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How to entertain unfun folks in nyc?
June 10, 2007 11:49 AM   Subscribe

What are some free or inexpensive ways to entertain anti-New Yorkers in New York City?

Some relatives are coming into town tomorrow, and we're at a loss of how to entertain them -- they aren't into exotic food, art films, art museums, a lot of walking, spending money, shopping or the outdoors. Yeah, New York City isn't really for them, but they are coming so we've got to find some cheap ways of filling the days. Bus and boats tours seem pretty pricey, and we're hep to the big tourist thangs like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, but any other ideas for time fillers and non-threatening eating would be welcome.
posted by Bookhouse to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is there anything that they enjoy? That information would make it easier to answer... their dislikes seem pretty broad.
posted by one_bean at 11:59 AM on June 10, 2007


Eat non-exotic food and ride in cabs. New York isn't exactly an outdoors mecca, so you don't really have anything to worry about there, and there's more non-exotic food there than exotic food, so you're fine there, too.

New York City has some of everything in the world. It is for everyone. Whatever they do like, New York has plenty of it (except the outdoors, fresh air, and open space).

Do the dumb stuff that non-New Yorkers think of when they think of New York: Get up super early to see the Today Show, go to Letterman, Broadway, if they're into that. Make sure they have the true NYC experience of eating a real NYC bagel and a real NYC pizza.

There's a lot more to New York than just the stuff that you like. Yes, NYC has everything you love. But it has everything that everyone else loves, too. Figure out what they do like, and you'll find it in NYC. Show them that NYC isn't cool because it's your place -- it's cool because it's everyone's place.

Your question would be more answerable if you told us what they do like.
posted by The World Famous at 12:00 PM on June 10, 2007


If they truly don't like any of that other stuff, surely either they work or read all the time (in which case they don't need entertainment) or they watch TV -- so take them to see some show being taped!

As for food, some great New York specialties, like deli, aren't particularly threatening to anyone, and they're not that expensive as well. I think you can't go wrong at Katz's.
posted by escabeche at 12:02 PM on June 10, 2007


Oh yeah, and -- you say they don't like art museums but NYC has plenty of great museums of all kinds, some of which you've probably never gotten around to seeing yourself. Take them to the natural history museum (UWS), the subway museum (Bklyn), or the museum of the American Indian (lower Man.)

This is not going to be as hard as you think!
posted by escabeche at 12:06 PM on June 10, 2007


Well, there's a couple of ways I'd approach this problem and, believe me, I get it.

Here's one approach - Netflix a bunch of movies or TV shows they like, or DVR alot of stuff, lay in a supply of microwave popcorn and Diet Coke, and make the living room/guest room (it's NYC, so I just laughed at myself a little as I typed that) as schmoopy as possible. Lots of pillows, magazines they might like, etc. Sneak a couple of NYC guidebooks in there. Maybe, just maybe, as they're laying about watching, say, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, something in the guidebook might strike their fancy.

Another approach is to pick a small street with lots of different things to do and see on it and take them down there on the subway. (Cheap, if a little overwhelming for those who aren't used to it.) Say, Bleecker Street in the village. Take them to Murray's Cheese or some such - get a few samples of the best sorts of cheese they may be familiar with - cheddar, swiss, you know the drill. If they like something, pick up a hunk. Walk them two doors down to Amy's Bread. Maybe there's a simple, non-threatening baguette. Buy it for them. Then, walk over to Faicco's pork store - could we try a slice of that imported ham? Buy a half pound of it. Then pop into a deli and pick up a bottle of juice or soda, something "fancy", and a bunch of grapes. Get back on the train, head up to Central Park, lay out the light blanket you packed in your backpack and toted around for their benefit, and have a picnic. Maybe they'll get interested and want to have a longer look around.

Oh, and best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:09 PM on June 10, 2007 [5 favorites]


The Burger Joint tucked away inside Le Parker Meridien hotel lobby is non-threatening but mildly adventurous-seeming.

The Museum of TV and Radio is one of my favorite places in the whole world. They have several screening rooms showing important and classic TV shows throughout the day, and a library where you can request any of the thousands of shows in their archive, which you then watch or listen to in your own little booth. It's awesome.
posted by doift at 12:13 PM on June 10, 2007


Do they like peanut butter? Take them to Peanut Butter and Company, the best restaurant with the best sandwiches on the goddamn planet. I dream of those sandwiches--and I'm not joking, I have actually had dreams where I was eating their Cinnamon Raisin Swirl sandwich and woken up with the bittersweet feeling one gets after dreaming of someone they love and haven't seen in a long time.

But then again, I really like peanut butter.
posted by schroedinger at 12:18 PM on June 10, 2007


When my parents visited I kept it pretty basic: found a decent movie theatre as a back-up option, took them to an authentic irish pub, a ny-style diner, ordered ny-style pizza one night. depending on where they're coming from, a gigantic barnes & noble can even be entertaining/novel if you're from a small town. a local gelato, ice cream, or cupcake shop might be another stopover.

neighborhoods with a few cute stores/places to eat (I'm thinking of hoboken but I'm sure there's options) that aren't as crowded as say times square can be a nice break too. the amount of people can be overwhelming to some.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:19 PM on June 10, 2007


Serendipity might be a good choice for non-exotic, and it's recognize to some from movies.
posted by ejaned8 at 12:20 PM on June 10, 2007


(IANANY)
Go to the movies. Track down one of those "dinner and movie" places where you get to eat while you watch.
posted by The Deej at 12:23 PM on June 10, 2007


I can see how my original question came off pretty negative, but to be honest, they aren't very happy people. They do enjoy some things, and we'll be taking them to Little Italy for certain, and Yankee Stadium as well. The teevee taping suggestion is interesting -- how hard is it to get tickets? Is there a trick?
posted by Bookhouse at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2007


ride the staten island ferry at sunset. go to governor's island and take a tour.

maybe they will enjoy the central park zoo?

it's not cheap, but maybe they would like "stomp" or the blue man group...cheaper than regular broadway, anyway. alternatively, you could load up on bagels and stand on line at TKTS (or go to the secret one with no lines down at wall street) and see what's cheap that day. surely these unhappy boors can't be so miserable that "wicked" wouldn't at least spark a smile...
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:39 PM on June 10, 2007


Some people are really out of their comfort zone with live theatre, so I can understand not putting it on the list.

Got a good local diner? Lunch at a Planet Hollywood (are those still in business?) or similar? Movie theatres are always pretty universal, but if you can possibly find something playing revival films, that could be a bonus.

John's Pizza is of course a classic :)
posted by DarlingBri at 12:53 PM on June 10, 2007


How about the New York Public Library? It could be an interesting building for them to check out. Ha, no pun intended.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:08 PM on June 10, 2007


Take in a movie on the IMAX screen at Lincoln Center? If they come from a city where you can't see feature films on IMAX screens.

When my folks are in town I feel like we always go to the Natural History Museum. Must see the whale. Also, the dinosaur part is good.
posted by lampoil at 1:28 PM on June 10, 2007


I'll second Thinkingwoman's suggestion about riding the Staten Island ferry. Visiting Governors Island is a good idea also (of course as a former resident, I'm a bit biased). Both are free and give you a different perspective on the city. And most New Yorkers haven't been out to GI, so you'll do something not many people do - you'll also see it before it begins to be redeveloped.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:57 PM on June 10, 2007


Too bad they're going to miss the Puerto Rican Day parade.
posted by spitbull at 2:05 PM on June 10, 2007


I can't imagine they wouldn't respond to the charm of the small, but jewel-like Central Park Zoo. It's surrounded by the glories of Fifth Avenue and just a bit south 57th Street and even though they're not into shopping, they might like strolling past Tiffany's, Bergdorf's, etc.
posted by quintno at 2:22 PM on June 10, 2007


Expounding on the above: what do they do for fun at home? Find equivalencies here. You've already started that--I assume they like baseball, so Yankee Stadium is logical, as are TV-show tapings. (Little Italy is a one-block tourist trap these days, though, and not recommended.) BTW a TV show taping can kill 4 hours and while away an afternoon nicely.

So: what else do they like? You've gotten good suggestions above, now take them to their logical New York ends. If they like movies at home, don't just go to the movies; go to the Ziegfeld, or the Imax, or the Angelika for New York flavor, or even the Hayden Planetarium, which has a lot of non-museum appeal. If they like hanging out in a backyard on a summer afternoon, go to the Central Park boathouse or the 79th Street Boat Basin and have a beer in the city's backyard. New York is a comfort-food kind of town lately, so that's easy. Et cetera.

The beauty of New York City is that there truly *is* something for everyone. If the pacing isn't their style, work around it, and help them find the things that they like to do.
posted by werty at 2:39 PM on June 10, 2007


(Little Italy is a one-block tourist trap these days, though, and not recommended.)

Oh, sure, but it's the one thing they've expressed interest in doing, even after we explained that Chinatown has mostly swallowed it and that there's perfectly good red-sauce New York Style Italian everywhere.

Thanks, everyone, for all the suggestions -- I'm sure we'll find something to entertain them.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:11 PM on June 10, 2007


You might ask if there are any movies, tv shows, or books that they really like that are set in NYC. It can be really neat to go visit a place you've only heard about -- I know I really wanted to see The Metropolitan Museum of Art because of reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. (Yes, I realize that is not the most helpful example, but there are so many things set in NYC that you really need their examples to work with.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:48 PM on June 10, 2007


I actually had the same issue with Little Italy when some relatives visited from TN. We went to Paesano's, and they loved it so much we went back the next day. They're cheap, do the basics well, and have a great house red that's surprisingly inexpensive and can be purchased by the full or half carafe.
posted by kimdog at 5:12 PM on June 10, 2007


Would they like things that a visitor wouldn't necessarily associate with the big, bad City and surrounds? I'm thinking City Island (little fishing village tucked in the Bronx), St. Patrick's or St. John the Divine (sacred amidst the profane), Wave Hill (beautiful estate and gardens), Intrepid (aircraft carrier and war memorial), West Point (quite a stunning setting and some beautiful buildings, quite apart from the military angle), day pass to Chelsea Piers (big sporting complex with pretty much everything) ...
posted by rob511 at 5:30 PM on June 10, 2007


Take them to Arthur Ave. in The Bronx -- it's the closest thing to what Manhattan's Little Italy used to be. (In fact, it sounds like you could tell them "we're in Little Italy now" and they wouldn't catch the difference.)
posted by gum at 9:20 PM on June 10, 2007


Seconding the library. Christopher Robin Milne's toys which inspired Winnie-the-Pooh are at the children's collection on west 53rd across the street from MOMA. The Popover Cafe is an especially nonthreatening restaurant.
posted by brujita at 10:01 PM on June 10, 2007


Do the Staten Island Ferry, early in their visit. It is the Best Way to see Manhattan. I always wished I had entered Manhattan my first time that way.

Don't forget The Cloisters, as a visit that isn't your typical museum.

The old RCA building offers a fabulous view. Is it still open to the public? Superior to Empire State, any day.

If you're going to Little Italy, make sure you walk through a good section of China Town. Might stimulate them towards more adventure. I'm thinking Dim Sum.

Riverside Church for carillon bells and view.
posted by Goofyy at 12:41 AM on June 11, 2007


I was planning to suggest the Interpid, too, but when I went to check the prices, it seems its closed for renovations. Which is too bad because its a good Dad thing to do.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:09 AM on June 11, 2007


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