Saturday, May 21, 2011

Army Tailgate and Visitors Guide '11

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, Jet Blue, and USAirways air service. Airfares can be very expensive as there is little competition. Rental cars and taxis are available. The taxi drivers are well versed on driving to West Point. Stewart Newburgh International does offer scheduled bus service to the Beacon MTA Train Station. It is coordinated so you have minimal wait time at the train station. You can get into NYC in about 2 hours from the airport.

ALBANY INTERNATIONAL

TexanMark's Tip: Albany International Airport (about 90 miles north of West Point) offers Southwest Airlines. Airfares generally are much better than Stewart. Rent a car and it is a easy drive down the Interstate (I-87). The rental car gives you the flexibility to even visit NYC easily. 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 urban 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 highly recommend is to work a game around a visit to the most exciting city in the World.

TexanMark Tip: Visconti Ground Transport is located in Newburgh at the airport. They are well versed on providing transport to the Cadets. If you want a limo I would call them first (even if you are flying into the NYC airports).

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 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 otherwise Albany or even Hartford might offer an easier Southwest Airlines option to West Point.

If you find yourself taking a NYC Subway this helps you explain about the MetroCard.

John F. Kennedy (JFK) International

This airport is located the furthest from West Point of the three major airports. It 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. A video showing how to make the connections is here.


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 $5.00 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 one listed her). They cost about $15-20 per person. A low hassle way to midtown is an express bus shuttle for about $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 about $2.50 (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. 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. The easiest option from LaGuardia in my opinion is either taxi or ground shuttles. A list of all your options is here. A website showing a commercial bus to Penn Central Station. They run about $10-12 one way. This is an excellent 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 your hotel is more than a couple blocks from one of the train stations you might consider a taxi. 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 $5.50 to leave the airport via AirTrain and hook up with NJ Transit to Penn Station in midtown Manhattan. The $5.50 will be included in the price of the ticket.

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 as explained here. 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.” Lastly Amtrak is another option and it is the fastest train to Manhattan but also the most expensive at almost $30.

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 traffic circle). Follow
signs for Route 9W north (3d exit off traffic circle). Take the first “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 traffic circle). Follow signs for Route 9W north (3d exit off traffic
circle). Take the first “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 traffic circle). Follow
signs for Route 9W north (3d exit off traffic circle). Take the first “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 than at Michie Stadium. It is easy to forget you are actually on a military facility. NOTE: Campus is actually a misnomer. The Army would bristle at it being called a campus and rather prefer you use the word "Post". Also, don't refer to where the Cadets stay as dorms they are called barracks.

TexanMark Tip: Print this map and bring it with you when you visit.

On gameday I highly recommend: getting a great pair of walking shoes and walking the post (be sure to look for signs that prohibit you from the cadet barracks areas--do not enter those areas unless you are escorted by a military member). Gameday is a good time to view some of the buildings on foot. There are numerous historic buildings. Be sure to walk to Trophy Point. It is one of the most impressive vistas in America. TexanMark Tip: If you don't want to walk much and you have an extra day I highly recommend the guided bus tour. You might even get lucky and see a parade.


The View From Trophy Point (Pic from Wikipedia)




Washington Statue in Fall Glory (from Wikipedia) and a Picture I took Veterans Day 09









Game Day Tailgating/Parking:

Gameday parking is orderly but can take awhile. There are only a few entrances. I highly recommend getting there several hours in advance. Army instituted a fee for gameday parking in 2009 and will continue for 2011. From the Army website, "All vehicles entering West Point on a Football game day will be required to have a parking pass, which can be purchased in advance for $15 or $20 on game day (cash only). All single-game parking passes will be for general admission lots located around West Point."
Here is the link to order in advance for $15...Disabled, Bus and RV links here too.

Bus parking passes can be purchased in advance for $25, and $30 on game day (cash only). All bus parking is located at the Ski Slope just outside of Washington Gate (Blue Gate).

RV parking passes can be purchased in advance for $75 and parking is located at North Dock. RV's are required to enter West Point on the Friday before the game and can stay until noon on the Sunday after the game. Fans with RV's are encouraged to purchase their parking pass in advance as we cannot guarantee space at North Dock on game day. RV's coming to West Point on game day without a parking pass may be directed to park at the Ski Slope. BTW, RV parking is awesome at West Point. But be aware there are steep grades.

NOTE: The Official West Point Sports website is a wealth of information.

The parking areas are color coded as Red, Green and Blue. If you are tailgating together you group must all arrive together as you are directed into lots and don't have a choice which lot you can park in (Handicapped excepted).

For Military Members: If your car possesses a DOD sticker and you have a Military ID you can use the DOD express lines at the Thayer and Stoney Lonesome Gates.

Gates To Enter The Post

Stoney Lonesome Gate: It is the most popular gate on gameday and usually suffers from backups out onto 9W. It is the gate of choice for red parking areas. The BX and Commissary are conveniently located near the Stoney Lonesome Gate.

Thayer Gate: It is the gate next to the Thayer Hotel and sits next to the quaint village of Highland Falls. This is the gate I recommend going into. It is located next to Buffalo Soldier Field which is a huge and awesome tailgate area. It is the gate of choice for green parking areas.

Washington Gate: It is located off NY 218. It is the gate of choice for Blue parking areas.

A PDF showing all the gates and parking areas is here. Another link giving lots of game day info here and here (Army Fan Central).

RV parking is at the North Dock Area. It is a nice area near the Hudson River. It is available at Noon the day before the game.

Tailgating is very congenial here. There are very few rowdies and obnoxious behavior is subject to arrest. Army fans are very accommodating and will usually invite opposing fans to join their tailgate. Alcohol and charcoal grills are allowed. Everyone is expected to police their own trash and recycle.



Important Times to Know
6 Hours--Parking Lots Open
4.5 Hours--Shuttle Buses Begin Running (Remember what color parking area you are in)
3 Hours--Black Knights Alley Opens
3 Hours--Cadet Review On The Plain
2 Hours--Black Knight Walk
2 Hours--Michie Stadium Opens
1.5 Hours (after end of game)--last shuttle bus run


Michie Stadium--One of the best vistas in college football

TAILGATE SUPPLIES



My West Point Son Would Love This


New to 2010 are great tailgate products offered to my readers...BTW, you get a 10% discount.

College Flags and Banners Co. is the ultimate source for your tailgate. They offer a huge selection of college flags and banners including: Army, Cincinnati, Connecticut, ECU, Louisville, Memphis, Navy, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, TCU, USF, and WVU. Plus everything else you need for game day, from tailgating flagpoles and wheel stands to conference pennant sets. All products are officially licensed and ship within 24 hours. Order today and relieve 10% off your order by typing in coupon code "MARK10" at checkout.

If you are looking for more than just college try their sister company.

Other Sports Flags:
Sports Flags and Pennants Co. is the premium source for all of your NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and NASCAR flags and pennants. Fast, secured shipping to your doorstep and all products are officially licensed. Through our site we are offering a coupon code for 10% off your order. Just enter "MARK10" at checkout.


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 a fairly small IGA super market on the main street of Highland Falls. Your best bet is to make sure you have everything before you arrive. TexanMark Tip: If you don't want to worry about planning a tailgate let the Cadet Restaurant cater your tailgate. They have many packages available. They aren't cheap but they do release you of the burden of planning. Grant Hall (Bldg 602 on this map) offers quick takeaway meals, drinks and places to sit on gameday. Also, with 8-10 days notice the IGA mentioned above will cater your tailgate for you. They use Boars Head Meat.

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.




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. An overview provided by West Point has links to local tourism websites.

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.

The NE Ohio West Point Parents' Club put together this great resource on lodging
. It actually has their own comments for many of the motels. Note: Turn your speakers down...trust me. LOL

If you like Bed and Breakfast Places there are numerous options around West Point. Here is a list of many B+B's with 20 miles of West Point.

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 Cadets also love Sushi King and Andy's Restaurant in Highland Falls.

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. Newburgh has been revitalizing the waterfront area. There are about 10 restaurants on the riverfront or close by.

You want a special experience and wiling to drive 40 minutes or so? Then a trip to the world famous Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park for a meal is in order.


SPORTS BARS: If you know of a good sports bar let me know.

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. Also south of West Point in West Nyack, NY is the huge Palisades Center. It has almost every conceivable shopping, dining and entertainment option out there.


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.


Newburgh--Home of Orange County Choppers

If you like motorcycles be sure to visit Orange County Choppers. The retail store is located near most of the Newburgh Motels.

Orange County has a good website detailing all that the area has to offer.

GOLF:

West Point Golf Course--Public Welcome

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.

Garrison Golf Club

Located across the Hudson (about 25 mins from West Point) this gem is available for play. From the website: The Garrison Golf Club is an 18-hole, par 72 championship golf course. Perched some 800 feet above the Hudson River with stunning views of the rugged Hudson Highlands terrain as its backdrop, few courses in the country are favored with as lovely a setting. Designed in 1961 by architect Dick Wilson as a challenging highlands course, it is characterized by a varied topography with woodsy, rolling hills, many elevation changes, tough tee shots over deep ravines, side hill lies and challenging greens.

Patriots Hills Golf Course

This gem about 20-30 mins south of West Point. The course is well manicured and has sand on most holes. It isn't super long but will challenge the average player. A video tour can be seen here.

The Golf Club at Mansion Ridge

From the website: "Created by legendary golfer and world-renowned golf course architect Jack Nicklaus, Mansion Ridge is carved out of the mature forests and rolling hills of a 220 acre estate. It is the only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course open to the public in New York State. The spectacular 18-hole championship course features stunning rock formations, extreme elevation changes, and spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Designed to test shot-making skills, this layout will challenge you to negotiate a variety of wetland areas, bunkers, and of course, all the subtle features you would expect from the Golden Bear."

This 6,889-yard, par 72 course has rates are about $60+.



Budget Golf

Coyote Run Golf Course

For the beginner or if you want a quick round. It is a lighted par 3 course and is located about 10 mins north of West Point. I can't vouch for the quality other than it is pretty cheap for a round.

Mill Creek Golf Course

A 9 hole course located in the small village of Marlboro (a few miles north of Newburgh).


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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shahadat hussain said...

After reading this blog i have to know you are coming in just for the game you should first look into Newburgh Stewart International. Stewart is located about 10 miles.


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