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One of Barnumbia’s biggest pulls is the fact that it is located right in Manhattan, meaning that students get the benefit of being at a world-class institution with one of the most dynamic cities right in their backyard.
If and when you come here, you probably won’t have time to venture off campus every day, but you’ll definitely be able to find time to explore on some of your weekends. What you do depends on your personality and interests, but here are just a select few of your pretty much infinite number of options.
You can get free admission to plenty of museums around the city with your student ID. You can see a complete list of your options here, but below are just a couple of honorable mentions:
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Met Breuer
- The Morgan Library and Museum
- The Museum of Modern Art
- The American Folk Art Museum
The Met and MoMA are undoubtedly the most famous art museums in New York and the ones you and your classmates will visit most frequently, sometimes for an art history class, sometimes just for pleasure. Even if you’re not a huge art buff, you’ll definitely want to stop by at least once—some of the most famous paintings and sculptures are there, such as “The Starry Night,” “Campbell’s Soup Cans,” “The Persistence of Memory,” and “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in MoMA and “The Death of Socrates,” “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher,” and “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” in the Met.
Central Park begins not too far from campus (110th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, about a 15-minute walk from campus), so if you want to go for runs or appreciate the changing of the seasons, there’s no need to go far.
But Central Park isn’t your only option. Riverside Park is located just three minutes off campus (you’ll have to walk as far west as possible). If you go a bit farther south in the park, you can actually get pretty close to the Hudson River and have a great view of New Jersey.
The High Line is also a great option—the views are amazing, it’s a constantly changing outdoor art exhibit, and it’s located near Chelsea Market, so you can get a great bite to eat in addition to stretching your legs.
Battery Park is located as far south in Manhattan as possible and isn’t exactly a traditional park in the sense of having grass or playgrounds, but you can capture some aesthetically pleasing NYC skyline photos there. This is also where you can catch the free ferry to Staten Island, which will give you a great view of the financial district and the Statue of Liberty.
Most Columbia students aren’t from the New York area, so doing typically touristy things during your first couple of months in the city isn’t uncommon at all. Most places won’t give you a student discount, but they’re still worth checking out if you have the money.
You can either organize a trip to actually get off at the Statue of Liberty, or you can just get a good pic of it from the aforementioned Staten Island Ferry. Tickets to the statue itself can be as cheap as $18.50, and include stopping at Ellis Island as well.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum was recently completed, and it’s within walking distance of Battery Park (probably around a 15 to 20 minute walk, depending on your pace). You can get tickets for admission to the actual museum, pay a little extra for a tour, or just look at the two reflecting pools outside.
A lot of students go to the top floors of the Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, or One World Trade Center to get a bird’s-eye view of the city. The only downside is that tickets are pretty expensive. If you’re looking for the best view, go to either the Rockefeller Center or the Empire State Building (they’re taller than the Chrysler). If you want to go to the one with the coolest architecture, however, the Chrysler’s for you. One World Trade will give you a different perspective on the city, as it’s located all the way downtown.
Note: Keep in mind that these are just five of hundreds of touristy activities. Before coming, make sure you do more research on your own—other things you can consider are those hop-on, hop-off bus tours, Macy’s Herald Square, Washington Square Park, Times Square, Carnegie Hall, the Central Park Zoo, etc.
Visiting New York’s cultural neighborhoods
We’ve recently begun a series called A Break in the Bubble, which focuses on how to spend your weekend in one of New York’s many cultural neighborhoods. We’ll recommend a couple of places to go, things to see, and places to eat, so you’ll never have to worry about getting bored. Our goal is to cover every neighborhood in Manhattan—so far, we have Koreatown and Little Tokyo under our belts. In the coming weeks, we’ll be covering Chinatown and Little Italy (of course), as well as Little India, Little Poland, and Little Australia, so stay tuned.
Journey to other boroughs
Even though campus is in Manhattan, it’s worth checking out the other boroughs whenever you have some free time. You can check off the Bronx easily—during NSOP, orientation leaders often lead a trip to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium.
If you want to give Brooklyn a try, the obvious choice is planning a trip to the Brooklyn Bridge. Especially in the fall, while the weather’s still nice, you can catch the subway down to the beginning of the bridge in Manhattan, walk across, take some pictures along the way, and then stop for a scenic break in Brooklyn Bridge Park. If you’re interested in checking out other neighborhoods, Williamsburg and Brighton Beach are obvious choices. Plus, you can head to the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a more artistic afternoon.
There are a few things to check out in Staten Island. You can head to the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, High Rock Park, and the Boardwalk; and as I’ve mentioned a couple times before, taking the free ferry for the views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty is definitely worth it.
You’ll probably visit Queens at least two different times: when you’re going to the airport and if you ever do one of our neighborhood tours. A lot of diaspora communities are located in Queens, so if you’re looking for authentic food and shopping from the country of your choice, you’ll probably find them in Queens. If you’re trying to check off more museums off your bucket list, be sure to head to the Museum of the Moving Image, MoMA PS1, and Socrates Sculpture Park.
Just like with museums, a ton of reduced-price tickets to shows around the city are available to you through Columbia. If you’re interested in what they’re performing at Lincoln Center (including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, and the Juilliard School), we have an entire article that explains how you can claim your discounted tickets.
Also at Lincoln Center (but not mentioned in the article we just linked), the Metropolitan Opera is a great way to spend a musical evening (you’ll probably get to go here for your Music Hum class, too).
If you want to be super bougie, you can become a Carnegie (yes, like Carnegie Hall) Student Insider, which gets you a $15 semester-long pass that allows you to claim $10 tickets to certain shows.
Finally, you can check the Columbia and Barnard box offices to see what discounted tickets they have available for students—you’ll be able to find many different types of shows, from smaller, off-Broadway productions to the biggest shows currently on Broadway.
The best (but let’s be real, probably also most intimidating) aspect of living in the city is that your options will never run out. We’ve really only grazed the surface here—there’s still so much more to talk about, such as food, nightlife, day trips beyond 212th, sporting events, etc. That’s part of the excitement of coming to Barnumbia though—each weekend will be something different.
Veronica Grace Taleon is Spectrum’s editor and a Barnard sophomore. She really only recommended Times Square because she knew she had to. She gets how some people might like it there, but to her, it’s a nightmare. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.