The Bronx. This is the only borough that is preceded by “The,” an assertion that it is one of a kind. When people think about New York City, they often forget this massive section of it – popular culture has written it off as little more than a den of crime and poverty, frankly not a very nice place to live. I, for one, can’t stand the generalizations of New York City’s only mainland section. I should say right off the bat that I love the Bronx. I lived there for the better part of the last decade, and despite its many problems, it is a beautiful and exciting part of the city. Its diverse and rich immigrant neighborhoods, its place in American history as the birthplace of hip hop, and its immense importance to the region as the main hub of food distribution for the city make it impossible to pigeon hole. I was inspired to jot down some of the Bronx’s best sites (in no particular order) by The Education of Margot Sanchez, by Lilliam Rivera. Our protagonist, Margot Sanchez, is a born and bred Bronx girl, and where she grew up is central to the character. I hope you’ll check these places out, and maybe they’ll provide a different perspective on a part of the city so often overlooked.
1) Loeser’s Kosher Delicatessen: 214 W 231st Street, Bronx, NY, 10463 – Now, the title of “Best Pastrami/Corned Beef in New York City” is highly contested, with dozens of deli heavyweights around the city vying for the honor. I’m not going to wade into that melee. What I will say is that this is my favorite place to get a classic pastrami on rye in the whole of New York City. This traditional Jewish deli is still run by owner Fredy Loeser, and the experience is absolutely worth the trek up to the north Bronx.
2) The Bronx Zoo: 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY, 10460 – One of the finest zoos in the world can also be found within the borough’s borders. The Bronx Zoo has an impressive menagerie, with large exhibits devoted to little seen creatures such as tree kangaroos, snow leopards, and even red pandas. Keep an eye out for the peacocks, which are allowed to roam free among zoo visitors. There’s even a zip line for those of you more adventurously inclined!
3) The New York Botanical Gardens: 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY, 10458 – While the botanical gardens at a slightly more hip borough may get more attention because of the location, this Bronx Jewel is bigger and, at least in my humble opinion, better. The grounds are filled with public art and sculptures, and rotating exhibits of exotic plants and famous garden recreations fill the numerous greenhouses and conservation halls. And after you finish checking out the beautiful greenery, you can head over to our next item…
5) Arthur Avenue – Now, there may be a little section of downtown Manhattan that has been dubbed as “Little Italy”, but Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is more than a worthy challenger for the title. Located off of Fordham road i the Belmont section of the Bronx, this street and the surrounding area are packed with delicious Italian restaurants. Even more impressive is the Arthur Avenue Italian Market, where you can sample delicious preserved meats, fresh cheeses, unbelievable produce and imported goods.
6) Yankee Stadium: 1 E 161st Street, Bronx, NY, 10451 — Whether or not you are a sports fan, you can’t deny that you’ve heard of the New York Yankees (aka, the Bronx Bombers). More than just a sports stadium, this is a cathedral to baseball, a living monument to the sport and to the most celebrated team in the history of baseball. Catch a game in the stands and make sure to get some garlic fries!
7) Poe Cottage: 2640 Grand Concourse at East Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, NY, 10458 – Did you know that Edgar Allen Poe lived out the last few years of his life in the Bronx? In fact, he wrote some of his most famous stories here, including “The Bells”, “Annabel Lee,” and the horrific “The Cast of Amontillado.” Still standing inside of a small park (appropriately named Poe Park) off of the Grand Concourse, the Poe house is open to the public every day except Monday, and is a must see for all fans of the Master of Macabre.
8) Pelham Bay Park – Some people will say that this is just a park. To those people, I’d like to point out that this park is three times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park, and is the largest park in New York City. With a beach on the Long Island Sound, hiking, a wildlife sanctuary, golf courses and dozens of other activities, this is a fantastic place for spring picnics and summer day trips.
9) La Morada Oaxacan Restaurant: 308 Willis Avenue, Bronx, NY, 10454 – I love all things Mexican, especially Mexican food. And of all the regional cuisines, Oaxacan is my absolute favorite. You will be hard pressed to find a more authentic Oaxacan restaurant in the Northeast. Explore every single variety of mole (a rich, thick sauce often including chocolate and chilies) on the menu, they’re all delicious. La Morada is also incredibly involved in the local community, featuring a lending library, and the owners are very politically active, often expressing the need to fight gentrification in the Bronx. I can’t recommend this place enough.
This list is by no means comprehensive – there are far more reasons to visit The Bronx than the ones I’ve listed above. But this is definitely a good place to start. Do you have any favorites I’ve forgotten to list? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out The Education of Margot Sanchez, available as a free read until August 14th!