get a lovely view of the tree from a distance.
Since we are keeping this route short and sweet, there is only one more stop, but getting there is a relaxing jaunt down the Hudson River Greenway! I actually enjoyed this a lot, because people's apartments were lit up and there were some pretty fabulous trees that I could peep as I rode by. It made me happy to see people still getting into the holiday spirit this year and decorating their homes! Once you've gotten around the bottom of Manhattan, ride through Battery Park and over onto Broad Street. Here you will come upon a nicely lit up tree and Menorah in front of the Stock Exchange!
While I am normally a huge proponent of including food stops on these routes, I didn't plan for any food stops because this wasn't originally my route. However, I did eat both before and after this route in Williamsburg at Caracas Arepas Bar and at Leo, a fantastic pizza joint. Both have nice outdoor seating setups and are good for a quick meal. Leo's potato pizza is honestly one of the best slices ever (though not included in the hotly debated Ultimate Slice Route), so it's definitely worth a stop. Hope you enjoyed this quick and hopefully not too chilly jaunt of Manhattan light displays!
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!