What are the best spots to watch and cheer the athletes along the five-borough 26.2 mile route? There are oh, so many great spots, including some with block parties with bands and DJ along the route.
Pick your spot, and make reservations now for nearby restaurants.
That’s especially important if your are meeting a runner at the finish line, since restaurants in the Lincoln Center area are sure to be especially popular for Marathon medalists and the people who love them.
My vote for the best spot to watch and cheer the runners is where they enter Central Park for the final surge to the finish line. That spot is Fifth Avenue at 110th Street, also known as the Duke Ellington Circle.
Expect the elite women to enter Central Park at around 11:30 a.m., and the elite men around noon, followed by everybody else.
The Duke Ellington Circle is at the 22 mile marker of the 26.2 mile race, so it’s a great spot to cheer the runners, many of whom are clearly exhausted by that time and will appreciate your cheers telling them they are on the final stretch and almost there.
There’s also a jazz concert partnership with Jazzmobile and the Central Park Conservancy, one of several bands and concerts along the route to cheer the runners and energize the spectators.
As exciting as it is to be at the finish line, it is chaotic and crowded with TV trucks, race officials, and politicians.
The runners need encouragement all along the route, not just at the finish line. If you do want to be at the finish line, go late, after the crowds and the TV cameras have left.
The runners who take six hours, eight hours or even longer to finish, need encouragement even more than the elite speedsters.
Getting around on Marathon day
It’s a great map, complete with the NYC subway stop to get you to your viewing and cheering location of choice, in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx or Manhattan. The NYC Marathon website also has information on street, highway and bridge closures.
The 2018 NYC Marathon is Sunday, November 4th, through all five boroughs of New York City.
The best way to get around as a spectator is to take the subway.
There will be lots of street closings around the route, and traffic will most likely be gridlocked
Be sure to buy a MetroCard in advance to avoid long lines on race day. Use the MTA Trip Planner for up-to-date schedules..
The race kicks off in Staten Island and crosses into Brooklyn on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. Spectators are not allowed at the starting point or on the bridge, of on any of the bridges the runners cross during the race.
Here are the best spots to watch the NYC Marathon, mile by mile, and some places to eat nearby each watch spot.
Brooklyn- Miles 2-4
The first place to cheer is along Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge. Take the R train at the Bay Ridge stop. There are plenty of coffee shops in the area, or head for Lock Yard, a beer garden, for a craft beer and a burger.
Brooklyn – Mile 6-8
Live entertainment greets runners coming off of Fourth Avenue into Ft. Greene. Take just about any subway to the Atlantic Avenue stop. The biggest crowds are at the intersection of Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue, but you’ll find good viewing spots along Lafayette.
When you get hungry, it’s a few blocks to the Dekalb Market Hall, a fab indoor food court with about 40 popular local vendors (no national chains), including the overstuffed sandwiches of Katz’s Deli.
Brooklyn – Miles 10-13
This section spans Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
For Williamsburg, take the L to Bedford Avenue in Willamsburg, and join the cheering crowds. Good spots to take a break are at Pies ‘n’ Thighs and Radegast Hall beer garden, a top spot for Oktoberfest.
Queens – Miles 13-15
This is the halfway point for runners, in Long Island City. Take the 7 train to Vernon-Jackson or the G to 21 Street-Van Alst to support them as they come off the Pulaski Bridge.
Restaurants here tend to be small, family-owned affairs, so either plan to wait on line or head for another cavernous beerhall, Bierocracy, with long communal tables and a friendly vibe.
Manhattan, Miles 16-18
Runners pour off the Queensboro Bridge at 59th St. and head up First Avenue. There’s a block party at 62nd St. with a DJ, Jumbotron, and local marching band churning out NYC-inspired music to inspire the runners on their final 10.2 miles. Take the Q, 4, 5, 6 to 59th St./Lexington Ave. stop.
There are plenty of places to eat along First Avenue and the side streets. One of my favorites is British pub Jones Wood Foundry on 76th between First and York. Order their signature fish and chips.
- Tip – If you stay on the west side of First Ave., it will easier to walk west toward Central Park to watch the finish, or even just back to the subway. Since you will not be permitted to cross First Avenue above 59th Street during the race, you would have to walk downtown to 59th in order to cross.
Manhattan – Miles 20-21
After traveling up to East Harlem, runners briefly cross into the Bronx. Take the 6 to the 110th Street stop to be at one of the route’s least packed areas, also infamous for race fatigue. There’s an official block party here with local DJs, a drumline and a Daybreaker dance scene to help runners and spectators alike maintain energy levels. There’s also an entertainment zone at Marcus Garvey Park.
Manhattan – Miles 23 to Finish Line
The finish like is at West 67th Street and West Drive, near Tavern on the Green. But don’t expect to get up close and personal. Non-runners are not allowed in the finish line area without advance tickets for Grandstand seating. Simply, the further you are from the last few hundred feet, the better your access will be.
As we said at the top of this page, Mile 25, where the runners enter the park for the home stretch, at Duke Ellington Circle, is my top choice location to cheer them on with screams of “Almost there!’ and “you can do it!’. Take the 2 or 3 to 110th St.
After the NYC Marathon
If you know a runner, use the TCS New York City Marathon App to find them at the end of the race.
You should be making reservations now for your celebration dinner, since many restaurants, especially those close to the end of the race on the Upper West Side, will be mobbed with people wearing NYC Marathon medals and wrapped in crinkly heat-trapping silver blankets, like walking baked potatoes.
A good bet is Cafe Fiorello a few blocks from the finish line, at Broadway and 60th St., for exhausted runners to refuel on carb-loaded pastas. They are offering a special 10-ounce portion of pasta for $25 all weekend.
What’s your favorite spot to watch and cheer the runners in the annual NYC Marathon?
This was posted originally in 2012 and is updated annually.