early morning new york

The only good thing about having jet lag in New York is experiencing the city during the poetic early hours. Last time I was in town, I woke up at 5am one morning and couldn’t get back to sleep so I went for a run along the Hudson River. It was so peaceful, the usual chaos hushed and I felt lucky to see the city before the morning rush. It got me thinking: if you live in New York, do you make the most of these romantic hours? I asked a few locals what they love about the early morning in New York – here’s what they said:

The surf’s up
“I love an early morning in New York although I don’t get up too early that often. But if I do, the only good reason for me to get out of bed at 4am is to head to The Rockaways for a sunrise surf session. The surf isn’t great, but the people that get up to go are a dedicated bunch. It takes a certain kind of person to get up that early and go all the way out there just to get a few mediocre waves before heading back to the city to work. But going out that early in the morning, before the rest of New York wakes up is one of the more magical ways to start the day.”
Bekka Palmer, photographer

Quietly strolling
“When I first moved to New York City, I lived close enough to work so that I could walk there. This was when I would really enjoy the early hours. Walking around. I loved the freshness of the crisp city air first thing in the morning, and getting a coffee for the walk was necessary. Moving from Massachusetts where I drove everywhere meant it was nice to enjoy a different way of experiencing a city – being able to walk to a destination.”
Annie Bukhman, owner and maker, Gift Shop Brooklyn

Listening to the day begin
“I am not a super early riser, but occasionally I enjoy waking up at 6am to listen to the birds chirping in my back yard, neighbours talking to each other through the open windows, a baby crying and a dog barking in the distance. The smell of croissants baking at the coffee shop down the block and later, the sounds of children walking to the local public school. Later in the day, all the sounds blend together into a continuous cacophony. But in the morning, every little noise is so isolated and stands alone. That’s when I know I am part of a community and that there are real people living their lives right alongside of me.”
Katia Kelly, Pardon Me For Asking blog

Central Park is a pleasure
“Getting up early and exploring New York City in the wee hours of the morning isn’t something I do very often, but when it does happen (usually against my will), I’m always struck by the peaceful beauty of the city during those quiet hours. As people sleep, you get to see and experience NYC in its purest form – free from the typical noise, crowds, and distractions. Walking through Central Park in those morning hours is always a pleasure. It’s just you and the people walking their dogs, and there are few things as tranquil and relaxing as experiencing it in that way.”
Jackie Clair, York Avenue Blog

Taking a ride
“I love getting on my bike early before my working day gets going, taking a ride up the Hudson River and watching people in their work mode.”
Neil Kleinberg, co-owner, Clinton Street Baking Co. and Restaurant

You can hear yourself think
“You hear that there’s a certain romance to a quiet city street, but it really is true! Early in the morning, walking around New York and being able to hear yourself think, is something special. It might be that the people around you never seem to be in a rush. They’re just getting home from a night out or late shift, or getting in an early run, or maybe ducking into the first bakeries to open. Everyone has a different story and path, and they’re not yet lost in the rush of 9-to-5 that starts shortly after.”
Sriya Karumanchi, PR manager, Catbird

It’s the perfect time for people watching
“When I worked in a coffee shop, I used to start work at 5am and would try to get up earlier to enjoy the time before my shift began. I would see all types of people getting their coffee before starting their day. Now that I work at Love Adorned, I don’t have to get up so early, but I try occasionally. It’s when the streets are cleaner, emptier and everything moves a little slower. I like to drink coffee and sit in the park, listening and watching the city slowly wake up. Those starting or ending a shift, the cab drivers, then the gym goers, followed by high school students, until finally all the 9-to-5 commuters mark the beginning of a busy, exciting day.”
Victoria Rickson, art and design assistant, Love Adorned

The Flower District beckons
“My bedroom windows face 28th Street and I wake up, refreshed, to the sun shine and hustle: my neighbours walking their dogs before heading to the office, commuters hurrying by, children with their caretakers toddling (or, likely, stroller-ing) to school or camp or the park, workmen on the street making the city a little better each day, pigeons (the urban rooster) cooing. The best part of my morning includes a walk through the Flower District on my way to the train. I like to imagine the flowers, trees and plants lining the street are my own personal garden.”
Brooke Parsons, senior publicist, Penguin Press

Market stalls are abundant, the croissants fresh
“There are so many rewards for NYC early morning risers! On the weekends, it’s great to have the first pick of flowers and heirloom tomatoes at Fort Greene Park Greenmarket. During the week, the streets are completely still on the way from my stoop to the subway. Early birds also get the freshest croissants at my favorite coffee shop, Choice Market in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.”
Zooey Tidal Jones, director of public relations, Jazz at Lincoln Center


  1. This post took me right back to the Big Apple. Looking forward to running along the Hudson again already.

  2. Pingback: A Few Good Links - York Avenue

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