Tips for visiting NYC and points European
April 21, 2005 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me get the most out of my upcoming trip to New York City, Italy, Greece and Zurich, Switzerland?

The Europe stuff is part of a tour and a lot of my time is already booked, so my biggest concern is what to do with myself in NYC. I get into JFK at about 8 PM on May 5th. That's a Thursday. I'm in NYC all day Friday, Saturday, and then I fly out of there Sunday afternoon.

My first question is how do I get to my hotel? I think there are some shuttles, but I'm not at all sure how/where to find them. I assume there should be signs I can follow, but the voice of experience would save me from taking the easy way out and just jumping in the first overpriced cab I see. I'm staying at the Super 8 in Times Square (thanks AskMe)

Next question is what do I do with myself while in NYC? I've never been. I'm a 35-year-old doughy male traveling alone. I'm not terribly interested in super-touristy stuff or Broadway shows, but I would like to get some nice photographs and get a nice general experience of the city and what it has to offer.

I'm thinking Museum of Modern Art, Central Park (but what in Central Park?), Maybe the Staten Island Ferry (based on this thread, but somebody at work told me the boat out to Ellis Island (being sure NOT to get off at the Statue of Liberty) would be better than the Ferry).

What else might I want to do, and of those things, when should I do what to make the best use of my limited time and energy? I also checked out this thread for ideas, but it has more of a Brooklyn/Eating theme going on, so I couldn't build much of an itinerary for myself out of that.

For the Europe leg of the trip, I'm taking this tour. I know, seasoned travelers would rather do it alone, but I like the idea of having it all planned for me, and I don't speak any of the languages and feel like a total ugly American as a result, so I know I'd just end up locked in my room if I went on my own.

Most of those days have something going on, but there is the first day in Rome (keeping in mind, I'll be fried after the long flight), I think there's a free morning in Olympia, Greece too and a lot of day excursions on the cruise portion.

I'm also spending a single night in Zurich, Switzerland. I don't know that I'll have time to do much, but if there's anything not to miss, let me know.
posted by willnot to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Kevin Kelly, at

Has a section called "cool tools", also available as a newsletter, that just reviewed what are supposed to be the ultimate euro travel books. Yes, I am too lazy to go get the exact link.

Other than that, resign yourself that you are only get to do *some* of the cool stuff and make your peace with it so you can relax and enjoy the stuff you can do.

I always try to find the cool, off-the-beaten path stuff to do, and then kick myself for having skipped the Eiffel Tower or the equivalent. Some of that stuff is popular because it really is amazing.
posted by craniac at 8:11 AM on April 21, 2005

NYC: I would go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art over MoMA, personally. In Central Park, most of the good stuff is on the Eastern side. You can start at the bottom at 59th and walk to the Met at 80th and see quite a lot.

Europe: I've taken a few tours of Europe. Here's some random thoughts:

A good portion of people who take European tours are retired. At 35, you will feel like you're 20 again. This is not a bad thing, just something to keep in mind. There's usually a decent group of younger people who band together.

Your hotel in Venice won't be in Venice, but on the coastline instead. If at all possible, you should skip that included dinner (if it's at the hotel) and eat in Venice.
posted by smackfu at 8:31 AM on April 21, 2005

Go to a Yankee game, see MOMA or the Met, get a map of Central Park from the concierge and check it out (or take one of the Central Park walking tours, which can be pretty good), take in Soho or the Village over breakfast, see an off-broadway show and have some good dinners. Pick up Time Out NY as soon as you land and it'll highlight anything special going on in arts, sport, etc for the couple of days.

As far as transport, if you're travelling relatively light you can get the $15 express bus to Grand Central and hike it over from Park ( has the rates and terminal locations) or take Supershuttle for $19, which will bring you to your door (again. you can book that at If there's two or more of you or you'll be tired, a yellow cab may be less hassle and the far is fixed at $45 + tip. If you get a hackney/limo type cab settle the fare first. I wouldn't recommend taking the Airtrain, to be honest, it's a pain in the neck.
posted by dublinemma at 8:43 AM on April 21, 2005

If you're into that sort of thing, the New York Botanical Garden (up in the Bronx, take Metro North on the Harlem local line) is beautiful this time of year.

I agree with the Met over MoMA (I just take people to the MoMA store, heh.)

Staten Island ferry offers a great view of the Statue of Liberty, but there is NOTHING to do when you get there except turn around and come back. That's fine though. You can spend a good day wandering around lower Manhattan (Soho, Chinatown, financial district etc.) and then catch the ferry to watch the sun set (and they have a good beer, dog and chips deal for $5 on the boat) and then head back into town for dinner.

My favorite thing about New York is the food. When I have friends visiting we just restaurant and bar hop, although the last 2 (last weekend actually) we did go on the Staten Island ferry.

JFK is a huge pain in the ass. A shuttle to the subway stop and then the subway into town can take up to 2 hours. But the cab ride is expensive, (I think 45 flat rate, plus tolls and tip, although I may be wrong) and the subway is $2. Oh, I think there is also a bus that goes to grand central, and then you can get a shuttle to times square.
posted by gaspode at 8:44 AM on April 21, 2005

In Zürich there's lots of scenery to see, however in itself it is just a city of course. Be sure to stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse towards to Zürichsee (it's at the front of the main train station and at the end is the lake). On the way back to the station you can walk through Niederdorf, where there's plenty of nice bars and restaurants (as in the rest of Zürich). There's a tourist info at the airport and trains station for a map.

You can see Europes biggest 'clock-face' on the St. Peters church. The Landesmuseum is at the back of the main station, which is also nice.

If you're more in the mood for a MeFi meetup just say when you're coming and we can have the 'First International MeFi Zürich Meeting'.
posted by sebas at 9:05 AM on April 21, 2005

Here's a complete list of transportation options between JFK and Manhattan. Most public-transit-like is the AirTrain, which costs $5 + either subway or Long Island Railroad fare.

Easiest is a taxi, but there's no reason to spend that kind of money (I believe it's $45 + tip.)

Best bet for you would probably be either a SuperShuttle shared bus, which will drop you at your hotel, or the $15 bus to Grand Central.

When you get to baggage claim, look for signs reading "Ground Transportation". There should be a counter with all these options, and usually a person to answer questions.

I wouldn't go with the touts that come up to you and offer you a ride, but everything else should be fine.

As far as what to do in NYC -- what kinds of things do you like? Art, shopping, people-watching, restaurants, walking, what-have-you? We've got lots of MeFites here, and can give you some suggestions if you give us an idea of how you travel.
posted by Vidiot at 9:44 AM on April 21, 2005

I highly recommend walking over the Brooklyn Bridge when in NYC.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:52 AM on April 21, 2005

Thanks for all of the suggestions so far.

Vidiot - I do like art, so a museum is certainly on the itinerary. With just two days/3 nights, I'll probably only do one museum though, and it sounds like the Met is the consensus (?).

Beyond that, when I travel the main thing I'm looking for would be interesting things to see and photograph and to a lesser extent locally specific things that I can't really get anywhere else. After I leave the place, I want to feel like I've been to NYC -- at least to the extent that I can do that in a couple of days you know?

I don't expect I'll do much in the way of shopping while I'm there. I'll certainly be eating, but there are already a few threads on AskMe that seem to cover where to eat in New York.

sebas - I'm only in Zurich for one night and I'll only have whatever public transportation is available, so I don't know how easy it would be for me to get to very many places, but if you want to meet up, I'd certainly be down for that. I'll send you an e-mail later tonight with details about where I'm staying and when I'm there.
posted by willnot at 10:28 AM on April 21, 2005

If you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, be sure to linger in Brooklyn a while. Most NYC visitors never leave Manhattan and it's a real shame.

Don't miss Park Slope and nearby Prospect Park. Smith and Court Streets in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens are full of good cafes. Brooklyn Heights is right across the BB from Manhattan and it's full of nice brownstones.
posted by nyterrant at 10:40 AM on April 21, 2005

The Met is indeed one of the best museums on earth, and if you have to pick one, I'd go with that. The Brooklyn Bridge is a good walk. Other "only-in-New York" places and photo opportunities:

--Grand Central Terminal
--roaming around the financial district, Chinatown, SoHo, and the West and East Villages
--second the suggestion to get out of Manhattan. Try taking the 7 train out to Queens: Indian and Colombian Jackson Heights, Asian Flushing, or take the N/W to Greek Astoria. Or go to Coney Island in Brooklyn.
--riding the Staten Island Ferry -- a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon, and fantastic Statue of Liberty views besides.
--walk through Central Park
--Off-Broadway theater or comedy shows (Upright Citizens Brigade, etc.)
--Katz's Deli for wonderful pastrami
posted by Vidiot at 11:19 AM on April 21, 2005

The MoMA might be a problem; I've seen huge lines even months after the renovation was completed. And the Met is certainly more comprehensive.

I don't know about the boat to the Statue of Liberty, but the Staten Island Ferry comes often and is free. Just don't get off, ride it over and back.

In Rome, you really should visit the Palazzo Altemps, which is full of classical scupture "repaired" by Renaissance scultors like Bernini. It's an old cardinal's villa and is still relatively unknown by a lot of the tourists. It's near the curch of San Luigi dei Francesi, which you should also visit for the three wonderful Caravaggios hanging there.

There are two excellent restaurants in the Piazza della Cancelleria: "Il Ditirambo" and the one across the street whose name I have forgotten. The Cancelleria is just off the Via Vittorio.
posted by lackutrol at 12:20 PM on April 21, 2005

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