You can do it all - almost!
So you’re headed to the Big Apple for vacation but feel a bit overwhelmed by all there is to do? So much! Where to start? I recently was in New York and offer the benefit of my research and personal experience to those traveling there.
Sweet dreams: Hotels in NYC can set you back anywhere from $500 to $1000 a night. There are, however, reasonable lodgings available (Rates are seasonable.) The Excelsior Hotel (www.excelsiorhotelny.com) is a spacious old hotel at Central Park West. A deluxe queen with a Central Park view, including breakfast, is $219. Hotel Beacon on Broadway at 75th is all suites. They offer two-double-bed rooms, marble bath and kitchenettes, for $235. The Beacon is across from Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and four blocks from Filene’s Basement (attention shoppers!) Others to consider include the Roger Williams Hotel (www.hotelrogerwilliams.com) and the Affinia group of hotels (www.affinia.com). It’s not cheap, but for sheer convenience, consider the Marriott Marquis (www.nymarriottmarquis.com), smack in the middle of Times Square. Rates begin, mid-summer, in the $400 per night range although there are numerous deals on the Web site. The Marquis Theatre is on its third floor and “The Drowsy Chaperone” (our favorite musical during the trip) is on stage there. Upstairs, “The View” is filmed most weekdays.
Broadway shows: First, check the Sunday New York Times or go online to read the complete list of what is on stage and brief descriptions of each. Once you make the decision of what to see - and thereby the painful one of what you won’t see - go to www.showsonbroadway.com for discount codes and tickets. You will need to call – you speak to a live person – for instructions on “will call” policies as they vary from play to play. We saw “Phantom” for $61.25 pp, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” fourth row dead center, for $83.75, “Chicago,” sixth row, for $66.25 and “Beauty and the Beast” for $48.25. Most shows have discount codes although not all. Standing in line for several hours each day at the iconic discount ticket TKTS Booth –they only accept cash by the way – was not the way I wanted to spend my Big Apple moments.
Dining: This is where I suggest you splurge. There are so many fabulous, memorable restaurants in NYC, that I can only offer a handful of best bets. Tavern on the Green. OK, it’s touristy, but still – so beautiful. The bejeweled rooms and gardens are amazing. Sardi’s – home to hundreds of framed caricatures of actors - is another tourist spot but it was one of the best things we did. We stopped in between a matinée and evening show and enjoyed a wonderful crab salad for $19, a club sandwich and fries for $18.75, two cocktails, a cup of coffee and a lovely conversation with real New Yorkers at the next table! Bull and Bear – Captain Ubaldo Castro told me this restaurant in the Waldorf=Astoria hotel serves the best steaks in the city. I believe him. The room is luxurious, the service excellent and the food incredible. Bull & Bear is highly recommended to everyone who wants great food and an authentic NYC experience. Sit back in the velvet seats as you peruse their fascinating wine list; sip a cocktail and then watch magic happen on your dinner plate. Plus, visit the iconic lobby, complete with the stunning gold clock made famous in historical events and movies. If you want the ultimate upscale NYC dinner experience – go to Aureole (www.charliepalmer.com ) on East 61st. It is actually a century-old townhouse, a few steps down below the street level; it’s understated elegance inside. World famous Chef Charlie Palmer creates ‘progressive American cuisine’ and we enjoyed every bite of our roasted wild salmon and seared Maine sea scallops (dinner is $84 prix fixe.) Real New Yorkers dine here too – we saw a birthday at the next table, two couples on the town at another. They tucked chocolates into our hands as we departed. A truly special experience.
Hints: First, to ensure a stressless beginning, I had a AA Executive Town Car & Limousine (516-538-8551) meet us at JFK ($110 inc. tip.) We sat enchanted as Harry Duhl, our driver, regaled us with stories of all the celebrities who have been his passengers. Ask to see his autograph book! Carriage rides in Central Park are legendary. We reserved one for Sunday morning (Manhattan Carriage Co. 212-664-1149.) We booked an entire hour and were dropped off at the door for our brunch at nearby Tavern on the Green. Definitely do a city tour with New York Party Shuttle Tours (www.newyorkpartyshuffle.com) - $60 adults/$55 kids. This is not your usual tour – it’s small, personalized and fun. Six hours with the Party Shuffle and you can leave the city feeling like you’ve seen a lot! The Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises (www.circleline42.com) are also worth it – schedule one in the middle of the day to give your feet some time off. Buy a CityPass (www.citypass.com) and for one low price ($65 adults, $49 children ) get admission to six popular attractions, including a direct pass to the high-speed elevator line at the Empire State Building. You can get a Fun Pass for $7 from NYC’s Metro, which buys unlimited subway and bus rides for one day (1-800-Metrocard).
For more ideas, visit www.nycvisit.com. They can fill you in on the rest – the MOMA, Carnegie Hall, the Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium, Wall Street, Little Italy, the Garment District, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the subway and all the restaurants you can visit. Enjoy!
(This article was originally published on 7/16/07)