Each year, about 2 million lively spectators line the sidewalks of the New York City Marathon. If you’re looking to cheer on your loved ones at one of the biggest Marathons in the world.. Then you need to have a plan.

Standing on the sidelines and cheering on the thousands of runners passing along the route is considered as exciting as being one of the contestants! If anything it’s inspiring to see people push beyond their limits and comfort zones.

Finding the right place to watch friends or family running the race can be a seriously fun and very exciting challenge. Each neighborhood offers different scenery and different landmarks making this one of the best tours of the big apple.

In this article, we’re going to cover the New York City Marathon route with a detailed guide to the best spectator spots, landmarks you shouldn’t miss, and the best ways for you to get those spots…

Let’s begin by looking at a New York City Marathon route overview… 

The New York City Marathon Route

The route begins on the southernmost of New York City’s 5 boroughs – Staten Island. Runners then exit the island via the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. It takes runners briefly through Brooklyn and then into Queens before entering Manhattan. After a short time in the Bronx, runners head back down into the last of the 5 boroughs – Manhattan and enter Central Park, where they cross the finish line.

We take a deep dive into the New York City Marathon route and what you can expect at each mile along the way. In this article.

Popular Spectator Spots On The New York City Marathon Route & How To Get To Them

Spectator SpotPosition Along RouteTransport To The Spot
92nd Street & Gowanus ExpresswayMile 2/ 3.2kmBus: B37, B63, B8, S79-SBSSubway: Line 4 or 6
Train: R
Lafayette Avenue throughout Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Mile 9/ 14kmTrain: G train to either Fulton Street, Clinton-Washington Avenues, or Classon Avenue.Train: C train to Lafayette Avenue. or Clinton-Washington Avenues.
Vernon Blvd & Jackson Avenue in QueensMile 14/ 22.5kmTrain: Jackson Avenue Station Subway: 7, G, E
First Avenue between 90th and 110th streets Mile 16/ 26kmTrain: Take the Q or 6 trains to 96th Street and walk east to First Avenue.
138th Street in the BronxMile 20/32kmTrain: Take the 6 train to Third Avenue–138th Street or the 4 or 5 train to 138th Street–Grand Concourse.
Fifth Avenue between East 120th Street and East 110th StreetMile 22/35kmTrain: Take the A, B, C, or D train to 125th Street or the 1 train to 125th Street.
The finish line – 59th Street and Fifth Avenue or Columbus Circle26.2 miles/42kmTrain: The N or R train to Fifth Avenue, or A, B, C, D, or 1 trains to Columbus Circle

Now that we know the best spectator spots along the New York City Marathon route, let’s have a look at what makes them so special and what you can expect to find at each of them…

Detailed Look At The Best Spectator Spots Along The New York City Marathon Route

  1. 92nd Street & Gowanus Expressway

This first spot is practically at the beginning of the race as it gives you an opportunity to view the masses of runners starting the incredible race. The energy is created by the excited and still energetic runners as well as the spectators cheering for their loved runs.

Starting your spectator journey here is a good idea because it gives you time to make your way to one of two other spots further on in the race.

  1. Lafayette Avenue throughout Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn 

For a lot of experienced marathon spectators, this is their favorite spot along the whole route! It truly is the best race sideline atmosphere.

Filled with DJs, marching bands, food stalls, coffee shops, playgrounds for the kids, and bathrooms. This section of the race energizes spectators who can pass that vibrant energy onto the runners by cheering them on and shouting their names.

  1. Vernon Blvd & Jackson Avenue in Queens

At this point, runners will be searching for a familiar face and some words of encouragement. They would have just crossed the Pulaski Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to Queens, and it is actually closed to spectators.

This means your cheering is much appreciated on the other side especially because it marks the halfway mark for the big day!

  1. First Avenue between 90th and 110th streets 

This is a very popular spectator spot purely because it will allow you to see runners twice without having to catch another train.

Begin on First Avenue close to 90th street, on the west side. The runners will pass at their 16-mile mark. Then, change direction and walk west towards the east side of Fifth avenue. Now you can keep an eye out for your runner heading downtown into the final stretch of the race towards Central Park.

  1. 138th Street in the Bronx

Runners will run through the Bronx for literally only one mile. It seems like the goal for the entire 1 mile through the Bronx is to cheer and be as encouraging as possible for the runners as they have a big hill after this section.

With only 6 miles to go until the finish line, these could be the hardest 6 miles of the entire race… so your energy is well needed.

  1. Fifth Avenue between East 120th Street and East 110th Street

If runners are going to hit the wall… then it’s going to happen here. This section of the marathon is uphill and runners are in desperate need of some cheer!

There is loud music playing, restaurants, bars, bathrooms, and plenty of action to lift the spirits.

  1. The finish line – 59th Street and Fifth Avenue or Columbus Circle

Spectators can watch the nail-biting finish by two methods:

  1. Without a ticket, it’s a tight squeeze in a massive crowd but you could plan and get here a bit earlier. This spot is located inside Central Park from Columbus Circle to the south end of the grandstands, approximately 500 feet before the finish. (No chairs or seats are provided or allowed.)
  2. With a grandstand ticket. These tickets go on sale prior to race day and will guarantee you a seat on a grandstand with a clear view of the finish line.

Now that we know where to find the best spectator spots along the route, let’s have a look at famous landmarks to keep an eye out for while you’re supporting the runners…

Famous Landmarks Along The New York City Marathon Route 

The marathon winds through beautiful, historic neighborhoods of New York, passing stone forts that were built before the civil war, institutional buildings, iconic bridges, well-known rivers, and breathtaking skyscrapers.

  1.  Fort Tompkins 

It’s a major fortification in Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island where the marathon begins, it was built before the Civil War and is among the oldest military installations in the United States.

  1. Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty will be visible as marathon runners and spectators cross the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge at mile 2.

The iconic statue symbolizes an enduring belief in liberty and the long-standing friendship between France and the USA.

  1. The Parachute Jump

The unmistakable 262-foot parachute jump will be visible to runners and spectators as they enter Brooklyn. It was built for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.

  1. Sunset Park South Historic District

Along Fourth Avenue, marathon runners will pass the Sunset Park South Historic District, which consists of well-preserved brick and brownstone row houses built between 1892 and 1906. 

This area represents the turn-of-the-20th-century development into a working- and middle-class community.  

  1. Dr. Maurice T. Lewis House in Brooklyn

The Dr. Maurice T. Lewis House was designed in 1907 as a Renaissance Revival-style house, it is the only mansion in a neighborhood comprised mostly of row houses. (Keep an eye out for this one!)

  1. Green-Wood Cemetery Gate (Fifth Avenue Brooklyn)

The Green-Wood Cemetery Gate famous for its Gothic Revival design with intricate carvings provides a monumental entrance to one of the oldest picturesque rural cemeteries in the United States.

  1. Gracie Mansion

The official residence of the Mayor of New York City since 1942, is located two blocks east of the marathon route near East 88th Street in Carl Shurz Park. 

  1. Mott Haven Historic District

As runners turn onto Alexander Avenue near East 137th Street, they’ll briefly enter the Mott Haven Historic District. 

This is one of the oldest settled areas of the Bronx, named after the inventor of a coal-burning stove.

  1. Empire State Building (Halfway mark)

The Empire State Building is visible in its Manhattan home as runners cross the halfway mark of the race along the Pulaski Bridge, crossing from Brooklyn into Queens.

  1. 369th Regiment Armory (Visible across the Harlem River – Manhattan)

The 369th Regiment Armory was the home of the decorated “Harlem Hell Fighters,” New York’s first Black National Guard, who were welcomed home as heroes after World War I. 

  1. Saint Andrew’s Church

The beautiful gothic-style church is the third location of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, founded in Harlem in 1829. 

  1. Museum of the City of New York

With the end in sight, runners pass The  Museum of the City of New York on Fifth Avenue and East 104th Street. 

  1. Central Park

Runners enter the world-famous Central Park for the first time at Engineer’s Gate at East 90th Street. 

  1. Upper East Side Historic District of Manhatten

Home to New York’s wealthiest citizens, this area contains opulent buildings made by major American architects.

  1. Plaza Hotel

One of the world’s most famous hotels, the Plaza Hotel is crossed by runners in Central Park.

  1. Columbus Circle/Finish

Runners exit Central Park and make a sprint for Columbus Circle.  Columbus Circle is where the old meets the new as it is made up of modern buildings and buildings from the 1900s. 

For those who are looking for a perfect spectator strategy for the New York City Marathon… these tips are for you…

Tips For Spectators Of The New York City Marathon

  1. Get there as early as possible if you want a good view of the runners.
  2. Remember that transport will be packed to the max so prepare for longer journeys than usual.
  3. Do your best to plan and pick a quieter section if you are delayed.
  4. Take all your rubbish/litter with you.
  5. Dress accordingly and wear comfortable shoes, it’s going to be a jam-packed day. 
  6. Plan where you are going to find your runner at the finish and agree on a meeting point ahead of time.
  7. Make signs as these are always fun and the runners enjoy having a chuckle at some of the very clever, humorous signs.

If you’re feeling the New York City Marathon Spirit and are keen to get involved but unable to make it as a spectator on the day, here are some ways you can still be a part of it and follow the runner on TV, on tablets, and your phone.

See how here.


Shona is the former Head of Sport Science at the High-Performance Centre, University of Pretoria. She returned from Madrid, Spain, in 2013 where she completed her MBA in Sport Management with Universidad Europea de Madrid (Real Madrid FC). Shona’s current work and interest lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) conditioning and sport science working with elite ultra-endurance athletes such as Caroline Wostmann (2015 Comrades & 2Oceans winner). Aside from football strength & conditioning, Shona’s other passion and expertise lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) as well as Women in Sport. She has competed in 4 Half IronMan distance events and three 2Oceans Ultramarathons herself. She has also worked with other elite female athletes such as London 2012 bronze medallist in canoeing, Bridgitte Hartley.

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