As with all the retro review, I typed it up several years ago. I’m finally getting around to posting it along with some other new stuff on trip planning.
We left on a Thursday morning and flew Jet Blue non-stop to NYC. Alyce and I both really liked flying Jet Blue; you get to check one bag free, each person gets their own Direct TV free of charge, and you get unlimited free drinks and snacks. Also, this was the first time I had flown anywhere non-stop in a long time, and it was very nice – especially on the way home. I think from here on out, I’ll search for direct flights and pay the difference as long as it is not too much more expensive than the cheapest option.
We flew into JFK and had no trouble catching a cab to the city (which cost about $50 and took about 45 minutes). We stayed at the Hampton Inn – Times Square North. The hotel itself was nice enough and reasonably priced for its location. If you’re looking for over the top luxury, look elsewhere; but the location could not be beat for what we did on the trip. Almost everything we did was within close walking distance.
We got around in the city mostly by walking and subways with the occasional cab ride mixed in. Finding your way is pretty easy as the streets are numbered from South to North and the avenues from East to West, so you can always get your bearings straight by walking a block if you get mixed up. The subways were not confusing either – as long as you have your route planned out. Also, neither of us felt unsafe at any point of the trip (riding the subways or walking around at night)…though we did stay in the more populated areas of Manhattan.
On the timing…We went a week before Christmas, and I think it is a cool time to visit NYC. There were Christmas decorations everywhere, and we saw the big Christmas tree and skating rink outside Rockefeller Center (we went on our first day, Thursday, and it was infinitely less crowded than it was on the weekend). NYC at Christmas is definitely something to see, especially if you are big into Christmas (which Alyce is). Having said that, next time we go back it will probably be in the Spring/Early Summer. It was very cold (20’s and windy), and we luckily missed out on the massive snowstorm that hit NYC a week later and screwed up flights/local transportation/seemingly everything in that area. So that is obviously a risk you take going to the Northeast in the winter.
Overall, I’d say we had a very good time on the trip. It was my second time to the city (I went around junior year of high school with my family) and Alyce’s first. There is so much to do and see in NYC, that I feel like we barely scratched the surface. So here are some of the things we did:
Le Bernardin – We ate here our first night and did the cheaper of the two tasting menus, and we both really enjoyed it. The menu consisted entirely of seafood, which was cool because we got to try lots of seafood that we had never had before. The atmosphere at the restaurant was very pleasant, and that was something I was a little worried about going into it because I had seen some reviews that called it stuffy. Honestly, it was very casual and was probably our favorite atmosphere at any of the fine dining restaurants we’ve been to on vacation (though we haven’t really had a problem with any of them). Our favorite courses were the langoustine and the octopus (surprisingly), but everything was very good.
Clinton Street Baking Co. – We went and ate a late breakfast here and enjoyed it. It had most of your usual breakfast fare on the menu as well as some more unique items. I’d recommend this place for a brunch type menu.
Angelo’s – There are several Angelo’s in NYC; we went here for Pizza before going to a show. The pizza was good…though nothing mindblowing. We mainly went here out of convenience because it wasn’t too far out of the way, and it wasn’t one of the main tourist traps (I think the location we went to was on 59th street). They had the wood burning oven in the back and you could see them preparing/cooking the pizzas, which were good – honestly though, I haven’t met many pizzas that I didn’t like. And we were in and out fairly quickly, which is what we were looking for. So, I’d give Angelo’s a thumbs up on the whole.
Ben Ash Deli (I think) – We wanted to get the NY deli experience and were planning on going to Carnegie deli, but the lines were way out the door and we didn’t feel like waiting – so we figured we’d try this place located directly across the street. (Note: I really wanted to go to Katz’s deli, but it was across town and didn’t fit into the schedule…maybe next time). We had no wait here, and the food was pretty good. I’ve definitely had better service in my life, but that didn’t bother us much. I wouldn’t go out of my way to come to this place, but if you’re walking around in the area and need a quick lunch it will fit the bill.
Daniel – We came here for a late dinner and did the three course prix fixe menu and added a cheese course. The restaurant was bigger than we were expecting and the food was good. It did take them a long time to bring out our main courses, which really didn’t bother me. They gave us a complimentary glass of wine for the delays, which was a nice touch. Daniel probably came in third of our three fine dining experiences, which is kind of unfair since we did tasting menu’s at the other two…Though the bill was not much less than Le Bernardin, so maybe it is fair to compare them. Either way the food we had was still very good, but I’d rate the service as a step down from our other fine dining experiences – and not just because it took them a long time to bring the food out.
Per Se – We did a late lunch here on our final day, and it was a very good meal…and very similar to the French Laundry in many ways, though different in others. The location overlooks Central Park. The menu highlights included Oysters and Pearls and the beef dish (I think the cut was cotes de boeuf, which is from around the ribeye area…it was good whatever it was). Overall, it is an extremely impressive place to dine.
Entertainment – we didn’t do a lot of the things that you normally think of when you here NYC (e.g. Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty) because I had already been and Alyce didn’t really care to go…So here are some of the things we did do:
Top of the Rock – This is an observation deck at the top of the Rockefeller Center, and we went here the first night. We went here over the Empire State Building because it was a good bit cheaper, and the Empire State Building supposedly has very long lines. We pretty much had no wait getting up to the top, and you could see everything from up there. I’d definitely recommend going up to the top of one of the tall buildings in NYC, it was a cool experience.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – We spent an afternoon here (after walking to it along Central Park…Which was a much longer walk than we anticipated). I’m not a big art guy, so I wasn’t that in to the museum. But, I’m happy we went there once. I just don’t think I’ll be rushing back on our next trip.
Wicked – We saw this play Friday night; it was literally about a one minute walk from our hotel. I never really considered myself a big musical guy (in addition to not being a big art guy), but I really enjoyed this show – and Alyce obviously enjoyed it as well. The story was entertaining, and there is definitely something to seeing live performances (as opposed to watching a musical on TV). Also, it is pretty amazing how they change out all the sets so flawlessly, considering how elaborate each set is. I’d definitely recommend this if you are looking for a show to go to in NYC.
The Natural History Museum – We spent a good 4 hours or so here on Saturday morning; and, unlike the art museum, this was right up my alley. I could have spent the whole day here and still only got around to about half the stuff I wanted to see. Even Alyce enjoyed herself here, though she had reached her limit right about when were leaving. I’ll definitely come back on our next NYC trip.
The Rockettes – I enjoyed parts of this show but found others to be boring. It was pretty entertaining anytime the Rockettes were out dancing – it’s amazing how in sync they all are…But that was only about half of the show. The other half was boring Christmas story stuff. I’d probably rate this as another thing I am happy to have seen once, but won’t be rushing back to see – though I’m sure Alyce has different feelings on that, as she liked the Rockettes so much that she didn’t really care what else the show consisted of.
So that’s it. We saw a ton of stuff in 3 days/4nights, but there is even more that we did not see. We’ll probably go back in the future, but there are several other places we haven’t been that we want to go to before we go back to New York.