Penn Station has been the major hub of railway transportation since Amtrak began rerouting their lines from Grand Central in 1991. The neighborhood has changed, but the station has stayed the same.
Although far from the neighborhood’s glory days, it’s New York City so there’s still no limit of ways to kill time near Penn Station while waiting for your connection. Here is just a small sampling of places to start.
First, store your bag at Stasher! Then check your connection on the big board, which has matured from a hand-operated flip system to an all-digital board introduced in 2019. Now you’re ready to kill some time!
1. Sample Some Street Food
Pizza and hot dogs are the staple of Manhattan street food and what New Yorkers miss most when they’re out of town.
Hot dogs – well, no reviews necessary. Just be sure to look for the Sabrett’s logo on the cart to ensure the highest quality of “I don’t know what it’s made of” meat in a bun. Then slap some ketchup, mustard, relish, sauerkraut and why not some crispy onions and bacon on it!
For pizza, look for the tiny corner joints. They know how to do it authentically and are less likely to be tourist traps. Try Supremas on 8th ave – they’ve been slinging sauce since 1954!
Of course, it’s New York, so bagels! Bagels or that other bready and salted classic – the pretzel. Also available conveniently at street carts. For bagels, try one of the many delis.
Penn Station is not far from Manhattan’s K-town. Korean BBQ’s are always a hot item – pun intended. One cool concept Korean restaurant is Turntables, which reflects the proprietor’s appreciation for music.
You don’t have to actually leave the station. Penn Station has an extensive food court with more offerings than just the typical fast food.
2. Park Yourself in a Park
A bit of a hike on foot but well worth that hike is Bryant Park on 40th St if you have a couple hours. Delight in the lush surroundings, a complete 360 from gritty Penn. Inside Bryant Park you’ll find little artisanal cubbies, delicious restaurants and refreshments from coffee to lemonade.
Another quick hike worth the effort is The High Line. It’s a converted garden perched above the streets on an old elevated railway in the Chelsea neighborhood.
While in the neighborhood, stop at Chelsea Playground on 27th street and get some exercise! It has basketball and handball courts, a running track, fitness equipment and even spray showers!
3. Feast on Fancy Food
If all that exercise gave you an appetite for more than a bite on the street, try Nomad bar for a classy, classic New York tavern atmosphere. Entrees are expensive but exquisite
Instead of a greasy slice of pizza, opt for a little more upscale Italian dining at Tavola at 488 9th Avenue. Their wood-fired oven does more than justice to mama nonna’s recipes.
The Tick Tock Diner is right around the corner from the station. It’s not so fancy but it is a themed experience sure to take you back in time to the glory days.
4. Time For a Drink
Only got time for a drink? The area has no shortage of dive bars for a quick whistle wetting. Billy Marks West at 332 9th Avenue has a pool table – no nonsense here. Rudy’s is as hometown as a new york dive can get – and offers free hot dogs! Tempest Bar and Walters Bar – both on 8th avenue – await you with games too.
You can drink like you’re Irish or drink like a mad man and have a martini. An ad man, to be exact, the madison avenue types who catch their trains back to Jersey here every day. The chocolate martini at Ayza is the perfect combination of aperitif and dessert.
5. Lose Yourself in Local Landmarks
34th street in the early days of New York City was a sophisticated and respected zone. Notable buildings from that era still populate the landscape.
Madison Square Garden is a world-famous music arena where the most prestigious artists play. It’s actually connected to the station. You can also catch Knicks and Rangers games there.
Also, check out the Post Office building on 8th avenue before it becomes the Moynihan Train Hall. It displays the famous postal slogan: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Nor you from catching your train! Have a good time!