Thursday, March 06, 2008

Travel and Tourism

We're back. From where? Oh you'll find out soon enough you nosy Nellie. In the meantime I've got a question for yall. We have lots of family coming in the next few months--all our parents, some siblings and maybe even more siblings. For some this will be their first time to New York, for others it will be their upmteenth time. So I'm trying to devise a list of some of the best, must-see and must do's of NYC. I want to compile a list of absolute must-do's for the first timers and a list for stuff a little off the beaten path for the return trippers. Here are some of my ideas so far:


Things to Do and See:
The Statue of Liberty (uh, can I come clean and say I haven't even been there?)
The Empire State Building
Rockefeller Plaza
Yankee Stadium (preferably to see a game)
Central Park
Staten Island Ferry
The Brooklyn Bridge (after eating at Grimaldi's of course)
Broadway Shows
Taking a tour bus of the City (I've heard this is great for first timers)
Times Square
David Letterman/The Daily Show/Martha Stewart etc...


Shopping:
5th Avenue
Soho
Chinatown
FAO Schwartz


Places to Eat:
Juniors (for the Cheesecake)
Carnegie Deli
Grimaldi's Pizza (then walk across the B. Bridge as already stated)
Sylvia's or some other Harlem Soul Food eatery
Magnolia Bakery
Serendipity (from the movie of the same name)


OK folks what else? I know there is SO much to do here--what did I miss? What did you love the most? What do you wish you would have skipped? Give it to me.

12 comments:

  1. Wow, I'm sure this will generate a lot of comments. I have to say I would recommend the Met before anything else - you can pay what you want and there is something for everyone (including paintings even the most casual art fan would recognize) unless you really don't like art. Even my sullen teenage brother loved the Egyptian and armor rooms. The SoL is a huge pain to get to from what I hear, so I don't blame you. You can waste a lot of a day doing that. We haven't gone either, but got a perfectly beautiful view from the SI Ferry (can't beat free). Also, my in-laws took the tour bus of the city and know more about NY than we do now, so even for residents, it would be interesting, I'm sure.

    Food-wise, Italian seems to be the cuisine most people can agree on when they're in groups and have to compromise. For those who want to dine off the touristy path, our favorite is Basso 56 (on 56 bet bdway and 8th - not the tourist trap Patsy's next door). It reminds us so much of the food we ate in Italy (as opposed to the more American places with very heavy tomato sauces and American lasagna and chicken parmigiana - if that's what you crave, Carmine's is good). It's extremely reasonable, they make their own pasta, and their sauces are amazing. Also, despite the hip atmosphere, we have always felt comfortable bringing the baby (it's loud enough that a baby's noise won't disturb people and the staff flirt with our babe, etc). The staff is awesome (the manager remembered our names and that I brought my sister, even though we had only been there twice over a year ago!) Our visitors always mention it as one of their favorite parts of the trip. And the chocolate crepes are delicioso (Hey I should get paid for this plug.) Okay, I'm sure you're sick of me now. Bye!

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  2. I think Ellis Island is very cool, especially with the audio tour. I usually don't do audio tours, but this one was worth it. Not great for young kids. I liked Ellis Island more than the Statue of Liberty.

    If the weather is nice, I think walking around South Street Seaport is really nice. It's very pretty down there, though there's not much to "do" other than shop or go to the Bodies exhibit. (Is that still up?) I also think it is very nice to walk along the harbor on the edge of Battery Park City. They have benches all along the way to sit and enjoy a snack or people watch or enjoy looking at the boats on the water.

    I think Patsy's Pizzeria is better than Grimaldi's, as far as the food goes. The pizza is the same genre, but Patsy's feels less like it's churned out for the masses. Really fresh sauce, yum, yum, yum. I'm not sure which Patsy's Ellen is talking about, but our favorite is 74th and Columbus. Though the pizza is better than Grimaldi's, they also have some super good salads and pasta dishes too.

    I love when guests come in town.

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  3. I think the Empire State Building is overrated.

    I love taking the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, but not so much to get off there, as much as to go to the museum at Ellis Island, like Arly said. I've been three times and always wish I had more time because I usually get maybe an hour and there are so many cool exhibits. I haven't eaten at Patsy's, but you can't really beat Grimaldi's and the view/walk of the bridge, can you? I love doing that!
    And if it's the right season, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory after.

    Another must that we never skip with our guests is going to H&H bagels on 79th and Broadway (or is it 80th?). We usually grab a tub of cream cheese from the coolers there, let everyone pick their bagels (encouraging what's hot and the everything bagel) and then walk over to Central Park and enjoy on a bench while we chat and people watch or at the Diana Ross playground right across from the Museum of Natural History if kids are with us.

    Yes to Junior's Cheesecake. For Thai Food lovers, one of Matt's and my favorites is Pam Real Thai on 49th and 9th. It's cheap too (Matt and I usually get out of there for right around $20). Sooo good.

    I have run out of time, but I hope these will be helpful.

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  4. Museums! I knew I forgot a category...Ellen thanks for the reminder. However I usually think the MOMA is more interesting for most people--BUT the downside being that you can't pay $0.50 to get in. And the Met is pretty impressive.

    We'll have to check out Patsy's. Sounds delish.

    And Ellis Island sounds pretty cool--we should check it out. My great grandpa came through there-or so I've been told.

    Thanks ladies!

    Keep it coming...

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  5. The MOMA is f-r-e-e on Friday nights, starting at 4ish.

    As far as the Empire State Building, Chris Ward works on the 36th floor, skip the lines and tickets and go up to his office for a quick peak of the view. Then go straight to Macys with all your female tourists. 9 floors!!

    If you go to H&H, which you should, walk north a few more steps to Zabar's...it's a foodie's dream. (Also, some amazing gelatto can be had at Grom, on 76th and Broadway).

    If there's warm weather, go to Cafe Habana in Nolita on Prince Street. It's pretty cheap Cuban food. But you MUST order the corn on the cob if you go. It's cheesy, spicy and amazing.

    There's also this super cool burger joint inside the Parker Meridian Hotel on 57th. It's tiny and discreet...perfect to make tourists feel cool. Bonus, the burgers are great.

    I also love walking through Grand Central Station. Sitting at Union Square and watching people is fun too.

    For more suggestions, this week's New York Magazine is their "Best of NY" issue...fun stuff.

    I'm sure I'll think of more later, but that's all for now!

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  6. You can rent bikes where the boat rental place is in central park. Phillip and I did that and had a great time biking through all of the park. Also, we did the bus tours (since we had some free tickets) and I do think that would be great for first timers as well. A little FYI, if they get their tickets now on-line, you can buy one get one free and I think they have up to a couple of months to use them. That pretty much saves you $25 per person. The Frick Museum is a great one for art lovers (and not such art lovers - the building itself is very cool). Other free, interesting stuff includes Forbes museum, Grants tomb, and the cathedrals (like St. Patrick's). I also really liked the little museum down by ground zero. (It's right next to the fire station to the side of the site.) It is a suggested donation price of ten dollars. It is the only museum that I have cried at. They also have a bunch of other museums downtown, including the Jewish museum - a memoriam to the holocaust, the skyscraper museum, and the police museum. Those ones aren't free though. There is a NYC museum in Harlem that I think would be fun to go to as well (it's free if you live in the area - just say you are a neighbor when you go in). You can get free tickets to the Federal Reserve tour. I guess if you get a rise out of seeing a ton of gold locked up in little cages you should go, but I didn't think it was that interesting. (You do get a free pen full of shredded money though) :) Last thing...I think the Top of the Rockerfeller is better to do than the Empire state building. Why? Well, you can actually see the Empire state building. The view of Central park is better. The lines are shorter. And it's a little bit cheaper. Oh, if your guests are looking for money saving coupons, they can go into the lobbies of the hotels, like the Marriot, and a lot of time they will have little coupons there.

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  7. Well, I'm the best at food categories, so I'll tell you cool places I like to take my friends when they are here.

    Of course Grimaldi's is the BEST pizza in the world, but Koronette on 110th and B'way has jumbo slices that are seriously twice the size of your head. And only cost like 2 bucks. Everyone I have taken there HAS to get a picture with their enormous slice.

    Momoun's is my favorite place in Soho. It is a falafel pita place open 24hours and it is located on McDougal somewhere. It is also like two bucks. Totally a hole in the wall, but very delicious. And it is close enough to walk up and eat at Washington Square park. I think that place is pretty cool for tourists.

    Other than that, food is all I'm really good for.

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  8. I've only been a tourist to NYC, and a few of the things I liked were seasonal (like the Shake Shack) but the Little Owl is a delightful restaurant for dinner, Central Park and that park we walked to from your place (forgetting the name) were excellent, the MOMA (as mentioned) and the galleries around West Village (I think that's the area) were pretty interesting too. Taking a cab every once in a while to see things is cool as well.

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  9. Anonymous2:31 PM

    Forget Magnolia, instead trek uptown to the Two Little Red Hens bakery at 86th and 2nd...if they have them, the marble cupcakes are diVINE! Also the cheesecake is consistently rated as one of the best in the city...it was my downfall.

    The Frick is a great gallery (audio guides are must) to while away a few hours. Tons of recognizable paintings, in a very interesting collection. (76th or so...). Also there is the NY Historical Society Museum, the Neue Gallery, and the American Folk Art Museum for alternatives to the basic three (Met, Gugg, MOMA). That said, I LOVE the MET. Also, unless people have tons of time to kill, the lobby is the only place worth visiting in the Natural History museum.

    Puppet Show in Central Park (tickets must be purchased ahead of time) always looks cute.

    If doing the Statue of Liberty, go early. Especially in the summer, an hour or two can make a huge difference in your wait time. If crunched for time, don't get off at Liberty Island and only get off at Elis Island.

    My favorite pizza is on 2nd ave, between 85th and 86th (a couple doors down from the Hens). I can't ever remember the name, but seriously is something I have to have whenever I get back to the city.

    In spring/summer, Central Park always makes for a fun day. There is so much to do, that it really works for everybody. For the jogging enthusiasts, I love running around the resevoir, the old dairy, Bethesda terrace, Alice in Wonderland statue, castle, etc. Most people don't spend a lot of time in the park when staying for a short time, and so if your guests have 'done' everything else, a day in the park might be a fun alternative.

    Speaking of the upper west side, who doesn't love a walk to H&H and then strolling around Zabar's?

    Speaking of strolling, unless you are planning to go to Grimaldie's, I like to only walk accross half of the Brooklyn bridge--takes half the time, but you still get to see the killer view.

    I also like to to the Empire State Building, first night of any turisty trip to the city, to give people an idea of what the city looks like. Then I like to go to the Top of the Rock the next morning, for the daylight view.

    Finally, if you hit Rock Center for TotR, you can then take a very nice stroll up 5th to do all the stores, St. Pats, etc. all the way up to the park, for lunch or on your way to the MET.

    One of the things that I have found works well when planning a trip to the city (for myself or for friends) is to plan according to area: EX, if doing the Statue of Liberty in the morning, follow up with the financial district. It makes no sense to back-track and waste time.

    This was probably way to much information, but I hope it helps!

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  10. ditto on carmines, and cafe habana is amazing, but so not baby/ stroller friendly.

    If its a beautiful day, we love taking a picnic on the three hour circle line boat tour around the island, and there is a guide so you get some good history too. That could take the place of tour bus and ferry/statue.

    Natural history museum rules!

    Century 21 for shopping, and all of my out of town friends love to hit h&m.

    I think grinaldis is overrated, but its a fun experience to walk over there.

    And definitely hit a mcdonalds, I hear they are delicious:)

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  11. ok, i cant' resist leaving my 2cents on this topic...

    i second reagan on koronet on 110 and bway, especially for the seasoned tourists. the pizza is HUGE and yummy. plus, Tom's resturant of seinfeld fame is just two blocks north, st. john's the divine is just east on amsterdam (very cool inside, it's the largest cathedral in north america or something and is like $3) and of course there's columbia university right there. kind of fun to show off, as it's been in several movies. makes for a nice little tour.

    for downtown food, we love otto's. it's one of mario batali's resturnts, but very affordable. the cheese plates are good and the olive oil gelato is to die for! plus it's kid friendly if you go early in the evening. it's just north of washington square park on 5th ave.

    the chinatown ice cream factory is yumm-o (lychee is my fav), and tasty dumpling has 5 dumplings for a dollar.

    have fun!!!
    have fun!!!

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  12. Yay! Thanks Ladies--these are some great recommendations that I haven't even heard of.

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