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West Village Bar Crawl
"Bar crawls for smart people" may sound like an oxymoron, but Ted and Christi Scofield have made it their mission to design New York City walking tours that offer lots of history and culture between frequent cocktail stops.
The founders of Cocktails & Curiosities are here to guide you on a bar crawl through the historic West Village. It's an itinerary you can use for your next evening out, especially if you're entertaining out-of-town visitors who want a real New York experience along with their adult beverages.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
White Horse Tavern – 567 Hudson Street at West 11th Street
Our first stop is both a cocktail establishment and a curiosity. The White Horse Tavern opened in 1880 and was popular with longshoreman and the local Irish immigrants. Many of these immigrants worked for the police department and city, so it’s no surprise that during Prohibition,the White Horse Tavern remained open, operated as a bar, and was never raided. It also did not hurt that the Tavern was a favorite of Mayor Jimmy Walker, who lived a few blocks away.
The White Horse Tavern has a long history of famous clientele, most notably the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. For the non-literary crowd, recall the famous words “do not go gentle into that good night.” For the even more non-literary crowd you might remember the poem featured in the classic Rodney Dangerfield film Back to School.
Besides his poetry, Thomas was famous for his heavy drinking at the White Horse. He used to carouse so loudly that patrons would crowd around him to watch his shenanigans. In 1953, at the age of 39, Thomas got his drink on at the White Horse for the last time when he partook of one too many whiskeys, fell down drunk and went into a coma. He died a few days later.
Many say Dylan’s ghost still visits the White Horse and sits at his favorite corner table by the window in the back room. His ghost is said to rotate the table like Thomas did when he wrote his poetry.
During and after Thomas’ time, the White Horse Tavern became a hangout for writers and actors. Other notable denizens include Norman Mailer, Anais Nin and James Baldwin. Jack Kerouac visited often and was often kicked out. Bob Dylan used to come to listen to music and John Kennedy Jr. came for lunch during his student days at NYU law school. The Tavern was also a favorite of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Aykroyd was known to arrive around 2AM and ask the proprietor to lock the doors, then he would buy the bar a round and party until the wee hours.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
When you exit the front door of the White Horse Tavern go to the street corner to your immediate left, which is Hudson and West 11th Street. Cross Hudson Street and continue on West 11th until you hit Bleecker Street. Here you will most likely see a line of people snaking around the corner as they wait for a delectable little buttercream frosted treasure.
If you don’t already know, this is Magnolia Bakery, first made famous by its rockin’ cupcakes but now better known for cameos in The Devil Wears Prada, Saturday Night Live’s "Lazy Sunday" video and of course Sex and the City. The cupcakes, banana pudding and icebox cakes are great but the lines are not. If you don't' feel like waiting, you might want to visit Magnolia’s new Upper West Side outpost or Buttercup Bakeshop (opened by the original Magnolia owner) or visit Billy’s Bakery in Chelsea.
Look down Bleecker Street from Magnolia and welcome to the Bleecker Street Shopping Extravaganza. Yes folks, the street that was famous for its bohemian locals, avant-garde nightclubs and progressive musical scene is starting to look more like a high-end shopping mall.
But hey, who doesn’t like to shop? As you walk along Bleecker you will see some great shops and boutiques. Here are a few of our favorites:
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- BookMarc, at Bleecker and W.11th, is bookstore hipness by Marc Jacob. Inside you’ll find books on art, design, fashion and music as well as fun gifty accessories.
- Bond No.9: Fragrances that celebrate New York.
- Jack Spade: Because men need cool accessories too.
- Freemans Sporting Club: Unique American hand-made goods for the stylish guy.
- Diptyque: Candle heaven.
04 of 08
Perry Street -- Norman Mailer and Carrie Bradshaw
From the corner of W. 11th and Bleecker, take a right on Bleecker Street and walk until you reach Perry Street. Turn left on Perry and stop in front of townhouse #73 (about ¾ down the block on the left side of the street).
For our literary fans, here at #73 Perry lived Norman Mailer and his second wife Adele Morales. For our non-literary fans here’s the scoop on Mr. Mailer. He became an overnight sensation in the late 1940’s with his war novel The Naked and the Dead, considered one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.
Mailer had a long career of success and controversy. He was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and a National Book Award winner, co-founder of The Village Voice, a screenwriter, an actor, a poet, an essayist and, oh yes, also a bit delusional.
When he lived here in 1960, after a night of one too many cocktails he decided to take out his frustrations on wife Adele. He stabbed her with a pen knife multiple times, almost killing her. She did not press charges.
Norman “Bates” Mailer went to Bellevue psychiatric hospital for a couple weeks and then got off with a suspended sentence. Although the “incident” made the news, it obviously did not scare away the ladies as Mailer married four more times, fathered a total of nine children and his literary legend lived on.
Now for a little more lighthearted topic! Turn around and look on the opposite side of the street until you find #66 Perry. Look familiar? 66 Perry Street features Carrie Bradshaw’s famous stoop in Sex and the City.
The show actually placed her apartment in the Upper East Side neighborhood, but it filmed down here in Greenwich Village. Why? Because SJP and Matthew Broderick used to live in a townhouse around the corner on Charles Street. Our apologies to our touring straight men. Shopping? Cupcakes? Sex and the City? Ok... Let’s move on...Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Corner of Bleecker and Perry Streets -- Site of Admiral Peter Warren Mansion
Now, backtrack to Bleecker Street and stop at the corner of Bleecker and Perry for some more vintage history. Look back down Perry in the direction from which you came. On this entire city block once stood Admiral Peter Warren’s mansion until it was demolished in 1864.
No big deal right? Everything has been demolished and rebuilt. But the thing about Peter Warren was, not only did he own this block, but he owned almost the entire neighborhood that we today call Greenwich village. By 1774, Admiral Warren owned over 300 acres in Greenwich Village. His estate went north to our current 21st Street all the way to a few blocks south of here to Christopher Street.
How did Admiral Warren have so much money to buy all this land? Well, by privateering of course. For you non-history buffs, privateering was a business where private sailors protected the country from invading ships, and they could keep the spoils. Or, in layman’s terms, fancy Admiral Warren was a pirate.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
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106 Perry Street -- Former Home of Henry and June Miller
Turn back and look across Bleecker to the next block of Perry Street. We have one more little nugget of interest on this street.
We won’t walk down there as it is just another old townhouse to see, but at 106 Perry Street lived Henry and June Miller, in the 1920’s before Henry became a famous writer from his controversial works such as Tropic of Cancer.
So what does any poor struggling writer do to make ends meet? Well open a speakeasy of course! Henry and June decided to open up a “tea-room” in the basement of the building to help pay their bills. Unfortunately, Henry and June drank all of their profits. Eventually Henry left New York and moved to Paris where his partying and writing were funded by his new lover and sugar mama Anais Nin.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
07 of 08
Christopher Street -- Gayest Street in America
Take a left to continue on Bleecker, checking out the shops as you pass Charles Street and West 10th Street. Stop when you get to the corner of Bleecker and Christopher Street.
Christopher Street has a storied history as the heart of the gay rights movement in New York. Otherwise known as the Great Gay Way, or the Gayest Street in America, Christopher Street was made famous as the heart of gay activism after the 1969 Stonewall Riots.
These days, Chelsea is known more as the city’s gay neighborhood, but Christopher Street remains a legend.
Turn right on Christopher Street and walk to #109 Christopher, McNulty’s Tea. On the opposite side of the street you will see a few of our favorite spots that we wanted to point out and give some love.
- Havana Alma De Cuba serves great Cuban food in a fun, laid-back atmosphere. They have a cigar roller during the week and live Cuban music from Thurs-Sat.
- Rag & Bone sells great denim and classics.
- Uncorked is the wine store where you try before you buy.
Back to #109, McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Company has been in business since 1895 and the store has an amazing selection of eclectic teas and coffees from around the world. McNulty’s is old school. Much of what you see - bins, chests and scales - date back to the 19th century and the people who work here actually know something about their products. If you are a coffee or tea nut and don’t mind carrying it, we definitely suggest taking home a little something from McNulty’s.The next stop is next door at 111 Christopher. To help you round out your Christopher Street purchases, you can now say “Coffee, Tea or Me?” with some unusual items from The Leatherman. The Leatherman is an adult store open since 1965; specialty items include fetish products such as leather pants, jackets, chaps, whips, cuffs and many adult-themed accoutrements. If leather is not your thing, rubber and latex goods are also available.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
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Lucille Lortel Theater
Continue down Christopher enjoying the other unique shops and stop when you get to the Lucille Lortel Theater.
The Lucille Lortel Theater was built in the 1920’s as a 590-seat movie theater. It was converted in the 1950’s to an Off-Broadway theater and has been so ever since. Its claim-to-fame came with a 2,707-show run of the Three Penny Opera, which featured a huge number of venerable stars like Ed Asner, Charlotte Rae (The Facts of Life), Bea Arthur (The Golden Girls) Jerry Orbach (Law & Order) John Astin (The Adams Family) and Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld).
This brings us to the end of this West Village leg of our Cocktails & Curiosities tour. For more stops and additional New York City walking tours that combine culture and cocktail stops, visit the Cocktails & Curiosities site.