Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fan's Guide to Going to a Columbia Football Game 2016 (WITH SPECIAL EATING OPTIONS UPDATE)

The Athletics Department has already done a nice job of letting all the fans know about what to expect once they GET to Wien Stadium at the Baker Athletics Complex this season. You can read all about that here. 

But this is my annual look at HOW TO GET to Columbia games, park, etc. in the first place:

Remember this Sign...

... and remember this train!

The football home opener is THIS WEEKEND!

Time to start planning NOW!

I am here to help.

Every year, I publish my guide to getting to the Columbia home games at Kraft Field at Wien Stadium at the Baker Athletic Complex.

Every year, the top tip is the same: if you are coming to the game from Manhattan, TAKE THE SUBWAY!

The #1 train and the A train are both great choices to get to the stadium. I have more details on that a little later.

Your next best best is to take the free shuttle that will leave from the corner of East 86th Street and 3rd Avenue at 11:30am on home game days.

If you are driving: DON'T PANIC

Getting around New York City, and Manhattan in particular, is all about your state of mind. If you're an overly aggressive or too passive driver, you will either drop dead of a tension-induced stroke or become the victim of a panic attack, respectively. The city is fraught with double-parkers, Kamikaze cabs with no regard for life and limb, and people who routinely make right turns from the left lane.

But fear not! The road to the Baker Athletics Complex is filled with special advantages and other options that can make the whole experience livable, decent, and even fun.

The key to avoiding disappointment, dyspepsia, and dismemberment is to LEAVE YOURSELF A LOT OF TIME.

Other than the Homecoming game which starts at 1:30 this year, the Columbia home games will begin at 1pm this season. With another season's worth of great pre-game activities in the works, (like free beverages, even some beers for those of you over 21), the best thing that could happen is that you show up an hour or so before the game and enjoy a good time in the picnic area. Is that so bad? And if you just make it in time for the game, well then you made it. Either way, going early is the way to go.

Inwood or Morningside:  Make Your Choice Now

Before we talk about getting to the actual game by car, ask yourself where you'd really like to keep your gas-guzzling SUV for the day. Do you want to park it up at the very tip of Manhattan, or do you want to keep it near the Columbia campus where you can spend a very pleasant morning and late afternoon/evening before and after the game? This is not exactly a rhetorical question, as there ARE things to do and see not far from Wien Stadium... but it's not exactly a culinary hotbed, in fact it's quite residential, (in the Baker Field neighborhood of Inwood there are actually a few houses... detached houses in Manhattan!). There are new choices lately. Just over the Broadway Bridge north of the stadium there's a strip mall with an Applebee's and a Starbucks!


You can park very close to the stadium at many of the parking garages within 1-6 blocks of Baker. Most of them are on 10th Avenue between 205th and 215th Streets. I usually use the garage right at the corner of 10th Ave. and 215th.

You can also park the car near the Columbia campus, which is only 100 blocks or so from Baker Field, There is still more to do, see, and definitely eat around there.

A path in Inwood Hill Park... yes, this IS Manhattan!

BUT definitely choose one game, and check out Inwood and its environs during the season. Parts of Inwood Hill Park are the only pieces of Manhattan that still look as they did in 1524 when the Dutch explorers arrived.

A few blocks South of Inwood is Washington Heights a very resurgent neighborhood with lots of interesting Latin restaurants and shops.

The Cloisters... an excellent "Marital Bargaining Unit" if I say so myself

One Washington Heights highlight about 30 blocks South from the Baker Field is the lovely Cloisters. Most Columbia students get sick of the Cloisters after a few years, (some classes make you go there too many times), but it's a great place for the uninitiated. It's also not a bad date spot. So, if you have a wife or girlfriend who's none too pleased about being dragged to a football game, the Cloisters can be your olive branch. No need to thank me if your lady ends up thinking you're a romantic genius; like Billy Flynn, "All I Care about is Love."

But How Do We Get to Neverland?

The directions provided by the athletic department are very good. You can use them with confidence... but don't ignore the key section of those directions for people coming from Queens, Long Island, Eastern Brooklyn via the Belt Parkway, and that includes JFK Airport and La Guardia. If you are one of those people, I'm about to save you anywhere from 45 minutes to 7 hours by urging you to never, never, even if you're a Penn fan, NEVER take the Cross Bronx Expressway!

The Cross Bronx Expressway... dear Lord, why us?

The Cross Bronx Expressway was designed by Robert Moses a brilliant but evil man whose disdain for ordinary people was well documented by Robert Caro in The Power Broker. If you live in New York, drive in New York, or are thinking about driving in New York, you owe it to yourself to read this book. One great section details how the Cross Bronx Expressway was poorly designed from the outset, destroyed good middle class neighborhoods like East Tremont, and virtually guarantees traffic jams at the drop of a hat. And the kicker is, a lot of other urban planners in the 40's, 50's and 60's emulated this man and his designs. Robert Moses is a big reason why driving in America sucks.

So avoid the Cross Bronx, take the Grand Central Parkway to the Triboro Bridge, (now named the "RFK Bridge," presumably to honor the old home of the Redskins ;) ), follow the signs to MANHATTAN, (DON'T MAKE The Bonfire of the Vanities mistake), and THEN take the Harlem River Drive North. Take the HRD to the 10th Avenue/Dyckman Street exit. Do NOT take the ramp going up to the George Washington Bridge, stay in the far right lane. Take the HRD to the end and  make the first right at the first light that will take you onto 10th Avenue. If you stay straight, (you'll be driving under an elevated subway track). 10th Avenue runs parallel to Broadway and will take you straight up to 215th Street, 218th Street, or wherever you want to go in the Baker Complex vicinity.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Harlem River Drive is officially a parkway, so if you're driving a U-Haul or a big bus of people, you can't take it. Otherwise, you and your sedan, SUV, pickup truck, etc. can enjoy it. IF YOU'RE TAKING A CAB FROM THE QUEENS AIRPORTS... MAKE SURE YOU TELL THE CABBIE TO TAKE THE TRIBORO/RFK BRIDGE TO THE HARLEM RIVER DRIVE. DON'T LET THE DRIVER TAKE YOU INTO MIDTOWN MANHATTAN!!!

Parking: The Odyssey

Option 1: Donate to CU!

Now if you're going to park near Baker Field, your options are limited, but there ARE options. Your first option is to send a fat check to the athletic dept. and grab one of the sweet spots in the Baker Field complex itself reserved for generous donors. Seriously, I can think or worse ways to spend your money, and having a spot at Baker Field is like being a shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway during "Buffettstock, you get to enjoy your investment in a party atmosphere!

Option 2: Parking Garages Ahoy! 

They are all around the stadium now, especially on 10th Avenue. FYI: in the past, parking has cost fans about $15 for the whole game.

Option 3: Street Parking, or "The Hunt"

Of course, you can try being really sneaky and try to park for free on the residential streets around the area. This is really something for early-birds, as the spots fill up fast. In fact, there aren't a lot of spots to begin with because Inwood is really residential and the local folks like to keep their spots for the weekend. BUT, the eagle-eyed among you may be able to find a nice spot and enjoy knowing that you're a winner even before kickoff by saving a few bucks with a free spot. There are a couple of important pitfalls to avoid:

a) If you aren't really good at parallel parking, don't even think about parking on the streets of Inwood. The hilly terrain makes even seasoned parkers a little nervous, and all those scratched bumpers and fenders on the parked cars are proof of the "goofs" people make from time to time.

b) Inwood is not really a high-crime area, especially during the day, but you should never tempt fate. Lock your cars. DO NOT keep any packages or valuables in plain sight in your car, and you probably should leave them out of the trunk too if you can. This is especially true if you are driving a car with out-of-state plates.

c) Make sure to check the street signs to see if you're parking in a legal spot. Saturdays are usually immune from alternate side of the street parking rules, but not always. You cannot park within six feet, either way, of a fire hydrant, and you also need to give a lot space for bus stops. You cannot block any driveways. And if there's a yellow stripe painted on the curb, you can't park there either. A good M.O. is to eye every open spot with EXTREME SUSPICION, the chances are more than likely that the spot is there because it's not a legal spot.

d) You may be hampered even further in your quest for free parking if the NYPD blocks 218th Street at Broadway which they often do on game days. To be safe, just find your way to Seaman Avenue, which runs parallel to Broadway on the WEST and start looking for spots there. You might consider printing out a Google Map of Inwood, NY to learn to navigate the local streets better. Remember to look out for one-way streets and the occasional street fair which often pops up and further kills parking opportunities on the weekends.


Manhattan is a great and unique place. One of the things that makes it so unique is that every inch of land is super-valuable and the chances of any institution setting aside lots of space for occasional parking is not likely or even sane. Most sensible people living in all parts of Manhattan do so without a car, regardless of their economic stature. A day or two driving around here will tell you why.

That's why we have the best, (but still too expensive), public transportation system in the world. And luckily, there are a number of more relaxing and reliable ways to get to Baker Field.

Public Transportation Option 1: From Columbia Campus

You can ditch your car at one of the many parking garages near the Columbia campus, or try to find free street parking, (it's not much easier than Inwood, but doable), and then take the free shuttle bus or public transportation.

To get the subway somewhat direct to the stadium you can 1) catch the uptown #1 train at 116th Street all the way to 215th Street. Easy.

You CAN 2) walk down the hill at West 110th Street, get on the uptown C train and switch at 168th Street for the A from there. That transfer does not involve the creepy elevator and is much better, but still not ideal.

I love taking the A train from start to finish.

Getting the A directly is a lot easier from Midtown Manhattan, where most hotels are located anyway. From the Columbia campus, you can also take the #1 DOWNTOWN to 59th and then get on the A train UPTOWN from there. It's not too terrible to do that actually.

If you're in Midtown Manhattan, I recommend taking the A at the 59th Street and Broadway station. It is a VERY short ride, (less than 20-25 minutes), from there. The A train runs on the far West side of Manhattan, through Brooklyn, past JFK airport, and all the way to a neighborhood where I did a lot of my growing up called Far Rockaway. The uptown or Manhattan bound A takes you the 207th Street stop, which is the last stop. Exit at the 211th Street exit and then you can either walk the seven blocks along Broadway, (about 35% of a mile), to Baker Field or better yet, enter Isham Park on your left and enjoy a nicer trip that will take you to Seaman Avenue along the left side of the park and you will see Wien Stadium right in front of you at the end of the avenue. This is a more scenic walk and will give you a better idea of what Inwood is like.

To ride the NYC subway you will need a Metrocard. Go to the ticket booth at the station or the automated Metrocard machines and buy a two-trip card. The machines take cash, credit and debit cards.

When you get to the platform, again make sure that you are on the UPTOWN side awaiting the UPTOWN train.


If the subway isn't for you, for the last several years Columbia has been running free shuttle buses to and from Baker Field on game days. They usually run from the 116th Street and Broadway entrance, but ask the security guards at the gate to be sure. I'm not sure how long it takes for these buses to reach the stadium, but they will always be slower than the subway. (There is no faster way to get around Manhattan than the subway... none).

And  there is now a bus running from the Upper East Side! It leaves from 3rd Avenue and East 86th Street 90 minutes prior to kickoff. 

A number of NYC buses, (not free, you need a Metrocard), run to the Baker Field area, but I really don't recommend using them. They are extremely slow, (what do you call it when you have sex on a NYC bus? "Joining the 3-mile-an-hour club"), and erratic on the weekends. BUT if there ever is a fire on the subway or something, it's good to know they're there.

The Marble Hill Station on Metro North

One of the most beautiful ways to get to a Columbia game is on the Metro North commuter railroad. Take the HUDSON RIVER LINE to the Marble Hill stop and simply walk over the footbridge to Baker Field. The views of the Hudson that you will get if you're coming from the North, (if you're looking to go this way from Grand Central Terminal, it's not a terrible idea, but much more expensive than just taking the subway from another station on the West Side), are just great. is the website to find the schedules for Saturdays from Grand Central to Marble Hill. Note the reliable 19-20 minute travel time and the many, many options you have for trains all the way through game time. If you are staying on the East Side of Manhattan, this is a GREAT option.

Cab Anyone?

You can always try to hail a yellow cab and tell the driver to take you to WEST 218th and Broadway, (don't say "Baker Field," there's a very good chance he won't know what you're talking about), and go that way. I expect the trip will cost about $15-$18 in cab fare not including tip... but it varies.

In NYC there are also non-yellow so-called "gypsy" cabs that may honk their horns at you and offer you a ride. The official rules in the city say that you can't take a ride with them without arranging it in advance, but I have found they are usually reliable. The price should be about the same as Yellow cab, but they don't use a meter... so make sure you agree on the fare before you get in.

What if I'm coming from New Jersey, and I want to take Public Transportation?

New Jersey Transit trains take you to Penn Station where you can get the A train, or a cab. I'm not sure about the reliability of NJT trains or buses on weekends, but perhaps some of my readers would like to chime in about that in the comments section.

Isn't the Subway Dangerous?

Not really. It's dirtier than it should be, but in general it's fine. Basically, keep your wallets and valuables secure, try to ride with or near larger groups of people, and try not to telegraph the fact you're a tourist by pulling out a map every two seconds. It's okay to ask fellow riders directions; most New Yorkers like proving they know the City.

I'm Coming from JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark Airport. What should I do?

A cab from Newark directly to Baker Field is actually not that terribly expensive. But from the other major airports, I suggest you get into Manhattan via a cab and then take the subway, unless you have lots of bags which will make the whole day a pain. In that case, try to get to your hotel first, dump the bags and then follow the directions above.

What if I get Lost?

Go into almost any store you see and ask for help. Store owners can sometimes seem surly, but they'll probably help you. Cops on the street will be good too.

Can't I Just Come with You?

I'd love the company, but I don't think that will work. I am with you in spirit, I promise.


I now turn the podium over to Inwood resident "Inwood Tiger", who knows the neighborhood really well and is a big Ivy football fan:  

2016 marks the 93rd year of Columbia football in Inwood.  A fair number of things have changed since then, such as the development of farmland and estates into housing, the creation of Inwood Hill Park and the Henry Hudson Bridge, the coming and going of industry on the other side of Broadway, and of course the gradual build-out of Baker Field into today's Baker Athletics Center.  For all of this and more, the excellent site MyInwoodNet offers a terrific guide to Inwood's past.

But for this fall, what is new in the area?  Much of the neighborhood is consumed in rezoning discussions for the old industrial lands east of Broadway and 10th Ave, the real estate market is heating up , and of course there are always changes to the ever-evolving local dining options.  

Here are my food-related recommendations for those visiting the area for a Lions game, listed in order of distance from the stadium.  Unless otherwise noted, there is no parking -- walk, take Uber or the train, or leave the car in a nearby garage.  (Street parking in Inwood is near-impossible; do not even attempt this futile exercise in madness!).  Leave some time in your day to explore Inwood and check out some of these spots and you'll be sure to head home happy, win or lose on the field.

1. INDIAN ROAD CAFE - Beloved coffee shop / restaurant / bar right across from the old stadium gates on 218th St.  Excellent food and drinks , but people really go for the atmosphere.  (Terrific live music and other programming).  

2. PARK TERRACE DELI - The quintessential New York deli experience, on 218th St near Broadway.  Not cheap, but they have everything you need and a great sandwich bar.

3. TWIN DONUT - Not entirely terrible ever since their renovation some years ago, and they do have sandwiches, but the donuts are almost guaranteed to be stale.  At Broadway and 218th St. They do have parking if you are driving in or out.

4. LA ESSENCIA - Broadway just south of 218th St.  This small spot is a favorite among locals for their prices and Dominican fare.  They also make a mean taco.

5. FOOD UNIVERSE - Handy supermarket (with massive beer selection) located at Broadway north of 215th St in case you need snacks or prepared foods.  

6. BROWN SUGAR - Brand new Cuban place at 215th and Broadway.  No hookahs; despite the lounge-like appearance it's a real restaurant.  Had a rough start, but I can vouch for their very good food (and a kids' menu too).  Rumor is the brunch is excellent.  Parking garage is just behind the restaurant on 10th Ave.  

7. CAFE CUERVAS - a troubled spot on Broadway south of 215th St constantly changing names and getting shut down by the police. Lost their liquor license earlier this year.  Avoid.

8. GUACAMOLE - New taco bar taking over the space that was formerly Rebounds, on Broadway at 214th St.  Should open sometime this fall.  Keep an eye on this one, could be Inwood's answer to Chipotle.  

9. CARROT TOP - Also on Broadway at 214th, this is an Inwood tradition.  Good cafe for sandwiches, great bakery for treats.

10. LIFFY II - At Broadway and 213th, the sole survivor of Inwood's once-numerous Irish bars.  Take the kids and show them what drinking in New York used to look like.

11. CHOC NYC - If you visit only one new place in Inwood this fall for a bite, make it ChocNYCMuch-heralded bakery/chocolate shop with tons of gourmet treats.  Located on Broadway just south of 212th St.

12. CAFE DE BROADWAY - Another Inwood hookah bar masquerading as a restaurant.  Broadway south of 212th.  Avoid.

13. GRANDPA'S BRICK OVEN / PIZZA HAVEN - Dueling pizza places on either side of Broadway near Isham Street.  Both are super for a NY slice and highly recommended.

14. V.S. BERRY - The biggest and best of Inwood's fro-yo spots, with all of the trimmings.  Located at Isham and Broadway.

15. INWOOD FARMER'S MARKET - One of the best greenmarkets in Manhattan, this runs every Saturday on Isham Street west of Broadway.  Stop by before the game for pastries, real apple cider and other direct-from-the-farm goodies.

16. GARDEN CAFE - An Inwood standard for a lovely weekend meal, especially on their back patio. On Broadway south of Isham St.

17. DARLING COFFEE - Is this Bushwick or Inwood?  Who cares, the coffee and pastries are great  at this independent coffee shop that will make you think you got off the A train in Brooklyn.  On Broadway between Isham and 207th.

18. YUMMY THAI - I can faithfully report that Inwood's only Thai outpost is reliably yummy, and an attractive place to sit.  On Broadway south of Isham St.

19. INWOOD LOCAL - One of the best craft beer bars in the area, with terrific bar food as well and a very big screen in the back for those weekend games. On Broadway north of 207th St.

20. DICHTER'S - The epicenter of all Inwood life , Manny runs a traditional pharmacy/general store complete with ice cream counter, bagels and sandwiches.  Terrific prices and friendly atmosphere.  Stop in and say hello.

21. PIPER'S KILT - Alas, the renowned Inwood buger pub near Broadway and 207th has just been sold and is closed for renovations.  A new (perhaps similar?) pub is expected to take its place around November.

22. DUNKIN / MCDONALDS / PAPAJOHNS - All located close to Broadway and 207th for quick eats.  Also here is PICK N EAT , a fresher take on fast food.

23. G's / CAPITOL - Looking for a diner or lunch counter that feels like it did when Lou Little was coaching the Lions?  Try the ancient Capitol diner on Broadway just south of 207th, or the astoundingly tasty G's luncheonette on 207th west of Broadway.  While you're at it, you can get your hair cut the proper way at Ray's Barbershop, next to G's and now in its third generation.  They don't make places like that anymore.

24. INWOOD BAR AND GRILL - Formerly District 12, it has a kind of sports bar-lounge split personality , and the service can be really slow.   But during a Saturday afternoon it will have by far the most big screen TVs for sports watching of any place in Inwood.  On Broadway north of 204th.

25. DYCKMAN STREET - aka Alcohol Alley, this huge concentration of bars and restaurants around Dyckman and Broadway looks enticing by day but turns into an unholy mess at night that makes Inwood the #1 neighborhood in the city for noise complaints.  I cannot recommend most of the places located here but two stand out if you go early enough to avoid the late-night mayhem.  THE PARK VIEW is the kind of beautiful and adorably tiny upscale restaurant only found in New York, while TRYON PUBLIC HOUSE on the east side of Broadway has quickly established itself as the go-to neighborhood pub for southern Inwood.

26. LA MARINA - This is a tough one to discuss.  On the one hand, the setting by the Hudson River is nothing short of spectacular and will make you feel like you are dining upstate.  On the other hand, the operators have grossly abused their parks concession license and tortured Inwood with massive illegal summer concerts that raise more havoc than the rest of Dyckman Street combined But in the fall the mood mellows and if you can afford the prices (and the valet parking) it may be worth a visit.  Go before they close for the season in October.

27. NEW LEAF - This one is more of a hike, being located in Fort Tryon Park  in an old park building that was restored by Bette Midler's nonprofit group in the 90s.  Best accessed from the 190th St "A" subway station, or by hiking up the steep trails from Dyckman Street, or driving to their small parking lot.  Under new management, it's one of the most beautiful spots in upper Manhattan to eat, especially when the fall colors are out.  


HSM said...

Hi Jake- Your insider info on CU football is great and available nowhere else. One adjustment: yellow painting onto curbs are entirely unofficial except at bus stops. Building supers often paint the curbs in front of their buildings to keep people from parking there. Also, I believe that one must be 12 feet away from a hydrant. There is usually a number painted on the hydrant which specifies the required distance.

Best wishes, Harry Malakoff

RLB said...

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InwoodTiger said...

Technically, you can't park within 15 ft on either side of a hydrant though enforcement of this varies somewhat!

Inwood is not 5th Ave, we don't have doormen around here painting unofficial yellow curbs to keep parkers away. (Acutally, we don't have any doormen, period). The only thing to watch out for are curb cuts (i.e. driveways) and parking regulations, which are posted on signs. But I still strongly do not recommend trying to street park in Inwood. The neighborhood is bursting with activity on fall weekends (the baseball diamonds in Inwood Hill Park alone draw more vehicle traffic than all of Baker Athletics Complex combined). It can be a very difficult exercise in frustration to circle the narrow, packed blocks here looking for that magical elusive spot.