Mar 02 2011

Riverside Park & Columbia University

On Saturday, we took a day trip to Upper Manhattan, specifically West 110th-122nd Streets.  With the exception of driving in or out of the city, neither of us had explored that far up in Manhattan, and we wanted to wander the grounds of Columbia University and Riverside Park.  Being coffee lovers, we were also eager to check out the newest Joe Coffee.

We consulted a few of our leftover NYC guidebooks from before we moved here. None of them had much to say about the area, other than recommending a look around Columbia University.  Our new Eat Shop NYC edition listed The Hungarian Pastry Shop as a "must go", but beyond that, it wasn't very helpful.  I did some quick research online and decided we would walk through Riverside Park, see the Riverside Church, wander through Columbia University, and swing through Morningside Park.

A 45 minute train ride later, we exited at the 110th St station and walked towards the water.  Riverside Park, still a bit snowy from our endless winter, had a peaceful, desolate feel.  While there wasn't the bustle of activity I'm used to experiencing in Union Square, the park is clearly an ideal place to run, walk, or bike.  Part of the quiet stemmed from the time of year--most places are quiet in late February. But the peacefulness came from more than just the season:  there weren't any tourists or tour buses to be seen, and there was a gentleness to people's movements.

As we continued north through the park, Riverside Church loomed in front of us.  Though I hadn't seen a picture of Riverside, I had read that the church was modeled after the 13th century Gothic cathedral of Chartres.  Even knowing that description, the church was more massive and impressive than we had imagined.  Riverside Church takes the title of the tallest church in the United States (and is the 26th tallest in the world).  Unfortunately, we couldn't wander around the nave, as an orchestra was practicing (and potentially recording).

We were both surprised to see Grant's Tomb.  Situated diagonally across from Riverside Church, the tomb is the largest in the country.  In 1889, the Grant Monument Associated conducted a design competition.  The winning design, out of 65 contestants, was submitted by John Duncan. He completed the tomb in 1897, modeling the exterior after the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.

After having our fill of Gothic and Greek architecture, we walked onto Columbia's impressive campus and into the science center to check out the new Joe the Art of Coffee.  The cafe was hopping; it clearly fills a void on the campus and neighborhood.  I was delighted to see my favorite avocado sandwich from Iris Cafe available.  And we were both impressed (as we always are with Joe) with the quality of our drinks.

Dining options for a day in Morningside Heights:

  • Check out Community Food and Juice, the sister restaurant to Clinton Street Bakery.  The expansive menu seemed creative and the space was bustling with energetic people.