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NYC: Help me make lemonade out of this lemon of an itinerary!

NYC: Help me make lemonade out of this lemon of an itinerary!

Mar 1st, 2009, 11:23 AM
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NYC: Help me make lemonade out of this lemon of an itinerary!

I'm not quite sure why I volunteered to chaperone DD's high school band trip to New York this year (probably guilt over passing on their China trip last year) but, here we are. I'll be hopping on and off a bus with 95 teenagers, hitting many of the main tourist attractions - Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, ESB, Apollo Theatre, Cotton Club dinner and show, Circle Line Dinner Tour. The music festival will be at Riverside Church in late March.

It is the scheduling of the "free" time that has me the most baffled. Because of our flight times from the West Coast, we have more time in the City than originally expected. The tour company has come up with (IMHO) a totally unimaginative, repetitive itinerary, which results with us having two 3-hour blocks of time in Central Park, and two 3-hour blocks of time at Rockefeller Center (on two different days). Additionally, we will have a block of free time at Chinatown and at Times Square.

I need some help in planning those hours in and around the park, Rock. Ctr. and Chinatown. Restaurant (lunch) recommendations will be greatly appreciated, too. I also would appreciate any suggestions for things (with or without kids) to do in the Morningside Heights area, where the Riverside Church is located.

As an additional "bonus", instead of chaperoning my DD and her group of friends-- whose quirky personalities I've gotten to know and love-- I have a group of 8 kids who I don't really know, so I'm not sure if they would be happier strolling through the Met or shopping 'til they drop.

Thanks so much for whatever guidance you can give me!
lvk is offline  
Mar 1st, 2009, 12:00 PM
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Check out the Museum of Natural History. That will keep kids quite entertained for several hours.
emalloy is offline  
Mar 1st, 2009, 12:43 PM
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Well you don;t say when the trip is. If in decent weather - April on- one block of Central Park can actually be used there - there's a small but interesting zoo, a lake with boats for rent, you can rent bikes and there's a lot to see/do (check out Central Park Conservancy web site). Also in the Park is the Met (there WILL be something there for everyone - from Costume institute to Arms & Armor and Temple of Dendur/Egyptian department - again check the wb site in advance WITH the kids to see what they'll like. The Natural History Museum and the New York Historical Society (always interesting exhibits) are on the west side of the Park from 77th to 81st Sts.

One block of time at Rock Center can be used at Top of the Rock, possibly MoMA, St Pat's and a trek over to Grand Central Station, which is incredible and has free tours. For the other 3 hour block there - jump on the subway and head for another area of the city - preferably East Village - which is trendy, fairly inexpensive and will have lots of shops, cafes, etc that teens will like.

Chinatown is just eating and shopping for tschotkes. Times Square IMHO is a waste of time - worth about 15 minutes. I would get a list of other museums/activities from New York Magazine web site and ask teens where they would like to go - there is a Rcok and Roll Museum, a Sports Museum and a Sex Museum - but the latter may not let them in.

For where to eat check out menupages.com for each area. There are a couple of chains around the city (Cosi - for decent salads, sandwiches and Hale and Hearty Soups) that are always reliable.
nytraveler is offline  
Mar 1st, 2009, 01:19 PM
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a very good cafeteria - as does the Museum of Natural History. Either museum is good for a 3 hr. visit or more. The Natural History museum also has the Planetarium/Rose center. My teen grandchildren love both.
Mid-town - recommend the Top of the Rock and MOMA.
estravel is offline  
Mar 1st, 2009, 02:47 PM
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Hi lvk-

I also am going to suggest the Central Park conservancy walking tours.

For Rockefeller Center, how about touring the NY PUblic Library or Grand Central Station? Both are about 10 blocks south.
yk is online now  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 09:07 AM
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Thanks for all of the suggestions. I will print some info out and see if anything interests them. As stated in my first paragraph, this will be in late March, so the weather probably will be iffy.

We're not allowed to ride on subways. I was hoping for a few hours in Greenwich Village, but I'm not sure how I can sneak away for that. Maybe during the Chinatown block of time? Since we have a Chinatown here in L.A., they were actually IN China last year, and I don't think the freshman boys will be interested in buying knock-off Prada's, I might be able to talk them into making the trek.

Any good street food recommendations?
lvk is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 09:17 AM
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95 kids in Chinatown will be impossible. The streets are narrow and the broadest street Canal is the most crowded.

The East Village would be fun. The best place to eat would be Katz's but try and go early.

You have balance decent food and 95 kids. Call Tontonno's on 2nd Ave and 26 Street and see if they can acommodate you.

NY Traveler suggestion for a museum is great, a confined area with a time limit and the kids can eat when they want.

The lower concourse at Grand Central has a variety of food but not 100 chairs.

Good luck
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 09:26 AM
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Thanks, Aduchamp. We'll be breaking up into groups of 8 to explore and have lunch on our own. Breakfast is at the hotel, and dinners are already pre-booked, so we (thankfully) won't be looking to seat 95 kids + 12 chaperones at a time.

The Natural History Museum is high on the list, especially in light of the movie. To freshman boys, Ben Stiller is probably second only to Adam Sandler.
lvk is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 10:10 AM
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You did not say where the hotel is located. I chaperoned DS's band trip to NYC and the tour company stuck us out in New Jersey. All of our supposed free time was used getting in out of Manhatten. The kids spent more time on the bus than anywhere else - all plans pretty much went down the toilet - we even almost missed our concert. Some high points though included an impromtu concert a group of band members did at Rockefeller Center and they also seemed to enjoy going to the top of the Empire State Building.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 10:27 AM
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You're really not ALLOWED to take the subway? How about ESPNZone in Times Square? That's a lot of fun - but don't eat there. Walk to the Village when you're supposed to be in Chinatown. There's an automat there where they can get snacks. I haven't tried it but I think it would be fun. http://www.bamnfood.com/ If the weather turns out to be nice you grab a falafel here http://www.mamounsfalafel.com/. Eating in the street is a big deal here. lol
Dohlice is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 10:35 AM
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Do not be afraid of the subway especially if you are traveling in packs of 8. They are safe and in the areas you are visiting easy to understand and negotiate. It is the fastest, cheapest way for a group to travel.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 02:34 PM
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We're also "stuck" in New Jersey . basingstoke, your experience is just what I feared. I'll scale back my expectations.

At the meeting, they told us we weren't allowed on the subway. Some of our former-Manhattan-dwelling chaperones protested, so maybe we can get that restriction eased, especially if we're stretched for time.

How long do you think it would take for us to walk to the Village and back to Chinatown?
lvk is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 03:36 PM
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The Village-chinatown walk from West 8th Street and Sixth Ave to Canal Street and Lafayette would take 25-30 minutes one way
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 03:41 PM
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lvk, you are staying in NJ because that is where most of the tour groups with kids stay. Access to Manhattan can be easy on public transportation. Many tour companies are doing their entire itineraries via public transportation (including the subway), so I do not understand the "no subway" restriction. Maybe it is an insurance issue for the tour company, but it makes no sense.
LaurenKahn1 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 03:45 PM
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If you aren't allowed to take the subway and you are staying in New Jersey, make sure you take lots of money with you because cabs will cost you a fortune.

That is really a stupid rule. The NYC subways are safe and clean.

I'd also try and get the hotel changed.

You are flying all the way from the west coast to stay in a hotel in New Jersey? Not. You will spend all your time and any money they've saved on the hotel on transportation.

I agree the museums will be a great place to spend your blocks of time. For one of your three hour blocks at Rock Center, I'd walk the kids over to Times Square.
GoTravel is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 04:24 PM
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We questioned the tour company's choice of a New Jersey hotel for our own band trip and learned the following:

1. The tour companies get good deals from the New Jersey hotels - they have arrangements that they don't get with the City hotels.

2. The Jersey hotels have parking for the buses (they will most likely ferry you into Manhattan by chartered bus.

3. The Jersey hotels are located in places where there is nothing of interest around, thus discouraging the kids from sneaking out for a night on the town that would be a real temptation in the City hotels.

4. Repeat #1.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 04:29 PM
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I have never taken a large group to NYC, but being a high school band director, I can make a stab at a couple of the things that have some people scratching their heads. First, my suspicion is that the "no subway" rule is not the tour company's, but the band's. My guess would be that the director(s) have fears of the small groups getting separated/turned around on the Subway, if they aren't familiar with it.

Also, tour companies tend to book school groups in areas like NJ, because it is not as expensive. I doubt that anyone will be cabbing back and forth. On trips like this, things are planned out pretty concisely and I would imagine that the group has a tour bus that they will use to get from point A to point B, plus a cab only holds 3-4 people and I doubt that the students will be turned loose on their own without an adult chaperone.
BetsyinKY is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 05:55 PM
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Take the bus to Greenwich Village. Go here: http://www.mta.info/nyct/maps/manbus.pdf

It looks like the 22 will take you there from Chinatown. They'll like that much better . My son found it interesting.

For the museums, make sure you map out where you want to go ahead of time. We spent a couple of hours at the Am Museum of Natural History only to find the area we wanted to see right at closing, darn it.

I think for Rock Center, the library is a great idea. They'll like the Winnie the Pooh exhibit, even though they're almost grown.
rosetravels is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 06:00 PM
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Betsy, did you read basingstoke's reply?
GoTravel is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 06:08 PM
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Betsy, you have it down correctly. Hotels in NYC are very expensive and the rooms are small. If you are a school group, you want as many kids to participate as possible. So, the cost needs to be kept down.

In NYC they use hotels in NJ. In Washington, DC, the kids stay in VA or MD.

Another factor with downtown hotels anywhere is that many will not take groups of kids at all. They don't want the noise because they will get complaints from the individuals staying at the hotel, so they refuse groups of kids. So that factors in to where the kids stay.

And yes, the motor coach gets them from place to place if, say, they are doing an itinerary that includes DC-Phila-NY or something similar.
LaurenKahn1 is offline  

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