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Celebrating the Art of Travel for Over 
25 Years


 UNIQUE  NEW YORK

Craig’s Tips on Cool Things to do in "the Most Exciting City in the World."

by Craig Stevens Corey

 

I love New York. This is a place where everything is bigger than life, and most especially the amazing skyscrapers, a testament to the city’s might.”

Prologue: My first trip to New York City was back in 1976 when the city was on the verge of going broke. You had to carry “mugger’s money” just in case, and the phenomenon known as “A Chorus Line” had just opened on Broadway. I’ve been a regular visitor to New York ever since (some 500 times over the last 40 years), thanks mostly to the generosity of a great friend whose Upper West Side Manhattan apartment is at my disposal quite often. From these Victorian digs on West 76 th Street (a five-story brownstone “walk-up” formerly owned by actress comedienne Fanny Brice) I can venture out and discover what’s new, and what’s true in the most exciting city in the world! So these are my recommendations on cool things to do, let’s have a look! -Craig Corey      

(Written as a supplement to the newsletter FOOTPRINTS: Conversations with Craig, Travel Tips & News." Information such as details, dates, prices, etc. are subject to change without prior notice.)

  First Published, January 5, 2010. 

 

  

For a mere $2.50 on your Metrocard, you can float over the East River to Roosevelt Island with stunning views of Manhattan's East Side skyline.

The “M5” Local City Bus. New York City busses (MTA) are a great way to see Manhattan. One of the most interesting routes is the M5 bus (“M” stands for Manhattan, “5” is the route number) that begins at West 178 th Street and travels down Riverside Drive along the Hudson River where you pass ornate pre-war buildings, and Grant’s Tomb. It’s especially magical during the Christmas season when it’s snowing, and decorative lights come on. Just as the bus turns on 72  nd street, look towards the Hudson and you’ll catch the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt.  The bus goes down Broadway past Lincoln Center (at 59 th Street) and along Central Park South, then down Fifth Avenue all the way to Houston (pron. how-ston) Street in Greenwich Village-end of the line.  Along the way you can catch St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the lighted Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center during the Holidays (it’s a show-stopper and keeps traffic creeping,) and the New York Public Library, amongst others. On the way back, the M5 heads up Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) where you’ll pass the Empire State Building, then retraces the route in reverse. If you’re staying in midtown, walk over to Sixth and take the M5 uptown as far as 96 street, then head back down again. It’s a very pleasant and inexpensive trip.

The M5 operates from 05:50am until midnight (with some exceptions). You’ll need a Metrocard, and the fare is only $2.50 each time you hop on! 

I love New York. This is a place where everything is bigger than life, and most especially the amazing skyscrapers. Oh, I know, we sort of take them for granted, but if you look north or south on any of the main avenues you can see canyons of them, a testament to the city’s might. One month after 9/11, on my first flight back into New York after the attacks, I faced the painful reminder that the usual symbol I was accustomed to seeing on descent to LaGuardia Airport-the World Trade Center Towers-was gone. I mean, I was now seeing for the first time in person that “void” in the skyline. Though architecturally I always preferred the more Art-Deco Chrysler Building, the WTC Towers were symbolic of everything New York is-higher, faster, and further.  The city is not always easy for those who live there, but for the casual visitor (whether on a budget, or with greenbacks to spend) who has the time and discretion to explore, there are a plethora of things to see and do, both enriching, and exciting. Most of these sightseeing suggestions are free, and will only require the use of a Metro Card (MTA) in order to get to them, which you can get most anywhere in the city's subway entrances, and at some news stands.

The swanky "Modern NYC" restaurant inside MoMa-The Museum of Modern Art.

 The Roosevelt Island Tramway. The tram carries commuters who work in the city, and live on residential Roosevelt Island across the East River. But a trip on the tram offers tourists the best bang for $2.50!  With unparalleled views and amazing photo ops of Manhattan’s East Side skyline, the elevated tram glides 16 miles per hour, at 3,100 feet above the river!  The trip takes four minutes in each direction, in tram cars known as “Roosevelt Islanders”. The tram departs from 59 th Street and Second Avenue (adjacent to the 59 th Street Bridge) on the Upper East Side (from Bloomingdale’s continue walking east on 59 th until you get to Second Avenue where you turn left and ascend the stairs to Tram Plaza.)  You’ll need to use your Metrocard (which you can get at any MTA subway station kiosk in the city)  to pay the fare. BONUS! Once on Roosevelt Island, a red minibus meets the trams and offers tours of the pleasant island community for only 25 cents!  Trams operate from 6:00am until 02:00am weekdays, and until 03:30am weekends, departing every 15-minutes (every 7-minuteds during rush hour.) Subway: Take the 4, 5, 6, N, R, or W to Lexington Avenue at 59th Street (at Bloomingdales.) Exit at either 59th or 60th and walk to Second Avenue to Tram Plaza. You can't miss it! 

New York City Guided Walking Tours. May as well do like the locals and hit the pavement! Guided walking tours are a great way to really see the city-up close and personal. Knowledgeable guides (usually volunteer docents) will lead the tour by foot starting at a central meeting point at a given time. For about $20-$25 you can get a “street smart” tour that lasts 2-hours. For example, an architectural walking tour will lead you to the city’s Art-Deco gems like the Chrysler Building, the Chanin Building, the RCA Building, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ Fifth Avenue residence, and more. During the Holidays, a walking tour that focuses on the Dickensian Christmas traditions (of Charles Dickens) as we know them today is very informative, and festive! Generally, tours are designed for moderate to good walkers and the pace is comfortable. In most cases it’s cash only, payable to the guide upon commencement of the tour. Tours usually draw fifteen to twenty participants. Good walking shoes recommended, not surprisingly! Contact us for leads on various walking tours.

Frescoes, sculptures, Sarcophagi, Chariots and more in the Greek & Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

 

The M60 City Bus Between LaGuardia and Manhattan. Make your trip into Manhattan more interesting! Hop the “M60” city bus, curbside at the arrivals area outside of LaGuardia Airport’s terminals (cross the median to the green shelter that says "Bus to the City." For a mere $2.50 (one of the best travel bargains in New York City!) the M60 travels across the Tri-borough Bridge (now known as the RFK “Robert F Kennedy” Bridge) connecting Queens to Manhattan, offering a birds-eye view of the fabulous Manhattan skyline along the East River (heading into town, try to sit to the right of the driver,) then along 125 th Street in Harlem (here’s where the bus gets quite crowded with locals hopping on and off) and finally down Broadway past Columbia University. At 116 th Street, you can hop off and get a free transfer to the subway which will take you all the way down to 42 nd or 34 th streets in midtown and beyond. The trip takes about an hour but offers a vivid New York experience.

You’ll need a “Metrocard” (available for purchase at the LaGuardia news stands), and as a rule busses operate every 20 mins. from 04:30am until 12:30am, with peak exceptions.

The New Greek & Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A year and a half ago the Met opened the spectacular “New Greek & Roman Galleries” which house thousands of works of classical art from the museum’s collections that have been amassed into this new display area located in the former restaurant, a soaring 2-story atrium. Featured are the Met’s world-renowned collection of Hellenistic and Roman art, including everything from frescoes to sculptures, and Sarcophagi to Chariots! It’s one of the most amazing collections of Greek & Roman art in existence today, and a great sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the city outside, for an hour or two. Be sure to catch a great photo op next to the marble statue of Hercules 

Museum entrance fee is $20, or so, and free to kids. Closed Mondays. Phone: 212 535-7710, www.metmuseum.org.

Lunch Prix-Fixe at “The Modern.” A great pit stop if you happen to be in, or around MoMa (the Museum of Modern Art) at 9 West 53 rd Street. The restaurant which opened a few years ago as part of MoMa’s new Museum Tower expansion offers both a Bar Room and a Dining Room (separated by a partition of frosted glass) and are completely, and appropriately-modernist, with a focus on mid-century Danish design, and feature French-American cuisine. Both rooms face the museum’s outdoor sculpture garden offering respite from the busy metropolis. It’s a casually pleasant, sophisticated place to have lunch in the Dining Room, or maybe a cheese plateau and a glass of wine in the Bar Room after a hard morning of staring at Monet’s Waterlilies painting, or from shopping! Prix-fixe lunch including 2-courses and dessert is $55 per person, not bad for the location, and the setting! Oh, and here's a tip. The museum itself is FREE on Friday evenings after 4 oclock, but beware, it's usually a stampede!

*Reservations recommended. phone: 212 333-1220.

www.themodernnyc.com

Century 21 Department Store. 22 Cortland Street (between Church & Broadway,) across from Ground Zero (the store was destroyed in the 9/11 aftermath and later re-built.) Tourists who visit New York’s big stores like Macy’s, Saks, and Lord & Taylor, are often used to shopping at those stores back home. But what you won’t find at the mall back home is Century 21 Department Store. Their moto is “Fashion Worth Fighting For!”  And they’re not kidding! On any given day you’ll find shoppers grabbing, and edging in for new arrivals of deeply-discounted, luxury designer clothing that T.J.’s doesn’t have! This is where New Yorkers go to get the couture (like Prada sunglasses or Marc Jacobs handbags at 50% off) that the big stores sell at hefty prices.  So if you see it, and you like it-GRAB IT! Because it won’t last long. The store even offers “Visitor’s Services” for shell-shocked out-of-towners who aren’t used to this type of New York shopping experience LOL! Try to go on weekdays or evenings to avoid the weekend mob scene, and those seemingly limousine-sized baby carriages! The extrasensory experience of this place alone is worth the trip to lower Manhattan!

 

Subway: Take the A, C, 2, 3, 4, or 5 trains and get off at Fulton Street. Or take the 1 or 9 trains and get off at Rector Street.  Note: After this printing, a Century 21 branch store was opened in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, on Broadway at West 66 th Street.

 It’s Breakfast “all-day” at Norma’s Restaurant (inside Le Parker Meridien Hotel at 119 West 56 th street between 6 th and 7 th Avenues. You can also enter at the 57 th Street promenade of the hotel) just steps from Carnegie Hall. Norma’s motto is “we take breakfast seriously” and it’s served all day (lunch too.)  But this is no ordinary hash house. The slick room is covered in rich wood veneers and brushed metal, accented by matching furniture. Large disc-shaped light fixtures on the walls resemble the portholes of a classic ocean liner. Breakfast is an event here! Servers arrive with a steaming French Press pot of coffee for the table. How about caramelized chocolate-banana waffle napoleons, foie gras brioche French toast, irresistible banana-macadamia nut flap jacks, egg-white frittata of shrimp (their signature dish!) or mango-papaya brown-butter cinnamon crepes to name a few. And the portions are huge! This place has been a favorite of mine for many years. Norma’s is open 7-days a week from 07:00am to 3:00pm. Breakfast for two with a pot of coffee, about $65.  If money is still no object in this economy, get the Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata with six eggs, roasted Maine lobster tail, and 10-ounces of Sevruga Caviar, only $1,000!!   

Reservations are suggested at Norma’s, but you can also queue up for a table and wait. Phone 212 708-7460.  *Sample menu items mentioned are subject to change and/or alteration after this printing.  www.parkermeridien.com/eat1.php.