Start: B, D at Bedford Blvd
End: B, D at Kingsbridge Rd
Distance: 4.6 miles
Time: 5 hours
1. Take a second to absorb the noise, hustle and Spanish accents of Bedford Park and Webster Avenue—you’re about to bid ’em adieu. Your first stop on this long walk is the serene New York Botanical Garden (200th St at Kazimiroff Blvd; 718-817-8779, nybg.org), starting at the Moshulu Gate entranace. The silence and calm of the garden make it feel a million miles removed from the rest of the Bronx. By the time you reach the Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life, located in front of the Mertz Library, you’ll think you’ve been teleported to nirvana (or at least Connecticut). Steal an up-close look at the freaky seahorse sculpture, and be sure to hit the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where every room features a different ecosystem. (We especially like grooving to the Dagobah vibe in the lowland rain-forest room.)
2. Leaving from the garden’s Conservatory Gate, you have only a few yards to prepare for the rush of Fordham Road. Detour down Crotona Avenue to 187th Street, where the pace slows, the noise level drops, and the Italian flags come out. This is Arthur Avenue, one of the city’s most authentic Italian ’hoods. The area is also known as Belmont, a name that was immortalized by 1950s singing group Dion and the Belmonts. (All four members grew up here.) If you’re in the mood for a snack, slurp fresh oysters with a wedge of lemon at Cosenza’s Fish Market (2354 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and 186th St, 718-364-8510) or devour a hand-filled cannoli at Madonia Brothers Bakery (2348 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and 186th St, 718-295-5573). For something more formal, there’s legendary Dominick’s (2335 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and 186th St, 718-733-2807), where communal seating and brusque waiters remind you that old-school New York never really died.
3. Continue down the street until you see Calabria Pork Store (2338 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and 186th St; 718-367-5145, www.calabria-porkstore.com), which smells and looks like a meat cave, with dozens of homemade sausages hanging from the ceiling. While you’re at it, be sure to hit the Arthur Avenue Retail Market (2344 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and 186th St, arthuravenue.com), home of Mike’s Deli (718-295-5033), where owner David Greco might regale you with the tale of how he schooled Bobby Flay on the finer points of Italian cooking. If you’d rather skip the Italian altogether (for shame!), try the Baltic eats at Tony & Tina’s Pizza (2483 Arthur Ave between Fordham Rd and 189th St, 718-733-8094). Its specialty is burek, a buttery phyllo pie stuffed with cheese, lamb, spinach or pumpkin.
4. After you’ve spent a pretty penny on Arthur Avenue, rest your weary legs at lovely little D’Auria-Murphy Triangle (between Arthur and Crescent Aves, and Adams Pl and E 183rd St, nyc.gov/parks). Herein sits a huge marble bust of Christopher Columbus; the sculptor, Attilio Piccirilli, also helped carve the statue of Abe Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial and the lions, Patience and Fortitude, at the New York Public Library.
5. Working your way back to Fordham Road, drop by Original Products Botanica (2486–88 Webster Ave at 189th St, 718-367-9589). Jason Mizrahi’s heavily perfumed store is a religious shopping experience, filled with everything you need for your Santeria, Wiccan or voodoo ceremonies. If you’ve got the time, wander upstairs for a tarot reading and a visit to the sanctuary. Afterward, take a gander around Fordham Road, whose crowded sidewalks, old-school barkers and dizzying array of street vendors make it the perfect place to get a tattoo, buy a pair of skintight jeans or pick up a combination wedding gown–maternity dress.
6. If the grime of Fordham gets you down, or you just want a glimpse of the Bronx’s future, take a peek at the Bronx Library Center (310 E Kingsbridge Rd at Briggs Ave; 718-579-4244, nypl.org). Open since 2006, it was the first “green” public library, and the first fully green public building in New York City.
7. Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for the tiny farmhouse in the wooded park at the intersection of Kingsbridge Road and Grand Concourse. It’s Poe Cottage (718-881-8900, bronxhistoricalsociety.org/poecottage.html), Edgar Allan Poe’s last home, and the place where his wife, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. He also wrote some of his best work here, including “Annabel Lee” and “The Bells.”