Stuff to Do in NYC

I have not lived in NYC, this list is from a friend who lives there, and ideas from my own visits:

Things To Do:

– Times Sq, 34th Street (and Empire State Bldg), Central Park, Crysler Bldg, Flatiron Bldg
– Take a walk on the Highline (closes at 7pm in the winter). It used to be an elevated railway for transporting goods to/from warehouses in chelsea up to penn station where it could be delivered across the country. The shipping industry used to be huge in NYC on upon a time…

– Baumann’s Rare Books (535 Madison Avenue): have 1st editions of a lot or really rare books…some even signed by the authors!! Authors such as Albert Einstein, Issac Newtown oh and a 1st edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species

– Big Onion Walking Tours – cheap but super informative, you learn about the history of the neighborhood, the buildings, the people, etc. I’ve been on almost 10 of their tours, and have loved them all. They have about 25 different tours and rotate through a schedule – so check out their website to see what tours are running while you are here.

– There`s lots of walking tours out there, Movie tours, Architecture tours, Historical tours…but they are pretty fun and educational!

Museums: MOMA (Modern Art), Metropolitan (artifacts, archaeological finds), Natural History (from the movie “Night at the Museum”), Museum of the City of New York (all about the history of the city), Skyscraper Museum, Transit Museum (Brooklyn), Gangster Museum, are just a few I recommend. Check out their websites if you want to see prices for entry (some have discounts on certain days or free days!).

– Check out the lobbies of the Plaza and Waldorf Astoria.
– Statue of Liberty (they recently opened up the crown so you can go all the way to the top!) and Ellis Island
– Top of the Rock Observation Deck (much better view than from atop the Empire State Building, because the ESB is in your view and you’re not looking through a fence) – check online for coupons before you arrive, usually you can get $2 off adult price
– New York Public Library & Grand Central Station – located only a few blocks away from each other, it`s free to go inside and they are absolutely beautiful buildings! The whispering gallery at Grand Central Station is also a lot fun! Physics rules!
– Shopping on Canal Street – this is where all the knock off name brand accessories (sunglasses, purses, watches, etc.) are sold. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s fun to just go and see all the bargaining!
– City Hall Park, WTC, Wall Street & surrounding area – This area of Manhattan is where many of the famous skyscrapers are located, so it’s nice to walk around a little and gawk at the buildings. The streets are super narrow, it’s awesome! Check out stone street (not far from Wall St) it’s got cobble stone and cute little bars, feels like you’ve walked back into the 1800’s!
Theater (Musicals and Plays), check their websites ahead of time and see if they have rush or lottery tickets. You may be able to get them for $20-30. If you are too lazy, just go to the TKTS booth (there’s one at Times Sq, South Street Seaport, and Downtown Brooklyn). If you get there when they open, they have discounted tickets for same-day shows. They also have an iphone app you can download.

Restuarants:

  • Grimaldi’s Pizza (uses coal, which is rare these days, so you get a little of that flavor in the crust, so it’s delicious) @ 19 Old Fulton Street in Brooklyn – followed by a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge AT NIGHT (it’s one of the most amazing views and one of my all time favorite NY experiences)
  • Lombardi’s Pizza or Grimaldi’s (NY style – thin crust, minimal toppings, cooked in a super hot brick oven.
  • Chelsea Markets! (after 4:30 or 5pm on weekdays, most places there sell remaining food products at 50% off) p.s. the building that the Chelsea market is housed in was the old Nabisco factory and is where the Oreo Cookie was invented/made!
  • Definitely stick to the villages for good food that’s good value. These tend to be tiny, hole-in-the-wall places, loud, crowded, but unique menus with really tasty options.
  • Some places I recommend: Café Habana, Cafe mogador, momufuku, ippudo, pommes frites, s’mac, the meatball shop, the spotted pig, corner bistro.
  • For cupcakes, everyone tends to recommend magnolia bakery, but I don’t really like it. Instead try butter lane, babycakes, or crumbs.
  • Some other restaurants that I recommend (these are more upscale and tend to be pricey, so check out menus and such ahead of time):
    Delmonico’s or Peter Luger’s for steak (both are AMAZING)
    Morimoto’s (Asian)
    Bar Americain (Bobby Flay’s place, not as pricey as the others but delicious)
    Aquavit (scandinavian)
    Babbo (italian – pretty hard to get a dinner reservation)
    Balthazar (french)
    Craft (new american)
    Esca (italian seafood)
    Gotham bar and grill (new american)
    Morimoto (japanese – I love this place!)
    Nobu (japanese)
  • If you are willing to go a little further, check out Melba’s in Harlem and try the waffles with fried chicken. I know, I know, it sounds wierd and gross, but it’s just AMAZING! Make sure you go hungry, and check ahead if they take reservations. When I went, we had to wait an hour because it seemed that other people had reservations.

Brooklyn:

By Anne Kelly Posted in Travel Tagged

For People who Love Yosemite

I never tire of looking at the glacier carved granite in California’s Sierra Mountains .  My family would spend a week camping on the Valley Floor each summer.  Looking back, it was probably the only normal thing we did as a family, and the best quality time  we spent together.  We swam every day in the frigid river, finding rocks to jump off, hiked the miles of trails, making it to the top of Half Dome when I was 13, ate pizza at Curry Village, watched for bears at night, and in the mornings observed their destruction if someone left an ice chest in the car.

Even if you have not visited Yosemite, this video by Shawn Reader is fantastic (but I wouldn’t call it mind blowing as the article titles does).

Stuff to Do in Boston

If you plan to visit Boston, check out this info below.  I will add details as I discover new information and places.

The top annual events for Boston:

  • New Years Eve – First Night has tons of performances around the city.  You can also enjoy Ice Sculptures on the Boston Common and Fireworks at 7:00 for families and midnight for all
  • Evacuation Day (same day as St. Patrick’s Day) – In Boston only, it’s really just and excuse to take a holiday on  St. Patty’s day.  The Irish community here loves to celebrate this holiday.  Visit South Boston “Southie” for the parade and for the bars packed with people.  There are many Irish pubs and bars in the area that will also celebrate and often have live music.
  • Patriots Day (Third Monday in April) – this Massachusetts and Maine only holiday, which commemorates the start of the US Revolution.  But people in Boston just know that it’s Marathon Monday.  Hope it doesn’t snow.
  • 4th of July – Is a big event here.  My advice, see the Boston Pops practice night on 3 July at the Esplanade, then hang out on Memorial Drive for the best view of the Fireworks show on 4 July.
  • Plenty of fun events occur throughout the summer, many of them are free and many are great for families.
  • October – Salem celebrates Halloween for most of this month

Things to Do:

Boston is a very walkable city, it’s not very big, and there aren’t many hills

Restaurants:

  • Clam Chowdah (Bostonians do no pronounce the r – Pahk the Cah) at Legal Seafoods
  • Italian food in the North End
  • Irish food at local pubs
  • Breakfast at Geoffrey’s Cafe
  • Seafood in Gloucester (pronounced Gloss-ter)
  • Eat at at Bookstore Cafe called Trident
  • Chocolate Brunch at the Langham Hotel
  • Dim Sum in Chinatown

For the Thrill of It:

From the Local’s Point of View:

To understand the feel of the people here, try volunteering.  You can find ideas of volunteer activities on the website for Boston Cares, and then you will have to contact the agency directly to arrange your service since it’s not reasonable to join the group for a short time of volunteering.

Festivals and Music Events – Many are free to attend

What to do and see in New Orleans, LA (NOLA)

The first thing I do when planning a trip is get my bearings.  I study the map and learn where everything is, learn the neighborhoods etc.  (This came in handy when I forgot the map at home and lost the travel book, since it’s in my head I could still navigate  in the city.) Links to NOLA maps are listed at the end of this post.  Also check local news and papers just before and during your visit.

The Touristy things to do

  • Walk around the French Quarter – A collection of houses with ornate

    The French Quarter

    balconies, many street musicians, shops, restaurants

  • Bourbon Street (in the French Quarter) – A collection of loud bars/clubs etc. (Saturday night the crowd is generally wild and people toss beads from the balconies)
  • Walk along the Mississippi River
  • Visit Jackson Square and see the Cathedral
  • Mardi Gras artifacts at the Prebytere Museum in Jackson Square
  • Take the free ferry to Algiers and you can visit the Mardi Gras Museum
  • Visit the Louisiana State Museum
  • Get your fortune told, all over the French Quarter after Dark
  • Sunday Brunch at the House of Blues
  • Ride the Street Car either along the River, along Canal Street, or to the Garden District
  • Walk the streets of the lower Garden District – Upscale Mansions
  • Visit Lafayette Cemetery (people are buried above ground because most of NOLA is below sea level) in the Garden District
  • See Tulane and Loyola Universities in the Upper Garden District, visit Audubon Park across the way
  • Walk around, plan a picnic at Armstrong ParkCity Park at Mid City
  • Visit Metairie Cemetery near Mid City

    Above Ground Tomb

  • Watch a second line parade, if you can find one (weddings, funerals, etc.)
  • Take a Swamp Tour
  • Ride a bike around the city
  • Volunteer with Reconstruction
  • See the Eiffel Tower building

Food Related Activities

  • Eat Beignet’s at Cafe Du Monde
  • Eat a Muffulatta from the Central Grocery
  • Eat Fried Chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House (off the beaten path, lunch only)
  • Eat a Snow Ball (same as a snow cone)
  • Eat Cajun Food, Alligator, Southern Soul Food, I used Urban Spoon iPhone App and Yelp

Music Related Activities

  • Listen to the local Jazz Station, WWOZ, they have an iPhone app.

    Shop Sign

    Also, they list music events around the city each day.

  • Listen to Swing music at Music Legends Park on Bourbon
  • Music Clubs on Frenchman Street – many options that generally do not charge cover before 10 or so.  We just hopped between each club listening to a variety of music.
  • Visit St. Augustine’s Church on Sunday morning, they have a Jazz Choir
  • Preservation Hall on Bourbon Street, well known and charges a hefty cover

Festivals

  • Carnival – The weeks of celebration leading up to Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras)
  • Mardi Gras – Varies between late February and early March
  • St Josephs Day – Sunday closest to March 19 (Super Sunday)
  • French Quarter Festival – April
  • Jazz & Heritage Festival – (2 weekends) April

Do be careful, especially at night.  Crime is an issue in NOLA.  If you are visiting non-touristy areas at night, take a cab.

I Love NOLA – Planning a visit to New Orleans, LA

I did a lot of research before visiting NOLA for a long weekend.  It all started with trying to find a deal on my plane ticket with less than three weeks until departure.  You can read about that challenge and the lessons learned on my other post.

The Cathedral at Jackson Sq.

New Orleans sign right near Cafe Du Monde

Next was the search for a decent hotel.  Many of the reviews I read on Yelp and other sites suggested that most reasonably priced hotels were outdated and had thin walls which was problematic in this party city.  I was worried that lots of partiers would still be around the weekend after Mardi Gras.  It turns out most hotel sites did not have accurate information on hotel availability.  Hotels.com and Hotwire did not show any decent hotel available in my price range.  But when I searched www.NewOrleans.com, they had rooms available at some decent hotels, and I finally decided on the Country Inn and Suites on Magazine Street in the Central Business District (CBD).  The hotel was clean, no reports on BedBugReports.com, was in a quite neighborhood, even during a weekday, had a tasty breakfast with little changes each day and make your own waffles, fresh cookies, and friendly staff.  The walls weren’t too thin and the hotel seems recently updated (maybe after the hurricane?).   I did not use the NewOleans website for any other services, but they also show tour and other visitor information.

Then I spent hours researching where to do, restaurants to visit, what to see, where to hear good music, etc.  I marked everything on a map and made a list, both of which I accidentally left at home.  Luckily, my seat neighbor on the flight into NOLA went to college there in the 60’s and rattled off a list of restaurant recommendations and most of the info I marked on the map stuck in my head (I always remember things better when I write them down).  So all was not lost.  I did remember my public transit map from the RTA website.  You can take the E2 bus from the airport terminal to downtown CBD for $2.00.  It’s about 40 minutes and you get to see the real people of NOLA.  Shuttle rides might be 20-30 minutes, at least $20, and not an authentic experience.

Cool view of the Cathedral

  Visitor Resources:

More to come on New Orleans after Mardi Gras and Visiting NOLA

When to purchase Airline Tickets?

I’m hoping to travel in the next couple of weeks, but ticket prices are so high this close to the travel date.  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal last month, the prices fluctuate with a pattern.  Lower prices can be found early in the week, including on Monday, and then the prices generally increase throughout the week to peak on the weekends.  Of course, this pattern will probably change soon, as I cannot see the airlines sticking to anything predictable that customers learn to use to their advantage.

Update:  So Monday morning some prices were cheaper, then they shot back up Monday night almost to the price of the weekend flights.  Tuesday they went down again, and Tuesday evening there were some good options.  I thought since we are less than 3 weeks from departure and return that the prices would continually rise.  So who knows how it really works.

See my post on Safety Concerns in the Airline Industry, would you factor this information into your decision to purchase?