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Planing a New York City Trip

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#1 of 39 Robin Warren

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Posted December 17 2003 - 06:46 AM

Hi all,
My wife and I and another couple are planing a road trip to NYC in July 2004. I was hoping to get some advice on some nice reasonably priced places to stay and things that need to be seen/done/experienced. We are going for four days and three nights. Our hope is to stay near Central Park if possible (anywhere central would be great). We will be driving from Canada thru Buffalo down to the city so will have to have parking for our car.

A couple of notes:

1. We have never been before so everything will be new.

2. We are on a bit of a budget. No big ticket events/cruises etc. Count on 1500US dollars per couple.

3. We are Canadian. Do they allow canucks to roam around unescorted?

4. Any and all tips/website links would be appreciated. I have spent a lot of time on the official New York sites but have not had any luck finding some forums for this type of discussion.

5. This will be taking place on July 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. We will be returning on the 4th.

Regarding number 3 above, it is of course a joke

Posted Image

Very much appreciate any and all input. Be nice to hear from some New Yorkers.

#2 of 39 Bill Williams

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Posted December 17 2003 - 07:40 AM

Ground Zero is a must-experience for any tourist to New York City.

Other points of interest I'd suggest:

- Times Square
- the Empire State Building
- the New York Daily News (they filmed part of Superman there)
- getting tickets to the Late Show with David Letterman

Those are a few things that come to my mind.
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#3 of 39 Angelo.M



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Posted December 17 2003 - 07:44 AM

Four days and three nights... Hmmmmm... Here's a plan...

1. Day 1: Walk uptown along 5th avenue and take in St. Patrick's Cathedral (51st street) and the Museum of Modern Art (53rd street) and the sites along 5th. Don't eat at any of those Hard Rock Cafe-type joints.

2. Day 2: Central Park, perhaps including the Central Park Zoo. The second half of the day could be spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and/or the Guggenheim Museum.

3. Day 3: I'd spend this downtown. Skip South Street Seaport and instead walk through Little Italy and Chinatown (have lunch there), and then get over to the Village/Union Square for the second half of the day. Plenty to do.

4. Day 4: Times Square/Broadway. Perhaps a matinee? Otherwise, there's still plenty to take in to fill a day. Have dinner at Carmine's (44th street, between Broadway and 8th avenue).

See. No big tickets/big events (unless you consider a Broadway matinee big). No cruises. No Kramer Reality Tours. Canadians are welcome. Tip generously. Smile at the friendly NYers.

#4 of 39 Jeff Gatie

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Posted December 17 2003 - 08:17 AM

Tip generously

This is the number one complaint about Canadians in the US, especially New York. Please take no offense, it is because gratuity is usually included in the bill back home, not necessarily because they are cheap. Not tipping in NY is the greatest sin an outsider can commit. Minimum for a meal is 15%, 20% and above for great food/service. At a bar, at least $1 per drink. Tip doormen, bellhops, cabdrivers and anyone else who performs a service and you cannot go wrong. If you don't tip at places you have to return to strange things start to happen (do not underestimate the ingenuity of the average NY service worker when it comes to getting even)Posted Image .

Oh, recommendations - All of the above (especially Angelo's plan). McSorely's Tavern is a must. Ride the Staten Island Ferry (really cheap and one of the best views of the Statue of Liberty). Hang out in Central Park and people watch, bring a frisbee! Go bar hopping up and down 1st and 2nd Avenue (South), lots of cheap places and real atmosphere. Eat a pastrami sandwich at Katz's deli in the chair where Meg Ryan had her, uhm, explosion. Hang out and go shopping in SoHo. DO NOT eat in any theme restaurant chains - if you want a Hard Rock t-shirt, buy it and leave.

Oh yeah, walk like you know where you are, give directions to a cabbie like you know where you are going (buy a street map) and do not look up at the tall buildings. Actually, none of that really matter because you will still be pegged as a tourist:b !


We will be returning on the 4th.

Why?? You'll be missing one of the best fireworks displays in the world (almost as good as the one on the Charles River Esplanade featuring the Boston PopsPosted Image ).

#5 of 39 LewB



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Posted December 17 2003 - 09:16 AM

The Bronx offers:
The world famous Bronx zoo (you can drive or take mass transit)
The New York Botanical Gardens
City Island - Like a New England sailing town with great seafood.
The other Bronx zoo (Yankee Stadium), you said you were on a budget, so this might have to wait for another time.
Arthur Avenue (more great Italian food)
Brooklyn has:
Sheepshead Bay - More seafood
Coney Island - Beach, Cyclone Roller Coaster and Nathan's Famous for hot dogs.

Try and stay for the Macy's fireworks show.

#6 of 39 ToddR



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Posted December 17 2003 - 09:26 AM

A couple of notes:
1. We have never been before so everything will be new.

2. We are on a bit of a budget. No big ticket events/cruises etc. Count on 1500US dollars per couple.

3. We are Canadian. Do they allow canucks to roam around unescorted?

4. Any and all tips/website links would be appreciated. I have spent a lot of time on the official New York sites but have not had any luck finding some forums for this type of discussion.

5. This will be taking place on July 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. We will be returning on the 4th.

1. Enjoy it.
2. If you are on a tight budget, I would recommend spending less on the hotel and more on dinners. There are so many great restaurants in NYC, but they are expensive. Count on $50-100 per person for drinks and dinner at a nice place (but it is worth it). You can find a hotel for around $100 per night (Days Inn level of quality). Obviously not the nicest place in town, but you probably won't spend much time there anyway.
3. Unfortunately, they do. Posted Image
4. For restaurants, use Zagats. If you want to see a broadway show, go to the TKTS booth in Time Square or South Street Seaport for 1/2 price day-of-show tickets (google TKTS for more info).
5. That will be a very busy weekend in the city, filled with tourists. If you can, you may want to consider a different weekend, or there will be lines at all the tourist stops.

#7 of 39 Michael Reuben

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Posted December 17 2003 - 05:24 PM

Word of warning: Your trip is less than two months before the Republican National Convention hits Manhattan. My guess is that there will already be substantial advance preparation underway. Expect huge crowds, and if you want to go to a particular restaurant, be sure to make a reservation.

Any vacation in New York City should include a trip to the theater. At this point in time, though, it's too early to buy tickets for the July 4 weekend (or even to know what will be playing).

The Statue of Liberty remains closed for security reasons, but Ellis Island is still open, and IMO it's one of the most fascinating historical sites in New York. Takes about half a day when you include the boat ride (20 minutes each way) and time to explore the entire site.

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#8 of 39 Mark Schermerhorn

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Posted December 18 2003 - 01:17 AM

Some quick hotel advice. If you're willing to skimp on the hotel, you can stay at the YMCA. I stayed there last weekend. 60 bucks a night. And it's only 1 block off the southwest corner of Central Park!! All other hotels we could find for that particular weekend in Manhatten were around 500 a night.

I didn't mind staying there at all. The rooms were tiny dorm like rooms and the bathrooms are shared, but for 60 a night, who cares. We were just there to sleep. Most of the people there seemed to be college aged and/or European tourists. Just to make you aware of the option. My friend and I splurged on some seriously good food since we saved all that money.

#9 of 39 Robin Warren

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Posted December 18 2003 - 01:44 AM

Awesome stuff guy's, thanks.

The hotel is not important to us. We will be sleeping for a couple hours and that's about it.

Now it is just my wife and I that are going, my friend backed out. I think we will change the weekend to one in May. Any good weekends/activities/events in May?

#10 of 39 Angelo.M



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Posted December 18 2003 - 04:11 AM

Not an advertisement, but I've had great success with Priceline.com for hotels in other large cities (Washington, DC; New Orleans; San Francisco), so you might want to give it a try (not certain how, other than the currency exchange, being in Canada affects the service).

#11 of 39 Kenny_H


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Posted December 18 2003 - 10:02 AM

Check out www.timeoutny.com a weekly magizine for seeing whats up, etc in NYC. Very helpful! Also sold on newstands, starting wednesdays ($2.99 ea).

#12 of 39 Sam Posten

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Posted December 19 2003 - 04:42 AM


Just off of times square.


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#13 of 39 Robin Warren

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Posted December 19 2003 - 06:13 AM

What is Virgils?


#14 of 39 Michael Reuben

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Posted December 19 2003 - 06:46 AM

A BBQ ribs place. Much beloved by some, considered less-than-authentic by others. I can't opine either way, since I've never eaten there.

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#15 of 39 nolesrule



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Posted December 19 2003 - 08:14 AM

Eat a pastrami sandwich at Katz's deli in the chair where Meg Ryan had her, uhm, explosion.

Well, not in Meg Ryan's chair, but that's what I had at Katz's Deli the day before Thanksgiving. We spent 7 nights in New York and never left Manhattan.

Since you want to go cheap, pick places that you can walk to or take a subway ot two. Taxis are expensive and only seat 4 passengers. It cost $15 for a cab ride from Times Square or Rockefeller Plaza to our hotel in Battery Park City. A little walking and subways can get you anywhere for $2/ride with free transfers. You can buy multi-ride cards and receive an extra ride free, like $10 for a $12 card.

I'm sure I'm repeating a few things that others have said, but these are the highlights of my trip listed in no particular order (if you put them on your iteinerary, use a map to group them by location):

1. WTC site - It was near our hotel, so we were there everyday

2. Empire State Building- either go early or go late to avoid the peak wait times. We went around 9pm. It was dark and it was cold, but it was beautiful.

3. NBC Studio Tour at Rockefeller Plaza

4. I would also recommend visting an art gallery or two, even with no intention to buy. It's cool to see some painting by artists that are still alive and might even be in the building for you to meet. My wife and I visited the Michael Perez Gallery in Tribeca (11 Harrison St between Greenwhich and Hudson) on our last day.

5. Central Park

6. 5th Avenue stores and St. Patrick's Cathedral (my wife had to go into Tiffany's, and she's been waiting to open the little blue bag I got her), Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Godiva, FAO Schwatz if you like toys, many more

7. Grand Central Station - we were there around 4pm. It was really neat to watch the place go from empty and fill up with people leaving Manhattan for the day. But the main room there is just amazing. Has a beautiful ceiling.

8. Times Square - we were there every night.

9. Battery Park - the sphere sculpture from the WTC is there as a temporary memorial. My wife got some great photos with the B&W disposable camera. Great view of the Statue of Liberty.

9. Museums - Guggenheim, Museum of Natural History, MOMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jewish Heritage Museum

10. Union Square, Washington Square, various smaller parks

Definitely eat at the local restaurants. Katz's Deli is delicious. Have some real NY pizza. Go to an Asian restaurant (I had some great Thai in Tribeca), have a hot dog and a pretzel from a street vendor.

Plenty more to do besides what I mentioned

#16 of 39 Robin Warren

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Posted December 19 2003 - 02:37 PM

Awesome post Joe, printed it out for safe keeping.

#17 of 39 nolesrule



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Posted December 19 2003 - 06:12 PM

Thanks Robin. The visit was so recent that it is still fresh in my mind. Of course, we did make sure we wrote down everywhere we went in a journal, and grabbed business cards from just about every place we went into as souvenirs.

My wife and my sister went on the Sex & the City bus tour, which runs on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3ish to 6ish. $35/person and my wife says very worth it if you are a fan of the show. If you are interested, I can have my wife dig up the website URL for you. They also run other bus tours during the week, including one that shows you movie locations or something like that.

The only major thing I left out was the Broadway show we went to see, because tickets are $100. Although you can get discount tickets the day of shows at a place that sells them day-of in Times Square. We saw "Movin' Out", the musical inspired by the songs of Billy Joel. It was fabulous. My wife got me a show poster autographed by the cast as a birthday present.

A couple more pieces of advice....

Don't dress like a tourist. Posted Image I am a t-shirt and shorts kind of guy, living in Florida, but my clothing of choice was a polo or a sweater (it was in the 40s/50s) and khaki pants. It's hotter in the summer, but khakis aren't bad then either (jeans will hold your sweat, which gets uncomfortable when walking).

Give yourself about an hour to get anywhere that isn't in walking distance. Sometimes you'll have to walk several blocks to the nearest subway entrance, wait for a train, maybe even have to transfer trains, and then walk several blocks to your destination. I learned to always keep a pocket-sized subway map in my pocket so that I would know which trains were local, which were express and where the best places to transfer trains were before I entered the station. I actually had this handy Manhattan map that had 3 separate foldout pages (Downtown, Midtown, Uptown) with markers for most of the places people tend to visit and a simple subway map on the back that had the main lines and stations.

And the "Don't walk" signs mean "don't walk when cars are coming". By my last day there I felt really comfortable and it was funny to see people stand at a crosswalk when no cars were coming.

And one other tip, especially for the ladies who love to buy purses. You'll see street vendors everywhere selling top-brand purses (Gucci, Prada, etc.) Be careful. Even though you can generally get them for $20-30 apiece on the street, examine them closely. There are poor fakes, good fakes and the real thing (probably off the back of a truck). My wife learned quickly how to tell the difference. She did say that even the good fakes were worth that price, but not the bad ones.

It's fun watching the unlicensed vendors when a cop starts coming up the street. They grab the corners of their sheets, gather up the merchandise and run around the corner. Once the cop is gone, they set back up. It's like a game of cat and mouse, but I think the cops just like playing with those guys. Posted Image

I've lived all my life in the Tampa Bay area, which isn't small, but it's not huge either. I was overwhelmed for about a day or so, but then I got used to it and felt right at home. Next time I go back, I won't feel so much like a tourist.

#18 of 39 Scott_lb


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Posted December 20 2003 - 02:32 PM

I don't know if this would interest you, but both times I visited New York we stayed across the river in Jersey City at the Marriot Hotel (I think). Right on the river across from lower Manhattan there are two hotels - a Marriot and a Doubletree. One of them is right next to the Path train (the "shuttle" subway train that goes back and forth from New Jersey to Manhattan) and we stayed there for about $100.00 per night. The same quality hotel would be substantially higher in Manhattan, and it's only a short ride away via subway. That way you are very close to the city and yet have the ability to enjoy a nicer hotel that what you would likely get in Manhattan for the same price. I can tell you that of all the vacations I have been on in my life, New York was by far the best. There is simply so much to do and see! One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet - Letterman!
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#19 of 39 Jason_Els



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Posted December 20 2003 - 05:24 PM

For cheap hotels that aren't dumps there are a few in very good locations. Check out:

New York's Apple Core Hotels

and for something inexpensive with a little flair and a boutique feel:

The Amsterdam Hospitality Group

For a general guide about New York full of information written for people actually living in New York check out New York magazine's web site.

In no other city on earth will you spend so little time in your hotel room. You'll go to bed exhausted and wake-up early to do everything you want to get done. So long as it's clean and quiet and in a safe area you'll be fine.
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#20 of 39 AaronJB


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Posted December 21 2003 - 12:43 PM

I stayed at the Skyline Hotel. This is a very nice mid-sized hotel that is on 49th and 10th, which is about 5 blocks west of Times Square. While it's quite close to Times Square, it doesn't share that area's hustle and bustle, since it's more in its own little neighborhood. It is within walking distance of many of Midtown's

This is a low-priced hotel (well, for Manhattan and considering the location) (around 109-129 a night at the least; sometimes even less, though) that has very nice accomidations, is extremely popular, since it is considered by many to be a bargain (it was jammed when I was there and is often full up on weekends and busy periods) and has an indoor pool on the Penthouse floor, which overlooks the city and offers an utterly spectacular way to catch a sunset. They also have parking available for a small charge, but you pay extra for in/out priveliges from the parking lot. If you're driving in, this is a bonus, since parking in NYC is not only extremely scarce, but awfully expensive.

The Skyline's website is skylinehotelny.com. I would recommend booking early, as they fill up quickly.

I know you said that you're doing a road trip on your HTF post and while that's a cool idea, I would strongly suggest looking for a hotel that has some sort of parking plan, such as the Skyline. Otherwise, parking in NYC will be pretty tough. If you do drive, you should drive across upstate NY, then along the Hudson into NYC. The Hudson River valley is stunning

I would recommend Amtrak, but I think the only direct route from Ontario to NYC is down to Chicago, then over to NYC, which is a looong trip.

More advice:

* Leave earlier in the morning. You'll be able to window shop if things aren't open, catch breakfast and get to a place you want to see before the crowds do.

* Don't carry backpacks. Security will check bags at most major sights (museums, etc.) in NYC and only having a small fanny pack or no bag at all will considerably decrease your time in line.

* Do not cross like New Yorkers do. Even though I'm from a major city, I was still amazed to see New Yorkers wander into traffic like they were the cars and the cars were people that should stop for them.

* Wear comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking in New York City and comfortable shoes are a must. I walked 10 straight hours and probably a couple of hundred blocks my first day there.

* See Times Square in the early morning hours. If you're staying nearby Times Square, I highly recommend stopping by right before the sun rises. While it's beautiful at night, it's even more beautiful (and a lot more quiet) during a sunrise.

* Do research. Before my trip, I went on various NYC websites and researched where everything was. By the time I was there a couple of months later, I didn't need a map. I just knew where to go. I also did a lot of research on hotels on sites such as epinions.com and tripadvisor.com

* See the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At $12 bucks, it's one of NYC's better museum bargains, providing plenty to do and lots to look at/discuss.

* ABSOLUTELY SEE THE INTREPID. I can't say this enough - definitely go see the Intrepid Air/Space museum, which is located on the Hudson River - I believe that the corner of 42nd and 12th. It is a full-sized naval aircraft carrier, complete with interior museum and the ability to stand out on the deck, where over a dozen full-sized airplanes are parked. Next to it are a full-sized destroyer and submarine. I spent four hours there, just walking through the corridors of the aircraft carrier. I can't begin to describe the experience of walking down the street and suddenly turning to see a full-sized naval aircraft carrier.

* Don't see the wax museum. While cute, Madame Tussaud's wax museum is a major rip at something like $25 a person. It's on 42nd st.

* Break it down: Break down your trip into pieces. Maybe take on lower Manhattan the first day, Midtown the second day and Uptown the third.

* Take a small camera. I took a very small Canon ELPH digital camera that could be taken out of my pocket and put back quickly. It didn't make me look like a tourist. On the other hand, tourists with giant cameras hanging around their neck looked like tourists with expensive cameras.

* You really don't have to spend that much. I arrived in NYC on a Sunday afternoon and departed on a Thursday afternoon. I think I spent maybe $3-400 - this is not counting hotel and transportation (I took Amtrak coach from Chicago to NYC and back - a total of $52 bucks for a special "rail sale" fare that is available in a small area of their website)

* Try to get tickets. You may want to give Letterman tickets an attempt (fill out of the form at the show's website), but these and other similar tickets in NYC (Saturday Night Live, for example) are difficult to get. They also may call you on the day you wanted - I came home to find that they tried to call me there on the day I requested tickets - but since I didn't know where I was staying, that was the only number they had).

* Don't go on overpriced tours. Just go out and walk - personally, I don't like the idea of being restricted to a bus or boat for a few hours when I can see more walking.

* Central Park Zoo is fun. If you can't get out to the Bronx Zoo (I didn't manage to), this small Zoo in the corner of Central Park is an inexpensive and enjoyable way to spend an hour.

* Times Square ticket booth. There is a ticket booth in the middle of Times Square that sells discount theater tickets. You have to pay in cash and the lines are long, but worthwhile if you're considering going.

* Eat at small, local restaurants or grocery stores. I stayed at the Skyline - there's an incredible little pizza joint across the street. For $14, I got a pizza that was so giant it served as breakfast, lunch and dinner. While you probably don't want to do something like that, you get my point - it's easy to eat cheaply there if you look around enough.

* Grand Central Station - fun, even just to pass through.

* Union Square - a lovely little neighborhood, with NYU nearby. There is a very nice farmer's market there - I want to say it's Monday, Wednesday, Saturday.

* Museum of Natural History - this enormous history museum (on the West side of the park) offers an incredible amount of information and some awesome exhibits. The line, however, can be long.

* Crowds. Areas of NYC can be pretty jammed. Try not to be overwhelmed and keep your senses up about who's around you.

Overall, just take your time and enjoy it. But do a lot of planning regarding what's available and what interests you. This will optimize your time and make your trip much more enjoyable.
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