Manhattanhenge has become one of the most celebrated events in New York City, when the sun lines up exactly with the Manhattan street grid. It happens twice a year, off the equinox, due to the angle of the Manhattan grid (28.9 degrees east of due north), offering incredible sunsets that fully illuminate the cross-streets.
This phenomenon has been nicknamed “Manhattanhenge” for its similarity to Stonehenge — but this moniker would imply a sense of mystery over the physical remnants and functionalities of a bygone civilization. Rather, this bi-annual occurrence is unique to Manhattan because of a fortuitous street plan and flat topography that, in concurrence, provide clear, straight views to the horizon.
There are some classic locations to watch Manhattanhenge, but it can get pretty crowded. Here, we offer both the off-the-beaten-path and tried and true places. Tonight’s (July 12th) rendition of the Full Sun version of Manhattanhenge will be at 8:20 PM, and tomorrow’s half sun (July 13th) will be at 8:21 PM.
1. FDR Four Freedoms Park
Photo by Josie Adkins courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park
Make it an experience to head to FDR Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island tonight from 5 to 9 PM where you can stay in the park after hours and participate in tonight’s special event which will feature musicians Atomic Funk Project. There will also be a photo competition run by Archtober and judged by architectural Instagram account, @field_condition, a photo booth, and other fun pop-up activities.
You can also check out the first-ever photo exhibition at Four Feedoms Park, Capture Your Freedom and learn about the history of Four Freedoms Park, designed by master architect Louis Kahn and built posthumously more than 40 years after Kahn died.
2. 42nd Street
42nd Street at Tudor City is a classic spot to watch Manhattanhenge, especially with the Chrysler Building in the background, but beware, the elevated bridge at Tudor City gets packed with photographers. According to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, run by Neil deGrasse-Tyson who coined the phrase “Manhattanhenge,” you want to be as far east as possible to get the greatest effect. But we’d definitely avoid trying the bridge, you can still get a nice view on the sidewalk.
3. 34th Street
There’s no elevated bridge on 34th Street, but there’s the Empire State Building to get in your photographs. There isn’t a usual gathering spot but try heading as far east towards NYU Medical Center and the FDR Drive.
4. The Hayden Planetarium/American Museum of Natural History
The Hayden Planetarium will host its Manhattanhenge event tonight, with astrophysicist Jackie Faherty serving as a guide to the history and astronomy of the phenomenon. You can also get views on nearby 79th Street cross street if the Upper West Side is your preference!
5. Flatiron Building
Photo by Bhushan_NYC for Untapped Cities
Go to the Flatiron Building and stand on one of the pedestrian plazas, or head further east on 23rd Street near Peter Cooper Village. This is one of the “clear cross streets” recommended by Neil deGrasse-Tyson for viewing Manhattanhenge!
6. 57th Street
If you’re in midtown, 57th Street is also wide enough and clear enough for a good shot of Manhattanhenge. Head away from the tourist crowds on 5th Avenue and go east towards the East River. If you want a landmark, Hearst Tower on 8th Avenue is a good one, but you’ll be a lot closer to the sun.
7. The Brooklyn Waterfront
A few spots on the Brooklyn waterfront may get you views of Manhattanhenge: try Bushwick Inlet Park and East River State Park in Williamsburg.
8. The Queens Waterfront
You can head to Long Island City, and check out the new Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park or get on the Pulaski Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens.