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Best First Thing to Do in Manhattan - & Advice re Itinerary!


Jun 11th, 2012, 02:28 AM
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Best First Thing to Do in Manhattan - & Advice re Itinerary!

Hello All.

This incredible site has been instrumental in helping me plan my surprise visit to NY for my 14-yr-old daughter. So far, I have three plays booked - a huge feat (see related thread - I still can't get over how helpful and generous everyone is with their time).

My daughter has never been to NY before. The last time I was there was around 20 years ago, when I was in my 20's. At that time, I'd come in often, in short spurts, mainly to see a lot of theatre, jam-packed in a few days. I never really did sightseeing, except to walk my socks off and revel in the energy of NY and its incredible buildings.

My dd and I are arriving Monday, July 30th, and staying 8 full days, until Tuesday, August 7th.

We'll be staying at 54th St. between Park and Madison. On July 30th, we're arriving at the airport at 2 p.m, and I figure should be at the hotel by about 4:00 (?).

My question is: What is the best first thing to do with her, in order to give her an orientation, context of where we are - you know, to get her bearings. I wasn't sure whether a bus-ride/boat-ride/walk around the neighbourhood....would be best.

My next question, and here I hope I'm not requesting too much. I've been amazed at all the advice on the many threads relating to NY. I have read a ton, and from all the wonderful suggestions, including on my former thread, have made a list of what I'd like to include in the trip.

I'm not sure how to best put this list together in terms of logistics, what goes best with what, subway, etc. to make best use of the time. (I don't know how to use the subway, but I know there's a site somewhere that I'll read up on). I want to be able to have time with her to really enjoy, and not feel we have to pack everything in, yet of course give her the basics and most exciting things for her.

So my list is the following: please let me know what you think, including if it's unrealistic to expect to accomplish it all:

Oh, one further note that readers of my former thread who have been so kind and concerned will already know: my dd has just had a two -month full leg cast removed after a bad break. She's still using crutches, and gradually bearing more weight on her leg. Our physiotherapist says she should be fine by the end of July, but I imagine that we'll have to take it easy(ish) - at least it won't be the same walking potential as if she had never broken it.

So, here's the list (again, with thanks to the NY experts!):

Top of the Rock
Tenement Museum
Met - including costume exhibit (great suggestion from other thread)
Grand Central Station
Ellis Island
Boat Ride (although maybe to Ellis Island is enough?)
Brooklyn Bridge
Grimaldi's Pizza
Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory/Il Labortoria del Gelato/Vosges and Maribelle/Serendipity/Jacquest Tores - all suggestions from threads!! (Obviously we won't get to all, but one or two would be great, depends how it fits logistically)
Dylan's Candy Bar or Economy Candy
Ellen's Stardust Diner (much debate on this one-see former theatre thread!!)
Times Square (we'll be there for shows, but also need to stroll around)
Toys 'R Us (I hear for Ferris Wheel)
Central Park - I hear a bike ride is a ton of fun
different neighbourhoods - Greenwich Village, etc.
NY Public Library
Apple Store (with FAO behind it, I hear..)
5th Avenue
9/11 Museum
Columbia (she has this dream of going there, without ever having been there! I figure she should see it first!)
Rock and Roll Annex - have no idea about this - read one thing on it, but sounds cool
Shopping!! (ideas all from these threads, including on Broadway and 5th Ave-a few blocks before Rock Centre and between Rock Centre and Central Park and on 5th between 15 & 23rd)

This may be too much - I have no idea...

On the other hand, maybe I'm missing some must-sees...please let me know.

So far, the Givens (not many) are the following:

Monday, July 30th - arrival, around 4-ish
Tuesday night - Wicked
Thursday night - Once
Saturday - will meet with husband's family for 1/2 day and other 1/2 to the Moma
Monday night - Newsies.
Tuesday - we have the entire day, just have to be at airport at 9 p.m.

My dd is really bright, and is interested in art, museums, books, music, science, dancing (she tap dances although not lately.. ..), laughing, fashion and big-time...SHOPPING! She likes anything Apple-related, television/movies, and basically anything cool...like any 14-year-old girl!

One last thing - Someone suggested "Real New York Tours" - I checked it out, and it sounds amazing (I think #2 on Trip Advisor) - but because of my dd's leg situation, not sure this would work. In fact, it does say that unless you can keep up at a fast pace, the tour is not for you. (6 hours walking). If one needs a more personalized tour because of that, one can take a private tour - ...at $350.00. It sounds amazing, got great reviews, and I'm sure would be a great orientation for the first full day, Tuesday, but I'm not sure it's necessary. Any thoughts?

Forgive me for this outrageously long post! And any help at all coordinating a logical plan would be most appreciated!

Thanks, Tamara
tamaraten is offline  
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Jun 11th, 2012, 04:00 AM
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ps. I have to add in Crumbs (on Madison Ave.) and M&M Store!
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Jun 11th, 2012, 04:38 AM
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The first thing I would do is head to Top of the Rock to get an overview of the city from above. BUT, before you go you shuold get - and both study - a goo street map of the city as well as a subway map. You can use hopstop.com to find the best routes between any two places in the city and the website of any sight willlist the nearest subway station.

Do not do the long bus tours - you just spend a lot of time sitting in trafic in the hot sun.

I would add the Museum of Nat'l History (great minerals and gems and human evolution if not the dinos). And I would do Central Park on foot. The bike rides are fine - but you MUST stick to the very limited roads - adults aren;t allowed to ride bikes on any sidewalks or park paths in NYC (only kids - as in little kids on trikes) - so you will miss seeing alot of things.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 04:51 AM
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I agree. I would just get out and start walking!

I would definitely add Soho and Chinatown to your list. (i think in terms of neighborhoods, generally lower Manhattan is probably better for you to wander)

If you walk the Brooklyn Bridge and dont' want to walk both ways be sure you walk from Brooklyn towards Manhattan. That's the view you want.

I thought Jacques Torres was overrated. Their products are available now in a variety of places anyway, I"m pretty sure.

I will get the name from my D of this wonderful little place in Soho that has fabulous homemade gelato and candies and a very charming little cafe inside. Soho has galleries, shopping, adorable places to eat, etc.

Definitely Dylan's Candy Bar. Better than Economy Candy, which has more nostalgia appeal for adults. Dylan's is more of a bright, whiz bang place.

When you go to Top of the Rock, be sure to stop and see Rockefeller Center (which I'm sure you'll do!) and don't forget to see the wonderful gardens that are in the plaza that comes down from Fifth Avenue.

For the boat ride, you can either just take the Staten Island Ferry, or do the Ellis Island tour. Both boats will take you so you can see the Statue of Liberty; I've never actually stopped on the island to visit the Statue itself. I think it would be quite a long and tiring day to try to fit both the Statue and Ellis Island in together, but I might be wrong. IF you reserve your boat tickets in advance, there is a shorter line when you arrive.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 05:56 AM
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tamaraten - When we went last year for 6 nights with our 13yr old and 10 yr old boys we did lots...

For my kids the Statue of Liberty was key to knowing they were in New York, so the first night we arrived we took the Staten Island ferry across and back - free and gave us a view of the statue and the skyline.

First full day we did a full day private tour with Real New York tours - we opted for the private tour so that we could do it completely at our own pace and it was perfect. I e-mailed the company and listed a huge list of 'the kind of things we would be interested in' and I think they pretty much incorporated every one The guide (Fabrice but I am sure they are all great) had researched all the things I had mentioned - even sort of obscure things - and worked them in. It was a great orientation for the first day - we covered lots and lots of ground and got much more of a sense of the city than we would have alone. For example, my son wanted to find 'funky t-shirts' and had found a store online, and so Fabrice included stopping by the store (and pointing out some other interesting things while we were there) so later in the week when it was actually time to shop, we were able to find it right away. Especially with 4 of us, the price difference for a private vs public tour wasn't huge, but even if it had only been two of us, I would definitely reccomend it. Like I said, they can tailor the guide and the content 100% to what you want to do. You could also set the pace for your daughters foot...

We got 5 day New York Passes and used them for Top of the Rock & Empire State Building; Bike rental which we used to bike across the brooklyn bridge; NY city water taxi; Food on Foot walking tour, Statue of Liberty (didn't go in) and Ellis Island; Intrepid museum, Guggenheim, MOMA, the MET, museum of natural history; NBC studio tour, Harry Potter exhibit. Plus we saw 3 broadway shows, did some shopping. That is definitely a long list now that I write it! But it worked for us... the benefit of the pass was permission to not like something. i.e. the Guggenheim - we enjoyed the building more than the art. Some things (like the Harry Potter exhibit and the NBC studio tour) we wouldn't have done without the pass - and for us it really worked not to have to worry about any specific thing was 'worth it'. It was very full, but it worked out well for us. Everyone picked up at least a couple of 'highlights' and everyone wanted to come back again this summer.

This time, we are fitting less in and have more 'wandering' time built in - but I don't think we would have been as prepared to do that without having packed in everything that we did! For example, we have one day where we are going to go to the Lower East Side Tenement museum with a tour at 11am, and then spend the afternoon wandering around Chinatown, sampling as many $1 a plate fried dumplings as we can find, so see how they compare to the 5 for $1 dumplings Fabrice took us to during our walking tour...

Sorry for a long winded answer that didn't really answer!

In short... I would reccommend the Real New York walking tour on the first day. After that, our experience was that there is so much to see and do, that there is nothing 'can't miss' because if you missed something, you were doing something else, and you shouldn't have missed that either!
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Jun 11th, 2012, 06:45 AM
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I can understand that you would want to go to the glass cube Apple store on 5th, but it is unbelievably crowded and your daughter will probably not get her hands on products to play with which can be frustrating for an Apple lover. When you go to Grand Central, do the audio self tour and visit the new Apple store. It is usually not very crowded and you can play to your hearts content and sit if she needs to rest her leg.

Visit Central Park on a weekend when it is likely that there will be lots of 'street' entertainers. Common areas are Bethesda Fountain and the Mall (north end by the band shell and south end by statues of Columbus and Shakespeare), but as you walk, you may find them anywhere. The entertainment varies from rap, dancing, classical music, jazz, etc. Some of these people are very talented.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 06:46 AM
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Oh, and when you're at the Met, go up to the roof. There's a very cool outdoor exhibit.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 07:35 AM
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You need: A good map.

I wouldn't bother with Grimaldi's Pizza nor with the Brooklyn Ice Cream Co, nor with Jacques Torres. The best part of the Brooklyn Bridge experience is walking (or driving) from Brooklyn TO Manhattan. It's a long walk, you might want to take a cab for this.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 07:44 AM
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I have already suggested going to TOTR first thing, but anything you choose will be wonderful.

However, the free Staten Island Ferry will be packed at that time with the start of all the commuter travel but it should be on your list too. Remember that you must disembark and then re-board the ferry once on S.I. and returning to Manhattan.

The Real New York tours take some time, not sure she nor you would really appreciate this walking tour at the end of your first day after traveling, settling in, etc.

If you're staying near a Crumbs bakery, you might want to stop in there for a little "Hello, New York!" cupcake. There's a really good Limited in that area, I believe.

You have plenty of time to enjoy some of the neighborhoods of New York City; take it easy and take little bites of each. The best parts of New York City are also things that aren't necessarily listed in the guidebooks. Allow yourself enough flexibility to discover your favorites.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 07:44 AM
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When we are in New York City we always take a long walk, following this general path: Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Broadway Theater District, Murray Hill, Gramercy Park, Chelsea, the Meat Packing District, Greenwich Village, SoHo, the East Village, the Lower East Side, Little Italy, Chinatown, Brooklyn Bridge and Wall Street.

If you time is limited, you could take the subway to the area of the High Line: http://www.thehighline.org 

From there you could meander through Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and eventually to the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Jun 11th, 2012, 08:05 AM
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Continue north after visiting Columbia University to visit The Cloisters, the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Ft. Tryon Park!

It's magnificent.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 08:22 AM
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There's nothing better than a lazy walk in Manhattan! If it were me and my DD, I'd walk from your hotel toward Fifth Avenue (head west), then up Fifth Avenue (north) toward Central Park, a little around Central Park, then down Fifth Avenue toward Rock Center, and back to hotel before dinner.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 11:16 AM
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I agree with Bowsprit, forget Grimaldi's pizza. You will have at least a 2 hour wait and it is not worth the wait. It is a big tourist trap. Right around the corner is a pizza restaurant that is just as good with hardly no waiting called Ignazio's. If you do venture to the area definitely check out the Brooklyn Ice Cream co. and sit in the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge park and enjoy.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 11:25 AM
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nytravelr & bowsprit- I definitely need to get a map - a paper one- to have beside me when I'm reading all these wonderful suggestions! And nytravlr - interesting that you said not to do the bus tours - it helps me a lot to have a realistic assessment of things. Also helps to eliminate possibilities.

skatedancer - thanks for suggestions, and especially helping me remove something from the list (Economy Candy). One less thing to feel obligated to do.

vcanada - thanks for comprehensive answer! Please don't apologize for being long-winded - I appreciate every word - it's so helpful to me. It really sounds as though you truly maximized your trip, and really wisely. I'm really considering the Real New York Tour for the first day.

centralparkgirl - thanks for Apple store tip. I want to go to GCS anyways, so we will go to Apple there. But, is the Apple Store on 5th impressive from the outside if we just pass by?

Bowsprit - re Grimaldi's and Brooklyn Ice Cream - are they just all hype and a real disappointment in reality? Wow. They have received such great reviews all over the place. If we take a subway to Brooklyn in order to walk the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, as you and others suggested, would it still be a waste to go there? (ie. is it close to the start of the Bridge? - sorry, don't have my map yet...). Also, I think vCanada meant the Real New York Tour to be on our first full day there (ie. the day after we actually arrive). I like the TOTR suggestion for the first thing to do (thanks also nytravlr). It makes sense and will give perspective, especially since you mention the packed ferry at that time which was my other top choice for the first thing to do. Thank you - that narrows it down a lot.

Maybe TOTR and a walk as suggested by sf7303 (thanks for the route sf7303!) for a first thing to do would be good.

Question re TOTR - I've read a lot about the extremely long lines, even with people who have City Passes who received a voucher and then were told to return a couple of hours later - Does anyone have a suggestion of the best way to get tickets with the least amount of waiting in line?

I heard the same things about boat rides to Ellis Island or any other place (except for free ferry) - are there any tips to do this in the most efficient way?
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Jun 11th, 2012, 11:33 AM
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We just returned from a five day trip to NYC with our 12 year old granddaughter. She had never been, and she absolutely loved everything! I'm sure your daughter will too!

Our hotel was at 42nd between 2nd and 3rd. We started out the first day walking down 42nd. We passed Grand Central, the NYC Public Library, Bryant Park and continued on to Times Square. We went into ToysRUs to see the Ferris Wheel, went to the Disney Store, the M&M store, etc. We then continued to Rockefeller Center where we had a quick lunch downstares in the food court. We took a city bus up to the MET and spent some time at the top overlooking the city. Then we spent several hours seeing the MET before going to dinner on the upper east side. I felt like this was a good overview for the 1st day. We considered the hop-on-off bus, but felt like we might spend too much time waiting for the buses, so we decided on a walk. Of course, you will have to see how much walking your daughter can do by the time you arrive.

The next day we did the American Natural History Museum and really enjoyed that. We went into Central Park where we enjoyed the park and all the people on a Sunday afternoon. It was sunny and lovely after a short rain shower earlier. We stopped at the Plaza Hotel on the way out of the park and loved seeing the downstairs food court and shops. Stopped at Trump Tower and rested a bit. Later we went to Rockefeller Center and went to the Top of the Rock before dark for the daytime views and stayed until it got dark for the night time views. I highly recommend this as it was wonderful. You can get a timed ticket online which is great as we didn't have to wait in line.

On Monday morning, we went down to Battery Park and took the ferry to Ellis Island. That was a very moving and wonderful experience, and our granddaughter loved it. We saw some of Wall Street in the afternoon and then had tickets for the World Trade Center Memorial. That too was very moving. I would try to get those tickets as soon as possible as they go very quickly. It doesn't take very long to do - you just have to go through security with your timed ticket.

On Tuesday, we took the subway to Brooklyn and walked back to Manhattan on the Bridge. We loved that - it's a great experience. We walked on into Chinatown for lunch and shopping. We saw Mary Poppins that evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. Our granddaughter just loved it - said it was her favorite thing!

On Wednesday before our flight home, we went to FAO Schwartz, Dylan's, and Serendipity for frozen hot chocolate. We also stopped by the NYC Public Library as we had missed that earlier in the week.

We didn't get to do everything we had on our long list - but we did the most important things. We didn't really do any shopping, but passed all the big stores and looked in the windows. NYC is wonderful for all ages - your daughter will have the time of her life!
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Jun 11th, 2012, 11:33 AM
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Are you sure you're not confusing TOTR with the Empire State Building?

I thought Grimaldi's pizza was pretty darn good -- not the best in the city, but still very good. Yes, it's very close to the entrance to the bridge.

Do you not have Apple stores where you live? I wouldn't pass up the 5th Avenue branch for your Apple-obsessed DD. It's open 24/7. http://www.apple.com/retail/fifthavenue/
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Jun 11th, 2012, 11:36 AM
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We went two weeks ago on a Tuesday at 6 p.m. and walked right in (without advance tickets), as did a friend of mine this past weekend (Saturday I believe). I'm not sure it's a problem anymore.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 12:31 PM
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blh - what a wonderful trip report that was! Lucky granddaughter! Your first day sounds terrific. I'm wondering about the day you went to Ellis Island - how long did you spend there and was that enough time? What time was that tour and what time was the World Trade Centre Memorial? And could you please tell me how long you spent at the WTC? I'm trying to gage what's possible in a day.

sf7303- I know the ESB lines are famous for being even longer, but I did read about long maze-like lines at TOTR, even with tickets, only 2 elevators with tons of people and extremely long waits.

Re Apple stores - don't really have them, just Apple dealers - NOTHING compared to what exists in the US, Canada and Europe (was recently at Apple store in Paris, wow, gorgeous...)

A logistical question - Is it unreasonable to think we can do the Tenement Museum, Brooklyn (first to Grimaldi's and Brooklyn Ice Cream), then to walk the bridge, and then the World Trade Centre all in one day? If unrealistic, to drop the WTC that day, or does the Tenement Museum make better sense with something else? Does WTC make better sense with something else? I think I have more or less an idea on the upper city side of things, having trouble with the lower!
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Jun 11th, 2012, 12:51 PM
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You are getting lots of good advice here! As for a map, I would recommend the Streetwise Manhattan map...it's laminated, plus it contains subway and bus routes. It lists EVERY street, not just the main thoroughfares, and we used it constantly. Note: we didn't take one with us, but at the end of the first full day, after making some wrong turns on the Lower East Side, I bought one at the gift shop at the Tenement Museum. You should be able to get one at a good bookstore or online. $6.95 and worth every cent.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 12:54 PM
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The Apple store on 5th avenue is open 24 hours and its not too far from your hotel. Visit it on your way back from the theater one day if you're not too tired. Or one evening or early morning when you've got nothing planned and sitting in your hotel thinking "we're in NYC, what can we do now...?"
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