New York City Trip Report - 2nd Time Around!

Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 08:46 PM
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New York City Trip Report - 2nd Time Around!

First of all, thank you to all the other Fodorites who take the time after returning from their trips to post trip reports! They are one of the absolute best resources in my own trip planning.

My husband and I headed to NYC to, 1) celebrate my birthday, 2) celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary (we were married on my b-day) and 3) to have a bit of a babymoon. I’m currently 5 and 1/2 months pregnant, and we thought this was a perfect time to leave our 2 year old with her Nonna, and have a “just the two of us” trip. It was our first time away from our daughter, but she did great, as did we, and the trip was a success! It was also our 2nd trip to the city, and went a little something like this…

Monday, April 6th

We traveled from SoCal to La Guardia via American Airlines. Just a short sidebar here to complain about their $15 baggage charge each way – what a rip. Next time, I’ll be sure to patronize one of the airlines still remaining that give you your first bag free. We did get a good deal on the airfare though ($300 pp round trip) so maybe it all evens out at the end, but still I feel this is a superfluous charge and can’t help but feeling gouged by it. Anyways, due to air traffic control backups/delays into La Guardia, our connecting flight had been cancelled (ours was just one of many that day), so we arrived about 2 hours later than we had expected. This certainly wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things since our only real plans for that day was to check-in to our hotel and go to sleep. Our suitcase was the second one out on the conveyor belt (can you believe it?) and we made our call to Carmel Car Service to pick us up. They were there literally within 3 minutes, and we were on our way. (*Used a coupon printed from their website for both directions of our trip with Carmel.)

Arrived at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in Midtown West, which I had won using Priceline. (4 Star hotel, great location, for $118 a night – can’t beat it!) The hotel has VERY mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, but we didn’t encounter any problems here. It was a supreme location, the hotel was very nice to accommodate our request of a king size bed and upper level floor. We were checked in on the 37th floor to be exact, all of the staff was very friendly and accommodating, and the room was spacious and clean. Since the night was late and we were tired, we thought this the perfect night to go to the infamous Halal Cart on 53rd and 6th, which was extremely close to our hotel and tasty too.

Tuesday, April 7th – “Annibirthday”

Woke up and headed to Ess-a-bagel - www.ess-a-bagel.com - for some yummy NY Bagels, and then subwayed our way downtown to see the Federal Building and Trinity Church and Cemetery. The cemetery was very cool; many of the tombstones were so old the weather had washed away the markings on them. Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton are buried in this cemetery. (Having known this ahead of time, I googled the familiar name of Robert Fulton to remind myself what exactly he was famous for. I figured I’d have my husband stumped when I quizzed him on this in the cemetery, and I would seem really smart for knowing already. Tee-hee.) Well, can you believe without a single hesitation, my husband knew that he had invented the steamboat!?! How did he remember that from like 5th grade social studies?!? Argh. Anyways, when we went into the church there was a mass going on, so we sat down to take part. My husband, although not a practicing Catholic was raised Catholic, so I prodded him to go up and take communion when the time came, since he was "eligible." I thought it very cool that he can say he took communion at such a historic church.

We had decided that we would try for stand-by tickets for Stephen Colbert today, so that meant being in front of the studio by 4pm to sign up. We got there at 3:30pm to improve our chances and ended up being #6 and #7 on the list. After taking down our names we were instructed to come back at 5:30pm and see if we indeed would have tickets. Since we were told taping doesn't usually end until about 8:00pm, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat and ended up at one of our friend’s recommends, Uncle Nick’s Greek Cuisine - unclenicksgreekrestaurant.com - on 9th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen. We both had the chicken soup and shared a tomato and feta salad, with fresh pita that was literally made to order. It was perfect to warm us up and tide us over until our next meal.

Back at the Colbert Report we were lucky enough to be winners of actual tickets. Yea! That day there were probably about 15 people let in from the standby list. The warm up comedian was surprisingly funny and the show itself was absolutely hilarious! We had a great time there!

After Colbert we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and then off for our anniversary dinner at Topaz (127 W 56th St., between 6th & 7th) for Thai food. This also was a friend’s recommend, and was one of our favorite meals on our trip. They are known for the “best pad-thai in the city” and we agree! It was one of those meals that was a complete experience, perfect place, great service, and delicious food!

Wednesday, April 8th

Started the morning with a repeat visit to Ess-a-bagel as my husband had to go back for a bialy. We continued our cross-town walk to the United Nations Building to take part in their tour. The tour was very educational, included a visit to the general assembly room, and overall was something we really enjoyed. Learned about a great program, visit freerice.com if you have a few minutes to pass – you can answer questions from a variety of topics, and for every answer you give correctly, 10 grains of rice is donated to help end world hunger.

Next, we stopped by the NY Public Library to see the famous lions perched in front, as well as the interior of the extremely impressive building, to include the “reading room” as well.

Grabbed a quick bite to eat on the way back to the hotel from one of the Famous Ray’s and did a quick costume change for our matinee of “Waiting for Godot.” This was actually a show that we bought tickets in advance for on account of the cast, Nathan Lane, John Goodman, and Bill Irwin, as we expected seats might go fast for this limited engagement. Where to start. Well, for the majority of the play, in addition to waiting for Godot, we were waiting for it to get good, and when it seemed clear that that wasn’t going to happen, we were just plain waiting for it to end. We were sooo disappointed!!! It was bad, bad, bad! We felt very mislead as a fan of these actors that they would sign on to do something like this, and really left feeling like we’d be swindled.

Determined to have a positive Broadway experience while in New York, we decided to purchase tickets for “Rock of Ages” which I had read unanimously great reviews about, and who can resist a play set entirely to 80’s music? Used a printable coupon from broadwaybox.com, and received our tickets 50% off, purchased directly from the box office. I had actually called earlier in the day before even going to “Waiting for Godot” to see if they still had seats available for Thursday night. I was told that yes, they did, however only in the Mezzanine. Well, after “Waiting,” I would have taken anything, so I knew before heading to the box office what was available. The ticket person was very nice, and said “we have great seats available for you.” She briefly showed us where we’d be seated on the map (aisle seats, 4th row from the back), and the tickets were in my purse and we were on our way in short time. It was until late that night when I took the tickets out of my purse to put into the room safe that I realized we weren’t 4 rows from the back of the theatre, but 4 rows from the stage! In hindsight, we realized she had shown us the map backwards, and since we had already been told the Orchestra section was sold out, we didn’t even think twice. What a great surprise, a Broadway angel must have been watching over us!

Decided to head downtown for a Fodor recommend of the Shake Shack - www.shakeshack.com - in Madison Park for a light dinner – it was a good burger, and the people taking our order were very nice, however it wasn’t a “to die for burger,” but living in SoCal with “In-n-Out” I doubt many burgers could rival our hometown favorite. Decided on an early night in to catch up on some overdue sleep.

Thursday, April 9th

Wow, best weather day of the trip, a gorgeous sunny day, which worked perfect into our itinerary of exploring Central Park. Met our tour guide Bob from the Central Park Conservancy - http://www.centralparknyc.org/site/P...s_walkingtours - (a free tour offered by the Conservancy) for the Cross Park Promenade Tour and were delighted to find out that we’d be the only ones on the tour that day! Woo-hoo! A second tour guide also joined us, so two tour guides for the two of us! Talk about special attention. This tour is time very well spent. They took us to see some of the more notable places in the park, and were great historians in teaching us about the park from its inception to present. You can tell they really love the park, and enjoy sharing it with people through these tours. I would insist on taking another of their tours on a repeat visit to the city. To show our appreciation, after returning home, we have since became “members” of the CPC.

Visited the Dakota briefly on our way out of the park and then hopped on a subway to Brooklyn for our favorite pizza in the country at Grimaldi’s - www.grimaldis.com. We got there probably about 1:30pm, and lined up for about a 45-minute wait. But for those who might think that the line gets better later… it was an even longer line when we left. Be prepared to wait, but also be prepared for the best pizza ever. My husband and I easily finished off a large pizza ourselves, and then shuffled our way down to the pier to enjoy a banana split and an ice cream cone from the Brooklyn ice cream factory. It was all so good. My husband said, “it was like stopping by heaven for pizza.” Walked back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge, enjoyed the great views, and exercise too!

Went to “Rock of Ages” and loved it – our Broadway experience was completely renewed. Enjoyed our super great seats, and had a great time. After the show, we had to wait a bit for the theatre to empty out, as the only bathrooms were upstairs, so by the time we were headed out of the theatre, so were the cast members. Normally, I am not the type of person to get anyone’s autograph, however it seemed as though they were coming out on a conveyer belt, so my husband thought it would be cool to have our playbill signed by everyone. Constantine Maroulis (formerly of American Idol) played the lead, and I have to note how extremely gracious he was to the people waiting for his autograph. He didn’t just sign his signature and move on to the next. He really took time to engage everyone in conversation and really connect with them. So surprising, and very cool of him.

Friday, April 10th

After breakfast stopped into Christie’s to see what people are spending their money on. No auctions were going on that day, but there was an art collection open for viewing and we were eagerly welcomed in to take a tour. I have to say that the people here were very nice, treating us as if we were part of the 0.01% of the population who could actually afford to bid on anything there.

Went downtown to the Tenement Museum to buy tickets for later in the day, as we were aware of how quickly they sell out. Normally, I would have purchased them ahead of time online, however 1) not all of their tour times can you purchase online, and 2) since we were unsure the role weather was going to play in our plans during our stay, I didn’t want to commit us to a tour until the day of.

Headed back uptown to visit the Museum of Natural History and meet up with my best friend and her oldest daughter who had taken the train in from Delaware to visit with us and spend the day. Stopped by Belvedere Castle in Central Park first, as it was yet to be checked off the itinerary, and paused briefly to take a couple photos and have a look around. The term castle is I think a bit deceiving. The architecture of the building is indeed very castle-like, however, it’s really not so much a castle as one would envision, but more a basic lookout point.

Went to the Museum with our friends, and shuffled through with the hordes of the other people doing the same. I have to say that some of it was a bit boring. It was an awful lot of stuffed animals, which are much more fun to see alive and at the zoo, however being a city museum, and maybe a child without the opportunity of visiting a zoo, it may be entertaining. We skipped our way through to the dinosaurs – these you definitely cannot see anywhere else, and made the visit worthwhile.

Headed back downtown and grabbed a small lunch in Little Italy at one of the delis and made our way to the Tenement Museum for our tour. Stopped by the Il Laboratorio del Gelato (just across the street from the Museum) to complete our meal and reveled in the goodness. My husband who has been to Italy and sampled many a gelato there, said their chocolate was the creamiest he’d ever had! No trip to the Tenement should be made without a stop here.

We took the “Getting By” Tour as I thought this would be of the most interest to us since my husband is half Italian and the tour partly discusses an Italian immigrant family. Enjoyed learning the history and hearing the stories of the Tenement very much. Having had my husband’s grandparents, and my great-grandparents both immigrate through Ellis Island, it gave us a great appreciation for the struggles they endured, and made us regret having not asked our grandparents to tell us more stories while we still had the opportunity.

Since we liked our appetizers so much from a couple nights before, we decided to enjoy a full dinner with our friends back at Uncle Nick’s Greek. Since it was Passover for our friends, this was a non-everything bread place for them to enjoy too. Had a great meal here, and finished with dessert at Pinkberry’s (a favorite of my best friend’s daughter). I’m not one to ever pa-pooie a dessert place, but as such a big ice cream lover, it was a little hard loving the frozen yogurt quite as much.

The dreaded rain which we had heard was due to come every day of our trip (but which hadn’t ever arrived) finally started to sprinkle as we said our good-byes to our friends and made our way back to the hotel.

Saturday, April 11th

Enjoyed an uneventful flight back home, and were so excited to see our daughter!

Completely separate from things we actually did in NY, we did have a few celebrity sightings on our way to, and while in New York. While in the Dallas airport we saw London (a contestant from this season’s America’s Next Top Model), Barry Switzer, former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys who won the Super Bowl, (yes, he did have the ring on) and Carson Kressley, from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. While in NYC, we also saw comedian Jackie Mason in a diner, and Nikki Sixx from Motley Crew sat directly behind us during “Rock of Ages.”

Well, that’s about it! I hope this is helpful to those planning your own trips to the city… Have a great time – there’s really no other city quite like it. We definitely “heart” NY!
coryandcarissa is offline  
Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 03:57 AM
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Fun report, you really did cover a lot of ground. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations and best wishes.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 05:01 AM
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Enjoyed reading your report. You are not the first person who has gone to a play based on the cast only to be disappointed by the play - it's happened to me many times. Glad your second experience was a positive one.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 05:17 AM
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Yes, happened to us too, remember "The Odd Couple", Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick together again, after the Producers....

Very nice trip report, you did cover a lot of ground!
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 05:57 AM
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Hi coryandcarissa, what a fun trip! And a belated happy birthday and happy anniversary to you. Thanks for your report.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 06:31 AM
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Sorry you didn't like Waiting for Godot. I have a strong reaction to your complaint that you felt "very misled as a fan of these actors that they would sign on to do something like this, and really left feeling like we'd been swindled."
If you had done any "research" into the play, you would have quickly discovered that, first, it's a classic, and second, it's a specialized taste and not for everyone! To criticize the actors for acting in "something like this" is ludicrous. An actor improves his skills by continually reaching out for divergent roles and not playing same old, same old over and over again. And then to say you felt "swindled" is laughable!
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 07:00 AM
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When people pick a play based on "seeing someone famous" without doing their homework on the play itself, they are often disappointed. You learned the hard way that one should go to a play for the play itself -- if the actors are favorites or happen to be someone you want to see, then that may be a bonus. But if you aren't a lover of a particular kind of show, then it really won't make much difference who is doing it.

Why would they sign on? Because they are fine actors and the play is wonderful experience for them (and for those who like classic modern theatre). Even Wikpedia calls Waiting for Godot "the most significant English language play of the 20th Century". But granted it isn't for everyone. If you hated musicals would you go to a musical just because a favorite actor is going to be in it and then complain because it had music in it?
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 07:04 AM
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HowardR, thank you for sharing your opinion as I have done. I had actually done my "research" in regards to the play; I understood no music, no set changes, and the plot of the story. I suppose we just didn't have that "specialized taste" you mentioned to appreciate it properly. I suppose also the woman sleeping next to me (not joking) during the play didn't either. Thank you for schooling me in the metamorphosis of an actor's career development, I'll keep that in mind with my next selection.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 07:24 AM
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Maybe there's a misunderstanding too, I didn't say that I picked this play based on the actors. I said that we purchased our tickets ahead of time based on the actors, believing it may be sold out by the time we got to NY.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 07:57 AM
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coryandcarissa, I don't think anyone is berating you because you didn't like the play -- we all have different tastes. (Hey, Howard didn't even like Wicked (something some of us will never let him forget, LOL). I think the "issue" happened when you said, "It was bad, bad, bad! We felt very mislead as a fan of these actors that they would sign on to do something like this, and really left feeling like we’d be swindled." That's almost like saying "Why on earth would Johnny Depp do an awful play like Hamlet?"

It's one think not to like a play or its content, and quite another to act like an expert on a great play as if the play itself were bad and question why good actors would do a great and famous play.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 08:01 AM
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coryandcarissa, do I sense a little bit of sarcasm in your first response? (If I'm wrong, I apologize!)
The good thing about your experience is that it may alert others to research exactly what a play is about if they are unfamiliar with it before spending the money. In this case, learning that it had "no music, no set changes" really isn't much help since no straight play has music and many have only one stage setting. As for the "plot of the story," I'm curious what you learned from your research. A simple google search of Waiting for Godot would have give you the Wikpedia information at Neopatrick mentioned. And, after reading that detailed information, you would have definitely known what you were in for when you went to the show, and in your case, you probably would not have bought the tickets.
By the way, in response to your comment that you bought the tickets in advance "believing it may be sold out by the time we got to NY," may I ask, "Would you have wanted to see the show if those actors weren't in it?"
(An interesting sidelight: A few years ago, the play was revived in a limited engagement, and it starred Robin Williams and, I beleve, Steve Martin. Needless to say, it sold out quickly!)
And finally, I want to make it clear that I was not talking down to you when I used the phrase "specialized taste." Just about any person who is familiar with Waiting for Godot would agree that it's for a "specialized taste."
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 10:49 AM
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From an interesting article in tomorrow's New York Times about the performance history of Waiting for Godot. After the initial run of the show was far from successful in its American premiere in Miami, Florida, the producer took out an ad prior to the New York opening with this wording: "I respectfully suggest to those who come to the theater for casual entertainment do not buy a ticket to this attraction."
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Old May 2nd, 2009, 09:57 AM
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Thanks for your detailed trip report. I am set to make my second trip to NYC next month for a similar amount of time (also travelling from the west coast), and the Tenement Museum is on my list. About how much time did you spend there?
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Old May 2nd, 2009, 07:05 PM
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You can only "do" the Tenement Museum on a tour. Each tour lasts just over an hour. So you can figure 1-1/4 hours in total from the time you arrive. It's aa good idea to make a reservation for the tour you want to take -- they do sell out.
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