This past July, Aaron was awarded a summer institute for humanities teachers in NYC. Though I didn't get to attend his classes, I was able to tag along with him for almost a month in the big city. I was working online quite a bit, but I made sure to fit in my own professional development visits while he studied the diverse religions of New York City. Below are some of my favorite spots!
An English Teacher's Guide to NYC:
1. The New York City Public Library, 476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018 :
Words really can't describe how stunning this place is, and pictures don't do it justice. It is one of those places that leaves you in awe. I would have gladly paid to experience the majesty of this sacred house of books, but unbelievably, it's FREE to explore.
When you walk in, there's an information booth where you will find a map to all of their rooms and exhibits. Some of the rooms are used for study, so you must not make a peep in those or take pictures with flash. When I went, these rooms were full of students and researchers, so I tried to be as respectful as possible. The pictures below are from the map room. There were globes everywhere and the largest book I have personally ever seen. I couldn't even lift it!
Here is my favorite picture from the library:
Once you walk through theses doors, you are in a HUGE room with walls and walls of books. It was unbelievable! As for professional development credits, there are lots of options. For example, when I was there, they had a rotating exhibit called "Love in Venice," and it was about the art of love letters during the Renaissance in Itlay. If you do a quick search on their website, you can find so many public class offerings too!
2. Shakespeare in the Park, 81 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023
If you are lucky enough to get tickets to Shakespeare in the park, then you are in for an experience that you will never forget. Out of the 27 evenings we spent in NYC, Aaron agrees that Shakespeare in Central Park was one of the most memorable of all (and he's not even an English teacher!). Again, this is free to attend, but you have to work to get in. One way requires little effort but a lot of luck and the other way requires tons of effort, but more of a guarantee of getting tickets.
I got in on the little effort and a lot of luck option:
Aaron and I both downloaded the Today's Tix app and set a reminder to enter the lottery every morning. We entered every day for almost a month. Aaron never won, but I actually won twice. 😁This is an embarrassing story that I would NEVER tell had it not been for the English teacher gods looking down on me and giving me a second chance. So here it goes: Once you get the email that says you've won, you only have 45 minutes to claim your tickets. I won, but by the time I saw it and went to claim them, I had missed the cutoff by 5 minutes. Devastated doesn't even begin to describe how I felt after hitting that dormant "claim tickets" link repeatedly to no avail.
But as I mentioned, Lady Luck was apparently on my side and gave me another chance on our last week in NYC!
If you don't count the plays that my students put on in my classroom, this was my first time getting to see a live production of Shakespeare; it was pure magic. They have different plays each summer, and we got to see A Midsummer Night's Dream. We weren't allowed to take pictures, but the actors were PHENOMENAL and have had some big time roles on Broadway!
21 of the best quiet places in NYC (most are idyllic places to read or journal!)
*Walt-Whitman sites in NYC
If you aren't lucky enough to win via Today's Tix, another way to get in is to stand in line for tickets. You can read all about that here: Getting Tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, but I would like to add one tip: if the weather is calling for rain or if it's raining in the morning when you need to stand in line, your chances of getting them are much higher. It was raining the day I won (the second time) and I feel like that increased my chances greatly. The same would go for standing in line! I know that sitting in the rain doesn't seem ideal, but it actually added to our experience! I mean picture it: A magical forest setting with twinkling lights and drizzles of real rain. That's what theatre dreams are made of! 😍
You aren't allowed to have umbrellas once the show starts, so be sure to pack a rain jacket.
As a last tip, and I can't say for sure because I didn't try it, but we saw people having picnics on the lawn close to the theatre in Central Park. In my mind, I think they were planning on listening to the play while picnicking, so that's worth a try too. If it turns out that you can't hear it, this isn't a bad way to spend an evening in New York:
3. Visit a book store (or 10) -
Print is not dead in NYC! It did my English teacher heart good to see so many independent book stores thriving throughout the city! I even made a little game of seeing just how many classics I could spot on the Subway. I took pictures of the ones I could without being a creep just so that I can do a cool "Get Caught Reading the Classics" wall in my classroom.
Pictured is Huckleberry Finn and Animal Farm
As for bookstores, there are a ton of epic ones. This post does them more justice than I could, but I would like to share a picture I took at Book Culture because it gave me another idea for my classroom (and they give you the cutest bookmark when you buy a book! 😍)
This one had me super intrigued!
P.S. If you aren't following this Subway Book Review account, then you are missing out! It takes me back to New York every time I look at it!
4. Trail Literary Haunts-
I can't find the history behind The Dead Poet pub, but it's in such a hip part of town and has the COOLEST vibe. It's tiny though, so make sure to visit at an off time!
While I doubt that many English teachers could afford to stay at the Plaza Hotel as F. Scott Fitzgerald did, you can most certainly go and have an expensive drink and snacks inside the bar areas.
Though I didn't partake, you could have a wild literary night by taking a Literary Pub Tour or visiting one of the best literary bars on this list.
If you would rather pass on the organized tours and fancy bars, you can make yourself feel like a real New Yorker by grabbing a drink and posting up to read a book alfresco. This is the common scene in NYC, and it's fun to play the part!
5. Take a Harlem Renaissance Walking Tour - I, and most American Literature teachers I know, love teaching the Harlem Renaissance. If you have never really experienced the Harlem culture, then it's hard to do this time period justice. By chance, the college we were staying at was only a mile or so away from the Appollo Theatre, so we spent quite a bit of time in the Harlem area while we were there. This part of town is vibrant and full of art! I can't believe I was able to walk in the footsteps of the great Lanston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Alexander Hamilton!!!
The street art in this area is so cool! My room is decorated with many owls, so of course I had to get this shot!
We even got to visit a Harlem Baptist Church while we were there which turned out to be one of the most spiritual experiences of our trip (Aaron was doing a World Religions Institute)
6. Splurge on Broadway- Almost everything we did activity-wise in NYC was free, but I knew that I wanted to splurge on Broadway tickets. If you use the app I mentioned above (Today's Tix) or wait in line in Times Square, you actually won't have to splurge all that much unless you want to see something like Hamilton (which would be a dream!). We opted for Aladdin because Aaron uses this movie to teach about the Middle East in popular culture to his 7th-grade history class.
That wraps up my English teacher destinations list for New York City! I will leave you with a few things that I ran out of time to do: (there's always next time, NYC!):
*Walt-Whitman sites in NYC
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