Your 2018 New York City Marathon Cheat Sheet
Here are some of the best places to watch the race, grab a meal and check in for the night.
Every first Sunday in November (Nov. 4 for 2018), about 50,000 runners converge on the five boroughs, while locals and visitors alike partake in the all-day spectator sport. In addition to cheering on the participants, it’s important to plot your game plan: namely, where to stand, where to eat (and warm up) and where to retreat when you’re tired from all the race watching. For more help, the official NYC Marathon guide and TCS New York City Marathon App provide comprehensive information about which subway lines to take, how to find specific entertainment (more than 130 bands will be performing along the route), and where to rendezvous with any runners you may be rooting on.
The race kicks off in Staten Island and crosses into Brooklyn on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, but spectators aren’t allowed at the starting point or on the bridge. (This goes for all of the racecourse bridges.) Fortunately, crowds can gather along Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge to partake in the initial excitement. After getting off the R train at the Bay Ridge stop, pop into Coffee Rx for a caffeine fix. Look for seasonal offerings, like the maple bourbon latte. Presuming it’s cold, warm up throughout the day at Lock Yard, a heated beer garden.
The action picks up around Mile 8 in Ft. Greene, as live entertainment greets runners coming off of Fourth Avenue in brownstone Brooklyn. A good variety of train lines will get you to the Atlantic Avenue stop, where the intersection of Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue offers the biggest scene. Otherwise, stake out a spot along Lafayette near Olea, a local favorite for brunch. If the wait is too long, venture a short ways to Downtown Brooklyn for Dekalb Market Hall, a newish food court that’s home to about 40 well-curated vendors (Katz’s Deli, Steve’s Key Lime, Arepa Lady).
Stay: Hotel Indigo
This boutique hotel (part of the InterContinental chain) is conveniently located near Mile 8 and the famed Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Runners and non-runners alike will appreciate the gym’s massage rollers, quiet rooms and easy subway access.
This section spans Williamsburg and Greenpoint, with tons of restaurant offerings in hipster central. Hop the L to Bedford Avenue in Willamsburg, a popular stretch for cheering crowds. Take a break from the hard work of cheerleading at Pies ‘n’ Thighs, Egg, Radegast Hall beer garden and more. Or take the G to Greenpoint Ave. to watch the runners head toward the Pulaski Bridge, and join the locals at in-demand Five Leaves bistro and Spritzenhaus33, a cavernous beer hall.
Stay: The William Vale
One of Williamsburg’s newest hotels, this on-trend boutique property is within walking distance of both Bedford Avenue and Greenpoint. Luxurious rooms provide floor-to-ceiling city views, rain shower fixtures and Frette linens — welcome respites even if you just stood and watched the action. Meanwhile, runners can eat their weight in Southern Italian food at Leuca.
Welcome to the halfway point in Long Island City, a lively section of Queens rivaling Brooklyn’s destination neighborhoods. Catch the 7 train to Vernon-Jackson or the G to 21 Street-Van Alst to support the runners as they come off the Pulaski Bridge. Since you’ve come this far, pace yourself to try both Mu Ramen (expect to wait in line) and Casa Enrique, a Michelin-starred Mexican restaurant (make reservations way in advance).
Stay: Boro Hotel
It’s new, it’s industrial chic and you’d pay a lot more if it were in Manhattan. Runners in the group will love the Studio rooms for their deep soaking tubs. But there are rooms to appeal to all tastes and needs, from the Manhattan View Balcony to the Double for a group. All rooms include pillow top mattresses, Italian bedding and robes, and, most importantly after a long day outdoors: room service.
Plenty of excitement occurs around 59th and 1st as runners pour off of the Queensboro Bridge, but plenty of crowds occur there too. Alternatively, head north to Mile 17, where crowds, while not insignificant, allow better viewing. Plus, First Avenue is lined with alluring businesses, like Le Moulin a Café for authentic French pastries and coffee, and a fireplace in the back. Insider tip: Stay on the west side of First. Should you find yourself on the east side, you can’t simply cross the street during the marathon, but instead have to travel down to 59th street in order to cut across. Plus, standing on the west side makes for easier access to head to Central Park to watch the finish.
Stay: Moxy Times Square
New York Hilton Midtown and Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel are the marathon’s official hotels, offering discounted rates at these activity hubs. But spectators have more flexibility with their lodging, including trendy newcomer Moxy, located mere blocks from the Times Square cacophony. Its convenient location is ideal for accessing any part of the route, while the massive enclosed rooftop bar with prime skyline views is made for post-marathon imbibing.
After traveling up First through East Harlem, runners briefly cross into the Bronx, one of the route’s least packed areas, and infamous for race fatigue setting in at this point. Cheer your heart out here while enjoying an official race block party. Local DJs, a drumline and a Daybreaker dance scene all contribute to maintaining energy levels. Unlike the runners, you can head over to Red Rooster in Harlem for its gospel brunch when you need to recharge. Afterward, join the entertainment zone at Marcus Garvey Park.
Stay: Aloft Harlem
Part of the Marriott brand, Aloft Harlem puts you in easy proximity of Central Park, Red Rooster and the Apollo Theater.
The race concludes at West 67th Street and West Drive, near Tavern on the Green, but like New Year’s Eve in Times Square, don’t expect to get anywhere near the action. (Non-runners aren’t allowed in the finish line area unless you bought advance tickets for Grandstand seating.) Mile 25 provides slightly better access, along with the palpable excitement of runners nearing the finish line. But to avoid the crushing masses, pick a spot along Miles 23-24, where runners are entering the home stretch from Harlem. While there’s cheering all along the route, this is the place to scream until you’re hoarse, “Almost there!” and “You can do it!” Afterward, if you know a runner, use the TCS New York City Marathon App to track them down. Either way, plan your celebration feast in advance, since many city restaurants, especially those on the Upper West Side, will be mobbed.
Stay: Loews Regency New York
Runners will be leaving Central Park on the west side, so head in the opposite direction to the upscale Loews Regency New York, just two blocks from the park. Take advantage of the $26.20 pasta and beer special at the Regency Bar & Grill, only available during marathon weekend. Though not inexpensive, the 10,000-square-foot spa and salon provides post-race pampering — not like you need running a marathon as an excuse.