West Side Spirit asked author Cameron Gidari about his new book, “Manhattan Before8,” which reveals a side to the Big Apple most people don’t see; a lack of crowds. Gidari’s book is a guide for morning people in New York City, highlighting the best sights, sounds and experiences in Manhattan before 8 AM.
So what are some of the best sights, sounds and experiences to see on the Upper East and Upper West sides before 8 a.m.?
Fort Tryon Park – One of the most criminally underrated places in Manhattan, Fort Tryon Park sits so high on the Manhattan grid (190th Street and above) that it might as well be in another state. But the park offers spectacular morning views of the West Bronx to the East and the Hudson River, Palisades and George Washington Bridge to the West, not to mention beautiful gardens and charming stone pathways that weave through the trees. Perfect for early-morning photography, or sign up for one of the park’s exercise classes. And of course, make sure to stop by the Cloisters in the northern part of the park to experience a true European-style castle.
Ninth Street Espresso – Ninth Street Espresso only offers four items on their menu – coffee, iced coffee, espresso, and espresso with milk. They are a coffee purist’s dream come true, and they just opened their fourth location in the Lombardy Hotel on East 56th Street. This is my favorite cup of coffee that I’ve had in the city.
Bike racing in Central Park – Central Park is absurdly crowded during the day, but at 6 AM on Saturdays, they block off the drives from traffic and hold professional bike races around the park. Seeing a bike race up close and personal is an adrenaline rush, and the races you see on TV do not do the experience justice. Most races are run through the Century Road Club Association, so make sure to check their website (CRCA.com) to see if a race is scheduled.
How long have you lived in Manhattan?
I moved to Manhattan in April after spending the last seven years in Phoenix, Arizona. The last few months have been a whirlwind, and I’ve actually explored more of Manhattan in four months than I did of Phoenix in seven years.
Why did you decide to write “Manhattan Before8”?
I published “Seattle Before8” in March and was doing preliminary research into which city to cover next. My fiancee received a job offer in Manhattan, and I realized that writing “Manhattan Before8” would be the perfect way to explore my new city at a time when most of the tourists and crowds are still asleep. Most people think that New York City is always noisy and crowded, but the more I researched and started exploring, the more I saw a different side to Manhattan. I wanted to share that side with locals and visitors alike.
When did you first realize a book like this was possible?
The concept of Before8 – travel guides for morning people – came about a year ago. I was talking about travel with my father, an avid morning person himself, and we were lamenting how difficult it was to find travel information for when we wanted to explore cities – before 8 AM. I started researching morning experiences in my hometown of Seattle, and discovered an entire morning culture that I knew nothing about despite growing up there. Writing “Seattle Before8” and seeing the positive reception it got told me that there was an audience hungry for morning adventures.
My first week in Manhattan, I walked through Times Square at 6 AM and was shocked to find it completely empty. This was the most-visited tourist attraction in the world, and I had it all to myself. That was the moment I fell in love with Manhattan mornings and knew that there was an entirely different city to reveal to travelers.
“Manhattan Before8,” www.before8.com, and on Amazon.
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