This weekend was my annual summer weekend trip to New York. I took the Acela Express from Boston.
Upon arrival at Penn Station, I purchased a MetroCard and caught the E subway line to Lexington/53rd St and walked the few blocks south along Lexington Ave to my hotel, the Marriott East Side. I’ve stayed at this hotel the past few years, as I usually find a reasonable AAA rate and it is a very convenient location, close to public transit and easy to walk to many locations. I checked in and received room 3202 on the 32nd floor. One disadvantage to this hotel is the elevators are fairly slow even though there are 2 elevator banks: one for the lower floors and one for the upper floors. After dropping my bag in the room, I walked up to have dinner at Brasserie which is located in the Seagram building on 53rd St between Lexington and Park. It is another one of my traditions to start my trip with dinner there if staying nearby. I always enjoy the food and it’s always easy to get in without a reservation. They seem to run busy, but not completely full. I began my meal with a pear martini while enjoying the baguette and disc of unsalted butter they bring to the table. I really enjoyed the martini, as it was bursting with flavor and made me feel like I was biting into a juicy, ripe pear with every sip. I then moved on to the onion soup and then the steak frites and then finished the meal with the chocolate beignets.
Saturday I was out the door by 7:15am and on my way to Norma’s at Le Parker Meridien Hotel for breakfast. I didn’t make a reservation, but they open at 7:30am on weekends and since I was early I didn’t need one. Upon being seated they bring over a complementary smoothie of the day shot and today it was orange, pineapple, banana. I would have ordered a full size portion of it since I really liked it, but I thought the smoothie and an entrée would be too filling for me since I normally don’t eat breakfast. I ordered an orange juice and the PB&C Wafflewich. This is a chocolate waffle that they slice in half, so you end up with 2 thin waffles. They then stuff peanut butter and a little toffee crunch in between the waffles and put them together and then top the whole thing with fresh whipped cream. I love chocolate and peanut butter, so I really enjoyed it, but couldn’t finish the whole thing. I would definitely go back and have it again!
Next I walked back to the hotel to get ready to go to the Bronx Zoo for the day. I walked over to Madison and 47th St to get the BxM11 bus. This is a very easy way to get to the zoo. It runs right up Madison Ave and makes several stops in Manhattan and then the Zoo is the first stop in the Bronx. One thing to note is that the bus is set up more like a long distance bus rather than a traditional city bus so there is no cord or strip to press to signal for your stop. There is a button above each seat (next to the light) that is the stop signal. Luckily on the way there the driver made all stops whether you signaled or not, but on the way back you had to signal. I couldn’t figure out where the signal was for the longest time, which is why I mention it. I arrived at the zoo about 10:15am. The bus lets you out on a corner and you must walk beneath an underpass which brings you to the zoo gate. I purchased a Total Experience ticket which entitles you to all exhibits. They also offer a basic/general admission ticket which does not include a few of the exhibits. You would be able to see most of the animals with the basic ticket but not all, so I suggest getting the total ticket. I took my map and began my tour of the zoo starting with the flamingos, sea birds and then birds of prey. Next I moved on to the sea lions and there was cute baby sea lion. Next stop was the Madagascar exhibit and then around to the rhinos, Congo Gorilla exhibit and then the giraffes. Next I took what should have been a quick snack break but the food service was some of the slowest I’ve experienced at a zoo or theme park. All I wanted was a bag of chips and a bottle of water and the line took 20 mins with only 4 parties in front of me. After my snack I spent time in the Asia area and Jungle exhibit before taking a ride on the monorail. I finished up my visit in the Himalayas and Tiger Mountain. I really enjoyed this zoo—I got lots of nice photos of the animals and it was great because they all seemed to be active and moving or at least sitting where you could see them. Sometimes when you go to the zoo the animals are hard to see, so I got lucky today being able to spot almost everything.
I took the 3:28pm bus back to Manhattan and made a stop at Two Little Red Hens bakery before heading back to my hotel. I got a Brooklyn Blackout cupcake and a traditional American yellow cake cupcake. I had been there before and gotten one of their regular cupcakes that have a sort of meringue icing which I didn’t like, so I wanted to see how the American cupcakes with the butter cream compared. I saved the cupcakes away for sampling later.
I arrived back at my hotel about 4:45pm so I had just enough time to drop my jacket back at the room before heading out again for an early dinner. I walked to Grand Central and took the S subway to Times Square where I walked to Havana Central. I had a mojito and the Ropa Vieja with black beans and yellow rice. The Ropa Vieja was good, though not the best I’ve ever had, but I liked it quite a bit. I skipped dessert but did have a cortadito (Cuban coffee cut with milk). Since I didn’t have dessert (yet) I walked over to Schmackery’s for a cookie. I chose a dirty leprechaun which is a chocolate cookie with mint chips. The cookie was of medium size, tasty and very minty.
The next stop on my itinerary was supposed to be South Street Seaport to get the 7:45pm NY Water Taxi Statue by Night cruise, but being dumb I had forgotten both my subway map and street map in my hotel room, so I had to go back there to get them or I’d be wandering around aimlessly. I then took the 6 to Brooklyn Bridge and walked to the Seaport only to find the cruise was sold out. I suspected that might end up being the case since I arrived with just 15 minutes to spare. My fault for forgetting the maps and having to make a detour. I had wanted to book the cruise ahead online which is what I normally would do, but since the weather for the weekend was uncertain, with rain showers predicted and they don’t give refunds, I didn’t want to be holding a ticket for a boat cruise on a rainy night when the statue and the skyline would be obscured. So, even though I have walked across the Brooklyn Bridge several times before, I trudged back up to the bridge to make the walk across to Brooklyn. I then went to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and waited for it to get dark so I could take some night photos of the Manhattan skyline. Got back in the subway at Clark and took the 3 to Chambers St where I switched to the 1 for Christopher St. My plan was to find the West Village location of Big Gay Ice Cream and give them a try. I found it after going the wrong direction at first. They were pretty busy but the line went quickly. The premise here is soft serve ice cream creations, mostly cones, though they have some sundaes in cups as well. One might wonder what the big deal is about soft serve ice cream—what is so special about that? Well, if you are a soft serve connoisseur, you know that different brands taste slightly different and have different textures. The ice cream here is really good! Very flavorful and creamy and not watery/melty. Anyway, the claim to fame is they take soft serve and dress it up. I chose the Bea Arthur. This is a cone of vanilla soft serve, striped with dulce de leche sauce and rolled in crushed Nilla Wafers. I thought it was delicious! I can’t wait to go again and either get the same thing or try something else!
I walked over to W 4th St and got the E train back to my hotel. I’d pretty much been on my feet since 7am that morning so they were exhausted. Of course I still had the cupcakes from Two Little Red Hens and since my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I had gotten two, I had to make the decision to eat only half of each. It is a shame to waste a cupcake, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to eat them both later. The Brooklyn Blackout was great—rich, moist and fudgy. I also really liked the yellow American cupcake. I much preferred the butter cream icing to their meringue icing on their other cupcakes.
Sunday I stored my bag with bell services and set out for Rockefeller Center. My plan was to go to the Top of the Rock at 8am and then do the 10am Rockefeller Center Tour. I’d done Top of the Rock before but I’d been at night, so this time decided to go during the day. I bought a Rock Pass which is an entry to Top of the Rock and the Rockefeller Center Tour and it saves money to buy the pass instead of buying both separately. Normally, they book you to go up Top after your tour, but I wanted to go before my tour. It took a little doing, as the girl selling the ticket needed help from another attendant to make the switch to give me the tour after I went up to the observation deck, but they eventually got it done. The elevator up to the observation deck is unique in that it has a clear ceiling so if you look up as you ascend you can see the inside of the elevator shaft. It wasn’t the clearest morning outside but the view was still nice. There are 3 levels that you can look out on.
At 9am I went to Magnolia Bakery and got a mini peanut butter ice box pie to eat for “breakfast”. I loved the pie, the filling was very nutty but the crust was a little thick.
I met for my Rockefeller Center tour at the Will Call ticket desk at 9:45am for a 10am start. You are given a headset so you can hear the guide. We started in the GE building before heading outside. The tour talks about the history of Rockefeller Center buildings and about various works of art you see throughout. Each tour may be a little different depending on who you get for a guide. The tour lasts about 1 hour and 15 min.
After the tour I hopped in the F subway and got off at W4th St and walked to Murray’s Cheese for lunch. I got a Murray’s Melt which is a grilled cheese with their special blend of cheeses. Since there is no place to eat there, I took the sandwich down the street (turn right as you exit the shop) to a park to eat there. Careful, this is a very melty, cheesy sandwich so beware of dripping cheese. I really enjoyed it and it had a unique flavor. After lunch I walked down 6th Ave to W. Houston and walked along to the Lower East Side. I wanted to go to Laboratorio del Gelato, but hadn’t realized they had moved to Ludlow St! So I went to Orchard St for nothing! Oh well, I continued on my way and took Delancey St and walked up and over the Williamsburg Bridge to Williamsburg Brooklyn. By the time I got there my feet were getting tired, as they still hadn’t fully recovered from yesterday. I walked up and down the various streets. There are lots of little shops, restaurants and cafes. I happened upon the Williamsburg Creamery and stopped for an ice cream. I got a small cup of chocolate peanut butter oreo. It was pretty good.
I got the L train to Union Square where I switched to a 6 to Spring St. You see, due to the heat of the day, I decided to make this into an ice cream sampling trip. I was now in search Mo Gelato. I found it and chose a medium with pistachio and toasted almond (the flavor of the day). The portion was really small for $6, but it was good gelato. Probably some of the best I’ve had outside of Italy—mainly because it was served at the correct temperature.
I walked to W4th (as C and E was not stopping at Spring St this weekend I think) to take the subway to 14th St to visit Chelsea Market. I like taking photos inside the market building, as there are some interesting features there, but I failed to realize how busy it would be. Usually I go there on Saturday morning and there are not many people there, but today it was packed so it was hard to move. I stopped at Fat Witch to get some brownies to bring home to share with family members not on the trip (caramel, java and chocolate flavors). I really like their brownies which are dense and fudgy.
Next I walked over to 6th Ave and down to BLT Burger for an early dinner before heading back to Boston. I got the Steakhouse Burger (blend of 3 cuts of beef and caramelized onions) and added American cheese and a mocha mudslide shake (yes, more ice cream). The burger was okay but not outstanding. In fact, I think Shake Shack has better burgers. I don’t think I’d bother going back. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just that there are so many other places to try, that I just can’t justify returning to places that I don’t find spectacular to my taste.
I walked over to Union Square to get the 6 train back to my hotel to pick up my bag. I was able to sit in the hotel lobby and enjoy the air conditioning for a little while before heading out again to the get the E train to Penn Station. Luckily my 6:05p train back to Boston was on time!
Every time I go to New York I come up with other things I want to do the next trip. I think I’d like to go on a Big Onion walking tour, do a New York City Photo Safari photography tour or go to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone. There are so many things to do it would take years to do them all!
Trip report: New York City
This weekend was my annual summer weekend trip to New York. I took the Acela Express from Boston.
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