Columbus Day in New York City

It’s been 519 years since Christopher Columbus first sailed into the American Bahamas. And yet, despite the time gone by, New Yorkers are still celebrating in serious style. What can we say? Thanks a million to CC for giving us one truly brilliant excuse to party (not to mention one very appreciated Monday off work for our friends across the Atlantic)…

Throughout the Columbus Day long weekend from 7-10 October 2011, New York will come alive with sales, celebrations, parties and events galore. While highlights include the free Open House New York design event, there’s not much that could beat the vibrant celebrations and pulsating energy of the 67th annual Columbus Day Parade.

Heading to the Big Apple to join in with celebrations? Don’t forget to book a hostel in New York before you leave – with an influx of tourists flooding the city, rooms are getting snapped up faster than you can say ‘Christopher Columbus’.

Columbus Day Parade

35,000 marchers. 100 bands, floats and contingents. Nearly one million spectators. Considering numbers alone, Columbus Day Parade has certainly made its mark on the New York cultural calendar. Organised in the city since 1929, this annual event is today broadcast on six continents as the world’s largest celebration of Italian-American heritage and culture.

In 2011, the Columbus Day Parade will take place on Monday 10 October, beginning at 11:30am and continuing until 3pm. Over this three and a half hour period, Fifth Avenue will undergo a complete transformation, being adorned with patriotic displays of red, white and blue, as dancers, singers and classic Maserati cars roll up from 27th to 79th streets. Expect to see high school bands juxtaposed with virtuosi professional ensembles and traditional groups performing centuries-old ritual dances. 

In 2010, the New York Columbus Day Parade attracted such luminaries as Grand Marshal Maria Bartiromo, anchor of CNBC’s ‘Closing Bell’ and the nationally syndicated ‘Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo’. Under the theme of ‘Honoring Old Glory’, the event paid tribute to such names as Frank Bisignano, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, and Jason DeSena Trennert, Founder of Strategas Research Partners.

One final hot tip: don’t forget to bring your requisite flag – whether its stars and stripes or green, red and white, you’ve just stepped in to a vacuum of patriotism so we recommend that you come well prepared!

Columbus Day Mass

The official Columbus Day Mass will take place at St Patrick’s Cathedral from 9:30am on Monday 10 October, immediately prior to the Columbus Day Parade. Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan will host the morning event, reflecting on the millions of men, women and children who came to America in pursuit of opportunity and freedom.

Open House New York

Now celebrating its 9th year running, the annual Open House New York celebration will be held from 15-16 October 2011 this year. Not the same weekend as Columbus Day as in previous years – but great if you’re in NYC for a longer holiday. As America’s largest architecture and design event, this is the perfect opportunity for tourists and locals to experience the unique landscape that all five New York boroughs have to offer. Make sure you sign up early for a range of special talks, performances, workshops and behind the scene tours typically off limits to the average Joe.

As for our top picks?

Manhattan: Predictably, you will find the majority of tourist hotspots in the smallest New York borough of Manhattan. While here, make sure you pay a visit to The New York Public Library, which will be hosting tours every hour on the hour from 11am until 4pm. Another event not to miss is the 11am and 12pm tours of 1 World Trade Centre, the first office tower to rise on the actual World Trade Centre site since 9/11. The building is set to once again become the tallest mark on the New York City skyline, and is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Brooklyn: Out in New York’s most populous borough of Brooklyn you will find a number of ancient mansions and Colonial farmhouses typically restricted from public access. Here, make sure you do a cellar to attic tour of New York City’s oldest home, the Dutch-Colonial Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House. Another one not to miss is the Digester Egg Experience, which offers half-hourly excursions around the enormous egg-shaped steel structures that form part of New York’s largest wastewater treatment plant in Greenpoint. You get to go right to the top!

Queens: You can’t miss the Feasting on Flushing queens tour from 11:30am-1pm on Sunday 10 October. An introduction into the vibrant ethnic community that encapsulates this borough, tour highlights include the pulsating Golden Shopping Mall, shaved ice, dim sum, a Malaysian Grocery, roasted Chinese chestnuts, soup dumplings and many other regional specialties. In other words, you won’t come away hungry! Reservations are required for the tour.

The Bronx: As the northernmost New York Borough, the Bronx juxtaposes a background of luscious parklands with a gritty urban cityscape. Over the openhousenewyork weekend, why not follow up a trip to The New York Botanical Garden with a tour of 491 Fletcher Street on Sunday from 12-2pm. This eco-friendly apartment building is an inspiration for budding environmentalists, featuring a state-of-the-art ‘green wall’, innovative shading and insulation techniques, energy-efficient heating and waste heat recapture.

Staten Island: Despite easy access via a free ferry, New York’s smallest borough is still relatively unknown territory for many locals. A number of original houses are throwing open their doors for the Columbus Day weekend, providing a unique image of 19th-century Staten Island suburbia. Take a tour of the Alice Austen House Museum from 11am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday for a great example of 17th century architecture. The house originally played home to pioneering photographer Alice Austen, and was later renovated by the Austen family into a Gothic Victorian country ‘cottage’.

Where to stay

While there are a number of budget boutique hostels spotting New York streets, these tend to get booked up well in advance… particularly when it’s Columbus Day weekend! Luckily, we’ve sourced a few options that still have beds available. Check out 272 Putnam, conveniently located just four stops from Downtown Manhattan and with 6-bed dorms or 4-bed privates from €32.91pppn. 

And for next year? You can’t go past Urban Oasis – our top rated hostel in all of New York and a veritable bargain option, offering private double rooms in central Manhattan from €36.70 per person per night. Just make sure you get in early!

Thanks to NYCMarinesOld Shoe Woman, mypeacecorps, rauchdickson, toniluca, wallyg and Kenny Hindgren for the images off flickr.

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