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Trip Report New York City in March - Broadway Hexagon and more

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Spring Break 2012 – Trip to Penn State and NYC

Ever since we went to New York City for my 10/10/10 birthday, I have been aching to go back. We finally got there for a few days this March. Since we had been there before, we had seen some of the tourist highlights. This trip, we concentrated on Broadway plays, a couple of museums, and some Seinfeld sites.

I will add my trip notes in pieces.

Here is the general gist of the trip.

Tuesday March 27------------Penn State to NYC - Newsies

Wednesday March 28-------Tom's Restaurant, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, War Horse, Anything Goes

Thursday March 29--------Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ed Sullivan Theater, Hello Deli, Soup Nazi, How to Succeed

Friday March 30--------------Tenement Museum, Circle Line Cruise, Priscilla

Saturday March 31--------End of the Rainbow

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    HOTEL: On the advice of Fodors posters, we stayed at the Travel Inn at 515 W. 42nd Street.

    For those even more unfamiliar with NYC than us, this is roughly even with the theater district north/south and towards the west side of Manhattan (about a 10 minute walk west to the water and 15 minute walk east towards the nearest theaters).

    The hotel features free parking. It also is unusual in that it has a pool. The parking was a nice perk since we had a car. We wouldn't have cared about the pool and it wasn't open this early in the year anyway.

    Our rates were $140, $140, $160, and $175 for Tuesday through Saturday respectively. Wi-fi was not included, but was available at $6 per day. With tax and one day's wi-fi, our cost for the four nights was $726.

    We were quite satisfied with the hotel. The room was clean and in good repair and included a refrigerator.

    There was a CVS across the street and a Food Emporium a block away. Fast food such as Subway, Burger King, and McDonald's were passed when walking towards the theater district.

    Walking distance from Travel Inn
    Burger King - 6 min.
    Subway - 7 min.
    Circle Line - 10 minutes
    TKTS - 20 min.
    Theater - 15 - 25 minutes

    We were comfortable walking to and from the theater (lots of people - did not feel dicey as far as safety).

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    DAY ONE -

    Tuesday – March 27 – Penn State to NYC - Newsies

    The triptik and the GPS didn’t always agree with each other, but we ended up finding the Lincoln Tunnel and driving straight to our hotel without any problems. We found out that our I-pass also works in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It was quite a savings since the Lincoln Tunnel alone costs $12.

    Parking in the hotel garage was simple as was check-in.

    We decided to go straight back out to try for Book of Mormon tickets. If we had no luck there, we would go to the tkts booth and see what was available. Our first choice was Newsies since I didn’t have a discount coupon for it.
    It was a 23 minute walk to the Book of Mormon theater. We arrived a little before 4:30. They started handing out the sign-up tickets at 4:30 and then drew at 5. The young man with the megaphone was entertaining, but unfortunately, we didn’t get tickets. It was a short walk to the tkts booth and the line was short. I was excited to see that it had 50% off tickets for Newsies. We bought two and then headed back to the hotel. We stopped at the nearby Food Emporium to get something for a quick dinner. My husband bought a chef salad and I decided to just have some of the peanut butter crackers that we’d brought with us.

    We changed for the show and walked 15 minutes to the 1,232 seat Nederlander Theater. Our seats in row HH of the mezzanine were mid-balcony – with about 6 or 8 rows behind us. However the theater was small enough and had a steep enough rake that I think all the seats were good.

    The audience was enthusiastic. There was lots of cheering (especially by the Japanese woman and daughter next to us) with extended clapping for many of the songs.

    Notable dance numbers included one where the young men danced on newspapers and another where they tap danced and included spoons in the choreography. A romantic ballad between Jack and Katherine reminded me of the Little Mermaid and I discovered that the person who did the music had been involved with that show. The show was still in previews, officially opening on March 29 (two days later).

    After the show, we took the obligatory pictures and walked through Times Square on our way back to the hotel.

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    Songdoc - you probably noticed - but I have a separate trip report for the Penn State part of our trip. I sure enjoyed their Creamer, the Diner, and the Corner Room. We likely wouldn't have found any of them without the help of Fodors posters.

    AnnMarie - Thanks. I do that partly to keep track of things for myself. Some people have good memories - I have a computer.

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    Before the trip, we knew that we wanted to see several Broadway shows. I hadn't actually expected to go to six, but am glad that we did.

    We checked for Tony winners and nominees, eliminated ones we had already seen in NY in 2010 or in Broadway Across America productions, and then asked for help on Fodors.

    We had used Travelzoo and the TKTS booth in the past. This time, we were told about the Broadway Box Office discounts. Wowzers - that was a huge help.

    We could have saved time by purchasing all the tickets in advance, but it turned out well that we didn't as we changed our mind about shows during the trip.

    I printed out Broadway Box coupons for all the shows and attractions that I thought we might want to see and added them to my comb-bound booklet of notes and a map. I think I could probably have just brought the discount codes rather than all the coupons - but not positive that would work in all cases.

    In the end, we got tickets for Newsies and War Horse in the TKTS line and the rest using the discount coupons at the box offices. When we were there, there wasn't a Broadway Box coupon for Newsies, but we were lucky enough to snag it our first night at the TKTS line. I had noted the plays available at TKTS for several weeks. It hadn't been available there until the preceding week. I recently saw a Travelzoo offer for it, so maybe Broadway Box has it now.

    It worked well to get War Horse there since the box office wasn't as convenient to us. In retrospect, I suppose we could have gone back online to get them. However, I rather enjoy the atmosphere and camaraderie of the TKTS line - maybe just not six times when it is long.

    Other than one show, our tickets were all pretty good and we saved a ton of money with the discounts.

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    Wednesday – March 28 – NYC - Tom's Restaurant, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, War Horse, Anything Goes

    We slept past 8 and started the day with a trip to the TKTS booth. The matinee line opened at 10 and moved fairly quickly. En route to the box office, we changed our play choice from Spiderman to War Horse. The advantage of not buying tickets in advance was the ability to revise our plans as the trip unfolded. We had a Broadway Box coupon for War House (usable at the box office), but decided it would be simpler to buy the tickets at the TKTS booth. In retrospect, this was doubly easier as the War Horse location was outside the Theatre District. My Broadway Box coupon had a choice of two rates. TKTS only had the more expensive tickets and the agent explained that they only get one category of tickets. We decided to take them anyway. After getting the tickets, we walked to the Stephen Sondheim Theater for tickets for Anything Goes. It is one of the shows that has a higher coupon rate on Friday and the weekends, so I wanted to see it before then. I had an expired coupon for $69 or a current coupon for $79. Fodor posters suggested to try expired tickets as they sometimes honor them, so I did. The agent noted that it was expired, but that I could use it at the current price.

    After getting the tickets, we decided to go to Tom’s Restaurant (Seinfeld Diner) and look for a place to eat in that area.

    Our choice of transit tickets were per ride @$2.50 or $29 for a week. We decided to go with the week’s rate for the convenience factor.

    It started to sprinkle, but we never got any full-fledged rain. We checked the menu at Tom’s and decided that it would be a decent place to eat. I had a veggie wrap. It came with fries and a pickle for about $6.50. My husband had a burger and the sides for about the same price. A friendly older man was our waiter and I wondered if it was Tom.

    Fodors posters had suggested seeing the nearby Cathedral of St. John the Divine. As it turns out, it was only about a block away and was an Episcopal church. It was mammoth and reminded me of the places of worship that we saw in Europe. As we walked away, someone asked us if we knew of a nursing home in the area. I started to say that we were tourists when my husband told her where it was. He’d noticed it on the street by the cathedral.

    We took the subway back south to the Lincoln Center. It wasn’t hard to find. Notably, the Metropolitan Opera and the Julliard School were in the same complex. The theater was surrounded by hordes of students waiting for the play. We killed some time by going into the Met gift shop and then the New York Public Library’s performing arts library which featured a display about Noel Coward.

    WAR HORSE - Vivian Beaumont Theater - 150 West 65th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam. It seats 1,105.

    "This London smash-hit is the extraordinary odyssey of a child and his beloved horse, sold to aid France in WWI."

    War Horse won 5 Tonys and it was easy to see why. Not only were the horses represented by unique puppets, but the staging created a moving portrayal of the horrors of war within a small theater.

    After the play, we walked to Central Park (after starting off the wrong direction). We pointed a family towards the Museum of Natural History on the way. The walk through Central Park was pleasant – it was warm, but not hot, and many people were enjoying the day.

    We boarded a subway at the base of the park. Disembarking, we decided to eat in the Port Authority bus station. We both had pizza. It was adequate, but I’m not sure it was worth $13.00. Afterwards, we had some time to relax before our evening play.

    ANYTHING GOES Stephen Sondheim Theatre - 124 W. 43rd Street, between Broadway and 6h Avenue. It seats 1,055 patrons. It was formerly Henry Miller's Theater (until 2010).

    "All aboard for Cole Porter's musical romp across the Atlantic, starring Stephanie J. Block and Tony Award and Academy Award® winner Joel Grey! Featuring the songs 'I Get a Kick out of You,' 'You're the Top,' and 'It's De-lovely.'"

    Our evening play was Anything Goes which was also only about a 15 minute walk from the hotel. Our seats were on the main floor. I was on the inside aisle, so had a straight line of sight. The dance numbers were awesome and the entire play was fun. I smiled throughout.

    On the way home, we stopped at a Burger King and picked up Hershey sundae pies for a late night treat.

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    Thursday – March 29 –NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ed Sullivan Theater, Hello Deli, Soup Nazi, How to Succeed

    We had some food in the room and then took the subway north. In order to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we got off at the American Museum of Natural History and then walked across Central Park. There were loads of kids on field trips on our subway car and when it would slow down, they’ll all cry out, “Whoaaaa.”

    They got off at the same stop as we did and the chaperones called out, “To the wall, to the wall” in order to corral them and make sure everyone was there. I’d hate to chaperone a trip via the subway.

    We took the ramble across the middle of Central Park. Since I wasn’t sure if we could carry the backpack inside the museum, we’d winnowed our things down to the bare minimum. As it turns out, we could have brought it. After arriving and paying the suggested admission fee (the cashier actually asked if the fee was acceptable), we checked into tours. We'd missed the 10:15 highlights tour, so aimed for the 11:15 tour. Meanwhile, we did some minor exploring.

    As people arrived for the tour, the guide asked where we were from. Our group included guests from Australia, England, Argentina, Hawaii, and New York. I took notes of the guide's interesting comments about seven or eight items in the Met's collection of three million.

    I won't bore you with the notes, but these are the pieces that we saw with the guide:

    1. Marble statue of a kouros (youth)
    2. Whalers - Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, London 1775–1851 London)
    3. The Trojan Women Setting Fire to Their Fleet Claude Lorrain (Claude Gellée) (French, Chamagne 1604/5?–1682 Rome)
    4. Aristotle with a Bust of Homer - Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam)
    5. Magnolias and Irises Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany
    6. Tiffany columns for his summer residence on Long Island
    7. Armor of George Clifford, Third Earl of Cumberland
    8. The Temple of Dendur - Period: Roman Period - Date: ca. 15 B.C.

    Afterwards, we looked for the XS display. A helpful guide asked us what else we wanted to see en route and then marked the locations of works by well-known painters on our map.

    We ate in the cafeteria. Prices were high, but we got by as cheaply as possible. I had a parfait for $3.50 and my husband had a small by-the-pound entrée. Rolls, which I didn’t get, were $1.40 each.

    After lunch, we found the XS display and then left. We were pretty beat. After a l-o-n-g ramble back through the park, we took the subway to Columbus Circle.

    Next project was to find the Hello Deli, Ed Sullivan Theater, and the Soup Kitchen. Success. We actually saw Rubert Jee inside the Deli and one of the Letterman workers outside.

    We stopped at box offices to pick up tickets for How to Succeed for the evening and Priscilla for Thursday. We also stopped at the Walgreens and I bought some Walgreen's Times Square tote bags for gifts. We had an early dinner at the Burger King. We’d planned to stop at the McDonalds, but it had been evacuated due to fire. Hordes of people and a bunch of firemen were gathered outdoors.

    We had a break back at the room and I signed up for 24 hours of internet. It was an extra $6 per 24 hours and I used it for just that one cycle.

    Al Hirschfeld Theater- 302 W. 45th Street -1424 seats

    "Nick Jonas headlines a spectacular new production of the Tony®- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical comedy, about a wily window-washer's riotous rise to the top of the corporate ladder"

    Our How to Succeed tickets were the furthest back we’d had. We moved back a row so that no one would be in front of us. Unfortunately, a large group came in ten minutes late and we moved back. The audience had lots of youth groups and was appreciative of Nick Jonas as demonstrated by calls of "I love you, Nick." It was ironic that such a dated show attracted such a young audience. On the other hand, perhaps this was on purpose.

    Photos out in front and then a cold walk back to the hotel. We stopped at the CVS for snacks.

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    Friday – March 30 –NYC - Tenement Museum, Circle Line Cruise, Priscilla

    To start the day, we planned to go to the Tenement Museum, a doughnut place and a gelato shop. This was a revision to our original plans which was to do that on Thursday after the Dialogue in the Dark and then do a food tour on Friday. Unfortunately, I didn't feel too well. As we walked to the subway, it didn't get better. I was really dragging.

    At the subway, I had trouble getting my card to work. My husband helped me and when I went through the turnstile, I wasn't sure if it clicked. I am guessing that it didn't because when my husband started to come through, he had trouble. When he tried again, his card wouldn't work as it showed as being used. A passer-by suggested he go to the other side to the manned ticket booth. After my husband left, the passer-by told me that he sometimes has trouble with his 30 day card and that he didn't think it was my fault. It was a long wait for my husband to get in and then go through the line. They evidently had him try again and it didn't work again. He got back in line a second time and eventually we were good to go.

    While waiting for the train, my husband pointed out Canal Street on the subway map to two young men. He later told me that he'd overheard them asking the ticket agent if she spoke French (no) and then for directions to Chinatown. She told them to get off at Canal Street - which could have been hard to find on a map full of unfamiliar words.

    My husband told me that we needed to get off at 4th Street. When he told me it was time to get off, the young man that I was sitting next to queried whether we actually wanted to get off at 4th. We said yes and then realized that we were starting to get off at 14th. Oops. Perhaps we would have noticed before disembarking, but it was certainly nice of the man to help us out.

    The walk from the station took us past Washington Park. As we walked, I became more and more exhausted and wasn't sure if I could make it. I finally asked my husband to consult a map to see whether it would be closer to continue on or go back to the subway and the hotel. Although still some distance, it would have been further to go back. I later checked Google maps and found that the walk was about a mile and a half.

    At the museum, we got in line to see what was offered. Unfortunately, I decided that I did not have the energy for any of the tours. We sat on a bench for a few minutes and then watched a video about the area. After the video, we checked the map and found a closer subway that connected with the one that we wanted. This reduced the walk a great deal, but I still had a lot of difficulty. I was too tired to stop to eat - I just wanted to go back to the hotel and get into bed.

    Back at the hotel at 1:15, I slept - or tried to at least - for an hour or two. Afterwards, I felt well enough to suggest that we take the 4 PM Circle Line boat tour which docked less than 10 minutes away. Other than the short walk, it would not require energy and we would at least be able to salvage a bit of our day. We made it there in the nick of time and were able to save a couple of dollars with yet another Broadway Box coupon. The agent looked at it as if she'd never seen one before. The funniest part was when she turned it over to look for clues on the back and saw a second grade spelling list.

    The Circle Tour was two hours long and a nice little tour. It was nothing like the walking tour that we'd taken in 2010, but was good for people who couldn't do that much walking - like me at the time.

    After the tour, we stopped at a Greek restaurant, 42nd Street Pizza, between the dock and our hotel. I had veggie pizza and my husband had a gyros with fries and a salad. We ordered water and were brought two bottles. I asked if tap water was available and was told no. I later asked if soda was the same price and exchanged my unopened bottle for a Diet Coke. My husband's gyros came much earlier than my pizza. After some time, the server said it would be out in 20 seconds. It was certainly the longest 20 seconds I'd ever seen. At least it was hot - even if it was overcooked.

    1564 Broadway
    1743 seats
    Nederlander Organization

    Our evening show was Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which was at the Palace Theater near the McDonald's and Times Square Visitors' Center. It was full of over-the-top costumes, fun music, and some neat lighting techniques, but also had a touching story. Our seats were on the main floor. In front of us, two other guests took photos and apparently video.

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    Saturday – March 31 – NYC - End of the Rainbow

    Check-out was not until noon. Our only morning plans were to buy tickets to an afternoon play –hopefully End of the Rainbow. At one point, snow was predicted, but that was changed to rain and we awoke to a rainy day. We shared cinnamon rolls and orange juice and took our time packing up. I had a coupon from Broadway Box and we decided to use it to avoid standing in the rain at the TKTS line.

    Check-out was quick and accurate and we were thankful to get an affirmative answer to whether we could leave the car in the hotel garage while going to the play.

    Outside the building we were met with a wet day, but the rain was more of a mist – not sufficient to use an umbrella. En route to the box office, we heard the familiar and repeating sound of a bicycle horn. I was tickled to find the horn attached to a mail cart. A local carrier evidently used the horn to clear the way ahead.

    At the Palace box office, as I started to pull out my discount code, the agent told me that he had it and I didn’t need to find it. Whether that would always work, I don’t know. But it is something to try if need be. Our tickets were $56 each – the posted price was $126.

    We had time before the play and went into the nearby Toys R Us. I found a set of Hello Kitty earmuffs for a gift and browsed some of the other Hello Kitty items. In front of them was a sign saying that (almost) everything Hello Kitty was 20% off. Our attention was caught by a large group of families (probably 20 children plus adults) having a TRU birthday party complete with videographer. We browsed upstairs and then I got into line to pay. The register did not bring up the sale price. However, I caught the error and a cashier made a call to verify the sale. I wonder how much money TRU netted by not programming their registers properly. Out of line, I discovered that I no longer had my ear warmers. I remembered taking them off when we came in the store, so we retraced our steps. Twice. Amazingly, and fortunately, my husband found them on top of a toy display near the check-out line. A kind person had probably seen them on the floor and put them there. We had lunch at the nearby Subway. After we paid , a worker asked if we wanted to eat in. Then he went back and encouraged a family to leave to empty a table for us.

    From there, we went to the Times Square visitors center where we took some photos and watched a video about the history of Times Square.

    111 W. 44th Street
    1018 seats
    Shubert Organization

    "It's December 1968 and Judy Garland is poised to make a triumphant comeback… again. This savagely funny drama shows Garland facing the challenge with her signature cocktail of talent, tenacity and razor-sharp wit."

    Our seats for End of the Rainbow were in the center of the last row of the mezzanine – an encouraging way to say first balcony. However, the theater was small and the seats were actually quite good. (Overheard comment from someone in the row in front of us, "Well these aren't the sorts of seats that we are used to, but it's different trying to find a group of four rather than two.") No one else sat in our row, and when the show started, I moved across a seat for better sightlines. A man came in late and made lots of noise near us. Thankfully, at a break in the action, he moved to his actual seat nearer the front. At intermission, I asked an usher if we could move to the outer edge of a lower row and we did.

    I had heard that the actress who played Judy Garland was phenomenal, but that the book was weak. I concur with the former, but not so much with the latter. I thought the script did a good job of telling the story and included humor in a very somber story. I also was again amazed at the importance of the staging. The primary set was a hotel room in London. However, at times, the center rear of the set rose and we were suddenly watching Judy perform in a nightclub. This play was also in previews with the opening set for April 2 (two days later).

    After the play, we took our photos and crossed the street to go back to the hotel. It was chilly and as we moved through the crowds, I saw a mom buying her two young children gloves from a street vendor. I looked back to find my husband before crossing the street and he was no longer following me. He also was not in front of me nor anywhere in sight. I followed our plan to stay where I was and even moved to the curb to be more easily found. However, among the crowds of people walking by, there was no sign of him. I figured he'd be looking for me and we'd reunite. However, as the minutes ticked by, I was not so sure. Would he have gone on to the hotel or to the car? Or would he just keep looking for me where I was? If I moved on, would he be doing the opposite? Not carrying cell phones seemed foolhardy. I stayed where I was and continued to watch for him, but it was obvious that he had lost me and gone on or gone on and then lost me. As I worried over what I should do, he finally came back. He'd passed me up near the glove vendor and then gone into the street to take a photo of Times Square. When he finished, he couldn't find me among the hundreds of black-coat wearing Times Square pedestrians.

    After that sobering experience, we walked on to the Travel Inn and our car. It was a quick and easy drive out of the hotel, through the Lincoln Tunnel, and then onward into New Jersey on the first leg of our trip home.

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