Nothing says November in New York City like the NYC Marathon, and the spandex-clad runners, tourists, road closures, tinfoil capes, insane fanfare and (rare) local camaraderie it brings. If you’re wondering where to watch the NYC marathon on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, be forewarned: Running 26.2 miles is without a doubt the biggest challenge of the day, but navigating the streets as a spectator is a challenge too!
If you plan to hit the course to cheer your favorite runners on this weekend — bravo! — you will have a blast and put smiles on the faces on many tired athletes. Before venturing out, be sure you have a charged cell phone, plenty of layers and a game plan of where you want to watch. Check out this list of the best places to watch the New York City Marathon — vetted by a native New Yorker and local marathon competitor. And if you’re running — crush, crush, crush!
Tips for Watching the NYC Marathon
- Download the New York City Marathon app.
- Know what time your runner will start the marathon. There are four start times staggered between 9:40 and 11 a.m.
- Know what your runner plans to wear, so you can spot them on the course.
- Check the forecast and layer accordingly. Be sure to wear sneakers or comfortable shoes. You may not be running, but you will be on your feet for much of the morning.
- Check the MTA’s Weekender to make sure you’re up-to-date on all subway trackwork and delays.
The Best Places to Watch the NYC Marathon in 2019
Mile 7: 4th Avenue and 3rd Street, Park Slope
Good Energy and Good Viewing: This is a good spot to watch the NYC marathon because from this point, you can see the whole sea of runners coursing down 4th Avenue. You can also easily get a curbside spot, which is good for high fives and hugs. Near Local Subways: If you want to catch your runner at multiple spots along the course, Mile 7 is a good place to start. You can jump on the G train at 4th Avenue and 9th Street and head to Greenpoint or Long Island City. The F train is also available at 4th Avenue and 9th Street, which will take you to 63rd Street, where you can catch your runner on the Upper East Side. Or you can take the F to 57th Street to attempt to see them in Central Park.
Brunch Break: Stone Park Cafe is just up the hill on 5th Avenue and offers a good, sit-down brunch. For bagels, try Bagel World on 5th Avenue and 4th Street.
Mile 9: Lafayette and Washington Avenue, Fort Greene
Good Energy and Good Viewing: At Mile 9, there will be more crowds, but it is one of the most fun and picturesque places to watch the NYC marathon. For more than 35 years, the Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School band has riled up runners and fans with their rendition of the “Rocky” theme song. Mile 9 can get more crowded and boisterous because of this, but it is not as intense as other viewing spots in Manhattan. You can still get a curbside place to watch. An added bonus for Mile 9 is Fort Greene’s lovely brownstone backdrop.
Local Subways: From Atlantic Terminal, you can take the 4 or 5 train to the Upper East Side or to East Harlem. You can take the N or the Q to 59th Street to try to get a glimpse of your runner approaching the finish line in Central Park.
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Brunch Break: Café Paulette is good for croissants and coffee. For full-on brunch, try Walter’s or Miss Ada. If you need to eat on the run, the Greene Grape Annex offers gourmet takeaway treats.
Mile 14: Citibank Building at Court Square, Long Island City
Good Viewing: Mile 14 will not be as crowded or energetic as the rest of the course, but is a nice spot for runners to see fans because they will have just passed the 13.1 mark and will be approaching the Queensboro Bridge, one of the course’s steepest inclines and one of the few places where there are no fans at all. Given the relative lack of crowds, you can be sure to spot your runner here and get a big sweaty hug.
Local Subways: Hop on the R or E train at Queens Plaza to head back into the city if you want to catch your runner again. Get off at 57th Street station and you’ll be right near the final mile along Central Park South.
Brunch Break: Mile 14 is not the place to go for nearby bagels and brunch, so if you choose to watch here, bring snacks and a hot Thermos!
Mile 16-18: First Avenue, Upper East Side
Great Energy: If you want to be in the thick of it all while you watch the NYC marathon, head to First Avenue. It’s essentially a giant street party, with international tourists annexing street corners to cheer en masse when their compatriots come chugging through. You are bound to have a blast, but you might not see your runner through all the chaos. If it is a priority to see a runner, do not bank on seeing them along First Avenue.
Local Subways: The best way to get to First Avenue is to take the 4 or 5 train to either 59th or 86th Street. You can also take the Q to 72nd, 86th or 96th Streets. You can also take the F train to 63rd and Lexington.
Brunch Break: First Avenue is chock full of local pubs — more so than brunch spots. Fortunately by the time your runner is hitting this stretch of the course, it will probably be past noon, so why not grab a beer? Try Jones Wood Foundry or the East End Bar and Grill.
Mile 22: 120th-125th Streets and Fifth Avenue, Harlem
Good Energy and Good Viewing: At Mile 22, the runners whip around Harlem’s historic Marcus Garvey Park, a small park that intersects Fifth Avenue. It’s a great place to watch because the sidewalks are wide and the crowds are small. By this point in the race, the runners have spread out, so you can spot yours easily.
Local Subways: Marcus Garvey Park is close to the 4, 5, 6 train at 125th Street, which you can take down to 59th Street to meet your runner at the end of the race. You can also take the 2 or 3 train down the West Side and get off at 72nd Street and head to Central Park from there. It is important to note that if you watch at Marcus Garvey Park, it is unlikely you will be able to catch your runner at another spot in the race.
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Brunch Break: You’re in the right place if you are looking to do brunch. Get your fill of breakfast grits at two of the city’s best soul spots — Red Rooster or Sylvia’s.
Mile 23: East 96th Street and Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side
Great Energy: Watching at Mile 23 is powerful because runners will be working through their inner demons. Cheerly loudly for them! It helps. In this section of the Upper East Side, you’ll get great views of Central Park’s changing leaves and will be right outside some of the Upper East Side’s most pristine co-op buildings. So if you’ve got out-of-towners who want to get a dose of classic New York City, this is a good place to head. That said, the crowds at Mile 23 will be deep.
Local Subways: Mile 23 is about a two-block walk from the 6 train at 96th Street and Lex. From there, you can head down to 59th and get to the finish line that way. That said, at this point in the race, it will be difficult to catch your runner again. If you want to reunite with them at the end of the race, it’s probably faster to walk across the park. Much of the park will be closed to car and foot traffic, but you should be able to use the 85th Street Transverse.
Brunch Break: Sarabeth’s is a quintessential upscale brunch destination. It might be crowded, but by this point in the afternoon you’ll probably have missed the mid-morning rush.
Places to Avoid Watching the NYC Marathon
The Finish Line: Anywhere along Central Park South or in Central Park will be packed. The New York Road Runners club sets up grandstands and barricades, which impedes the flow of fan traffic. If you are watching with a big group of people or have kids in tow, you should avoid this area.
The Bronx: If it is not convenient for you to get to the Bronx, it’s not worth the trip. The runners cover barely a mile in the Bronx; the crowds are thin; and there are many twists and turns to the course, which means there’s not a great spot for viewing or for spectators to congregate.
Bay Ridge: During the early miles of the races, the runners will still be fresh and feeling good. If it is not convenient for you to watch here, it is probably not worth the trip out on the R train.
[This post has been edited and republished.]
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