Location: New York City
|A walk through Central Park
New York, New York! One of my favorite cities in the world! It is everything like the movies and more. I’ve decided to write about this wonderful place by request, and since I know the requester is going with just her husband and no kids, this will be my official “The Big Apple for Couples” post.
Over the years, I have been to NYC seven or eight times. All but two of those trips I have gone with just my husband or with other couples, and there is a huge difference in the sights you’ll want to see when visiting with kids versus visiting with just adults. Of course, this is an ever-changing city with new things popping up all of the time and even favorites disappearing over night, but here is a list of things I recommend doing if you are going on a couples trip. I have starred all the items that are a “must see” if you are visiting the city for the first time. Please keep in mind that I have never lived in New York and do not claim to be a local. However, I am pretty knowledgeable on being a tourist there, and I think that sometimes this is an even better perspective. I mean, I grew up near San Francisco and have never been to Alcatraz. 🙂
|Shopping in Times Square with my good friend, Michelle
If you’ve never been, then go straight to Times Square. My first time there, I ran to the center observation area, twirled around and around, and introduced myself to the city. (Okay, I may have just done all that in my head but it was my own Mary Tyler Moore moment.) Take it all in and look at the beautiful lights day or night. There is so much to see, and there is an awesome Crumbs Bakery right there, so treat yourself to a delightful cupcake (I may actually know where all the Crumbs Bakeries in NY are:). Locals or regular visitors will tell you not to stay in Times Square, but if you can afford it or if you find a great deal online, I would definitely stay right smack dab in the thick of it. I have actually stayed at both the Embassy Suites there (very comfortable) and the Westin (looks good on the outside, but it didn’t feel very clean on the inside), but there are tons of options, so check it out and read the reviews online.
|Trent getting his M&M personality test taken.
Michelle and me going to see Kristen Chenoweth and Sean Hayes in Promises Promises.
Some fabulous Crumbs Bakery cupcakes.
Times Square includes:
Toys”R”Us with the ginormous ferris wheel inside (get there early but not when the store opens since the ferris wheel doesn’t usually open up until 10am)
M&M Store (kind of interesting to see what your M&M personality is)
Crumbs Bakery (I can never resist – the dulce de leche is one of my faves)
MTV Headquarters (where they tape lots of shows and you have a good chance of seeing a celebrity)
Good Morning America Show (you can stand outside the window and try to get five seconds of TV glory)
Shake Shack (great food and featured on the movie, Tower Heist)
and most Broadway shows are right in this area since this is Broadway, baby!
I seriously cannot mention everything located in Times Square because it is just that amazing. The official website timessquarenyc.org is helpful to browse through, so you can make sure you see everything available while you are there.
*Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
The most iconic thing to see in New York is the Statue of Liberty. However, once you have had this experience, you never really need to do it again. Trent and I did it back in 1997, and we haven’t stepped on the island where she stands ever since. But this really is an amazing site to see and is best done taking the Circle Line tour straight from Battery Park. You can find out specifics about different tours and pricing at circleline42.com.
As I recall, we took a ferry out to Liberty Island, walked around a bit, took our photos, and then went over to Ellis Island, which is always fascinating for the history or genealogy buff. It is a long half-day excursion, and, depending on the weather, can be stagnant and hot in the summer or brisk and freezing in the winter. On our last trip to New York, we decided we wanted to see Lady Liberty again, but this time, we took a helicopter ride and saw her from the sky. As cool as that was, it does dwarf her stature and size since getting too close to the statue is now against FAA regulations. We took the Liberty helicopter line and found it to be very professional and very safe. They run all kinds tours that run both day and night (if you want to see the city lights). More info can be found at libertyhelicopter.com.
Wall Street is on the south side of the island, but there really isn’t much to see there (in my opinion). Since security is tight all over NYC, most people cannot go in to watch the buzzing trading floor at the NYSE. At Wall Street and Broadway, you can take a pic of yourself with the famous bull statue, but due to its popularity, expect to wait your turn before getting your photo op.
This is a bittersweet experience of remembering the tragedy that took place there and celebrating a city that has picked up the pieces from that horrible day. Going to see the 9/11 Memorial is free, but you should definitely get a ticket online at 911memorial.org. Since there is such a high demand to see this sight, getting a ticket once you get to the city can be a challenge, so get your ticket online with your set date and time before you get there.
|Trent and me at Highline Park
Highline park is cool because it is the New Yorkers’ version of a park. It’s actually an old elevated train line that they have converted into a large path. It has small amounts of grass here and there to allow for people to see some fresh green in that part of Manhattan. It’s also a fantastic place to people watch (one of my favorite activities:). More info can be found at thehighline.org
|Trent with his buddy, Barry, as they waited for Michelle and me to finish shopping in China Town.
They had to wait a long time. 🙂
*China Town/Canal Street
China Town down on the south side is one of my very favorite places in New York. I can’t get enough of the cheap garbage they sell! I recommend to set aside (at the very least) a half of a day for this excursion. I get all my kids’ souvenirs down there because it usually has the best pricing and the Chinese vendors are just so fun to bargain with. Quite often, you will be approached by shop owners asking if you’d like to see their “secret inventory” of knock-off items such as purses, watches, and jewelry. I’ve even seen knock-off Uggs sold down there at a shop right off of Canal Street on Mulberry. Now no matter how you feel about knock-off items, even being offered the opportunity to buy some of these items is a funny and almost exciting experience in and of itself. In 2010, there was a big police push to cut down on these knock-offs being sold, so most of them are sold from minivans off in a back alley. I hate trying to shop this way, so I usually reject anyone who tries to take me to a vehicle with blacked out windows (hello, stranger danger!). However, every once in awhile there is a back room located four or five blocks off the main street downstairs behind locked doors or up through an elevator to some unmarked door, which opens to the nirvana of all knock-offs. It is illegal for them to sell you these items, but I can’t say I haven’t loved the cloak and dagger of the whole thing! However, I will tell you that any purse sold for $40 that retails at $500-$2500 is indeed a knock-off, and no matter how good it looks, it will not hold up. You’ll be lucky to get forty straight days of using that purse before one of its straps breaks or it loses the logo right off the front.
The first time I was approached by one of these salespeople, I felt afraid and was unwilling to follow them, but then on a return trip, I thought about how many tourists I had heard about getting abducted by the Chinese in NYC (i.e. zero), so I decided to accept the invitation. It made for quite the adventure! At one locale, I was looking at purses hung on a wall around a corner from the main strip of Chinatown. When the clerk asked if I wanted to see “Gucci, Coach, Prada, Dolce and Gabana,” I warily nodded “yes.” That’s when he knocked on the wall I was looking at, and it opened right before me. (Yes, there was a door right in front of me that I had not even noticed!) He then showed my sister-in-law and I into a room that was no bigger than most walk-in closets and that was filled from floor to ceiling with purses. My sister-in-law and I had to stand back-to-back and shuffle in a circle to see all the items – that’s how small this space was! When we shook our heads that there wasn’t anything we liked, he quickly opened the door and showed us out. They wished us well, and we were on our way giddy with excitement to tell the rest of the girls on our trip that we had just disappeared inside the alley!
|Michelle shopping in Chelsea Market
Working our way up, there is the Chelsea Market which has lots of fun little shops and is a foodie’s paradise. It is also where they shoot many of the Food Network shows, so you can volunteer to be in a studio audience for a lot of them. Check out chelseamarket.com for more info on this cool place.
|At the Top of the Rock in October and then again in December 2011|
Empire State Building & *Top of the Rock
The Empire State Building is beautiful and romantic, but the first time I went up her innards to get to the top, I’ll admit I was a little horrified and disgusted. It cost about $25 per person, and it was really dirty and had a long three-hour line to get to the top. Once we finally reached the top, it was nothing like Sleepless in Seattle, so I prefer admiring this beautiful building from the Top of the Rock (the Rockefeller Building). From there, you have a great view of the Empire State Building to the south and Central Park to the north.
Going up to the Top of the Rock is a much cleaner and enjoyable experience and can be as short as a 25-minute wait to hop aboard the glass ceiling elevator that shoots you to the top in seconds. It’s also cheaper since it only costs about $19 per person and kids under 5 are free. A great website for finding info on going to the observation deck there can be found at bestofnewyork.com
The Rockefeller Building has so much more to offer than just the top observation deck. It is also where many NBC shows are produced, such as the TODAY show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live, The Dr. Oz Show, and more. When my husband and I visited with some friends, we decided to try to see a live taping. When we arrived at around 10am, we followed the posted signs in the building to sit in the audience of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. When we were greeted by the NBC page, she informed us that Jimmy Fallon was full, but we could still see a taping of The Dr. Oz Show.
Of course going to Saturday Night Live would have been amazing, but it is incredibly hard to get into since there’s only one show a week. Every time I’ve been to NY, there have been people camping outside starting Thursday to get into a very minimal amount of seats for the late Saturday night show.
Rockefeller Center also boasts the awesome ice skating rink (I’ll talk more about this in my “New York with Kids” post), and it’s extremely close to 5th Avenue and all the fun shopping venues of the big name stores.
|Two of our favorite sweet spots: Serendipity III and Dylan’s Candy Bar
Dylan’s Candy Bar
This is an amazing candy store started by Dylan Lauren (Ralph’s daughter) that is three stories full of sugary bliss and great candy souvenirs to take home. You can find out more about it at dylanscandybar.com
Not far from Dylan’s Candy Bar is Serendipity III, which, of course, I had to go to after watching Kate Beckinsale and John Cusak in Serendipity. It is a cute restaurant and has an Alice in Wonderland Mad Tea Party feel to me. It has an awesome frozen hot chocolate, but the food is just alright.
Bryant Park & NYC Library
Bryant Park has lots of seasonal activities (check out bryantpark.org) and is right around the corner from the beautiful New York City Library that is worth peeking your head into just because it’s so beautiful and a great place to snap a pic.
|Trent and me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
There are a lot! Depending on what your favorite genre is will determine which ones you would like to visit. I’ve enjoyed the American Museum of Natural History (amnh.org) which seems so much more exciting to see after watching Ben Stiller work as a security officer there in Night at the Museum. This movie did a great job of making artifacts into Hollywood stars, so make sure to swing by to get your pic with “Dum Dum,” the Easter Island Stone Head statue. (I should also mention there is a great bakery called Levane Bakery within walking distance of the American Museum of Natural History.)
Another fun and famous museum (found on the opposite side of Central Park) is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They host a lot of special exhibits, and when I was there in July 2010, I was able to see the “House of Fashion” exhibit that featured the ever-changing styles of America since the early 1800s. It was an amazing exhibit! For more info on their current exhibits, visit metmuseum.org
This is probably my all time favorite sight of NYC. I love to walk the park (especially in the fall) and just feel the rhythm of the city. Having that hand-holding experience with the one you love in a beautiful venue in the middle of this amazing city is hard to describe. The park entertainers and just the people in general are fun to watch there too. It is much larger than you think, so wear your walking shoes and roam from Strawberry Fields on the west side to the Alice in Wonderland statue on the east. With so many festivals that are offered in Central Park, make sure to check out their website at centralparknyc.org to guarantee you won’t miss what’s going on.
|Going to see Anything Goes on Broadway with Michelle.
(This show would not rank very high on my list of recommendations.)
***Take in a Broadway Show or two (or three or four!!)
I love Broadway and have loved almost every show I’ve ever seen. I can’t recommend this experience enough. I have seen too many to remember, but I do recommend that if you are going to go, get your tickets well in advance. There are ways to get some last minute deals, but why take that chance if you aren’t a local? Most tickets can be purchased on ticketmaster.com. Once you decide on the dates of your trip, then browse through broadway.com to read the reviews and see what appeals to you. Not every show is a musical, and not every show is appropriate for all ages. Read the reviews and know what you are going to see before you spend the money on tickets. I can honestly say that most of the shows I’ve seen (especially those with recognizable actors) have been phenomenal, however, there have been two or three bad apples. When I had the fabulous chance to see Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, I was amazed at his abilities as an actor. He was much more impressive than I had ever imagined Harry Potter could be!
Let me know what some of your favorite Broadway shows have been, so I can put them on my to-do list in case they are still playing or if they ever get produced again on the big stage. If you have questions on any particular shows, just ask and I’ll do my best to give you my opinion or at least a reliable source for a review.
|Is it blasphemous to put on one of the disposable blankets they pass
out at the end of the NYC marathon so it looked like I had run it?
I may not have sweat much, but I did cheer them on!
I wish I had more time to tell you some of the funny tales or about some of the funny people I have met on my trips to NYC. I even had the gumption to take a girls’ trip with my sister-in-laws and mother-in-law and drive all seven of us around in a van through downtown Manhattan, fighting the taxis and feeling like a true New Yorker (which is really an oxymoron since true New Yorker’s don’t drive). I always recommend taking the subway when you can. It isn’t hard to navigate, and contrary to the stereotypes, many people there are so helpful when trying to figure the subways out (just pick the right people to ask). Since it is a grid system, it is easy to find your way. Just download a map on your smart phone or grab a real paper one and get started. I’ve even had friends ride bikes through the city and experience it that way, and they say that is fun to do as well. However, I love making my way through the subways and becoming a true New Yorker, if only for a few days. (However, my bright colored clothing always gives away the fact that I’m not a local!:)
Please tell me if I missed any of your favorite things to do or see in New York, so I can check them out the next time I’m taking a bite out of the Big Apple!