Columbia Univ - NYC Visit

Old Jan 31st, 2006, 01:34 PM
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Columbia Univ - NYC Visit

I have read through a lot of great Fodorite advice, so have decided to inquire about an upcoming trip to Columbia University (NYC) in mid-February 2006. I'll be enjoying 3 days on my own (and attending a conference at T.C. for 2 days).

What's the scoop on the Columbia U visitor's housing at the dorm? At only $105 per nite it seems simple and affordable. I don't intend to spend much time in the room, but would you recommend spending a little more $ and staying in a hotel near midtown (west) or the upper west side?

In the forum a few years ago, folks offered mixed reviews about campus safety. What's the scoop on the Morningside Heights area today?

Any tips for solo females getting around in NYC - how to blend in more/ not look so touristy?

Is the United Nation's Delegate's Dining Room worth the visit?

Is the Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park worth the visit? Would you recommend cabbing it there or taking the M4 bus from the main MET building?

Any experiences with the Gray Line New York "Night Tour"? ... I know, sure way to look like a tourist right

Thanks in advance for the tips!
Baina is offline  
Old Jan 31st, 2006, 01:48 PM
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A rising tide lifts all boats. Morningside Heights (and Harlem, which either is nearby or MH is part of it, depending on who you ask) are both changing rapidly; you should have no problems staying there, and it certainly wouldbe convenient during hte conference.

The Cloisters is a treasure, though not at its most charming in February. Just take the bus.

Yes, everyone on the Gray Line tour is a tourist, but the Night Tour is a great way to see the city, especially if your days are otherwise ocupied.
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 01:52 PM
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Hard to advise about spending more to stay elsewhere without knowing how much free time you'll have. Also have no idea what the visitor's housing is like and whether you'll have private bath. You might check the Newton Hotel which is in the 90s on the upper westside. Not that far from Columbia, but perhaps a bit more access to tourist activities. It's not pricey either.

What is T.C.?

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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 01:54 PM
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Since she's at Columbia, I think TC is Teachers College, which is on the southern edge of the campus.
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 02:08 PM
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I suspect the dorm housing is pretty minimal, and the Newton hotel, IMO looks pretty sad (I pass by it several times a week). So does the Days hotel (as in "Days Inn" - used to be "Quality hotel") around the corner.

A single person might do very well for not much more using Priceline, since the size of the room shouldn't be too much of an issue.
A subway from midtown to Columbia is about 20 minutes, and it's a "reverse " commute, so not QUITE as busy on the trains.

There might also be some reasonable deals through this NYC winter promotion,

Remember to add in about 13% room tax to the prices quoted.

Columbia area is OK in the evening, though there are probably specific blocks you'd want to steer clear of
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 03:24 PM
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A really good friend of mine goes to Columbia and I have been visiting and staying there several times a year for the past four years. I'm a 21 yo female. I've never felt threatened on campus at all, and it's BEAUTIFUL!
I don't know much about visitor housing since I usually stay with my friend in his dorm, the dorms aren't that spectacular but they are livable, I can't imagine the visitor place can be much worse. I even had a time when I visited over the summer and had to use a public bathroom because he only had a single. They were always very clean (they even have cleaning people who come to their dorms to clean their personal bathrooms) and for the 10 days I spent there I think I saw another person in the bathroom once.
I think staying at Columbia is a relatively nice location - there is a subway stop for the 1 train practically right on campus and that will take you down to midtown/Times Square where there is lots of things to do and many other lines to transfer to.
St. John the Divine is near Columbia and is gorgeous. There is something about it if I remember correctly that there is lots of space between the inside walls and outside walls or something, it's smaller inside than it should be.
It's also pretty close to the Museum of Natural History - which if you haven't been there, is one of my favorite musuems in the city.
I'm actually flying out to stay at Columbia on Thursday so if I think of/find anything new I'll make sure to add it.
Enjoy your visit!
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 04:05 PM
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What is the street address of the visitor's housing dorm?

I live in Morningside Heights and you'll be fine. Columbia is expanding and taking over so much in the neighborhood that most of the security issues are gone. Don't bother with a hotel, since you won't be in the room much anyway. You can put the dollars you save into cab fares, which have gone up astronomically and are now a luxury for many of us, espeically those of us who live uptown. The Cloisters is wonderful. The bus is slow (I think there might be another bus up the West Side that you can take there) but you do get a sense of upper manhattan. As someone else mentioned, you're right in the neighborhood of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and on the number 1 subway line. The food in the Columbia area is pretty much mediocre. You might want to try a little taco place called Taqueria Fonda on Amsterdam near 107th Street. There's also a good Ethiopian place on Amsterdam and 107 or 108 (called Awash) as well as one further uptown. Kitchenette (Amsterdam and 122) has good breakfast/brunch and lots of people like Toast (Broadway and 124th, I think) although I've never been. Don't worry about looking "touristy" - jsut keep your wits about you, and watch your handbag and you'll be fine.
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 04:28 PM
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I would not spend the time/money to be midtown if your meetings are at Columbia. Check to see how minimal the dorms are - and if they're not bad do that.

If you want something nicer than the dorms still stay on the upper west side - much more pleasant for a single woman - since it's a mid/upscale residential area - not business/tourists. Has lots of great, inexpensive restaurants, good transport ether to Columbia or rest of the city (2 subway lines and several bus lines).

Don;t know what you can find on the UWS for only a little more - would not do the Newton or the Days - as they seem not very pleasant. The Lucerne is nice- but don;t know what rates you will be able to get - and still within easy walking distance (if you're used to walking and it's not too cold) and like 5 minutes on the subway.

Best way to blend in more - don;t wear gigantic white sneakers - but either booties or dark walking shoes (of the fashion athletic type), be assertive, don;t make eye contact with strangers on the street or subway, don;t be afraid to ignore people trying to talk to you if they look dicey and if traveling alone late at night - after 12 or so - consider taking a cab. But most of all, be aware - if something doesn;t feel right - it probably isn;t.

(That said - I live on the upper west side and would have no hesitation to walk in that area at night alone.)

The Cloisters is greaat but would not be at the top of my list that time of year - since you'll be missing so much of it.

The Night tour sounds unutterably drrary. Sure you would have much more fun night out with some people you meet at the conference - just head for the Village or meat packing district - let us know how rich/dressy you feel and people can make recos.

Some good resources for rests, bars, evening things to do:

New York magazine
Timeout New York
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 03:57 AM
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I still think whether you stay up at Columbia depends on how much of your day will be taken up by meetings. Rereading your post, maybe you're saying you'll have 3 whole days of NO meetings before a 2 day conference? If that's the case I would either stay elsewhere for the 3 days and maybe move to the campus for the 2 days or find something comfortable for the entire time.

I remembered, a while back, someone posted about staying in visitor rooms at the Theological Seminary at Columbia. If you don't want to stay in the dorm housing, you could check to see if this would be an option. Here's the info that was posted. It may be dated.

Union Theological Seminary: Landmark Guest Rooms
3041 Broadway at 121st Street
Contact: Nicole Moore; Tel.(212) 280-1313; Fax. 212-280-1488; Guest Messages: 280-1427.
$ 85-95 / night

I will also say that while the Newton may not look great from the outside, it gets decent reviews on tripadvisor and I wouldn't dismiss it so quickly. The Excelsior on the upper westside is a very decent hotel and sits across from the Museum of Natural History. That would be a very good. I often see good prices for it on

One last idea. I've noticed this apt. near Columbia. If you don't mind cats, it could be interesting
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Old Feb 1st, 2006, 05:18 AM
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I stayed in UTS (but don't remember posting about it). It is spartan (small room, tiny tv, clunky radiator), but clean quiet and safe. You get a free lite breakfast (muffins, coffee, etc), and you can pay extra for more in the breakfast room. I liked it fine. It is right across the street from Columbia.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2006, 08:39 PM
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Hi again -

My NYC trip will be for five nights (2 days/nights of which will be dedicated to the conference at Teacher's College. Columbia's visitor housing is located at 517 W 121st. It's helpful to know how close the 1 subway is and what folks familiar with the Columbia U/ Morningside area think about and do in the neighborhood.

I thought about staying at UTS but my dates of stay were unavailable. The guest rooms at Teachers College seem similar to those at UTS though - especially cool is the private bath. I will definitely keep UTS in mind for future visits to the city.

Thanks for helping weigh the pros/cons of a more centrally located hotel vs. the affordable guest housing in a T.C. dorm. The money I am saving on lodging can go toward cabs, meals (I think I'll have to seek out Awash), and time hangin' out in the southern half of the city with conference attendees (some of whom have been to NYC several times).

I'm looking forward to staying on Columbia's campus and toolin' about in Morningside Heights, and even found a really cool website via Columbia's page:

Thanks also for the many other website and activity (natural museum of history, st. john the devine, etc.) suggestions!

A big thanks to all the Fodorites who have offered tips and comments!
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