We did an extended weekend in New York and wanted to get out a recap, along with a few tips.
Renaissance Times Square
We stayed at the Renaissance Times Square on rewards points. It was the perfect location as a base for our trip since Broadway was the main attraction. I posted that review separately.
Staying in Times Square was great! It’s such a hub of activity at all hours of the day. On the weekends, it’s chaos! Lots of shopping. With all the lights, it’s like daylight even at night. You definitely want to see it both at night and during the day. It’s a great place to watch the people! There are always cops around, so I didn’t feel unsafe. Just make sure you stay aware of your surroundings and don’t get so caught up that you aren’t paying attention. Watch out for the street vendors! If you don’t want to get pulled in, don’t engage --- just keep walking. They love to “give” you something, autograph it and then ask for a donation.
The first show we saw in New York was Memphis. I really didn’t know much about the show before we got there, but really enjoyed it. It’s at the Shubert Theatre on 44th, about a block off of Broadway. It’s about the first white radio station in Memphis to play black music. I definitely see why it did so well at the Tony’s this year. Overall , the cast is wonderful. Show was good --- great story. Music was fun and the dancers were great. One thing to note on this theatre --- first 2 rows are WAY too close --- since there is no orchestra pit, you spend your entire time looking up. Most theatres it isn’t quite so close. Beverages here, like most theatres are really expensive ($5 for water bottle and $8 for souvenir soda).
We stopped in at Juniors for take out sandwiches after seeing Memphis on our first night. It’s right near the Shubert Theatre. Little did I know this would be one of my favorite stops while we were in NYC! We ordered a Pastrami Ruben and a Ham Sandwich. Both were tasty, but the homemade Russian dressing on the Ruben was to die for! Our take out orders came with drinks and were about $14 (not the $25 of so many other places in the area. Two sandwiches with beverages were about $30. The food was wonderful, service friendly, prices were fair. I’d definitely go back --- and tried to, but the line for a table was too long!
While in town, I wanted to experience the fun that is the diamond district. Even if you’re just window shopping, it helps to know what you are looking for so that you can focus a little. There are many places, and prices are decent (it helps if you know what things cost at home). Most shops will bargain, and bargain well. It’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours --- I like to get design ideas of things for things I can have made at home. If you are just looking, it’s a cheap way to spend the morning --- if you are buying, the options are unlimited!
Pig and Whistle
After a morning of shopping, we stopped in at the Pig and Whistle Pub for lunch. We’d seen an advertisement in Playbill and thought we’d take a chance. Overall it was really nice. The upstairs dining room was quiet – which was nice after a crazy morning of shopping. Service was good --- prompt and helpful. I had the chicken pot pie which was good --- although the chicken was a little dry. The corned beef sandwich was also good. Total for 2 lunches, 2 teas and 1 beer was about $45. It was nice to get out of the chaos for a bit and relax over lunch. I’d probably go back.
We saw Promises Promises at the Broadway theatre (Broadway between 52nd and 53rd) for a matinee performance. Our only disappointment was the we didn’t see Kristen Chenowith. The understudy was wonderful, as was the rest of the cast. We laughed a lot, and really enjoyed the performance. This is one I could see over and over --- it’s funny, nice music, and has a good pace to it. Scenery is also pretty cool. First row is just great on this show!
After having a big lunch, we weren’t terribly hungry, so we decided to grab something easy and take it back to the room before our evening show. We stopped in at one of the many Sbarro’s in the area and had decent pizza. Service was ok, but nothing spectacular. 4 slices was about $20.
We also saw Avenue Q. I don’t remember the last time I laughed that hard! It was a really fun show --- and it says a lot of the things we often don’t in our too politically correct world. What a great way to spend the evening!
On Board Tours
One of our days in New York, we took the 5 ½ hour tour with On Board. We booked online in advance. At nytix.com, you can get a coupon for $10 off this $79.99 tour. I couldn’t get the coupon to work online, but they booked it by phone with no issues. We booked the 10:30 departure and arrived about 9:45. They put us on the first bus, and we left when the bus was full (about 10). We had a separate guide and driver. Both were friendly and did a nice job. The one mistake we made was booking for Veterans Day, and due to the parade road closures, traffic was a bear! Try to avoid any days that are likely to be more traffic than normal --- otherwise you’ll spend your tour in traffic. But that said, the driver did an excellent job, and the guide had lots of info (fun, pop culture, political and historical) to share.
We saw all the things on the tour itinerary. Some of them were just drive by’s, and others you got out to walk around. We made actually stops at Central Park (Strawberry Fields), Rockefeller Center, Trinity Church / Wall Street, the World Trade Center Memorial, and Madison Square Park / Flatiron Building. Throughout the day, we got great info from our guide. It was great to hear about things from a local. When we got to the World Trade Center Site, the stories about that day were what made it real. It was a VERY full day, but it didn’t feel rushed.
My favorite part of the day was the cruise. We did ours with NY Water Taxi. We saw the bridges and learned about their history. We saw Battery Park. Getting to see Manhattan from the water point of view was great. We also got up close to the Statue of Liberty. They stopped the boat for a few minutes there so you could get photos without the boat moving. It was great! Only issue was this --- if you are prone to seasickness – this is going to bother you. There’s a lot of boat traffic around the statue, so there’s a lot of bobbing up and down in that area. Right before the cruise, we had about 35 minutes at the seaport to grab lunch in a foodcourt type setting.
You spend a lot of time on the bus --- I don’t think it’s a good tour for kids – it’s going to be difficult to keep them engaged. But teenagers and adults would be fine. It’s 2 ½ hours before you get to a stop with a restroom break, so plan accordingly. It’s very informative --- and a good overview of the city. It’s a great intro --- but if you want to experience things, you’ll want to go back to some of the spots after.
Decided to take one night off from the Theatre and have a really nice dinner. We booked a table online through Open Table and had absolutely no issues! We waited only a couple of minutes for our table (and I think we were a bit early). We were seated right along the windows, and the view truly was amazing. Only thing is that I wish I’d paid more attention to the map before I went so I knew more what was where --- other than the obvious landmarks, it’s a little hard to know what you’re looking at in the dark. View was wonderful, and it was very relaxing --- a nice change from the hustle and bustle of several evenings of shows.
Dinner is Pre Fixe at $74 with 4-6 options for each course. We had the lobster bisque which was really nice. Rich and creamy. Yum! I had the port chop which was excellent --- it was thick cut and really juicy. I also sampled my fiance’s NY strip which was cooked perfectly. Overall, all 4 of us were really pleased with our dinner choices. I finished with the chocolate for dessert --- also a good choice.
Service throughout was excellent. Our waiter was friendly, helpful and attentive without being overbearing. He also was really helpful --- I asked about using my Marriott Rewards Platinum member discount (20% off) and he was happy to check into it. They honored the discount --- which was great. I was really impressed and how easily they handled it --- some properties don’t do as well. Overall it was a wonderful night!
Decided to check out the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island while we were in New York. We’d purchased tickets online and printed them before we got down to Battery Park. Definitely the way to go. Lines get really long so if you can avoid the ticket purchase line, definitely do it! Our tickets said 10:30, but at the advice of the concierge at the hotel, we were in line at about 830 am. We definitely weren’t alone. When the security line opened at 9 we were already in line. We went through airport style screening. In many ways, it felt more stringent than airport security (we visited in early November before many of the airports increased security levels with the new strip search machines). No one paid any attention to the time on the tickets. Get there early, because as the day goes on, you will wait hours for security, regardless of time on your ticket. I don’t think there are restrooms in the security building. We did the transfer ticket only at $12. I really wish we’d checked out the audio tours too.
The trip over to the Statue of Liberty is about 15-20 minutes. It wasn’t really rough, so those prone to seasickness shouldn’t have to worry. There are restrooms and drinks / snacks on board.
Things at the statue were well marked. They offer free ranger led tours at posted times, the audio tour, or you can just wander and read the signs. It was definitely easy to understand and appreciate without the tour, but would do the tour if I go back. It was really cool to see the statue up close. When you see her from a distance, you don’t really appreciate the size. The earlier you are in the day, the better chance you have of getting photos that aren’t full of people. From The Statue of Liberty and the area, you can get some great views of Manhattan.
Boats from the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island leave every ½ hour. You can wander through the building, see the exhibits and watch a couple of films. The film we saw was dry, but VERY informative. Wish had spent more time – definitely something for another trip. It’s so hard to imagine the process here when you compare to immigration today. It was very humbling to be there and imagine what our ancestors experienced. Boats back to Battery Park leave every ½ hour.
After a morning of exploring, we decided to grab a quick lunch at Café Metro. I was really surprised! They had good sandwiches! They also did made to order salad / pasta. Service was good, they had seating available for dine in. Two sandwich combos with chips and drinks were under $20.
Dined here for pre-theatre dinner one night. I understand that this is a tourist spot, but they could at least act like they care about service. Service was horrible. It was slow and unfriendly. Our server was definitely not helpful. Portions are huge, but still very overpriced. You won’t find much on the menu for under $20-25. I had the BLT, which was just OK. My other half had the spicy chicken sandwich which was a little better. The jalepenos and chili mayo give it some serious spice! They charge to split between people and there is a minimum $12 / person. Not friendly, not really all that good. We spent $50 for 2 sandwiches and 2 teas. They were appalled that we wanted refills on the tea. Really? At those prices, you’d think there’d be a little more service. It was convenient, but I won’t go back.
Not really knowing any more than the story line of the old TV show, we decided to see the Addam’s Family. Was a great show. Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuworth were great. Lots of laughter. Uncle Fester really stole the show. One of the things I liked best was the scenery. Things were always changing and all the components just fit together differently to signify different parts of the house. Was a lot of fun! This is also a great show from the first row!
Stopped in at the Roxy twice during our trip to NYC. Both times, I was disappointed. First time, I wanted to grab dessert after a show. Their take out process needs help. You talk to someone to help figure out what you want. Then you tell the staff packing orders, and then they send you over to a different location to pay. Just very unfriendly, and it’s as if they expect you to know the process. I had the Snicker’s cheesecake. It was good, but not great. Pricey at $9-10 with crappy service on takeout.
We gave it another shot for breakfast one morning. I had Eggs, Canadian bacon, potatoes, toast for $16. It was nothing to write home about --- I’ve had just as good at McDonalds. For 2 breakfasts and 1 soda, the bill was $38. After both experiences, I’ll definitely look elsewhere in the future.
Behind the Emerald Curtain
One of the coolest things we did was the Wicked: Behind the Emerald Curtain tour. It’s available on all / some Saturday mornings at 10 am. The 90 minute tour is $30. What I loved was getting a better understanding of what it takes to put together a show the size of a Broadway production. From the pre opening preparations to costumes, sound, special effects, lighting and hundreds of other details. The tour is led by 2 members of the original cast – Anthony Galde and Sean McCourt. You also get an idea of what it takes to pack up a show the size of Wicked and move it from city to city as part of a touring company. If you have any interest whatsoever in what it takes to put one of these shows on, it will give you a whole new appreciation. They take questions from the audience, so you hear stories that really drive home the point that each and every show is unique and things can (and do) go wrong from time to time. After taking the tour, we decided we had to see Wicked again --- just to see the application of some of the special things we’d learned about behind the scenes.
We stopped in for a really nice lunch before a Matinee of Wicked. After lots of quick food and mixed experiences in Times Square, we were a little skeptical. We were wonderfully surprised! Atmosphere is cozy, but open an modern. We started with a Tomato / Mozzarella salad. Everything was incredibly fresh and it showed! I had the Butternut Squash ravioli and they were wonderful. My other half had the Pesto pasta with chicken and vegetables. Both were excellent. We finished with a Crème Brulee. With a cocktail and a glass of wine, the bill was about $105. Based on the location and quality of food, I had no issue with this – although it might seem high for lunch. Service was excellent --- anything we needed, they were happy to take care of. It was a refreshing change after most of the service we had in Times Square. I’d definitely go back!
Going to see Wicked was very much a last minute decision on this trip. Of course the performance we wanted was sold out. We tried the lottery – at noon they released 26 tickets for the matinee for $~26 if your name was drawn. When that didn’t work, we decided to wait for cancellations. We were third in line and got great seats in the orchestra about 10 rows back. Despite having seen this show a couple of times, nothing compares to seeing it in its permanent theatre. The cast was wonderful. Wicked still sits at the very top of my list of must do shows!
We made the mistake of dining here on one of our last night’s in the city. We got a late start, and most other places were full ---- there was definitely a reason this one wasn’t! I don’t even know where to start. Bad service doesn’t begin to describe it. When we finally got someone to come over and take our order, she definitely wasn’t friendly. We had our salads 10 minutes before we got forks (despite complaining to the manager). Our beverages arrived after the forks. Burgers were very much overcooked, and were served with only ketchup --- no option for mustard or mayo (but at this point we were ready to leave). Cheesecake was just ok. We ordered off of a 3 course fixed price menu ($20 with a beverage). I know you get what you pay for, but this was horrible. Took forever, nothing was right, and they couldn’t even run a credit card quickly. Wouldn’t dream of going back. Not sure how they stay in business.
Driving Miss Daisy
We finished the trip off with seeing Driving Miss Daisy. We were thrilled at the chance to see Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones. The Theatre was small (no lobby), but perfect for this show. The actors were wonderful --- very cool to see the characters age as time went by. It is a little slow, but then again so was the movie. Definitely worth seeing!
Overall, it was a great trip!
A wonderful report on the city, thanks for the information on the theatre and your dining.
Yes indeed, Metro Cafe has great food period. Also agree with bpelican regarding Carmine's, but you don't need to each order an entree as the portions are huge...even the meatball appetizer is a meal for two or three. Just down the street from Carmine's you have another well known spot Sardi's Restaurant.
There are so many great restaurants in NYC, can't wait to get back to New York later this year.
A couple of our favorites:
As usual IAHFLYR, you're on the mark with these choices. You don't leave Carmine's hungry, that's for sure. Sardi's is first class.
We had 34 folks who wanted to go to Carmine's last time we were in NYC last year for the annual convention my wife attends. We told them we were going to try and get a table (yeah right) and ended up with 1/2 the bar and tables in the bar nearest the windows. What a blast that evening.
Will be in NYC a couple of times this year and will have to check out Duke Deli, I love NYC deli joints, but do they fill prescriptions?
Duke's is across the street from The JW as you walk toward the CY South Times Square. It is very inexpensive and pleasant. Hope it is still there, as it was a few years ago that I was there.
Likewise, there is another very reasonable priced place that I have enjoyed and that is "Popeye's Chicken" just on the North side of Times Square.
LOL, I'll avoid Popeye's in NYC, far too many spots to dine that are just a touch better cuisine, atmosphere, food quality and food selections. I'm more thinking CHIN CHIN Restaurant New York or Home | Don Antonio by Starita Original Neapolitan Pizza, NYC or Welcome To Iguana | Iguana NYC - Restuarant & Dance Lounge or maybe even 53rd & 6th – Halal Gyro Platter Cart NYC long before Popeye's!
I need to clarify!
While doing a trade show at The Marriott, I only had a limited amount of time to get some lunch and get back to the table. This Popeye's really came in handy and might have been 1/10th the price of food at the Marquise.
BTW, this gave me a "Lot" more funds for daily "Medicine Dosages"
I'd have found a Metro Cafe instead and called in an order to pick-up and run!