New York is one of the most amazing and beautiful cities to visit no matter the time of year, filled with some of the best city views and scenery you can ask for. For a few select days every year however, it gets even more amazing and beautiful. For a couple of evenings every summer, the Sun and New York align in a perfect way. The result is Manhattanhenge, one of the most photogenic and unique sights in the world. Here’s all that you need to know about this spectacular event and how to make the most of it.
Flickr Creative Commons 2.0 – Eric Gross
What is Manhattanhenge?
Manhattanhenge is one of the most beautiful sights in New York City and if you stay at Hotel Pennsylvania on 33rd Street, you’ll have your pick of lookout spots, as all of the best places to see this celestial event are very close by, and you’ll be able to beat the crowds too.
Manhattanhenge, also known as the Manhattan Solstice, is when the sunset is perfectly aligned with the East-West street grid of New York City. For a few special summer evenings every year, locals and tourists watch in awe as the sun sets between the iconic buildings of New York’s cross streets, filling New York with a gorgeous orange glow. What makes Manhattanhenge so special is that it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. Although the sunset may not last long, it is a view that will stay with you forever.
You probably know that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, but you may not know that this does not happen on the same spots on the horizon every day. This means that, on certain days of the year, the sunset will line up perfectly with different landmarks or monuments. Many ancient civilisations deliberately built monuments to line up with the sunset on a particular day; but in Manhattan, this phenomenon was completely accidental and all the more beautiful for it.
The term given to this urban phenomenon was coined by native New Yorker Neil de Grasse Tyson, the famous astrophysicist, moustache enthusiast and all round awesome guy. The name is a reference to Stonehenge, the English prehistoric monument which was built to frame the rising sun on the day of the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year), to mark the changing of the seasons.
When can I see Manhattanhenge?
The exact dates of Manhattanhenge change every year, so make sure to check in advance if you plan to visit NYC in the future. This year the best days to view Manhattanhenge are:
Monday, May 30th, 2016 at 8:12pm
Monday July 11th, 2016 at 8:20pm
On these days, you will be able to see the sun set perfectly between the buildings on the main streets of New York, like an orange ball sitting on the horizon (known as ‘Full sun on the grid‘).
If you can’t be in Manhattan for these two evenings, don’t worry, because you can still enjoy the sunset almost perfectly on two other days (known as ‘Half sun on the grid’). It may not be as good as Full sun on the grid, but it’s pretty close and well worth checking out. These days are:
Sunday, May 29th, 2016 at 8:12pm
Tuesday, July 12th, 2016 at 8:20pm
Where can I see Manhattanhenge from?
Though you can see this accidental phenomenon from any of the cross streets in Manhattan, 34th Street really does offer something very special, because you can watch the sunset against the iconic Empire State Building. Alternatively, go to 42nd Street to see the Chrysler Building instead. If the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building are not your thing, 14th Street, 23rd Street, 57th Street and the Tudor City Bridge all offer excellent views as well.
Tips and Tricks
Get there early, at least half an hour before sunset, as this phenomenon is popular, with crowds growing every year. Also remember to bring your sunglasses, as looking directly into the sun can be extremely damaging for your eyes. Apart from that there’s not much else to it; just face west and prepare to be amazed.
So if you’re able to be in Manhattan on May 29th and 30th or July 11th and 12th this year, you will be in for a treat. Manhattanhenge is definitely not to be missed. Be sure to go to 34th Street early to get a good spot to witness this most amazing of sunsets. Oh and bring your camera, so you can share this incredible view with your not-so-lucky friends!