Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ten Tips for NYC

I started a post about our trip to New York City two weekends ago and I'm just getting around to finishing it. For some reason, November was a SUPER hard month for me to find time for blogging for some reason. I think it's because I try to spend quality time with Andi when we're both home (which does not include burying our faces in laptops) and I've been fairly busy at work (too busy at least to lose myself on the internet). But, I digress ... a new month is here and hopefully I'll be a better blogger.

New York City - 10 tips
New York City was one of my favorite trips. I've been to NYC before for work, but this time was different. Now I know why everyone raves about that city! There's something electric about NYC and definintely something for everyone!

When Andi and I took last Friday off work, we contemplated where (and if) we should go anywhere. Of course, the responsible thing would have been to stay home, save money, blah, blah, blah. But really, I'm glad we went for it and planned a trip -- just what we needed to reconnect and refresh.

We flew out Friday morning and arrived in NYC by Noon. After checking into the hotel and freshening up, we put on our walking shoes and headed to to see the sites. The best thing we brought on this trip? Andi's iPhone. Aside from a few bad directions, that little device directed us to the nearest subways, street maps and points of interest.  I wonder what people use to do to get around? Maps? Gasp!

We stayed at the Intercontinential Plaza Hotel (Holiday Inn's upscale property) because I had 2 free hotel nights to use up before the end of the year. Let that be a lesson to all of you: always sign up for deals. I signed up for a hotel rewards promotion this summer (stay any two consecutive nights at a Holiday Inn property and earn two free nights to use another time)! Two nights paid for at a dumpy HI Express this summer = $500/night hotel in NYC. It's safe to say I profitted on that deal! The hotel is located a few blocks away from Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan. First, we walked over there to check out the famous skating rink and "Top of the Rock" view of the city.

NYC Must See Tip #1: Top of the Rock is cheaper than Empire State Building tour ... and worth it.

Overall, the tour guides were rude at the Top of the Rock tour, but the view was amazing! Seventy stories up, we were able to see all of the NYC tourist hot-spots. I dared Andi to pull a HIMYM "He's Not Coming" on someone ... but he wouldn't. :)

Andi and I on the 70th floor of "Top of the Rock" Rockefeller Plaza

(Empire State Building in back center)

Checking out the view
Loved these old-school viewfinders!

View of Central Park from 70 stories up

Next, we walked a few blocks to Central Park. One great thing about NYC is many of the landmarks are all within walking distance (or easily reachable by subway). We were really impressed by Central Park! It's very well kept, lots of ponds, grassy areas and walking paths ... and great people watching!

That same gaze!
Andi in Central Park

There were TONS of smokers in NYC ... ick!
I had to use my scarf for protection

NYC Tip 2: One thing that really took my by suprise in NYC was the dress code. Maybe I'm a average Midwestern girl, but I felt completely out of place in jeans and a casual shirt/vest. Every single girl I saw in New York wore leggings or tights and flat-bottomed knee high boots. Guess I missed that runway show! On trend or not, I"m glad I wore comfortable shoes ... we walked a ton!

[side note: when we got back to Mpls, Andi send me this link he found online: http://www.tightsarenotpants.com/manifesto -- seriously funny ... and why I'm absolutely in love with my soulmate / husband. Too funny!]

After Central Park, we went back to our hotel to take a nap and freshen up. That night, we went to an improv comedy show at National Comedy Theatre in the Hell's Kitchen area of town. Very funny show and the tickets were cheap - $15/each. Ever watch Who's Line Is It Anyway? Yep, it was exactly like that. A definite recommendation if you're looking for something cheap and chill. Afterwards, we walked down the street to a restaurant called Burgers & Cupcakes. I broke my vegetarian rule and had a Bleu Cheeseburger. It was delicous but I felt so guilty aftewards. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and called it a night. I know, I know. NYC! City that never sleeps! (I can hear you all screaming that from your computers). Yeah, yeah ... we're just not those kind of people. Early to bed; early to rise. On to the next day's adventure ...

NYC Must See Tip #3 - NBC Tour
As you know, I'm a big sucker for all things celebrities and tv...so we bought tickets to the NBC Studios tour. I actually really liked it and thought it was totally worth $15/person. First we watched a little video about the history of NBC and then toured three different studios: Nightline with Brian Williams/MSNBC, Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live. It was really impressive to see all that goes into making these shows. I was shocked by how small the studios really are. The camera goes to great lenghts to make it look like a huge place on TV when actually it's a small room the size of a livingroom.

Tip #4: Take the Subway.
Next, we took the subway to Greenwich Village. I was a little overwhelmed by the subway at first. It's hard to tell which train to jump on, which line or which color.  But I have to say the transit workers were very friendly and helpful and once we rode it a few times we figured it out.

I think this picture is funny ... you can read the nervousness all over my face!

In Greenwich Village, we stopped at a local cafe for breakfast. And also walked along the infamous Bleecker St.

This sign says it all ....
You can see how easy it is to get confused when navigating the streets! Which way?

Hopped on the subway again and headed South to the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, there was little to see here for the entire perimeter is blocked off by construction baracades. When the Ground Zero memorial is finished, it'll be really interesting to come back and pay respects to the people who lost their lives here and those who volunteered to save others. Right now, this is all you could see (through the window of a neighboring building):

NYC Must See Tip #5: We did go back to Ground Zero the next day and visited St. Paul's Church. This is one of the oldest churches in the city and where George Washington came to pray after his inauguration. Because the church is across the street from the World Trade Center, it's become a make-shift memorial for 9/11. I'm glad we stopped here; it was heartbreaking. We thought this was definintely worth a visit; and it was free!

Next, we went to Washington Square near New York University. Luckily, it was a pretty nice day outside (for November at least). The sun was shining and it was warm enough to be outside in a down vest or light jacket. The area was filled with college kids playing catch and reading outside. We hung out here for an hour or so and people watched. There's so many different types of people in New York City - it makes you appreciate all the different vibes people bring to an area.

NYC Must See Tip #6: Keep heading South to Battery Park - it's a 10 minute subway ride and definintely worth the visit. Once we got to the Battery Park area, we walked along the Hudson River and watched all the boats passing by. There were tons of helicopter tours flying over as well, which I suppose would have been a cool way to see all the top NYC sites. We got ice cream and sat on a park bench - more people watching. Battery Park really reminded me of Lake Calhoun or Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. There were tons of runners, families pushing baby strollers and people walking their dogs. A great place to exercise and enjoy all the beautiful sites. Except in NYC, the sites are national treasures like the Statue of Liberty vs. random creepy Lockness Monster statues in the middle of Mpls' Lake of the Isles.

While in this area, we also snapped a few photos of the Statue of Liberty. We didn't pay for the trip out to the island, nor did we visit Ellis Island either. Someday, this would be a fun thing to do if/when we ever get back to NYC.

Lady Liberty

NYC Tip #7 - Find the Red Stairs.
We rode the subway uptown again to find the infamous red stairs for discounted Broadway show tickets. Sure enough, in the heart of Times Square, there were gigantic red stairs and a booth underneath with a listing of all the various shows taking place that night. There was a huuuuuge line that neither of us really wanted to wait in. After standing there for about 2 minutes, we saw a ticket scalper and bought 2 tickets to West Side Story from him. We didn't really care what show we saw - we just wanted to feel the experience of a true Broadway show so tickets at a decent price point was all that really mattered to us. Here was my blonde moment of the day (ok, probably hour) -- I never realized that Broadway shows were actually on Broadway Street. So Andi gave me a justly deserved eye roll when I excitedly figured this one out :)

Wanna do NYC cheap?
NYC Tip #8 - Eat pizza for dinner.
We didn't wanna break the bank on our trip so we aimed for true New York City foods like pizza and cheesecake for dinner. It really saved us money on our trip. On our way to back to the hotel after buying West Side Story tickets, Andi stopped to buy a slice of pizza from one of the local pizzerias. Unfortunately, we'd just used all of our cash on show tickets so we didn't have cash left to buy the slice of pizza (and they didn't accept credit cards). The pizzeria worker told Andi to take the slice and come back later and pay for it! I was really suprised - I didn't think this stuff happened in big cities. The guy did seem a little suprised when we came back later with the $1.75 we still owed him.

Andi was so impressed with the pizza, he made me take a picture with it

We also had a great time at West Side Story. I hate to admit, we were a little nervous about the show since we're not exactly theatre people. We're more National Lampoons / popcorn munching-kinda people. Once, we went on a date night to the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. I'm ashamed to say we left after the first act. Andi was literally falling asleep. But this show was different. We both really enjoyed the upbeat storyline, dancing and songs.

Going to a Broadway show in the middle of Times Square was truly amazing. That place is absolutely c-r-a-z-y! We sat on top of the big red stairs for a half and hour or so and watched all the hussle and bussle around us. What an experience!

Times Square

Andi and I in Times Square
(I think this photo is funny - doesn't it look like we're photoshopped in here? Nope. It was just that nuts)

NYC Must See Tip #9 - On Sunday, we went to Grand Central Station, just a few blocks away from our hotel. Andi and I were both really suprised how clean and beautiful the station was. All the walls were marble and you could feel the history and commotion about the space. Definitely worth the stop.

We rode the subway from Grand Central to the Little Italy neighborhood. We walked around for a while before stopping at Pugio Italian Restuarant which was highly rated on http://www.tripadvisor.com/.  It was a good restaurant - totally old school Italian. Andi ordered a stuffed artichoke which was seriously loaded with a yummy bread crumb mixture. I had ravioli which wasn't my favorite, only because I'm not a fan of red sauces. But apparently this was a famous red sauce made from scratch ... so I'm sure it was tasty for those people that like that sort of thing.

NYC Tip #10 - Eat a lobster tail ... not the real kind.
After lunch, we walked to a bakery down the street for dessert. We noticed a pastry chef in the basement of one place making some sort of bakery goodness from scratch. Totally swayed us to stop there! Who doesn't want to eat fresh bakery items made with love from some rolly-polly Italian baker? Andi and I ordered a lobster tail (a fluffy, flaky pastry filled with Bavarian creme) a cannoli and two espressos. Seriously the best desserts we've ever had. Amazing.

After Little Italy, we walked a few more blocks to Canal Street which is Chinatown. This is the hot spot to buy knock-off purses and watches - you can seriously find anything you'd ever want or need. We didn't buy anything but it was fun to listen to all the merchants. Louis Vuitton, Coach, Gucci they'd say under their breath, waiting for you to make eye contact and give a nod.

A few dead chickens ... and other stuff ... in Chinatown

Riding the subway ...

For our last hour or two in town, we rode the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge / South Street Pier area. This area was neat because of the boardwalk and next-to-the-water feel. There's quite a few chain stores around this area and also water shuttles you can take to various NYC sites. We walked around the boardwalk for a while before parking at a spot on an outside bench. Andi got quite the laugh at me -- I laid back on the boardwalk for a while to soak up the sun. I thought Andi was sitting next to me ... but we went up one level and snapped a few photos of me laying amonst the commotion.
Apparently there was a family trying to take a photo .... with me dead center in the middle of it. Ooops!

One really cool thing we saw in the South Street Pier area was a farmer's market. There were all kinds of local produce, cheese and meat vendors selling their goods to locals. We walked around for a while and thought it was a great chance to see the true neighborhood in it's element.

Overall, NYC was an awesome experience. Thanks to my husband for planning such a wonderful trip for us!

1 comment:

  1. Great tips! I am anxious to go and visit someday : )