Sunday, July 18, 2010

New York City

There are many many travelogues already written about trips to the New York City. There are just as many travel guides, articles and so forth. This post is only about what WE did. We had a great time, and we hit only a few of the major tourist spots.

Like most big cities, I feel New York city is also best seen on foot. Take a section at a time and just walk around. Our trip was over the July 4rth it was pretty hot. We reached the city on Friday evening and left on Monday morning.

First things first, avoid taking your car into the city if possible. In the past we have parked the car in New Jersey and taken the train in. This time for various reasons we had to take our car in. We paid $54 a day just to park. Second, if you do end up taking your car, just park it. Use taxi or Metro to get around.

We reached the city on Friday eve around 5 pm. Parked our car (no small feat) and checked into our hotel. We stayed in Time Square itself. Great for night life, crowded, fun, very central to just about everything..did I say crowded. All the theaters were within a block or so. Unfortunately, this time we did not see any play...there is only so much you can squeeze into three days. After checking in, and changing into comfortable shoes, we went out for dinner at Bubba Gump. Great food and casual ambiance..especially if you love seafood. After dinner, we walked to Empire state building.

Empire State building is open until 2:00am. Even at that time of the evening (must have been about 8 pm), there were a lot of visitors. We bought the express pass for $42 some dollars per person from one of the peddlers on the street. Express pass promises to put you in front of every line (security line, ticket line and elevator line). The peddlers simply give a receipt that you have paid for the ticket. Inside the building, you turn in your receipt and pick up the actual tickets. Since there were many visitors buying express passes, and even more peddling these passes, there were tons of people in front of us. Each of the lines was pretty long, though at that time of the day they were moving fairly well. We saw the IMAX movie about the building (part of the pass).. and what a waste of time. The jerkiness in the movie made me dizzy and sick. The night view from the 86th floor observation deck was amazing. For miles and miles in all directions you could see the whole city lit up. It was beautiful..crowds and all. I think the visit to Empire State building is definitely a place to visit at night. We did not go up to 102 nd floor (costs another $15 per person). We walked back to our hotel. The streets were full of people, lights and music. After all it is a city that never sleeps....

The following day, early in the morning, we took metro from Time Square to Battery Park. Our goal was to take the ferry to Statue of Liberty & Ellis island in the morning to avoid the summer heat and crowd. We reached the ticket counter around 9:30 am. Ticketing was pretty fast, but at boarding point there was a huge line. Took us about 45 min to an hour to board. BTW that early in the morning, there were no food, tea or coffee stalls in battery park. The ferry was full and the ride as pleasant as we could expect. At least it was not terribly hot at that time of the morning. Statue of Liberty was majestic. It was amazing to see how huge the statue itself is. We did not get to go to the top of the crown. You had to book the tickets months in advance. We then took the ferry to Ellis Island. Grabbed a bite to ear there. Food was cold and expensive..not worth the money we spent but we did not carry any breakfast with us. By the time we got back to Battery Park (around 1 pm), the lines were huge.. even bigger than what we had in the morning. We heard the wait was approx 2+ hrs to board.. and the heat index was at its peak. My recommendation, visit to Statue of Liberty is best done as early in the morning as you can. From Battery Park we took the metro to China town. What an experience.. crowded... tons of food peddlers every where. We had chinese food for lunch.. can't remember the restaurant's name.. but there was tons of choice. Bought some fresh lychees from a vendor and walked back to our hotel in time square. A long afternoon walk. After a couple of hours rest, we strolled in time square just taking in the crowds, the sights and sounds. We visited the Toys R Us at times square and ate brooklyn style pizza from one of the many pizzerias.

Sunday we decided to go to walk to the Rockefellar Center and to the Central Park. At Rockefellar Center, we bought tickets to NBC studio tour. They take you to 3 live studios (we saw Dr. Oz, SNL and another one). The tour was fun for the kids. At the end of the tour they got to be the weatherman and the news anchor. Due to summer season, there was no live show taping going on. But the tour guide (an actual intern) that in fall you could call ahead and get free tickets to one of the show tapings and become part of the audience. We skipped standing in line for the early morning show. The kids were too sleepy. Save that for another time.

After Rockefeller center, we strolled inside FAO Swartz store and the Apple glass cube. It was great to get cool here and just spend some time window shopping. Snacked on kebabs for lunch from the street vendors in this area and then walked inside the central park. It was hot and muggy. We saw the central park zoo, the boat house etc. Kids had lunch at the boat house cafeteria. Because we had chosen to walk from time square to rockefeller center and then central park, we could not really carry a picnic lunch but I think that would have been fun alternative. After spending some time, we walked back to time square and to our hotel. It was a long walk and we were beat. I think we all slept for a few hours. That night we had dinner at Dallas BBQ. The restaurant was large, the service was fine, the prices were reasonable and it was crowded. The food was OK. Not sure I would go there again, but it seems it was a popular place to eat. Think I am a Bubba Gump fan. After dinner we walked to the Hudson to see the Macy's July 4rth fireworks show. We left early and finished watching the fireworks from our hotel room.