This week, the American Planning Association designated iconic Fifth Avenue as one of its 10 Great Streets for 2012—calling it “expansive and majestic” with a “style and splendor that is virtually unparalleled in the U.S.”
Fifth Avenue runs from Washington Square in Greenwich Village to Marcus Garvey Park at 142 Street in Harlem—a distance of six miles or 100 blocks, through 11 neighborhoods. It serves as the dividing line for street addresses on the east and west sides of the city.
If you are visiting New York City, it’s a great place to walk to see some of the city’s greatest sites. Here are but a few must-see stops along the way:
- The ornate Fifth Avenue Clock, located at 200 Fifth Avenue near 23rd Street at Madison Square Park is 19 feet high, one of several beautiful clocks you’ll see. When it was first built in 1909, it had to be wound every eight days but is now electrified. Tiffany & Co lovingly restored this New York City landmark in 2011.
- The 102-story Empire State Building is located at 350 Fifth Avenue between 33 and 34 St. Inarguably, since it opened in 1931, it is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world Believe it or not, its observatory is open every day of the year, including weekends and holidays. The American Society of Civil Engineers has named it one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
- The sprawling main branch of the New York City Library fronts on two city blocks of Fifth Avenue, from 40th to 42nd Streets. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the beaux-arts design building opened in 1911. Two stone lions sculpted by E.C. Potter (called Patience and Fortitude) flank the entrance.
- Between 48th and 51 Street, you’ll pass Rockefeller Center, a complex that includes 19 art-deco style buildings covering 22 acres. Opened in 1939, its centerpiece is the skyscraper called “30 Rock” at 30 Rockefeller Center.
- The flagship store of the Saks Fifth Avenue fashion chain is located at 50th Street. The 10-story building, opened in 1924, is known for beautiful holiday window displays and a shoe department so large that it has its own zip code.
- Just one block north, between 50th and 51st. Street, is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is visited by more than 5 million people each year. If you look up, you can see its spires that rise 330 feet from the ground.
- Some of the most upscale boutiques and stores in the city are located on Fifth Avenue, including Tiffany & Co., at the corner of 57th Street. Founded in 1837, its iconic blue boxes are known throughout the world for holding fine jewels and gems.
- One of the most striking among the many commercial buildings on Fifth Avenue is the Apple Store, located between 58th and 59th Streets. With its unique glass entryway, the store has won many architectural awards.
- Hands down, the most scenic portion of Fifth Avenue is the part where it runs adjacent to the east side of Central Park, from 59th to 110th Streets.
- The section of Fifth Avenue between 82 and 105th Streets is called Museum Mile. It is home to nine museums, including such cultural meccas as the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum.
The Great Places in America Program recognizes streets, neighborhoods, and public places that have evolved from thoughtful and deliberate planning by residents and community leaders and planners.
In case you’re curious, the nine other great streets named this year are: Duval Street, Key West, FL; Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO; Main Street, Bozeman, MT; Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY; Wall Street, Kingston, NY; Shaker Boulevard, Cleveland, Shaker Heights and Beachwood, OH; Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA; Broad Street, Charleston, SC; and Gay Street, Knoxville, TN.
IF YOU GO
Make sure you don’t plan your walk on the same day as one of the numerous celebratory parades that make their route on Fifth Avenue, including the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Caution: Bicycling on Fifth Avenue can be risky. According to Wikipedia, there is a bike lane south of 23rd Street and a scenic route beside the park, but it can be downright “dangerous” cycling on Fifth through Midtown, especially at rush hours.
[For a virtual walk on Fifth Avenue, see my slideshow posted on the NBC Universal website Life Goes Strong.]