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Countdown to NYC is on - The plan begins. This is what I have so far

Countdown to NYC is on - The plan begins. This is what I have so far

Sep 16th, 2010, 03:56 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 987
Countdown to NYC is on - The plan begins. This is what I have so far

Hello everyone,
I have been reading the forum daily and can now start to feel excited for our trip to NYC in 3 months time. We booked 10 months ago.....gee time flies. We will be arriving on the 15th of December and staying a week. Yes I know I will be very cold. Melbourne is not that cold but I have bought myself 2 lovely coats, knitted a hat, and have 2 pairs of gloves and 2 scarves. As well as thermals (top and bottom) and good strong walking boots. So I am ready. I have always wanted to visit NYC, but have never had the chance. with kids growing up and sorting them out. It just so happens that I will be turning 50 on this trip. I hate birthdays, and I just did not want to be waking in my bed, in my house and thinking... oh drat, I am 50. So this way, and because of the time difference I will not know what day it is and so I will ease into my 50's. Makes perfect sense to me. If I do not know what the exact date is because of time zone difference I will be in denial for a bit longer.

Anyway I have a basic plan, and free time on our days just to explore. Let me know what you all think
Day 1: Wed 15th December we arrive in the evening. I think Times square is the right thing to do. It is a must see for 17 year old son.

Day 2: We have booked tickets for SOL, and the crown access.
then perhaps WTC site to pay our respects and then walk Brooklyn Bridge

Day 3: We have booked a 6 hour tour with Real New York Tours. thought this would be a good way to see parts of NYC and then we can revisit later.

Day 4: Like to visit Brooklyn and Greenpoint. Although Australians we migrated to Australian when 4 years old. But my husband has a friend that lives in Greenpoint so we would like to visit. In the evening my son and I have tickets for the Merchant of Venice.

Day5: Central Park, and perhaps MOMA.
evening - TOR booked

Day 6: (my actual birthday in Australia) . My daughter has booked mother/daughter time on Sex and the City tour. I know .... but she will enjoy it with her mum.
I was thinking afternoon tea at the Plaza - has anyone tried this?

Day 7: nothing planned

We have also a long list of other things we would like to see, and I really do not want to stick to a strict itinerary. Of course shopping is a must. As well as some ice skating. My children do not believe that I can skate, so I need to show them my moves.

So I have a few questions:
Q1. As it is a busy time of the year should we always make dinner reservations and how far in advance should we book.

Q2. What are some nice places to have a meal. We are interested in trying traditional american, and good mexican food.

Q3 where can we get a good pre theatre meal for myself and son. Theatre is 'Broadhurst'.

Q4 Where is a nice place for a birthday dinner. I would like a nice restaurant that is not ridiculously expensive. There will be 5 of us, and I am afraid the birthday girl is paying.

Q5 If I buy MOMA tickets on line, will I still need to wait in line. Or is there an express lane.

We will be staying on the UWS, and any help suggestions would be really appreciated.
millie2112 is offline  
Sep 16th, 2010, 05:01 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,267
Congrats on your b'day, I chose to spend mine "at sea" on a cruise, so it still never happened

Anyway, to answer a few of your questions:

Q1, only real high end places get completely booked and sometimes the really popular pre-theatre dinners too, in that regards, you should definitely made your pre-theatre dinner res by the end of Nov.

I always recommend restaurants on 9th Ave in that area, there a lot of varieties and the prices are more gentle than the Times Square area. Just had a very good dinner at Gallo Nero on 44th off ninth (they are on open table). Breeze on 9th is good for Thai/French fusion. For Mexican, Toloache is very good.

Traditional "american", I think of as "creative" farm - table type menus, Union Square Cafe is my favorite, it's a little pricey but not over the top, it's my favorite for a birthday dinner. Another recommendation for American is bar-b-que - Blue Smoke, R.U.B., Dinosaur, Hill Country to name a few, these are reasonable and fun places for you and your family. I think Auduchamp has put together his list of "cheap eats" he has a lot of good recommendations.

I work on the upper west side, Broadway and Columbus Ave have lots of fun places too. For a casual lunch one day, Shake Shake is good for a hamburger. Zabars is always fun to go into and Fairway has a little restaurant upstairs.

For MOMA, once you have tickets, you walk right in.

I hope that helps
owlwoman is offline  
Sep 16th, 2010, 05:06 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 26,710
One thing New York lacks is good Mexican food. There are three or four Rosa Mexicanas around the city including the cavernous one near Union Square and one on the UWS which gets very crowded when there is an event at Lincoln Center. Be sure to order the guacamole, as it is prepared tableside and it will amuse your children.

As far as Ameican fare is concerned, how mcuh do you want to spend? There is everything from Gray's Papaya (famous frankfurter stands) to the expensive restaurants that specialize in expensive food.

Greenpoint is old established Polish neighborhood. Be sure your friend takes you for pierogis, bigos, potato pancakes, and blintzes. It is suddenly becoming a hip area due to the rents and being overlooked for many years.

I would eat in the residential neighborhoods rather than the theater district or midtown. Good food can be cheaper and better and at that time of year, they are quiter and easier to handle.

If you have not paid for the Real NY Tour, I would skip it because by the end of your visit you will know many parts of Manhattan.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Sep 16th, 2010, 05:19 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 10,188
I have only a few comments.

Contrary to what Owlwoman says, even mid-priced restaurants in NYC get completely booked in December, though not so far in advance (and there are a lot of pre-holiday parties that can fill even casual neighborhood restaurants). I wanted to go to Artisanal for brunch right after Thanksgiving a couple of years ago and couldn't get a weekend reservation for 2 weeks (granted, there were 6 people). For the typical restaurant, you should make some reservation if the restaurant takes them (especially for five people), but you need only do it a few days in advance or even earlier that day if it's a more casual place that draws a local crowd; this is just so you don't end up waiting an hour for a table, which is not uncommon on the Upper West Side. Except for high-end places, you can do this once you're in the city.

I'd probably settle on a nice upscale place for your birthday dinner in advance. Some restaurants take reservations 30 days in advance, some more. Do your home work and be prepared to make a reservation for your birthday up to 2 months in advance, certainly no later than 1 month in advance if it's a popular spot. Even for Blue Smoke, you really have to make a reservation a week in advance or be prepared to wait up to 90 minutes for a table on a busy night. Not what I want to do on my birthday. For "upscale" you can probably expect to spend no less than $50 per person, but $75 is more likely.

If you want something nice but not over the top, I really like ViceVersa, a modern Italian restaurant in the theater district. It serves a prix-fixe menu for $35 or a regular menu with most entrees in the $22 to $28 range. Double the cost of the most expensive entree, and you'll get a sense of what dinner will cost. And be sure to budget for a tip of at least 18% in an NYC restaurant (essentially double the tax, rounded up to the next dollar). That will be different than in Australia. Wine in an NYC restaurant typically costs at least $9 or $10 per glass, more in an upscale place.

One place you might like is Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote on 52nd/Lex. They do not take reservations and rarely have a line. Dinner (a salad followed by a delicious sliced sirloin with their special sauce) costs $24.99 per person, and that's all they sell. Their bargain-priced Bordeaux is about $21.95 per BOTTLE (probably the best wine deal in NYC).

Depending on your budget, we can make recommendations for your upscale dinner.

FYI: Union Square Cafe is a good restaurant (expensive, with excellent service), but it serves Italian-influenced food, not American food. However, I've always found the food there to be terribly salty, to the extent that last time I went my dining companion couldn't eat his entree.

For excellent upscale (but not overly expensive) American food, consider the no-reservations Tavern room at Gramercy Tavern (dinner there is otherwise about $90 prix-fixe, while the tavern room is about half that). Lunch there is a nice splurge and a way to enjoy the main dining room for a more reasonable price, and lunch reservations in Manhattan can usually be made no more than 2 days in advance regardless of where you go. That could be a good alternative to keep costs down for your birthday and still eat at a top NYC restaurant. (Gramercy Tavern is definitely near the top of the NYC food chain.)
doug_stallings is offline  
Sep 16th, 2010, 08:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,715
The most popular places will be booked at the most popular times. NYers tend to eat dinner late-ish around 8 pm unless going to the theater. Times Square area restaurants are busiest 6-8pm (pre theater) and after 10pm for post theater. I would definitely make reservations for Fri./Sat. nights and any special meals. It's easier to cancel a reservation than to make one at the last minute; since it is a busy time, I'd urge you to make reservations. It also forces you to do some research and avoid getting a rotten meal because you're just roaming around and are cold or just hungry. You're most likely to get a bad meal in touristy locations like Times Square or near Rockefeller Center.

Most places take reservations a month before the date but some will take them earlier than that. Opentable.com is a booking site for many but not all restaurants but they don't always put all of their tables on that website so if you don't find avails, calling is a good idea.

I'm not sure there is such a thing as "traditional American." We're a country of immigrants from all over and what NYC offers that other parts of the US may not is new American, very good ethnic food of every possible sort (Ethiopian, Turkish, Moroccan, Thai, Vietnamese etc.). I think of traditional American as burgers, steaks, seafood and sandwiches and we certainly have lots of that. You can find loads of options under those listings on menupages.com For sandwiches, what we call a coffee shop or diner is one option and they exist in every neighborhood. E & J's luncheonette is one popular place on the UWS. Jewish delis like Katz's, 2nd ave. deli and in your neighborhood, Lansky's, do a good job with things like pastrami and corned beef.

I like the recos/advice Doug gave you. One thing you should know is many of the fancy restaurants do good value prix fixe lunches if you want to try a few places that you wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental hotel (the 35th floor of the Time Warner building) is imo one of the best with great views and very nice food for $24 for 2 courses. Ofcourse drinks, tax and tip will add up, but still very nice. Jean Georges' Nougatine (bar area) in the Trump International is a very popular one, but I'm not particularly a fan. Cafe Boulud near the Met Museum is another one of my favorites for prix fixe lunch. Bouley is another (downtown) but I haven't been in a while.

There are also a lot of restaurants that do a prix fixe dinner whether for pre theater (early) or all night. ViceVersa that Doug mentions is one with a $35 dinner although I like their a la carte options better. Metrazur in Grand Central has one. In the theater district, Saju Bistro attached to the Mela hotel does a prix fixe dinner but you may have to ask for that menu. They don't always offer it unless you ask, a pet peeve of mine that I find happening more and more. The 21 Club is an iconic NYC place and while the food isn't the best you can get in NYC, the atmosphere and the history of the place I think is great. 21club.com I prefer the downstairs bar area to the more formal dining room. A heads up though, it's one of the few places that requires men to wear a jacket and preferably a tie for dinner in either area.

There are 2 ways of finding restaurants near any given location. First is to map the location on maps.google.com and then use the "search nearby" tab for restaurants or more specifically Italian restaurants or pizza or whatever you want. The second way is to use menupages.com Pick the location (the Broadhurst is in the west 40's) and then pick the type of food or a feature you're looking for like prix fixe menu or pre theater. For a specific reco, what night of the week is it and what kind of food? Toloache is a Mexican I like in the theater district (west 50's so a bit further than you need to be but still walkable) but it's a bit more expensive than a typical Mexican.

Dovetail is a very nice restaurant on the UWS but might be pricier than you want. I'm confused by the b'day note (my actual b'day in Australia). What is the date/day of the week? I ask b/c Dovetail does a good Sunday night supper but not on Monday. Mirabelle is a very nice neighborhood restaurant on the UWS. For something with a view, you might look at Watersedgenyc.com in Long Island City.

I wouldn't do a fancy afternoon tea and then a nice dinner on the same day. I haven't been to the Plaza for tea since the big renovation but I think it's still nice. The Essex House hotel, the Mandarin Oriental in the lobby lounge and the St. Regis hotel are some other fancy options.

No you won't need to stand in line if you buy online tickets and can print them off BUT there's a combo ticket with Top of the Rock that's very good value and I would recommend that. You can only buy it in person at either venue.
mclaurie is offline  
Sep 16th, 2010, 10:21 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
For details on restaurants - many hundreds searchable by locationa nd cuisine go to menupages.com.

This is not to pick places but to get specific info on menus and prices for places you are considering.

IMHO for a special dinner we assume about $100 to $125 per person - more if you order expensive wine.

And do remember that on top of the menu prices listed there is sales tax (8.25%) and tip (20% unless the service is bad).

If you give budget info people can make more specific recos.
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 17th, 2010, 03:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 987
thank you very much everyone for you input and terrific suggestions. They will keep me busy all weekend as I google and map things out.
My birthday is actually on the 21st of December, but in Australia we are about 14 hours ahead of NYC time, which means that if we have dinner on the Monday the 20th of December it will really be my birthday at home. So I can celebrate twice in NYC. I would like to book somewhere nice, but not too stuffy. My husband likes to feel comfortable so something not too upscale would be good. My children are 17 and 22, and my daughters boyfriend is also travelling with us (also 22). This is our group of 5. I would like to have dinner and spend about $80 per person (before tips). Is this ok?
I already have my TOR ticket, so unfortunately I will have to buy my MOMA tickets separately. I know that as it is a busy time of the year, I did not want to wait in line for too long as my husband will not be as patient as I.
thanks again, and I will start my search.
millie2112 is offline  
Sep 17th, 2010, 08:35 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 771
Hi Millie, my husband and I will be in NYC first two weeks of December so I am watching your posts with interest and 'sharing' the advice given to you. There is just so much to do and we have already booked 4 shows and a hockey game.

Everyone has been advising both you and I to really rug up against the cold and I certainly plan to be prepared. From what I have read we can expect between 0 and 6 degrees celcius. Melbourne in July seems to have maximums of around 10 so not really that much colder. My guess is we will be having such a great time we wont feel cold that is my thoery anyway.

Happy planning Millie.
Bwino is offline  
Sep 17th, 2010, 09:25 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 26,710
My personal favorite for creative American is Gotham. And to save money they have a year round prix fixe lunch for $31. The other sensational brunch value is Nougatine.


Aduchamp1 is offline  
Sep 17th, 2010, 01:27 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 377
sounds like youve given this alot of thought--two comments--i always tell people visiting WTC this, the best place to view the construction site is from the two World Financial center building,just West of the WTC site.Walk over to it,go in the building and up the escalator.Keep walking on the 2nd level towards 2 Financial center.Thers a "lobby" type area that has several large picture windows that look right over the site.Sometime therell be a docent there who will give you a personal story of their loss that day--very moving.If anyone stops you tell them youre going to the SouthwestNY restaurant, which BTW is avery good way to see NY Harbor.
Second, the whole crown thing will make for a long day--have you thought about just seeing Ellis island--to me much more meaningful and less crowded--The Statue is more of a tourist thing to do.
Assume TOR is Top of the Rock,but if its not you need to think about going there.Its right at Rockefeller Center,and the tree will be up,and folks will eb ice scating--if you scate,its loads of fun.If youre looking for a place to eat near there,Try Morrells--its excellent.Of course St Patricks Cathedral is right there as well--have fun,itll be great
bigbomoho is offline  
Sep 17th, 2010, 02:17 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 3,811
No matter what, you will have a wonderful time. Have you looked into the Metropolitan Museum, what a treasure it is.

We visited NYC in December a couple of years ago, and a highlight of the trip was going to Rock Center, seeing the tree, and eating rink-side at Sea Grill Restaurant. The food is good, not great, but the setting is wonderful.
rncheryl is offline  
Sep 17th, 2010, 07:18 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 191
One thing I like to do when attending theatre in NYC is to have a drink and an appetizer somewhere BEFORE the show - not a full meal. After the show (when you are all jazzed up because it was fabulous) you can find many after-theatre restaurants. 46th St. (Restaurant Row) has MANY!! New York never sleeps, so eating late and wandering around after the theatre is really part of the whole "scene"!! I also like doing this because then you don't have to feel rushed to finish your nice meal before the show, and you don't sit there in the theatre with a full stomach!!
SaltysMom is offline  
Sep 18th, 2010, 02:44 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 987
Bwino - I have been following your post too, and getting ideas. I think we shall have a grand time. I know we should be concerned about the cold, but I am prepared. Actually, this year in Melbourne it has been very cold.
Thank you all for great suggestions. I think I am going to plot the restaurants I would like to go to on a map. I hate the idea of wandering around aimlessly trying to find something that suits everyone. The MET is a must for me too. My son is also very interested as he is the 'arty' type. But I am afraid my husband is the one with the short attention span for museums and art galleries.
We are also excited to to go GreenPoint where we will be trying the polish food. We are in fact very curious about the area. We have google mapped and noticed some of the shop signs in Polish.
One last question, my daughter (a huge sex and the city fan) has suggested "Buddakan"as a good birthday dinner. Does anyone know if in fact any good, or is it just the hype because of the show.
millie2112 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2010, 08:52 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 377
ps--should have mentioned that the Inrepid (aircraft carrier) museum on the Hudson River has an incredible display of planes and ships--the 17 year old might really enjoy it--they even have a Concord on the deck
bigbomoho is offline  
Sep 18th, 2010, 09:26 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Have you husband look at the web site of the Met. It's not an art museum in the traditional sense but is much more eclectic and there may well be some departments that he would enjoy while you look at Old Masters orImpressionists- from the Egyptian deprtment and the Temleof Dendur (yes, a whole ancient Egyptina temples was moved to NYC0 or the arms & armor section.

As fortemps-dec ususally isn;t that cold - but you shouod be ware that if you get a cold snap the temps can go way below freezing - esp at night - and it's often windy as well. We get nighttime temps of zero(farenheit not entigrade) almost eery winter - although more likely in January.
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 18th, 2010, 10:28 AM
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 1
Speaking of......NYC's 21 Club is offering its first group buying discount wth Zagat and Dealon - www.dealon.com - choose NYC (we bought 4!)
daytradin is offline  
Sep 20th, 2010, 04:51 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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I love the idea of appetisers before a show and dinner afterward, I am 'stealing' this one Millie, thanks SaltysMom.
Bwino is offline  
Sep 20th, 2010, 08:23 AM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 315
trip to NYC in 3 months time. We booked 10 months ago

--Why book 1 year ahead? Does your hotel require it?

2 lovely coats, knitted a hat, and have 2 pairs of gloves and

-- 50/50 it'll be around 50. You might see people in T-shirts.

Day 1: Wed 15th December we arrive in the evening. I think Times square is the right thing to do. It is a must see for 17 year old son.

--why? TS aint Disney World. 75 year olds go there as well.

Day 2: nice plan

Day 3: We have booked a 6 hour tour with Real New York Tours.

--taking you where?

Day 4: Like to visit Brooklyn and Greenpoint.

--not the most exciting place. If there is snow, I suggest Brighton Beach/Coney Island just to see the beach covered with snow.

Day5: Central Park, and perhaps MOMA.
evening - TOR booked

--Central Park is a must see in March-April or Sept-Nov; but not in Winter... unless its covered with nice thick snow.

Day 7: nothing planned

--I do not suggest Bronx Zoo or Botanical Gardens in Winter, so, go to Pier17(Fulton), J&R, City Hall, B&H, 34st Macy's, see an IMAX movie, Intrepid, and my favorite place in NYC the Port Authority. Might as well buy tickets to A.C. Taj Mahal and get $10 back for buffet.
POMAH is offline  
Sep 20th, 2010, 01:51 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 2,829
Not sure why anyone would want to see Port Authority as a tourist attraction -- it's just a huge, slightly worn-around-the-edges bus terminal with, if memory serves, minimal shopping interest. Also not a fan of Pier 17/South Street Seaport when there are many other more interesting and less obviously tourist-y things to see in NYC, though there is mall-style shopping there.
bachslunch is offline  
Sep 20th, 2010, 05:15 PM
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 1
First, congrats on your trip. NYC is incredible in the winter (ok, at all times), so you should have a fantastic time.

Second, disagree with POMAH on almost every front. Apart from the snarky tone, those recs are pretty awful. I see no benefit in Coney Island---it takes forever to get out there, and it isn't that special. Also nix on all those Day 7 recommendations, except Macy's which I hear has an incredible holiday display. Macy's is also near K-town (Koreatown), so you can easily get great Korean food if you care to. (FWIW, I live in UWS, so I know something...)

Third, you ought to be able to have great food while you're here, but I would call in advance and check on reservations. It can't hurt. A couple of recs: on the UWS, I love Aged (88th and Broadway)---there's also incredible pizza at Rigoletto if you need a slice (68 and Columbus IIRC), and a few other nice places. If you have time, I'd highly recommend heading down to West Village for dinner and an evening. The streets are lovely and the restaurants are to die for. From the UWS, take the 2/3 subway line to 14th St. Piece of cake. Not much Mexican to speak of, but if you happen to be in the 90s, you can try out the Super Tacos taco truck on 96 and Broadway. It's pretty authentic for Mexican taco truck street food...

Menupages has some good material, but my first choices for food research would be Serious Eats (there's a NYC subsection) and Yelp. There's also Midtown Lunch, which might give you some ideas of a place to swing by if you happen to be in Midtown doing touristy things during the day.

Finally, museums are fabulous. You can't go wrong with MOMA or the Met. I was at MOMA last weekend and had forgotten how much I love it. There's also tons of shopping---there's the whole Madison/Park/5th Ave area, but SoHo is incredible as well. Look in the vicinity of Broadway and Spring St.

Good luck and enjoy your stay!
zweiterlinde is offline  

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