Though the time savings are not enormous, don’t fritter away Amtrak’s gift. We pulled together 15 suggestions for how to use those precious 900 seconds. Because before you know it, you’ll be back in Washington 15 minutes too soon.
• Walk halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge, which is just over a mile long. Pace yourself at three miles per hour. Or rent a Citi Bike for $3 and zoom across the entire bridge.
• On the High Line, cool your ankles in the water spouts at the Diller-von Furstenberg Sundeck, then dry off on a wooden chaise. To complete the chill-heat-chill cycle, grab a paleta, a Mexican-style ice treat, from the La Newyorkina cart.
• Play a fierce game of Apples to Apples, Checkers or Candy Land in Bryant Park. More than 50 board games are available for borrowing.
• Russ & Daughters holds the title for the best bagel-and-lox sandwich in the city. The wait at its main location on Houston Street can exceed 15 minutes, but you can often dodge the lines at its outpost in the basement of the Jewish Museum.
•Order a cocktail (say, a Manhattan) or a poptail (the pop comes from Prosecco) at the Cantor Rooftop Garden Bar on the fifth floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The seasonal spot is set among contemporary artworks and intoxicating views of Central Park.
• The Gentoo, chinstrap and king penguins and sea lions are speedy eaters. Watch them slurp-and-slide during a daily public feeding at the Central Park Zoo.
•Ride the ferry round trip from Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn to Governors Island in New York Harbor. When approaching the 172-acre island, look for the Hills, a man-made mound that rises 70 feet above sea level and touts a 57-foot slide, the city’s longest.
• With more than 75 vendors, Artists & Fleas in Williamsburg can take hours to explore. For an abbreviated shopping excursion, drop by a condensed version of the emporium in Soho or Chelsea Market. Each site showcases about half the number of sellers.
• A harbor cruise exceeds your time limit by at least 45 minutes. However, you can still feel the power of the wind and the wavelets with a remote-controlled model sailboat at the Conservatory Water in Central Park. Depending on the conditions, you can complete a trans-pond trip before the clock runs out.
• Assemble a pan-Nordic meal — how about a smoked salmon smorrebrod with spandauer for dessert? — at the Great Northern Food Hall, in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall. If indecision is slowing you down, opt for a Danish hot dog at Danish Dogs.
• Strap yourself into an LED-illuminated fish and bob along in the SeaGlass Carousel in the Battery, the 25-acre park on the southern tip of Manhattan. The dry aquatic ride lasts 3½ minutes, so you can stay at sea for at least three spins.
• At the Poets House, a national poetry library, pay homage to the writing desk of E.E. Cummings, which resides in the Cheney Chappell Exhibition Space. Select one of the poet’s collections off the shelves for a private reading, or hustle north to his former home at 4 Patchin Pl. in Greenwich Village.
• Skip the endless queue for the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building and stroll right into the new galleries on the second floor. With nine exhibits, you will need to move fast. Just imagine King Kong is chasing you.
• Commune with art and nature at Socrates Sculpture Park, which holds changing exhibits on five acres of green space in Long Island City. The self-guided tour takes about 35 minutes. Save time by walking and appreciating the works simultaneously.
• Climb the bleacher-style red steps in Times Square and settle in for the show. Marvel at the mass of humanity and be thankful that you are above it all.
More from Travel: