Hi all, here is my trip report of a wonderful visit to New York City in June. We were there from June 2 to 9.. then from June 13 to 17. Lots of useful advice from the forum helped to make it a fun-filled, fruitful holiday. Thanks to everyone who responded to my many queries. I hope the report will be of some use to anyone planning a vacation to the Big Apple.
Arrived after a loooong flight at 3pm. The first pleasant surprise was getting through immigration in about 30 minutes. Yes, truly. My biggest fear had proved to be totally unfounded. It might have to do with the fact that we landed at Terminal 8, which doesn’t have too many airlines arriving there. But after sailing through immigration (though the officer gave us a scare by saying “There’s a problem with your passport” to my husband. I think he said it just to test our reaction), we emerged into the cool afternoon and headed straight for the taxi rank and were soon on our way into Manhattan, gawking through the windows.
We reached the hotel, Affinia Shelburne, on Lexington Avenue, in about 40 minutes. I had written to the hotel to warn them that we could be late because I had read reports on how it could take two hours to clear customs, but, well, I needn’t have. After checking in smoothly, we relaxed for a bit and then headed out for our first foray into Manhattan.
We made our way to Grand Central and wandered through the cavernous hall, so familiar from so many movie scenes. After exploring the station, we got out and walked on towards the United Nations. Passed the Hampton Inn and Hilton, which were also on my hotel list. In fact, we were booked to stay at Hampton on our return leg in NYC, so we popped in to check if we could leave our luggage there when we went to DC. They said we couldn’t, so that meant we would have to find another hotel because we didn’t want to carry all our bags to DC for three days. Luckily, the reservation was cancellable so I didn’t panic.
After looking at the United Nations building and wondering why all the flagpoles didn’t have any flags, we walked back to the hotel. Since we were too tired to look for a place to have dinner, we ate at the hotel’s in-house restaurant Rare, which is famous for its burgers. So burgers it was, and pretty good they were too. Ended the day on that note, sat in the lobby to make use of the free wi-fi (no free wi-fi in the room, sadly) and then went to bed.
Set off nice and early for our first full day. Had breakfast at a diner down the road – our first encounter with the huge servings in the US – honestly, three of us could have eaten what one of us ordered!! Bought our 7-day Metrocards at Grand Central, and a lovely young girl who I asked about what coins to put into the machine gave me her Metrocard as she said she was leaving town. It had some seven dollars in it, and she refused to take any money!! It was a pay-per-trip Metrocard, and eventually proved more expensive than if I had got a seven-day unlimited card, but well… it was still very kind of her.
Waited in line to ask the Metro staff how to get to Central Park, and watched her get yelled at by a man in the queue. Is this our first glimpse of the “rude New Yorker”, we wondered.
Having read the Idiot’s Guide to the Subway here, we knew about the Uptown and Downtown, so our first subway ride was spot on. Got out and spotted Bloomingdale’s, which delighted us no end, and probably why we took a wrong turn and walked a couple of blocks in the wrong direction before figuring it out and correcting course to reach Central Park.
Spent most of the day wandering in the Park, which is an absolute delight. Had lunch at the Boathouse Café, wandered some more, sat near the fountain, saw a couple in their wedding finery on a boat – the groom was doing all the rowing – I think they were posing for their wedding pictures. We weren’t surprised because it was a Chinese couple, and we see them all the time in Singapore getting professional wedding pictures taken at parks or the beach or more exotic locations.
After the park, we decided to head for Times Square, which was the polar opposite. It was chockful of people and quite an assault on the senses. We were looking for the Visitor Information Centre, and there we bought our New York City Pass. Yes, I know it’s not advised here, but the six attractions on the pass -- Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art with same-day admission to the Cloisters, American Museum of Natural History, MoMa, Top of the Rock or Guggenheim (we chose the Top of the Rock, as I read most of Guggenheim was closed for renovation), Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island /or Circle Line cruise (which we went on since the former was closed) were all on our list, so we decided to go for it. We found it value for money. It costs $106 for an adult, and $79 for 6-17 year-olds, so my 16-year-old qualified for youth price.
Passes acquired, we saw the TKTS booth and wanted to queue up for Broadway show tickets but were told we couldn’t buy them in advance for Sunday, only for that day’s shows. It had started raining, so we were headed for the subway when we spotted Madam Tussaud’s. We hadn’t really planned on going there, but gave into my daughter’s request. Had a blast posing with all my favourite celebrities!! Also got out of the worst of the rain, because when we came out again, the rain had stopped and Times Square was lit up in all its neon glory. Because we had picked Rock Of Ages as our Broadway show, and the hotel concierge quoted prices of about 140 a ticket through the resellers, we decided to try our luck at the theatre, as advised by the girl at the visitor information centre. First, the ticketing guy told us, sorry no luck, and offered tickets at the same price as the concierge. We hung around, wondering whether to buy them or not, but after a few minutes, he called me back and offered me $79 tickets for Sunday, which was the day we wanted them for. So we bought them immediately (not knowing if it was a good deal or not, but it was for the show we wanted and at a price we could afford). That done, and with the weather still gloomy, we called it a day and it was back to the hotel.
To be continued….