ohny franklin_amazing race

Our mission at OHNY is to encourage and inspire fans of New York to get out there and explore the city.

To prepare for OHNY Weekend, most people pick up a guide in the paper or print one out from our website, sit down at the coffee table with a tablet and a sharpened #2 pencil, and outline a list of places that they’re interested in seeing. From the stories you’ve shared with us over the years, we hear that three or four sites per day tends to be the mean for OHNY Weekend visitors.

However, with over 300 sites, tours, and programs in all five boroughs on this year’s roster, there’s plenty of room for one (or two, since it’s more fun with a friend) with the the right combination of planning acumen and frenetic energy to make the most of our offerings. Possessing those qualities in spades, these two consummate OHNY Weekend enthusiasts are always determined to skew the bell curve when it comes to the number of sites visited, and they’ve generously agreed to share their strategy for success with us.

“OK, we admit it. We have been addicted to Open House New York from the very first year. We are competitive, and sometimes a little schadenfreude slips in when we ask people what they have seen during the weekend. Our old OHNY weekend record was three boroughs and 16 sites so this year we wanted to top that a little.

Our approach is simple and simply insane. We want to see as many of the places that we have not seen and to do it in an efficient way, but also allow for the serendipity to slip in. The result is a strategic plan that looks a little like a military operation on the beaches of Normandy and a little like game-show shopping-spree madness.

That madness begins that Thursday night when the OHNY website begins to upload the sites for the weekend. We first look for the reservation-only sites and decide which to request. We only like to make 2 or 3 site reservations so not to be boxed into too many organized tours. We then pare down list to sites that are hard to get into and that we have not seen. This reduces much of the list. After living in New York for 20 years and being members of the Institute of Classical Architecture, VSA and avid readers of Justin Ferate’s emails and newyorkology.com and attending OHNY year round events, we can get the list down to about 40 places.

Next we usually decide one day is public transportation and the other will require a car. (We have had to double park and take turns at some sites.) We then make a tight list of 12 must-see sights and a wish list of another 15 if there is time.

We are able to get some fun extras in this year like an amazing lunch special at a Japanese restaurant a few doors up from Grace Church, with a waitress who kept re-arranging our plates and chop sticks throughout the meal (a real type A after my own heart), cappuccino at the illy Push Button House, and a free piano concert after the behind the scenes tour of the Brooklyn Public Library.

We know that this type of touring is not for most people. Some people are only interested in buildings in their community, iconic structures, tours, etc. But our advice to everyone to talk the other OHNYers, change your mind, arrive early, show up at reservation sights and see if there is space if a tour was overbooked, and make your dream plan for next year.

Anyway, enough blogging. Here is the list. The first day was accomplished entirely by public transportation (we read the MTA website for all the service changes) and the second day was by car.”

Franklin, Queens

The Itinerary:


First Baptist Church

Chapel of the Good Shepherd
Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
First Baptist Church, 265 W 79th St/ Broadway, New York
New School: Orozco Room
Kips Bay Towers
Morgan Library & Museum: Thaw Conservation Center
Grace Church in New York
Church of the Ascension, The
New School, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, The
St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church
Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew — NEW SITE ADDITION
Richard Meier & Partners Model Museum
illy Push Button House


Newtown CreekWastewater

93 Nevins
Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
Grand Prospect Hall
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Christ Church, Cobble Hill
Brooklyn Public Library

3 Comments to OHNY Weekend Experience: 19 Sites in 3 Boroughs

  1. Shlomo Balomo's Gravatar Shlomo Balomo
    October 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Ok, nice list, but a few too many churches for my taste. Now comes the hard part. Which ones were worth seeing and which do you recommend we see next year.

  2. Kelvin's Gravatar Kelvin
    November 7, 2009 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    In Brooklyn most of the OHNY sites were within biking distance of each other (most of the sites were clustered in Downtown/Cobble Hill/Red Hook/Park Slope). THe F train wasn’t running that day, there were service changes on many other lines, so having the bike let me fit in many more sites. I do relate to your likening the experience to a military operation — I had to map everything out in advance and would have been very pleased if there had been a map with the brochure. Anyway, here are the places I went over the course of five hours (12 pm – 5 pm):

    93 Nevins
    Brooklyn Historical Society
    St. Ann’s Church (free organ concert!)
    Pier Glass Art Studio (and lunch at Fairway in Red Hook)
    Waterfront Museum/Showboat Barge
    Greenwood Cemetery

    My favorite site was the Cemetery — so idyllic and so much history! Granted, half of the places in the list above are open every weekend, but the presence of many other visitors makes the experience more enjoyable.

  3. Anthea Rawlence's Gravatar Anthea Rawlence
    November 15, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Came over especially from England. Very disappointed that we could not get into any of the pre-bookable places.
    OpenHouse London has an easier website to navigate which means you can plan by borough and type of building. Also more places are open on the day when you can just turn up and not pre-book.
    I accept the London programme is better funded and hope OHNY can come over and see how they do it. I don’t live in London either and make a special trip each year to visit. http://www.tfl.gov.uk means I can key in (on my phone) the post code (zipcode) of where I am and where I want to go to and I can a text message back telling me the public transport to use.

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