Steps may not be something you think twice about, but artists and architects around the world have worked to change that with colorful designs like the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps of San Francisco and the mosaic steps of Valparaíso, Chile. While the raison d'être for front steps was to keep the entrance above flowing water, they serve as a bridge between worlds, and in NYC, that bridge is an experience in itself. The steps of NYC not only lend itself to be a place of social gathering, but also as the perfect vantage point for people watching, a favorite NYC pastime.
Central Park: Bethesda Terrace
The Bethesda Terrace, running along 72nd Street, is magical, to say the least. Located at the northern end of the elm-tree lined walkway you’ll find breathtaking views of Central Park Lake from the upper and lower terraces connected by two grand staircases on the side and the steps in the middle that lead you through the arches of the Bethesda Terrace Arcade. Take a breather on these steps, enjoy the acoustic performances of local performers, and watch the city flow in and out of these arches.
The Highline: Seating Steps
In a city this dense, public gathering spaces for people to relax are always welcome as a reprieve from the crowded streets. One of the highlights of the High Line, the Seating Steps located on 22nd Street offers just that together with ‘the lawn’. As of the time of this writing, directly across the steps is a large-scale mural installation by Dorothy Iannone titled, “I Lift my Lamp Beside the Golden Door”, which features three colorful Statues of Liberty and is an “ode to the freedom promised by immigration to America.” The Seating Steps, the lawn, and the art installations offer a blissful opportunity to enjoy the High Line time and time again.
Upper East Side: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The steps, which were actually not part of the original architecture, were built in 1975 and has enabled the development of a local culture, if you will, around them. McClandish Philips of The New York Times described it best, "The museum's front steps are commonly used for guitar playing, peach-eating, orange-peeling, sun-bathing, poetry-reading, cigar-smoking, book-reading, newspaper-browsing, frankfurter-eating, soda-sipping, postcard-writing, scene-sketching, picture-taking, small-talking, studying, staring, debating, deep-thinking, waiting for Godot and two of the six stages of flirting.” While the Met is a world of its own, you’ll want to take the time to experience the Met front steps world the way urbanites do as well.
Times Square: TKTS Booth
Whether you have a romantic rendezvous or you’re looking to kill time until your Broadway show, the iconic red steps of the TKTS Booth serves the many people traversing through Times Square. The entire structure is a marvel of engineering as it is constructed entirely with translucent glass, and it provides a fantastic vantage point from which you can watch the theater of activity below and soak in the panoramic views of gigantic LED displays of advertisements. You’ll get to enjoy the many interactions between people that take place on these steps, and if you’re lucky, you may even get to witness the romantic gestures of a marriage proposal.
Midtown: The New York Public Library
The NYPL is iconic and replete with history, much like that of a museum. Located at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, the steps are adorned by Patience and Fortitude (not pictured above), the two marble lions standing proudly outside the majestic Beaux-Arts building. Given its business-heavy midtown location, you’ll find that these steps make for a great place enjoy a cup of coffee with friends and fellow colleagues or for a quick lunch before getting on with your workday. The steps make for a great alternative to the packed crowds at Bryant Park, located just behind the building, when you can’t find any open seats there.