The glamour of it all! New York! America! ~ Charlie Chaplin
New York is Not Just a City, It’s a World ~ Author Unknown
4 days in Manhattan is not very much time to cover everything we wanted to see!!!! I jotted down a very long list of “must-sees” and then prioritized them to be sure that we could hit the top sights on the list. Warning, in order to cover as much as we did, you have to be willing to go non-stop from morning until night! Realistically, doing even half of what we did is a lot for some. Plan your agenda by location or else you’ll spend all of your time sitting in a cab and going nowhere. I’ll categorize this post by food, sights, and entertainment. I apologize in advance if there’s more information on FOOD than anything else.
In terms of theater, there’s not a more supportive theater community than in New York. It’s really kind of a real thrill to go there. I mean, don’t forget, I’m a boy from the suburbs of Sydney, so getting to New York is a huge, huge thrill. ~ Hugh Jackman
Broadway, Broadway, Broadway…..
I love theater and have experienced shows in both Vegas and London but never in New York. Of course we’d love to see Hamilton but it was sold out due to nearing the end of their run in New York. So, we chose Phantom of the Opera in the Majestic Theater!!! I had seen Phantom in Las Vegas at the Venetian theater that was built specifically for Phantom, but never in New York. The special effects were better in Vegas but the music was phenomenal on Broadway. I could watch Phantom 10 times and never grow tired of the music.
$$ Saving Tips: Purchase discounted tickets same day at TKTS located in the center of Time Square under the red steps at 47th and Broadway. Tickets are 20-50% and sold for same day evening shows and next day matinees only. Get there about an hour before it opens to wait in line. Don’t wait in line for a hour to try and purchase a ticket that is not same day otherwise you’re wasting your time. There is a monitor that will show the tickets available for the day. The booth opens at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday if there is a matinee showing that day. The booth is closed on Sundays. There are 3 other locations: South Street Seaport, Downtown Brooklyn, Lincoln Center. If you are planning to sit with someone else, be sure one person purchases both tickets because you can’t choose your seats, they are all best available. Don’t have two different people walk up to two different windows because you will not be seated together.
Our favorite entertainment was seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall!!! Be sure to see the Rockettes post on this blog located on the right hand side under “topics”, “New York”.
A Balanced Diet is Chocolate In Both Hands
For Casual Dining~ There is no way to capture everything we ate over the span of 4 days. Even if we weren’t hungry, that didn’t stop us from trying foods, pastries and desserts as we passed carts, patisseries, and restaurants. The aromas are endless!!
Food Carts~ Halal Guys was one of our favorite carts, conveniently located outside our hotel, the Sheraton New York Times Square at 7th & 53rd. The Halal Guys carts are all over the city, the red & yellow umbrellas seen from blocks away. The aroma of charbroiled meats is what will draw you in. Maybe it was so memorable because it was our first time experiencing a gyro, but I tend to think it was the intense flavors, not too mention they are so filling, great to split and only $5! My husband ate two in 24 hours. Pick your sauce and weather you want it served as a salad or as a gyro.
Then of course there are the total rip off carts! Since my blog focusses on money saving tips, I must share the not-so-great deals. My daughter was insistent on a double ice cream cone that she spotted right near Rockefeller Plaza. I can’t remember the exact price of the cone but I want to say around $10! It didn’t even taste like ice cream, more like frozen whipped topping. People are drawn to the cart due to the unique cones offered and choices of dipping flavors. The cart says Fun-Time all over it and has a large menu with pictures of cone options. Not worth the money at all. Very disappointing.
Walking back from the Circle Line Tour, we stopped in for a cannoli at Carlo’s Bake Shop located at 8th and 42nd. You’ve probably heard of Carlo’s Bakery on the TV show Cake Boss. Carlo’s is a family owned bakery that originally opened in 1910, named after Carlo Guastaffero.
Carlo’s Master Baker Bartolo Jr., known as “Buddy”, cake was voted Best Cake in America by the Today Show viewers. Buddy has made appearances on the Food Network, known for his intricate sugar art designs, and specialty and wedding cakes. Carlo’s is much more than cakes, choose from cannoli’s, freshly baked cookies, chocolate dipped strawberries, biscotti, tarts, cream puffs and pastries.
Juniors “Home of the World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake” is located right off Time Square at Broadway and 45th. Everything at Junior’s was over-the-top delicious and I must brag about their Ruben sandwich. My daughter loved their milkshakes and my mom raved about their cheesecake. The best part is, you can grab a slice of cheesecake to go after eating lunch. The décor inside is very fun with murals all over the walls. Their portions are pretty large, perfect for splitting entrees, especially if you are going to be walking the streets as we did. You may just need to dine at Junior’s twice to indulge on the extraordinary menu options. Be sure to stop into Junior’s when walking around Time Square.
Can you really go to New York and not eat a pie? No way! Stop in at John’s of Time Square at 260 W 44th Street, the most unique pizza in the world. At John’s they make each pizza made-to-order in an 800 degree coal-fired brick oven. Each pizza employee has months of extensive training under their belt knowing exactly when to take the pizza out of the oven. John’s is located in what was once an abandoned church on West 44th Street, where the homeless hung out and graffiti was the only décor. Madeline Castellotti noticed the perfectly intact stained glass ceiling at the tabernacle and saw the potential. It was symbolic of a pie in that it was made up of 8 parts and all equal in size. John’s opened in 1997 and has two other locations: Bronx and Jersey City.
Hell’s Kitchen~ If you plan on visiting Hell’s Kitchen, we found a great place called 5 Napkin Burger, named for their messy burgers, located on a corner. We had a gift certificate from Open Table for the restaurant and found our way there. We actually walked on over to 630 9th Ave. from Time Square; however, there are 5 locations. They are open for lunch and dinner from 11:30am-12am. I loved that we could watch all the happenings of Hell’s Kitchen from our window seat. Many of their staff are actors by night, including our waiter that day. You can find sushi, salad bowls and burgers, made with Aspen Ridge Chuck, on the menu and draft beers for just $6-7. The burgers are around $14 each but large enough to share, especially if you order a side of their amazing onion rings!!!
Moving on to Food Network Restaurants in Midtown~ I love watching the Cooking Channel and Food Network, so as soon as we started planning our trip to Midtown, I looked up the Food Network chefs local establishments. Chef Zakarian’s The Lambs Club just so happen to be located in the hotel that we were staying at~ The Chatwal at 132 West 44th Street.
Chef Zakarian has 7 restaurants, two of which are in New York. The menu is quite pricey but we were there for the experience as much as the food. We ended up sharing one pasta dish and had a glass of wine. The Lambs Club décor is that of classic club rooms of midcentury America, complete with red leather banquettes, art deco fixtures, and an 18th Century French fireplace. If the dinner menu is out of your price range, stop in the bar area and have a cocktail while listening to live piano music.
My favorite restaurant in Midtown is Butter Midtown by Chef Alex Guarnaschelli!!!! One of my favorite memories while in Manhattan was our visit to Butter Midtown, which was recommended by the concierge at our hotel. The food is fantastic while reasonable, the ambiance is cozy, dark, rustic with high back booths, but I was most impressed to see Chef Guarnaschelli working in the kitchen!! She isn’t just a name on the restaurant, she is the executive chef at Butter Midtown, her first restaurant.
The menu offers local, freshly sourced foods and surprisingly decent sized portions very reasonable priced. Everything that we ordered was so unique and full of flavor. We opted to order several side dishes so that we could try multiple items rather than settling for an entrée. Be sure to save room for dessert! When I checked out the restaurant on line, I was blown away by the detail of the desserts. We asked our waiter if we could please meet Chef Guarnaschelli and to our surprise, she came to our table! We shared how much we loved the food and how reasonably priced it was but maybe it just seemed reasonable because we are used to Hawaii restaurant prices.
If you are looking for a place to sit, have a glass of wine and watch the hustle and bustle in the heart of Midtown, Inside Park at St. Bart’s is your place!! We loved this location so much, we ate dinner there two nights in a row. It is a popular stop after work for Wall Street, men dressed in suits and talking about the stock market. We just so happen to be there during Brexit. It’s a great place to people watch and who doesn’t want to people watch in Manhattan? The location makes the restaurant, the food is simple, but good and the atmosphere is 5 Star!! Inside Park is located at 325 Park Ave. in a courtyard of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral where echo’s ring out from the church bell while your dining. The restaurant replaced what was once The Great Hall, the details and décor are modeled after it’s design.
Did you know that the iconic Waldorf Astoria New York, located at 301 Park Ave., was the first hotel to offer room service and hire female chefs? The Waldorf Astoria is famous for the Waldorf Salad (1893), Eggs Benedict (1894), Thousand Island Dressing (1894), Veal Oscar (1893) and Red Velvet Cupcake (1920’s). You don’t have to stay at the Waldorf to indulge in their wonderful menu items while listening to piano music at the Peacock Alley Bar & Lounge. We sipped coffee and devoured the cupcakes pictured above.
If you have to catch a train , you will most likely experience Grand Central Terminal, also known as Grand Central Station, at 42nd & Park Ave. Even if you’re not going anywhere, stop in for pictures and a bite to eat at the Dining Concourse located below the Main Concourse. Step foot into the terminal where you’ll be greeted by the sounds and rattling of trains inclusive of 41 tracks underground and 26 above ground pulling in and out of the station. We took a ride along the Hudson River headed for Poughkeepsie. There are automated ticket machines in the lobby and very simple to navigate. Admire the starry ceiling that is astronomically inaccurate. For example, some constellations appear correct while others are backwards, left-to-right.
It’s sort of a center of everything; it’s Grand Central Station. When a dog gets lost they call me. When the cows get out, they call me. ~ Marty Hunt
Interesting facts~ The American Flag was hung in Grand Central Terminal a few days after 9/11. The 13-foot clock (pictured above) in front of Grand Central façade which faces 42nd Street contains the world’s largest example of Tiffany glass.
The Brooklyn Bridge was on our list of things to do. We wanted to walk across it and end up in Brooklyn but were too tired by the time we arrived, so we walked part of it. The views from the bridge are gorgeous, cars are zipping by and people strolling past on bikes. If we had more time, it would have been fun to rent bikes and ride along the bridge. Bike rentals start at $15 for one hour and go up $5 per hour from there. You can also rent a bike for the day at $40. Rentals include a helmet, basket, map and chain and lock. There are several companies offering bike rentals, check out Brooklyn Bridge Sightseeing where you can reserve it all on line.
After checking into our hotel after 5K miles of traveling, our first stop was the Empire State Building located on 5th Ave. between 33rd & 34th street. We looked at our map and walked there from the Sheraton New York. The Empire State Building is 102 stories high standing at 1250 feet tall. It was the tallest building until the World Trade Center Towers were built in late 1970. In 2001, it was once again the tallest building in New York until 2012 when One World Trade Center was constructed. Tickets are available same day by walking into the lobby of the building or available in advance on line. Ticket prices vary from $34-54 per person. We chose the tour that goes to the top with access to walk around outside. It was very windy at the top displaying breathtaking views including the Hudson River.
9/11 Memorial & Museum~ One of the top items on our sight seeing list was the 9/11 Memorial; however, it was a ways away from where we were staying. We found that there were two different subway trains that go to 9/11 from where we were staying in Midtown. I have to admit it was a bit confusing and hectic getting there but pretty easy coming back. The subway is very fast moving, including the ticket purchase. You need to know what line you are buying and if it is one-way or roundtrip by the time you get up to the window or the machine. Be sure to save your ticket!! It is the same ticket to get back. Don’t plan on asking people for assistance, we were not successful in that. Ha!! Forgot that we were no longer in Hawaii for a brief moment. Not much Aloha on the New York subways.
As with most memorials, it is very quite on the grounds. In fact, there are even signs along the streets right outside of the memorial that say “No Honk Zone”. I personally believe everyone should experience the 9/11 Memorial. You really can’t imagine how large the towers were until you look straight down into the reflection pools which are each an acre in size. The memorial is open daily from 730 a.m.- 930 p.m. and is free to walk around. The museum is a separate entrance with tickets priced at $24 for museum only, $44 for museum plus museum tour, $39 for museum plus memorial tour. Prices are discounted for children, students, veterans and seniors. Allow 2 hours to complete the tour of the museum. We did not have time to tour the museum and there was a very long line to get in. The name of each person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed on the Memorial pools. 9/11 is the largest loss of life due to a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest loss of rescue personnel in American history.
One World Trade Center is the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen. The picture above was taken up close on a foggy day which seemed appropriate for a memorial site. However, on a different day, I was able to capture it in all of it’s beauty, standing tall in the sun as I sailed by on the Hudson River.
The Circle Line Tour~ The Statue of Liberty was top on our list but we didn’t have time to make a day of it. So we opted to catch a boat and cruise past Lady Liberty instead. We walked to the The Circle Line Tour located at Pier 83 at W 42nd & 12th. The Circle Line Tour offers 3 different cruises, 1, 1.5 and 2.5 hour trips. We chose the 1 hour tour that sails within 100 feet of the Statue of Liberty, offering views of Midtown and Lower Manhattan all for $29 per person! This is the best deal in the city. There is a café on board selling snacks and drinks. The 1.5 hour cruise is called the Landmarks Cruise which includes cruising under the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges for $37 per person or take the Best of New York cruise for $42 to see 5 boroughs, 3 rivers and 20 bridges!!
The Today Show was a must-see on the list as my mom and I have watched the show every morning for years. Located in Midtown, Studio 1A is on 48th Street between 5th and 6th Ave. We went to both the NBC Store and right outside the actual studio.
The picture above sitting at the desk is a prop inside of the NBC Store located at 30 Rockefeller Center. The other Today Show prop was in front of Studio 1A. Arrive early if you’d like to be in the audience on the Today Show taping. They were just packing up the outside crowd railings as we arrived. We stopped in front of the Tonight Show as well to snap a couple of pictures.
I would like to end with some pointers on WHAT NOT TO DO IN MIDTOWN! Do not take pictures with any people dressed up in costume. What looked like it would be fun and silly, turned into a full on mob swarming us for money. Yes, lesson learned the hard way. They were waving and motioning for us to come over and take pictures with them while strolling Times Square. So, we stopped and thought, why not? After taking several pictures, they removed their masks so they could talk and started begging for money, to the point of swarming. Then once you take your wallet out, other people dressed in costume, whom we didn’t even take a picture with, started begging for money and pushing us. It was a horrible experience and they formed a circle around us. With that said, The Naked Cowboy seems fun and you can watch him play the guitar without going up and asking for a picture.
Where not to stay if you take a trip up the Hudson to Poughkeepsie!!!! The premise of this travel blog is to travel while saving money. However, sometimes you really do get what you pay for. I would like warn anyone traveling to Poughkeepsie to steer clear of the Mercury Grand Hotel, in fact we ended up fighting with Priceline to get our money back. Unbelievably, it is rated 3 Stars by Priceline. It was the only hotel available for the night and thank God we only booked one night. The hotel should have been condemned, full of mold, broken, sharp, metal towel racks that were hidden behind the towels, leaking toilets, windows that wouldn’t lock on the ground level, phone in room didn’t have a dial tone, bathtub wouldn’t drain, ice machines broken with signs on them, coffee maker without the pot, rust in the bath tub (pictured) and the entire hotel wreaked like smoke. In addition, there isn’t an elevator and they originally had us on the second floor but we couldn’t drag our luggage up the flight of stairs. Thankfully, we stayed at the Hampton Inn the second night in Poughkeepsie which was so clean – it felt like the Ritz in comparison to the Mercury Grand Hotel.