5 Nights in NYC for first timer

Dec 18th, 2009, 10:29 AM
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5 Nights in NYC for first timer

Wife and I are planning on 10 year anniversary in NYC in 2012 - Yeah, planning early.

Anyway, neither of us have been there and, of course, want to hit all the touristy spots as possible. We are probably going to be walking as much as possible, and plan on staying at the Waldorf Astoria. I looked at most of the bus tours as guides as to areas to hit, but wanted opinions/guidance.

Day 1 - Travel. Won't get into NYC til probably 7:30 pm or later. What's the best way to get to the hotel? Taxi, town car, etc. Probably won't have much time that night after a full day of travel (over 14 hours of travel from Montana), but may walk to Times Square to get a "feel" for the city right away.

Day 2 (in no order yet, but please help out you pros) - Little Italy, Chinatown, Radio City, Ground Zero, 42nd Street, Battery Park for SOL and Ellis.

Day 3 - Central Park, Theater District, Rockefeller Plaza (top of the rock), St. Pats, Fifth/sixth ave, American Museum of Natural History (probably pick a part of it, too much to see it all), Cathedral of St. John the Devine, the Met.

Day 4 - Brooklyn Bridge, Botanical Garden, Coney Island

Fifth Day - Somewhere in there we are planning a Yankee game too.

This is going to be in the middle of August and still want to put in Grand Central and Strawberry Fields as well. The order may be way out of whack, but I was just pulling from the "loop" destinations.

Again, we are trying to squeeze as much as we can, though it's not a very "relaxing" trip. After the 5 nights we are then spending 4 in Boston.
montanaman is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 10:40 AM
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Since you have all this time to plan, the first thing you will do is go to mta.info and learn all about public buses and subways.

Walking is fine and you will do lots of it but you will buy a 7 day metrocard and use it!

You will take a subway to the farthest point on your days itinerary and walk and/or take public buses and subways back. In the August humidity there will be times when you will want to hop into an air conditioned bus.

The 12.5 mile length of Manhattan - or smallest borough - is not 9 minutes on the open high way. It is a space where 1.3 million people live and probably 2x that number visit or come to work in daily. You WILL use your foot power for the places you want to explore but you will travel like a New Yorker to save energy in-between. You have many months to plan so enjoy the process but get your head around public transportation early in the process.
SueNYC is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 11:08 AM
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Can you tell us more about yourselves--likes, dislikes, special interests. We don't know if you should squeeze in any of this , or which to say to drop, without knowing a bit about you.

You've made a list of many popular sights but which ones are must-sees for YOU and which ones are less important?

Day 3 sounds insane. Too many things lumped together all over the city and a few of them could take half the day, between visiting time and travel ling time.

Day 4 . . . Why Coney Island?

Is Day 5 your departure day or do you depart on Day 6?
ellenem is online now  
Dec 18th, 2009, 11:55 AM
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There's lots of time for you to plan this, but there's a few things I notice right off the bat. You mention a walk to Times Square to get the feel for NYC. To get ther real feel for NYC you should walk in one of it's neighborhoods with many residents, restaurants, parks, etc. like Greenwich Village. Stroll around and find a local spot to eat. Do a little people watching (especially in the summer when you can sit outdoors). Washington Square Park is always full of life. And by the summer of 2012 the renovation should be complete.

Times Square is very tourist oriented and a bit chaotic. There are some decent restaurants, but also many tourist traps and chains. Same goes for shopping there. There's nothing wrong with checking it out, every tourist should, but you could probably squeeze that in especially if you plan on seeing a Broadway play (which is the same area). It doesn't take much time to "see" it.

You also mention Strawberry Field. That is in Central Park (which you also mention) and close to the Museum of Natural History. Things like that can be done together.

I wouldn't bother with COney Island. Not worth the time and effort. There's so much else to do right in the Manhattan without having to venture out.

For starters, you should buy a good map of NYC to get a feel for where things that you want to see are. Also get a subway map (probably can print one for the MTA website). Then plan your days accordingly by focusing on 1 or 2 areas.

Hop on/off bus tours may also be a nice way to get a feel for the lay of the land.

You have more than enough time to plan, and keep in mind the during the summer months there are many happenings all around town, many of which are free.
MFNYC is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 01:00 PM
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Thanks for the quick replies.

Coney Island - only because the wife has it on her "bucket list". I'm sure we can take it off the list, but if it's anywhere near the Brooklyn Bridge, we may as well take a photo to say we've been there since we want to walk the bridge.

Day 5 is a full day in NYC. Day 6 we plan on heading to Boston early morning.

I probably didn't express the feel for NYC accurately with Times Square, but, like the strip in Vegas, it's sort of an icon. Since we will be getting to the hotel probably after 9:30, we don't want to miss out on any time, but realize there isn't going to be much that we can do until the morning.

Great idea on taking public Trans. out to furthest point and make our way back. Done that in Vegas plenty of times and works great!

As far as likes/dislikes, I'm afraid I'm going to be a bit vague. We really can enjoy just about anything. Some of the "musts" if I can call them that:

Little Italy, Chinatown, SOL/Ellis, Times Square, Theater District, Central Park, the Rock, St. Pats, Fifth/Sixth ave, Met, Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee game. My wife is also a chef, so we are going to definately be looking at some gems for meals - not the chain gain joints.

I'll look up Washington Square Park - hadn't seen anything about it.

I first was looking at the bus tours (that's where the day plan originally came from with the Downtown/Uptown/Brooklyn loops), but after looking at a few hundred poor reviews, I'm real cautious - though I certainly wouldn't mind taking the 2 hour tour each day to start the day, and then go from there.

Thanks again for helping plan our trip!
montanaman is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 01:17 PM
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"Coney Island - only because the wife has it on her "bucket list". I'm sure we can take it off the list, but if it's anywhere near the Brooklyn Bridge, we may as well take a photo to say we've been there since we want to walk the bridge."

Uh--nowhere near the bridge. It's at the opposite end of Brooklyn.

I agree with others--the absolute first thing you need to do is look at a good map!

Prioritize what you want to see, and how much time you like to spend. Some people are fine with 30-60 minutes visits at museums, some would spend 5 hours. Same for other types of activities, and only you know your interests.

Try to organize things roughly by location but you don't need to go crazy with this . For example there are a dozen museums within a 20 block strip on Fifth Avenue, but you certainly wouldn't plan to go to 5 in one day. Just don't try to run all over the place in one day just to see something for 15 minutes.

For everything else, check back in a year
Some things will always be appealing, but things come and go and by then you might might something else you really want to see here
nyer is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 01:34 PM
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Dear montanaman:

Here is a link to my trip report from September:


Search here for trip reports to give you an idea of what you would like to see and logistics. Your first night you could wander to Rockafeller Plaza and perhaps get a night view from the top of the Rock.

Good luck and feel free to ask for help here.

MichelleY is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 01:56 PM
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Just wondering . . . by "the Met", do you mean the Metropolitan Museum or the Metropolitan Opera? Both are nicknamed "the Met."

Coney Island is an hour from the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge by subway--a long distance to go for little reward.

Keep in mind that an actual visit to the Statue of Liberty and/or Ellis Island will take up at least half of one day because of lines and security checks, even with reserved tickets.

Please do get a map and mark the sights you want to see on it. You'll begin to see natural groupings for each of your days.
ellenem is online now  
Dec 18th, 2009, 02:13 PM
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Both days 2 and 3 are more than you'll be able to handle in one day.
Does the Fodor's NY guide list suggest 3- and 5-day itineraries? If so, I'd use them as a starting point.
HowardR is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 03:41 PM
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I know I am in the minority here, but my husband and I loved going to Coney Island. We are "beach People" and are always interested in other beaches than we are familiar with, and the beach and boardwalk at Coney Island was wonderful for us to see. The carnival atmosphere was great as was the freak show....yes, they still have one, and it is guaranteed to bring out your inner child. A lot of the subway ride is above ground so you get to see various neighborhoods go by, give your feet a needed rest, and cool off in an air conditioned train from the heat of August, dip your feet in the water, and grab a Nathan's hot dog and lemonade before the trip back. Too bad you aren't coming in June for the Mermaid parade, it's a blast.
JADSJBD is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 04:01 PM
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I am sure your itinerary will change daily until two weeks before the trip. As many have noted spend some time here and you will get many contradictory ideas. All correct.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 04:23 PM
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Here are your "musts", from north to south: Yankee game, Central Park, the Met (assume you mean Metropolitan Museum of Art), St. Pat's, Rockefeller Center, Times Square/Theater District, Little Italy/Chinatown, Brooklyn Bridge, SOL and Ellis Island. Maybe this will help you start planning. 5th/6th Avenues (why 6th Avenue?) are, of course, parallel and run for quite a long way! Heed others' advice and take a good look at a map. Also bear in mind that the city may be stiflingly hot in August, which may limit your willingness to walk long distances. (But the subway stations are even hotter.)
azzure is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 05:48 PM
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Well - you have at least twice as many things as you can possibly do. Natural History and the Met in one day - simply no doable.

Do not bother with Coney Island - it's more than an hour from Manhattan - and at the moment a whole lot of not much. If you want a NY hot dog just head to Gray's Papaya.

As to how to get form the airport to the hotel - there are a whole host of options - depending on which of the 3 airports you land at.

And you won;t have a clue if the Yankees are in town for quite a while (but do buy tickets as soon as they go on ale for the season to get decent seats at a reasonable price).

Not sure why you're going to the Waldorf Astoria - when you get closer people can advise you of options that might be better deals. (The pubic areas are luxurious, the rooms very mixed and it's usually not a great deal.)

And, sorry, but Times Square is the worst of New York - not the best.

I think you should do some more in-depth research (since you have so much time) to look at the various museum web sites and see what you want to see there - and how long it might take. (Either the Met or Natural History can take 2 full days - so you need to pick just a couple of thing in each.)

Statue of Liberty (buy tickets far - months - in advance and the Ellis Island museum, including security lines and ferries to and fro will take at least 6 hours - so you need to start early (8 am ferry) and plan little else for that day.

Little Italy i practically gone and the restaurants that are left are no great shakes - much better elsewhere in the city.

Eating in general is much better in the residential areas - not midtown - with a much greater selection of good food in inexpensive and moderate price points.

Agree to get a good city map with the location of sights indicated as well as a subway map - it will make planning things in the same area easier. (Do not use the routes of bus tours to guide you - they wander all over the city - and you don;t actually go inside anyplace - so there is no way you can "cover" the same territory as a tour.)
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 18th, 2009, 10:36 PM
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Times Square may be tacky and touristy, but it's well worth a trip, especially on your first night there. It is just so overwhelmingly busy and energetic and bright, it would be a terrible shame not go.

Grand Central Terminal is amazing, please don't miss it. It is also close to the Chrysler Building, and an easy walk to the UN Building, which was a highlight of our visit a few years ago.

If you go to a Yankee's game, be prepared to be unbearably hot until the sun goes down unless you are sitting in the shade. It's worth it, but it's uncomfortable.
cferrb is offline  
Dec 19th, 2009, 08:40 AM
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I am surprised no one has mentioned Big Apple Greeters - I just returned from maybe my 10th visit to the city and signed up for the Big Apple Greeters experience for first time - what a gem! Its a free service - they meet you at your hotel, take you on the subway so you get familiar with the system, and take you to any part of the city you request. I opted for "Greeter's Choice" and ended up in lower Manhattan - even tho I had visited that part of the city before, this time I learned many new things. Another suggestion - do an eating and walking tour thru Little Italy and adjacent areas - another fantastic NYC experience that is not too pricey.
suec1 is online now  
Dec 19th, 2009, 10:43 AM
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Agree Big Apple Greeter is a great idea to help you get acclimatized on your first day. Do reserve one far in advance, since there are many more requests than there are greeters. They are volunteers and do not accept pay or tips - but if you stop for a snack or meal while with one you should certainly play host.

If there is an area you would especially like to see, ask - but you may or may not be someone familiar with that area available. Generally they will give you about 3 hours. They will be happy to answer any questions and help you understand how the city works - you just need to have an open mind and a positive attitude. A friend of mine used to do this but gave it up after he had 2 bad experiences - one with a family including 2 teens, all of whom disliked everything about NYC (weather, traffic, crowds etc) and a couple (foreign) who treated him as if he were a servant (I think because he was African American). (LIttle did they know he could have bought and sol them 3 times over - but after early retirement volunteered because of his love the city and interest in helping visitors.)
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 19th, 2009, 04:41 PM
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Thanks for all the great ideas and suggestions - this is why we are starting to plan this far out!
montanaman is offline  
Dec 19th, 2009, 04:46 PM
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Also, if we don't do Coney, that really opens up another day. And the Yankee game really keeps half a day open too. Considering the time we have, it's really going to be more about hitting as many tourist spots as possible (unfortunately). We both know that many memorible events are not at the touristy spots, we just don't know when we'll be making it back with the other trips already in the works.

The reason for the Waldorf - wife's choice. No other reason.
montanaman is offline  
Dec 19th, 2009, 04:57 PM
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Perhaps your wife should begin looking at other options, just to know what's out there. She might find something with an unfamiliar name that will offer you more of what she wants for a five-night stay. Since you may not be back soon again, better to choose a hotel based on more than a well-known name.
ellenem is online now  
Dec 19th, 2009, 08:34 PM
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Thanks ellenem. One thing for sure though is that we want it to be within walking distance of Times Square and first class accommodations (4.5 to 5 star). Any recommendations would be welcomed.
montanaman is offline  

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