Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Army Tailgate and Visitors Guide '09

NOTE: CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION

This is one of a series of tailgating guides for Big East and other select football schools written by Syracuse fan and tailgate aficionado TexanMark. If you have any feedback or additional information you think belongs in this guide, please drop an email message to Mark by clicking here.

First Things First: GETTING THERE

If you have a game scheduled at West Point you are very lucky indeed. Often cited as one of college football's best places to watch a game, you will be amazed at its' splendor. West Point is literally a piece of land that juts out and forces the Hudson River to make a 90 degree turn. A quick online overview of the majesty of West Point is offered by the school.

Arriving by air to West Point has to be done with a well thought out plan. Are you coming in for just the game? Or are you coming in to visit NYC?

STEWART NEWBURGH INTERNATIONAL


If you are coming in just for the game you should first look into Newburgh Stewart International. Stewart (SWF) is located about 10 miles north of West Point. It is a small airport and offers Delta/Northwest, Jet Blue, and USAirways air service. Airfares can be very expensive. Rental cars and taxis are available. The taxi drivers are well versed on driving to West Point.

TexanMark's Tip: Albany International Airport (about 90 miles north of West Point) offers Southwest Airlines. Airfares generally are much better than Stewart. If you are renting a car it is a easy drive down the Interstate (I-87). You can even do the the NYC option. You can park your rental car at many of the Metro North Train stations and take the train into the city. The Beacon Station across the river from Newburgh has a lot of parking. It even has an Enterprise Rental Car Agency at the Station. This avoids the hassle of taking a taxi or limo to get to the train station. I only recommend experienced NY City drivers to take their rental car into the city for the day.

Other Airport options will require a rental car or a least the willingness to take some trains, taxis or buses. One thing I recommend is to work a game around a visit to the most exciting city in the World.

Flying into NYC

New York City is served by three airports: JFK , LaGuardia , and Newark Liberty. Actually, the closest airport to midtown is in New Jersey. You can get to midtown via bus, train and taxi from any of the three airports. Two other options are available: White Plains Airport is about 30 miles southeast but should only be used if you have a rental car and MacArthur Islip Airport is about 25 miles east of NYC on Long Island. Note: Southwest Airlines serves MacArthur Airport but it is fairly far from West Point and there is a lot of urban driving. If you are an experienced urban driver this can be a good option to rent a car from Islip.

John F. Kennedy (JFK) International

This airport is located the furthest from West Point of the three major airports. It is still possible to use public transportation from the terminal to midtown Manhattan and MSG. This website details your public transportation possibilities to/from JFK to Midtown Manhattan.


AirTrain your way out of JFK
AirTrain takes you around the airport for free. You connect between the airline terminals, parking, hotel shuttles, and rental car facilities, there's no fee to pay and no ticket is required. In order to catch off airport transportation, take AirTrain to Jamaica or Howard Beach Stations. You have to pay a $5.00 per person access fee in order to connect to or from the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), subway, local bus, or street. For about $7-12 total (peak, includes AirTrain $5.50 fee) you can take the Subway/Long Island RR into Penn Station. Follow the instructions on how to purchase metro cards. Here is a good PDF file of regional rails serving the NYC area.

A taxi to midtown is about $50. This makes sense if you are traveling with several bags, your hotel is far from a subway or bus stop, or you have one or two other passengers to split the bill with or you don't want to mess with public transportation. Another option: the various privately owned shuttle buses (just google shuttle buses + JFK--here is what one looks like). They cost about $15-20 per person. The MTA runs their own express shuttle to Manhattan for $15 and if you really know the city and have time you can find info at the above link about regular city buses.

LaGuardia (LGA) Airport

If your flight takes you into LaGuardia International you likewise have many options. Prices vary from as little as $2.00 (Bus/Subway) to about $40 or so with a Taxi to midtown Manhattan. LaGuardia is located in northern Queens about 6-7 miles from midtown. Unfortunately it is a bit longer mileage wise by car. If you are comfortable with taking the bus/subway, this link will give you a nice overview of the bus routes leaving LaGuardia to connect with the subway. Another good option is to take a commercial bus to Penn Central Station. They run about $10-12 one way. This is a good way to go for first time travelers to NYC. Note: It will stop first at Grand Central Station. If you have a hotel on the east side you might want to exit at Grand Central. If you are going up to West Point you want to get off at Grand Central also. If you are going directly to West Point look below for the Grand Central to West Point instructions.

Newark (EWR) Liberty International Airport

Newark is a great option even though it is in New Jersey. It is located about 8 miles southwest of midtown Manhattan. It is the easiest of the three NYC airports if you plan to rent a car. If you have a portable GPS take it as it is very confusing as you leave the airport. It is about 75-90 minutes to West Point. A real nice option is to fly into Newark and take the train to midtown...stay a few days. Take the train back to the airport. Pick up a rental car. Drive to West Point and take in the game. Drive back to Newark and drop off the rental car and catch your flight home. Unless you are an experienced urban driver you might save your self a lot of stress and fly into Stewart Newburgh or Albany International (90 miles north of West Point) though.

If you are not getting a rental car. You use public transportation from the terminal to midtown Manhattan. Taxi Cabs are most expensive. Expect to pay about $50-60 to take you to midtown Manhattan. If you are traveling in a group of 2 or 3 you can get a group deal which will make it competitive to other transportation options. This option is great if you don’t want to wait, have a lot of baggage or your hotel is not near a subway or bus stop. Other options are numerous. If you want a low hassle trip to Penn Station via bus this link is for you. If you are traveling light the AirTrain and NJ Transit is a great option. Once you deplane and gather your bags you need to take the AirTrain. As the guide says, “All AirTrain rides within the airport are free, so if you only use AirTrain to connect between the airline terminals, parking, hotel shuttle and rental car facilities, no ticket is required.” However, most of you will need to pay $5.00 to leave the airport via AirTrain and hook up with NJ Transit to Penn Station in midtown Manhattan.

From the official website:
AirTrain arrives and departs every three minutes from 5 a.m. to midnight and approximately every 15 minutes between midnight and 5 a.m. On Sundays, the train arrives and departs approximately every 15 minutes from midnight to 7 a.m., during which time a shuttle operation is in effect that may require a transfer of trains. For more information, see AirTrain Newark Map.



NJ Transit Map Click to enlarge


Airtrain Your Way to NYCIt is a little tricky to leave AirTrain and hook up with the NJ Transit service. The train runs around the airport and hooks you into mass transit. It isn’t seamless. Click this link and this link to help you. The Newark airport guide states: “When you exit AirTrain at Newark Liberty International Airport Train Station, follow the signs to NJ TRANSIT trains. You will go up one level, pass through the fare gates and go down one level onto the NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak train platforms. It takes approximately 5 minutes to get from AirTrain to the NJ TRANSIT or Amtrak platforms.”

You can buy your NJ Transit ticket in the Airport terminal before you get on the AirTrain. The Newark airport guide states: “If you are going to take NJ TRANSIT, stop by any one of the NJ TRANSIT ticket machines located on the airport near the entrances to the AirTrain stations in terminals A, B and C, at the Ground Transportation Center in Terminal C, or at Newark Liberty International Airport Train Station.” The trains go into Penn Station (Madison Square Garden is above it). Note: if you are proceeding onto Grand Central Station you need to walk, subway or taxi there.

GRAND CENTRAL STATION TO WEST POINT:

Okay so you are staying downtown and want to get to the game. If you are in a group, an easy option is to order up a limo. If you are more adventurous you can take the Metro North Train from Grand Central Station to the Garrison Station. From there you need to get a taxi (about $25) to West Point. They usually have some waiting. If not call a taxi out of Highland Falls or Peekskill. If you are visiting a USMA Cadet this is the station you get off for the ferry over to West Point. They can take the ferry over and escort you over. The cost is a whooping 25 cents. NOTE: This is only an option if you know a Cadet. If you want to rent a car I suggest going a few miles further north to the Beacon Station. The Beacon train station (on the east side of the Hudson River across from Newburgh) is a great place to go to if you want to rent a car. Enterprise Car Rental is at the station.

West Point Driving Directions
From the Four Airports as supplied by USMA

From JFK Airport

VanWyck Parkway to Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. After crossing the bridge,
look for the Cross Bronx Expressway. Follow the Cross Bronx Expressway
to the Bronx River Parkway north. Take the Bronx River Parkway to left fork
for the Sprain Brook Parkway. Follow Sprain Brook Parkway to Route 287,
left exit to Tappan Zee Bridge and Interstate 87 (New York State Thruway).
Over bridge, take exit 13N onto the Palisades Interstate Parkway heading
north. Take the PIP north to its end (Bear Mountain traffi c circle). Follow
signs for Route 9W north (3d exit off traffi c circle). Take the fi rst “West
Point, Highland Falls” exit. This will lead you into Highland Falls, past the
Visitor’s Center and Museum, and through to Thayer Gate.

From LaGuardia Airport

Take the Whitestone Parkway to Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. After crossing
the bridge, look for the Cross Bronx Expressway. Follow the Cross Bronx
Expressway to the Bronx River Parkway north. Take the Bronx River
Parkway to left fork for the Sprain Brook Parkway. Follow Sprain Brook
Parkway to Route 287, left exit to Tappan Zee Bridge and Interstate 87
(New York State Thruway). Over bridge, take exit 13N onto the Palisades
Interstate Parkway heading north. Take the PIP north to its end (Bear
Mountain traffi c circle). Follow signs for Route 9W north (3d exit off traffi c
circle). Take the fi rst “West Point, Highland Falls” exit. This will lead you
into Highland Falls, past the Visitor’s Center and Museum, and through
to Thayer Gate.

From Newark Airport

Take Interstate 78 West to the Garden State Parkway. Take the GSP north
to the end and follow signs for the New York State Thruway (I-87) south.
Exit Thruway at exit 13N onto the Palisades Interstate Parkway heading
north. Take the PIP north to its end (Bear Mountain traffi c circle). Follow
signs for Route 9W north (3d exit off traffi c circle). Take the fi rst “West
Point, Highland Falls” exit. This will lead you into Highland Falls, past the
Visitor’s Center and Museum, and through to Thayer Gate.

From Stewart Newburgh Airport

Exit airport, make left turn onto New York State Route 207 to the New York
State Route 300 interchange. Make left turn onto Route 300, cross New
York State Route 17K to the Interstate 84 interchange. Take I-84 east
to exit 10 (Route 9W). Make right turn onto 9W south. Take the second
“West Point, Highland Falls” exit. This will lead you into Highland Falls,
past the Visitor’s Center and Museum, and through to Thayer Gate.


Campus Info: West Point is not your ordinary campus. It reminds me of of a medieval city sitting hard by a European River with mountains in the backdrop. I can find few places in the USA I would rather be at to watch a game amid October/November Foliage.


Washington Statue in Fall Glory and a Picture I took Veterans Day 09


Game Day Tailgating/Parking:

Gameday parking is orderly but can take awhile. Only a few entrances.

Important Times to Know
Six Hours--Parking Lots Open
Four Hours--Shuttle Buses Begin Running
Three Hours--Black Knights Alley Opens
Three Hours--Cadet Review On The Plain
Two Hours--Black Knight Walk
Two Hours--Michie Stadium Opens



TAILGATE SUPPLIES



My West Point Son Would Love This


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If you are a DoD card holder your best bet for last minute supplies are at the Post Exchange or Commissary. As far as military facilities they are small/medium sized but should have all your essentials. For the rest of you the pickings are slim...there is one super market on the main street of Highland Falls. It is an IGA and it is fairly small. Your best bet is to make sure you have everything before you arrive. If you are staying in Newburgh or Fishkill check out the Walmart Supercenters.


Scalpers and You:

Normal scalping rules do not apply here. No professional scalpers here. Usually you just ask around the tailgates who has an extra. Very little chance you'll get ripped off. It is not unheard of that an old Army grad will give you tickets for free or for a beer or two.



TAILGATE HAVEN--Total Tailgating Resource


Tailgate Haven is your total resource for setting up and managing your football tailgate online. Do you think the tailgate is sometimes just as important as the game? The goal of Tailgate Haven is to make your life easier by organizing your tailgate group; thus eliminating countless emails, text messages and phone calls about the current weeks tailgate information. The concept is simple but pure genius. You easily register by choosing your favorite team and picking a creative name for your tailgate group. Now log in and instantly each of your teams games becomes its own webpage with your team colors. Next, invite your friends to join your tailgate group and the site comes to life. In addition to this tailgate manager, every team has its own tailgate profile. Do you travel to away games? This is where you can find the best information on where to park, find extra tickets, where to stay, eat, party and golf. Navigate the city easily as you travel to a stadium for the first time.


LODGING:: West Point is located in a small, idyllic location. Of course, that is the main problem. Lodging options are expensive for the most part if you you want to stay within a few miles of West Point.

The Thayer Hotel is the best option if you can get in there. It is pricey but it is a historic hotel set on the Hudson River. It is located in the Village of Highland Falls next to the West Point Gate. The West Point Point Museum is located a few steps away.

There are about a dozen other places of varying size and quality within and close by Highland Falls.

Newburgh Lodging: If you are flying into Stewart Int'l or driving in from the north you might consider Newburgh. Newburgh offers shopping and restaurants and quick access to I-84 and I-90.

Central Valley Lodging: If you are flying into NYC or driving in from the south you might consider Central Valley. Central Valley offers extensive shopping at the woodbury Premium Outlets and also offers a lot of restaurants.

Fishkill Lodging: Fishkill is on the east side of Hudson from Newburgh. If you are driving in from New England or along the Thruway (I-90) you might consider staying at Fishkill. Fishkill offers an impressive array of motels which cater to the Sun-Thur night business crowd. It might be a good place to look if you can not find a room closer.





DINING:

To get a good flavor of West Point you should try eating in the Village of Highland Falls. It is literally located outside the Main Gate. The restaurants closest to the gate cater to Cadets, families and old Grads of West Point. A few favorites are: The Park Restaurant, Schades Deli and Restaurant and Dong Fong Chinese.

The Thayer Hotel offers Fine Dining. The Sunday Brunch is the best in the area. I have eaten there for lunch and found the deli sandwiches huge and great. The salads are excellent too. Definitely a place to go if you want linen table clothes.

If you are staying in Newburgh you have several worthy options. I personally recommend The Lakeview House. It is about 5 miles north of the city on Orange Lake. It is a beautiful setting and the food is all prepared by scratch. Johnny D's Diner is a classic NY style diner. It offers all sorts of excellent comfort food. If you show them your motel room card you'll get a discount.

SPORTS BARS:

Shopping: Okay if you have a spouse who does not want to go to the game...you are in luck. About 20 mins south of West Point is a fantastic outlet. Woodbury Commons is huge and should entertain your spouse for hundreds err hours of shopping. If you are looking for Army gear or a last minute rain suit, sweatshirt or hat and you are "on post" (army term for being at the installation) you should try the Association Of Graduates Gift Store.


A Shopper's Nirvana--Woodbury Common

Things to Do: There is so much to do around West Point. I highly recommend the West Point Tour. West Point Tours is a family run company and does a great job. The tours start and end at the West Point Visitors Center.



GOLF:

The Golf Course at West Point actually is open to civilians. The price is reasonable for the area. It is a must do golf course.


The opinions expressed in this guide are those of TexanMark. While every effort has been made to ensure all the information presented is accurate and current, it would be wise to verify things when possible. Please note that this guide is not endorsed by Scout.com, Rivals.com or its site publishers, administrators and/or moderators.
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