Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   United States (
-   -   NYC first-timers...2 days. PLEASE help! No time to search & plan! (

Julie33 May 7th, 2013 04:47 PM

NYC first-timers...2 days. PLEASE help! No time to search & plan!
Hi! I've been invited to join my cousin for a quick trip to NYC and I can't wait!! The problem is, we leave on Sunday, and I don't really have time to separate the "Must Do, true experience" from the "Tourist Traps". PLEASE help me weed thru the junk and find the gems! On a small budget...

We're arriving Sunday evening, around 5pm, and staying in Times Square. Monday, we have tickets to Phantom of the Opera, and we leave Tuesday around noon. I am so overwhelmed!! I don't want to miss anything, but I don't know where to start.

Here's some of the things I might like to include:
1. PIZZA! Real, honest to goodness, gooey NY pizza. No gourmet fluffy stuff please.
2. Staten Island Ferry, to see the Lady and Ellis Island. Is it worth it to spend time going to Ellis Island with not much time in the City?
3. Chrysler Building, because I heard its actually a better view of the ESB, and cheaper, also!
4. FOOD! I'd love to find some genuine places in Little Italy, or a good hamburger joint, a bakery? We don't do much "ethnic food" unless you count Italian ;)
5. Neighborhoods--Harlem? Brooklyn?
6. Maybe a good jazz club? We aren't drinkers, so not really looking for bar atmosphere.

Please help me make the most of this wonderful surprise opportunity!!

nyer May 7th, 2013 05:18 PM

2. Ellis Island is still closed due to storm last fall, as is the Statue of Liberty. SI ferry is a free and easy way to get a good view.
3. you prob mean Top of the Rock, there's no observation deck at Chrysler building
4. genuine and Little Italy are pretty incompatible.
5. Neighborhoods for what? NYC is a city of neighborhoods each with a different feel and interesting things to do and see. Brooklyn is big place with over a million people, so you have to be much more specific.

BTW,you don't have time to plan, but you still can give us more details to work with to make the best suggestions. Many people here will suggest/insist that you see some museums, so let us know if that's a go or no go.

I assume tagging this as NJ is a mistake, so you may want to
ask Fodors to correct that.

Fra_Diavolo May 7th, 2013 05:19 PM

1) Joe's Carmine Street.

2) Ellis Island is still closed repairing damage from Hurricane Sandy.

3) The observation deck of the Chrysler Building closed in 1945. Do you mean Rockefeller Center?

4) Not much good food in Little Italy. Try Parm. They do Italian-American the way it should be.

Can't help with 5 & 6.

nytraveler May 7th, 2013 05:29 PM

OK -

You really are confused:

You cannot get to either the SoL of Ellis Island - the ferry docks were damaged in superstorm Sandy and they won;t be back until later this summer. You can get a distance view from the free Staten Island Ferry (about 1.5 hours RT) or one of the paid city harbor cruises (Circle Line etc) - about 2 hours.

You do not mean the Chrsyler Building - which is beautiful, but you cannot go up in it - you mean Top of the Rock (Rock Center) which has great views of the city. Good to go up around dusk to see the city in both day and night. You can get advance tickets - so no waiting.

Good pizza should not be gooey - NYC pizza is thin and crisp crust (more like Italian pizza) - not thick and gooey deep dish.

Little Italy is practically gone and there really aren;t many decent places to eat. If you want Italian and give us a budget people can reco where to go. And do you want old-fashioned red sauce Italian - or more authentic cuisine?

As for neighborhoods - what do you want to see? The city has dozens of them? And while Harlem is a neighborhood - Brooklyn is a borough (NYC has 5 boroughs - counties) and Brooklyn is primarily residential - with almost 2 million people. You might want to consider exploring the Village for quaint. SoHo, Chelsea and East Village tend to be trendy.

For jazz, look at the website of TimeOutNewYork - to see who is playing where, the cost and if they offer food or just drinks?

As a first step, get a good street map as well as a good subway map - since you will be walking (probably miles - have good comfy walking shoes)and taking the subway around.

Michael May 7th, 2013 06:50 PM

<i>Chrysler Building, because I heard its actually a better view of the ESB,</i?

No question that if offers a better view of the Empire State Building (assuming that it is open), but then the ESB offers a better view of the Chrysler building.

Since the cousin made the invitation, let the cousin decide what to see and just relax.

Julie33 May 7th, 2013 08:51 PM

Thanks for your responses, and I appreciate your patience. I admit I sound like a tourist, but that's all a learning curve, I hope!

NYtraveler, you hit the nail on the head, we're not looking for a trendy experience. I'm from Cincinnati, don't know if you've ever heard of our "Over the Rhine" neighborhood, but that's the type experience I'm looking for, outside of the time we'll spend in Times Square. Historic, authentic NY flavor.

Little Italy sounded interesting because its someplace I've always heard about--my husbands Italian family is from Calabria and came to the US in 1962, we're pretty familiar with family style Italian foods. I'm looking for good sopresotta and spaghetti marinara.

I don't think we want to venture into the museums--though the MET is tempting. I'm more interested in soaking up the architecture & history of the city.

One of our must dos that I forgot to mention is walking the Brooklyn Bridge. Cincinnati has the original prototype of the bridge and I can't wait to compare sizes!

I guess I'm trying to find the places the locals have loved for ages, the hidden, not Disneyfied places.

Again, forgive my lack of knowledge. I'm researching! Wow, what a blunder I made on saying the Chrysler building instead of Top of the Rock...

Any tips on Central Park? Do you have a favorite local blogger that might help? I just feel like I'm hitting dead ends.

Rhea58 May 8th, 2013 02:58 AM

You might be interested in:

I took out-of-towners on the 2 hr Greenwich Village tour which was very informative...just tip the guide at the end.
Reservations a must!

ellenem May 8th, 2013 06:00 AM

"I just feel like I'm hitting dead ends." Perhaps because without realizing it your questions are very general, open-ended, or contradictory.

For neighborhoods to explore, Greenwich Village, including the West Village and East Village, probably have a lot of what you are looking for--smaller buildings, quaint streets, loads of shops and restaurants.

Your stated desires for your Italian restaurant can be found at almost any neighborhood Italian restaurant located all over Manhattan. You might as well go to Little Italy since it intrigues you ad browse the menus along Mulberry Street, but your concern about Disneyfied might apply here since most of the diners here are visiotrs rather than residents. There are still some food shops in Little Italy where you might find soppressata, but there are a number of good Italian specialty food shops throughout the city that would offer you just as good if not better experience and be closer to other sights . . . Eataly, Buon Italia at Chelsea Market, Todaro's, Citarella to name a few. For Italian pastries, people choose Ferrara or Caffe Roma in Little Italy. I refer Veniero's and DiRobertis in the East Village or Bruno near NYU on Laguardia Place.

Central Park is huge--2.5 miles by .75 mile. I recommend you look at a map of the park and consider which attractions intrigue you. Or tell us what experience you were hoping to have there. "In Central Park, I always dreamed I would ___" and we can best advise you.

doug_stallings May 8th, 2013 06:41 AM

Blue Smoke has a Jazz Club with entertainment every night, and I think you can get food and non-alcoholic drinks there. They serve great bbq, but you must make a reservation if you decide to go there.

In terms of "neighborhoods", the most interesting are far west Chelsea/Meat Packing District. If you start at far west 14th Street, there are cobblestone streets, a few boutiques and some galleries and restaurants. Then you can go to the Highline, which is magnificent.

There's just not much good food (certainly nothing authentic) in Little Italy. But Eataly is a great destination, a combo food market and food court. Some of the food is really expensive, but some not so much, and most of the cooked food is really good and authentic. They also have great pizza.

One of my favorite NYC pizza places is John's of Bleecker Street. NY pizza isn't gooey. It's crisp and cooked in a coal oven, so the bottom is a little black.

Five Guys is good for hamburgers but a bit casual. Five Napkin Burger is also very good and has real sit-down service, but it's busy. You really need to make a reservation, especially if you want to eat at Times Square (9th Avenue). If you go to the Union Square location, it's not nearly as busy with tourists and easier to get a seat without a reservation. And of course we have Shake Shack and the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien. All of these are among the better burgers in NYC.

HappyTrvlr May 8th, 2013 08:31 AM

Like Over the Rhine...W.Chelsea, Meatpacking, W. Village..these three are contiguous. Also, E. Village.
Good Italian in the East Village , Barbone,on Ave.B
Little Italy used to be good, now a very touristy area.

MichelleY May 8th, 2013 08:51 AM

In Central Park, go to,the Boat House for lunch, then stroll over to the Frick Collection. It is housed in the Frick family mansion. Nice collection, housed in an interesting building. You can easily be in and out in 2 hours.

sf7307 May 8th, 2013 09:12 AM

You have very little time actually. This is what I would do with the time you have

1. Sunday night - head straight to Greenwich Village for dinner and a walk around. When you return to your hotel (late), see Times Square.

2. Monday morning - head up to Central Park for an hour (or two if you get up very early). Then walk down Fifth Avenue past the iconic Plaza Hotel, Bergdorf's, Tiffany's, Rockefeller Center, etc.

3. Monday afternoon - If you're not going to be satisfied without at least seeing a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty (and that's all you'll get - a distant view), take the subway downtown and hop on the Staten Island Ferry. When you get back to Manhattan, make your way to the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge and walk back.

OR - skip the Staten Island Ferry part, and instead spend the time below 23rd Street (do the High Line or part of it, Chelsea Market, Brooklyn Bridge, pizza, etc.) That's what I would do because I think the Highline is very special.

That's probably more than you'll actually have time for, but that's what I would shoot for.

NJriverchick May 8th, 2013 09:23 AM

As a person who has spent alot of time in NYC, I find the best way to enjoy the City as a tourist is to NOT!! over-schedule yourself. The most memorable moments happen when you are wandering around,exploring and you stumble on something fun & unexpected or have some lovely serendipitous moment.

If I were you, I would get a 48 hour pass for the HOP-ON HOP-OFF double-decker sightseeing bus. This gives you the ability to see the city on 3 loops, I think...Downtown Loop (Greenwich Village, Chinatown)& Uptown Loop (Central Park West, the Dakota, Harlem) & the Brooklyn Loop.

This way you get a good feel for the different neighborhoods and jump off whenever you see a cute little sidewalk cafe or some interesting shop, etc.

nytraveler May 8th, 2013 09:45 AM

For central park go to the website of the central paark conservancy. You will find a map, a list of things to see/do and detailed info on how to do it.

You could easily spend all your time there - depending on yuor interests (Central Park is a major stop on the east cost flyway for migrating birds and has a host of wildlife - even a coyote or two - even though it is in Manhattan).

I would NOT do any sort of major bus tour. they are very expensive, you spend a LOT of time sitting in traffic - and it is insulating you from the real city (IMHO may as well watch a video).

NewbE May 8th, 2013 12:20 PM

Either you love the idea of a HOHO bus or you don't...

I think sf's plan sounds pretty perfect!

sf7307 May 8th, 2013 12:57 PM

Thanks NewbE!

Julie33 May 8th, 2013 08:09 PM

Thank you for your responses! I'm keeping track of this, and all the suggestions--which are MUCH appreciated. When we return, I'll update with what all we were able to squeeze in.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:21 PM.