Your neighborhood guide to Herald Square in midtown
November 22, 2009
by Nicole Lyn Pesce
Each Sunday, Your New York offers an up-close look at a city neighborhood. Save this week's cheat sheet for navigating Herald Square, the end point of Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade and one of your Manhattan's top shopping corridors.
Crowds of spectators are expected to line the streets around the retail center on Thursday for the parade. Fortunately, there are plenty of clean public rest rooms, savory food stands and fun souvenir shops that visitors and residents alike can be grateful for - if you know where to look.
Herald Square's familiar bow-tie shape is formed by the intersection of Broadway, Sixth Ave. and 34th St. It's more a shopping and commuting hub than residential nabe, with 100 million people crossing its four corners each year. Visitors Emanuel Sinantiris and Lucille Rodriguez browse sidewalk art from one of the many vendors along Sixth Ave.
Modeling scouts Anthony Dask, Marielle Sohan and Christopher Cruz, all 17 of Brooklyn, will be working outside Macy's during the parade. "It's going to be crazy," says Sohan, who suggests bringing "coffee, scarves, gloves and wearing layers and layers." The procession previously trekked down Broadway, but was rerouted to Sixth Ave. after the Great White Way became a pedestrian plaza between 33rd and 35th Sts.
Herald Square is a tourism haven, with info kiosks packing maps and guides, plus gift shops such as 32nd Fashion (51 W. 32nd St.) hawking everything from "I Love NY" coffee mugs (2 for $10), to mini taxicabs and Lady Liberty key rings. "It's a way to take a piece of New York home with you," says vendor Diane McCloskey, who sells oil paintings.
"The worst part about coming to the city is having to find a public bathroom!" gripes Eileen Sierra from Connecticut. But there are four public toilets in Herald Square Park and nearby Greeley Park that score high marks with guests. "I'm honestly shocked," gushes Jason Cohen, visiting from New Jersey with sons Sam, 8, Jamie, 6, and Reese, 3. "We've been in the city a lot of times, and never seen as clean a public bathroom as that." Locals also recommend the rest rooms within the nearby Burger King (255 W. 34th St.) or McDonald's (429 Seventh Ave.) or many Irish bars.
Mayor Bloomberg turned Broadway into a pedestrian-only zone last spring, and the stretch in front of Macy's from 35th to 33rd Sts. is lined with tables and chairs to rest sightseers' weary feet. The plaza becomes the perfect spectator spot in the parade's last stretch as it turns from Sixth Ave. onto 34th St.
A whopping 1 million commuters pass through the Herald Square station every day, and public transit will be your best bet on Thanksgiving. Several subway lines (the D, F, N, Q, R) and the PATH trains will run on a Sunday schedule. The M4, M5, M6, M7, M16, M34 and Q32 buses serve the area, and Penn Station and its access to the LIRR and the 1, 2, 3, A, C and E subway lines is nearby.
Those who stay in Herald Square hotels tend to be travelers. Some Austrian Airlines stewardesses enjoy a quick smoke outside the Radisson (49 W. 32nd St.) recently before a return flight to Vienna. "If you're lucky, you can come to New York City two times a month," says a flight attendant named Barbara, who spent 24 hours here on this layover. "Our time here is short, but there's enough time to shop! We visited Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Century 21." The newly renovated Manhattan Mall (Sixth Ave. between 32nd and 33rd St.) includes the city's first JC Penney, plus familiar brands like Victoria's Secret, Charlotte Russe and Aeropostale.
While some eateries and chains, like Mrs. Fields Cookies (1293 Broadway), Martinique Cafe (1260 Broadway) and the 'wichcraft kiosk (Greeley Square) are open on Turkey Day, the street vendors reign supreme. Pick up parade-friendly staples like soft pretzels, roasted chestnuts and hot dogs from the fleet of carts. Taha Zekry, who plans to park along 36th St., serves turkey sandwiches on Thanksgiving as well as lamb gyros and kebabs from his halal cart. "Customers at the parade will be asking for something to eat, so I'll be there," he says. "But by 11 a.m., everything is finished."