And…Go! New York City in 72 Hours
BROOK BRYANT | Haven Magazine
New York City is the big city with all the glamour, power elite and juice you can enjoy even on a budget. New York is home to every dialect in the world where people come to work, play and live in a canyon of concrete. The basic outlay of the island is based on neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side, Harlem, Chelsea, TriBeCa, SoHo, Upper West Side and others. Each of the sections of Manhattan has its own personality, demographic and distinctive charm. If you travel to New York on a regular basis one or more of these distinct neighborhoods may have an appeal that invites you to make it your home base. I love to stay in the leafy green areas of Chelsea, Carnegie Hill and the Gramercy Park area of the city which tends to be more residential in nature. Theater aficionados will gravitate to Times Square and Midtown in contrast to the museum mavens which will want to stay near Central Park or the Upper East Side where they can take advantage of these wonders. One cannot expect to visit this city once in their life and declare they have done it all, never to return. It is a novel of activities, restaurants and cultural venues you’ll want to open on occasion. New York City has it all contained on an island of 22.96 square miles and five boroughs connected by bridges, tunnels or waterways.
If one only does one activity in New York, one must stand in Times Square in all its neon wonderment. The heartbeat of the city is theater, cultural venues, shopping and the financial center. We are going to approach the city as an overview you can use to complement Internet sources to fine tune your upcoming journey. When I travel I have a list of things I simply must do, I stay at hotels that are tried and true and I love to experience one or two fine dining experiences. If time or theater tickets do not allow for a leisurely dinner then I splurge at a four or five star venue for lunch. The quality of the meal is the same, the staff are just as attentive and the ambience will not be compromised just because it’s daytime dining and not dinner.
Arrival by the masses is by the three major airports: JFK International, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty Airport. It is standard that most international flights arrive at JFK and LaGaurdia second to domestic arrivals. Your online searches will offer information about your carrier, the airport and land transportation to your hotel. Shuttling to hotels with other groups may be more cost effective, but if you are on a time crunch you may not want to spend up to two hours getting to your hotel or lodgings. Please pack as lightly as you can if you are traveling by train from the airport to the city as there are steps and platforms to navigate. You may opt to pay in advance, when booking your flight, for a sedan or car service with a credit card but make sure you still have a small tip for the driver. He will expect it for furnishing bottled water and newspaper for the drive into Manhattan.
Each of these terminals has its advantages depending on your carrier and the type of transportation you are taking into the city. Taxi, shuttle, car service and air trains are available for your use at the airports and can accommodate all budgets. There are licensed taxi stands everywhere in the airports and you should only look for the medallion when you choose. A light on means it is available for you to flag for your journey. It is a worth noting that you can use your credit card in any licensed yellow cab in New York City, and the driver must accept it. Tipping is expected and verbally encouraged by cabbies, as well as sedan and shuttle drivers.
If you like the romance of the rails this is a city that embraces train travel. Pennsylvania Station (Penn Station) is hub for Amtrak and Acela service. Penn Station is a gritty, noisy and chaotic terminal with basic amenities. Day trippers and workers are dashing around you to catch the regionals and the only waiting rooms are in the main rotunda where you’ll be sitting on your luggage. I love it for the people watching, carnival atmosphere and seeing how the traffic of commuters ebbs and flows in the station. If you are holding a sleeping car ticket or Acela First Class you may relax in the Acela Lounge for your layover. It is a relaxing but time-consuming mode of arrival easing into the station in a streamliner under the skyscrapers. Lake Shore Limited, Silver Series, Palmetto, Crescent and Pennsylvanian run daily into Manhattan as long distrance trains. There is still a shiver I feel when, over the loud speaker, they announce a train from Miami arriving at track number eight after a 30 hour journey. It is a known fact that writers, Europeans and many with time on their hands who want to sit back, dine, sleep and arrive into New York as they did decades ago take these trains.
Lodgings are offered by hotels, bed and breakfast and hostels of any price point in every section of the city or boroughs. The bevy of Internet search options such as Kayak, Hotels.com, Oyster and Expedia can assist in advanced searches within your budget, your interests, where you’re staying and also by star quality ratings. My hotel choices in the New York City area are based on hotels I have used often and endorse but I encourage you to research your stay on Trip Advisor. Please do not discount the idea of staying in Brooklyn which is having a redesign and offers many upscale hotels at a much lower rate than in Manhattan. The subway is your friend and is not to be feared as the most economic and efficient way to get around. My next trip I will be staying on Staten Island at a bird friendly bed and breakfast and I will be using the Staten Island Ferry to get on the island.
Two years ago I stayed in Jersey City before a transatlantic crossing and used the water taxi into Battery Park. I will digress to say if you are using New York City for a base before a cruise make sure you are staying near your ship terminal. It will be a tragedy if your tunnel or bridge is delayed and you miss the ship. Do not let haughty people discourage you from even entertaining the idea of staying outside the city for more deals, but realize you will have to spend extra time commuting.
The Algonquin Hotel is a 1901 landmark hotel and bar located at 59 West 44th Street. The historic hotel had been closed this winter to embark on a major refit of rooms and suites, remodeling of the Blue Bar and tweaking of the famed Lobby Lounge where the literary elite once had drinks. The elevator is tiny; the staff tenured and the guest range is from people on business to theatre leisure. My last visit was a stay in the Dorothy Parker Suite which had the original plumbing with tub, a living room that may have been hers when she was working and the most soundproof bedroom I have ever experienced. It was splendid to return from the theater to stop for a snack, talk to Matilda resting on her purr fect throne and to watch many familiar faces in the media or arts. The staff is proud of their hotel and will tell you many stories about its history and famous guests. This may be the last of the grand dames of the old New York such as the Carlyle, Lowell, Plaza and The Mark which have a history of pampering their guests in luxury and grace.
The legendary Oak Room has been closed to make room for additional space which has the cabaret world fuming about profit over the American Song Book. The room rates are a little more expensive than other hotels but if you what to stay where Dorothy Parker lay her head then it may be worth the expense. It’s part of the old New York vibe to have a drink before the theater in the lobby, to see Matilda the resident cat and charmer for the hotel and to view the Al Hirschfield prints at the Blue Bar. This hotel is a few blocks from Times Square so the need for an after-theater taxi is not necessary. Anyway, it would lead to a very long wait.
The Hotel Chandler at 12 East 31st Street reflects an understated, quiet and affordable choice for those who want a European style establishment. Rates vary so please check the Web site for specials. The rates are moderate for New York City. The staff will remember your name, provide any of your needs like ice, office services or laundry without you having to ask twice and they’ll make your stay memorable. Rooms range from queen doubles, kings, executive suites and large one bedroom suites with Frette linens. This hotel was refurbished last year with an emphasis on the lobby and public rooms. When checking in, I was thrilled to see the well-appointed intimate bar tucked away into an adjoining room. It is my pet peeve to arrive and step over guests sipping drinks on my way to the front desk with obnoxious canned music muffling my conversation with the concierge.
Hotel Chandler has a breakfast room, limited food service for a fee and Library for complimentary water, coffee and tea all day. It is a civilized experience to see the newspapers hung on library racks while sipping an Earl Gray in the morning. There is free WiFi throughout the hotel. I noticed many of the guests were international travelers who preferred a boutique experience with excellent service and with a central location. The hotel is also child friendly for a business trip with your family or for leisure travel. A high-end organic restaurant is opening soon which will also attract a client base that prefers whole foods while on the road.
Dining is a personal matter reflecting your taste, dietary needs, budget and area of the city in which you are staying. The offerings are so numerous that it would be difficult to try to offer any suggestions other than a few famous and not-to-be-missed-under-any-circumstances choices. Your hotel staff, numerous reviews online and a treasure trove of guide books offer so many restaurant options, it is mind boggling. Here is my short list of ideas, just to sample.
You must enter a real New York City deli when you are here for a weekend or short stay. It is the noisy, rushed service and the lack of seating that makes it so special. Last year, a counter person threw my wrapped bagel and schmear across the meat case at me. You will know the kind when you walk by and you see fire fighters, office workers and Hassidim ordering their lunches. Delis are in every nook and cranny of the city and you need to have one meal at one that treats you like the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld. Please order cheesecake without graham cracker crust, corned beef with mayo the size of a package and matzoh ball soup with chicken fat. Yes embrace the artery clogging foods of my homeland. I want to caution you not to order butter and mayo on your sandwich as this is New York City and many of the delis are kosher–not mixing dairy and meat. So no smoothies with your pastrami or cheese on your sliced beef tongue. You may see devout clients not mixing with the opposite sex. However, you will want to order kugel–a noodle pudding where the serving will be the size of a sidewalk slab and worth every calorie.
Hot dog and pretzel vendors get a bad reputation but you know it is part of the culture to grab a hot dog. If you do not want to venture into the sidewalk dining world of hot dog vendors, then head up to Papaya King at 179 East 86th Street. Gray’s Papaya is located at 402 East Sixth Avenue and at 2090 Broadway and 37th Street and the name implies the fruity drink concoctions available. To confuse you even more there is Papaya Dog located 333 Avenue of the Americas which is an offshoot of the original Papaya King. If you can follow this then you are ready for the New York City subway system. The story here is cheap hot dogs, cold drinks and the candy colored tropical concoctions. You come in, order quickly, rush to pay and dine standing up which is, in my mind, perfect. Why waste time when you can eat on the fly? You better not eat at any chain fast food restaurants, when you can dine like a prince on hot dogs just like the natives.
Italian food establishments that resemble the scene from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp really do exist in New York City. Mulberry Street in Little Italy east of SoHo or the Village is a fine area to explore a pasta meal, rich Italian desserts and emerging Italian cuisines. It is fine if you want to have a romantic dinner over scaloppini with a nice red wine but then again, you can experience that in any large city in the world, so choose wisely. Lunch is a wonderful option for the Italian, French and Asian restaurant startups which offer chef special without reservations. If you want to dine in a multiple star restaurant in New York City, be advised that you’re going to have to make a reservation with a restaurant’s Web site or with Open Table online.
I want to talk about “The Slice,” which to any newbie is a slice of pizza you can eat in or carry out. You will see one on every street that boast the best pizza in New York and that may be true. But it’s the atmosphere that I am talking about here. Imagine walking into a place with a flour encrusted counter and ordering a slice with a drink and still get change back from a five dollar bill. The staff will also smile and hurry you along but, again, this is an authentic experience– to sample the crust, toppings and cheese from a city that actually has a pizza heritage.
I know food snobs are reading this with the question of where are the hip, edgy and have to be seen restaurants? They are in New York City everywhere for every taste and budget and you can access them on the Web with Trip Advisor, Zagat and other gourmet-themed sites. My last meal in New York a few months ago was in the Members Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art –a sublime experience, with its extensive wine list, exotic menu and refined clientele. It is my wish for you to experience real down to earth New York City over the ubiquitous world of Starbucks, overinflated high end establishments and those that just are plain inferior in menu options.
Touring throughout the city can be as simple for you as asking the concierge at hotel for maps, signing up for a hop on and hop off overview of the city or walking tours of a certain neighborhood by an experienced guide. Do not let anyone shame you because you decided to take a guided tour by water or land as it is an excellent way to see the lay of the land or the congested areas of the city. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are accessible only by water so you must plan accordingly. Grayline Tours offers packages of the transportation and tickets bundled for the time sensitive traveler. If you are budget minded and do not wish to spend money on a taxi then use the Hop On and Hop Off tours for your transportation only. You may have some wait time but it is an easy alternative if you are staying in Lower Manhattan and want to go to Harlem or Brooklyn above the pavement. The outer boroughs have exciting venues, hotels and restaurants which warrant at least a few hours of time. Brooklyn is experiencing a renaissance of upscale hotels that are catering to the business and artistic clientele, waterfront revitalization and of course the Queen Mary 2 docks in her berths two times a week at her passenger terminal in Red Hook.
If you only have 72 hours in the city I would break it down to two museums, one area of shopping, one historical venue and one theater offering. Purchase or view online Access New York or Fodors Guides to see which of these offerings are of interest to you. Theater tickets are very expensive so you can decide to either stand in a long line in Times Square for “half off day” of or order online at full price at your theater of choice. It is a hard decision due to the fact that attending a Broadway production is an investment of time and money depending on your seat of choice. Off Broadway and small theaters also offer extraordinary talent and tickets are more obtainable at short notice. It is a very sound idea to access a New York Times or New Yorker Magazine before you trip to help you start making theater decisions early.
It is a solemn decision to take the time to visit the area where the pre 9/11 World Trade Center once stood. Reconstruction of the site is almost finished but there do remain memorial plaques, flowers and other mementos of that fateful day. It is a personal decision to visit and many of the modes of transportation do stop near the site for viewing. It is also most interesting to see the construction site with cranes at that height rebuilding both commercial and memorial real estate. Wall Street, Battery Park and the Sea Port area of the city are very interesting to venture at least half of a day due to their historical contributions to the island. I would like offer a hint that if you are visiting on a weekend or holiday there are many wonderful travel bargains in the financial district hotels and they are posh. Transportation to Upper Manhattan and the deserted streets may be a drawback but the hotels are underused when Wall Street is quiet.
Skyscrapers, the flat iron building, steel, glass, concrete, Gothic Revival, Green Design, Brownstone, Row House, Penthouse, Garden apartments, Modern and Pre War Design and Loft Dwelling. Urbanization, Revitalization and Renewal when describing the changes of existing space within the city.
Tunnel Neck, Dandy, bagel and schmear, slice, tube steak, Yoo Hoo drink, stoop, egg creams and soda, walk up, Bloomies, Bridge and Tunnel People and BBQ (Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens).
Egg Cream Soda
½ cup Seltzer water
½ cup milk
Chocolate syrup to taste
Pour the seltzer in a tall glass first or else it will bubble over. Pour in milk and stir in chocolate syrup until dissolved.
Nathan’s World Famous Beef Hot Dog
Egg Bread Hotdog Bun
Spicy Brown Mustard
Crepes and Cheese filled Blintzes
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 extra-large eggs
1 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons for baking the crepes and filled blintzes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound cream cheese
1 cup large-curd cottage cheese (pot style)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sour cream, optional
Mix the flour, sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer set on high, beat the eggs, water, butter and oil together until light yellow.
Pre-heat a crepe pan over medium-high until a droplet of water sprinkled on the pan sizzles. Brush the hot pan with butter, coating it well. Pour in 2 Tbsp. of batter and swirl to make a circle.
Fry crepes until lightly brown on bottom and turn out gently on a waxed or parchment paper on brown side up. Fill the crepes with one tbsp. of cheese filling; fold over into a rolled or envelope shape.
Just before serving fry gently in a little butter until golden on both side. Serve hot with applesauce, jams or sour cream. Makes 12 blintzes.
Brook Bryant is the Voyages editor for Haven Magazine. Her travels have taken her to 37 countries and 393 cities in the world. She is a Senior Contributor on Trip Advisor with 390,000 miles traveled in the past 15 years by sea, train, bus and air. She and her family reside in Duluth, Minnesota.
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