Fun things in NYC for a limping teenager
March 15, 2012 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Sitting-tour-of-NYC filter: My seventeen-year-old sister is visiting me in NJ this week and we want to hit up NYC on Saturday. Problem: she sprained her knee on the plane ride over, and so a lot of things I had in mind (mostly shopping) are no longer practical. Help me find cost-effective entertainment in NYC for someone on crutches!

Background: we're from Oklahoma so NYC just as a concept is pretty dazzling. This will be her first time here without my parents, and I want her to have a great time! She likes fashion, food, Asian culture (we're Chinese), song+dance+musicals, and flashy things; she not really interested in museums, parks, bookstores, boat/bus tours, and "stuff that's boring" (teenagers). She'd be a little uncomfortable watching a stand-up show that's just cursing and references to sex, but otherwise she handles herself very well.

She has mobility but we don't want to aggravate her injury further so we're going to take it slow. It'll be challenging (I suspect the subway system in particular will be tricky), but we still want to make the best of it! Despite being utterly uninterested in a lot of things I love, she's truly a delightful person and we get along great.

My original plan was to spend most of our time in Soho, China/K-town, and the High Line, and eat at Alice's Teacup, Shake Shack, and Momofuku. Now that I'm reluctant to bring her anywhere that requires a lot of walking and crowd navigation, how can I maximize her experience while minimizing my funds?

We'd love to go to a big Broadway show; can this be accomplished on my college-student budget (i.e., modest)? (Or: is there any way we could get two tickets for Sleep No More on such short notice? That looks incredible and I'd make her go with me.)

I've looked at previous AskMeFi questions for help (including the same question from four years ago, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.), as well as TimeOutNewYork and TimeOutNewYorkKids, but would love ideas from MeFites in the know!

In general we're looking for non-restaurant suggestions of things that we can do this Saturday seated, and (outside of Broadway) we would prefer smaller locations to the really big touristy ones— experiences that seem out of the ordinary! I want to give her something to talk about back home.

Thanks so much!
posted by brieche to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Check out if they have students rush tickets for a show you want to see. It can be a crap shoot and every theatre has their own rules, so make sure you know what they are. Usually it's something along the lines of "be here first when we open the box office at 8am" or "enter your name in this lottery and well call out the winners right before the show. For Sleep No More you'd probably have to call and ask, and it looks unlikely but it's certainly worth trying as tickets are usually around 20$ as students rush tickets. Usually you can get 2 tickets from one id (a high school id is fine).
posted by raccoon409 at 7:25 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's cheesy and overdone, but visiting the Empire State Building and taking one of those Circle Line Tours are actually really neat.

Also, you can rent wheelchairs at most museums in the city. Maybe the Met isn't for her, but MoMA would probably be neat. AND, you can usually rent wheelchairs in major department stores. So go to the guest services counter at Macy's and check out a wheelchair.

The subway is tricky, but seriously, ask for a seat if nobody offers. Find a youngish guy sitting with a girl (or even next to a girl) and ask sweetly, "I hate to ask, but my little sister's on crutches. Could she take your seat for a little while?" Guy will want to look heroic to his girl, and will offer. Smile big, and when she sits down, say to the now-abandoned girlfriend, "Thank you. He's so sweet." Wins for all.

Speaking of crutches, does she have any? Most drugstores sell them, or at least canes. It's not the most fabulous way to get around, but it might make it easier and give her some more walking time. (also, having the prop will make it easier for you guys to ask for special accommodations.) You might even be able to rent a wheelchair from Duane Read that you can take all over.

Other things that might be good--find a nice spa or bathouse. That's something you don't get much of outside the city. Get your makeup done at Sephora. Get hair done at Bumble and Bumble. Get fabulous manicures and pedicures. It's all doable.
posted by elizeh at 7:26 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Use MTA buses instead of the subway. You can get all the same places, but with no stairs to deal with, and you get a nice view.
posted by kimdog at 7:29 PM on March 15, 2012

Afternoon tea! Also, scroll down this page for accessibility info geared to tourists and a few wheelchair/scooter rental places. There's probably one closer to you in NJ. The text points out that all buses accommodate wheel chairs..
posted by carmicha at 7:45 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that Saturday is St. Patrick's Day. The City is a bit of a nightmare on that day -- avoid upper 5th avenue during the day, and if you are thinking of doing Broadway, I would actually choose to do it on Sunday over Saturday since there tend to be a lot of pubs with a rowdy crowd in that area (more along 9th).

You can do the Highline -- I would start at Gansevoort, and then just go up a few blocks -- around 16th -- and see how she is feeling. There are tons of places to stop (and elevators), and you could do it very slowly at her pace. There is a lot to see in that little stretch -- the Standard Hotel, 14th St., Meatpacking. Then, you can drop down to Chelsea Market for a break, and to see a lot of shops in one spot. If she feels like going further north, go for it.

A lot of Soho can be a mad house on the weekend, especially along Broadway, but if you go along Mercer parallel to Bdwy you can avoid the crowds and still go in the back door of a lot of the shops on the west side of Broadway.

For shorts trips, cabs aren't much more expensive than the MTA, and it will be much more convenient for you when she is tired.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Or: is there any way we could get two tickets for Sleep No More on such short notice? That looks incredible and I'd make her go with me.

Do NOT go to Sleep No More if you have any mobility issues. The show is very active. It is a five story space with only staircases leading between the floors. There is too much walking/running in the show. She will probably be frustrated by having to go up and down stairs to explore the space, and so will the people behind her, as she becomes an impediment to those trying to catch an actor sprinting.
posted by kathryn at 8:12 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sleep No More is the opposite of seated -- we got an insane workout chasing around actors up and down a massive five+(?) story building. Save that for a future trip! Expensive but truly amazing and definitely worth it (though, lots of nudity, which you should know since you mention situations in which she'd be uncomfortable.)

This isn't that amazing (sorry), but: Checking out what's playing in the indie theatres could be fun, since some movies come to NYC much earlier than many other major cities (and some more obscure films may not head to smaller cities at all.)

I really like the spa idea suggested above. Oh! So, I haven't lived in the NY area in a long time, but if anyone you know can suggest a nice Korean bathhouse (Jjimjilbang) in NYC, that definitely counts as a fun and quirky outing. I love visiting the one here outside of DC, as has everyone I've brought there -- its palatial and the restaurant has great food. $35 for access to the pools and steam rooms, etc. I'd bet there's something similar in the NYC area.
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:13 PM on March 15, 2012

{pulls up chair and sits down}

Not only am I a New Yorker, I'm recovering from a broken foot. I should weigh in.

* Yes, you can see a Broadway show on a budget -- there are some tricks. The best option is to go to one of the "TKTS" booths in the city -- there are two or three, but the main one is at 47th Street and Broadway; it's a big thing on a traffic island that'll say TKTS on it. What that is is, same-day half-price tickets to a number of Broadway shows. You have to get it for the same day, and it's not EVERY show (not sure if SLEEP NO MORE is there yet), but you can get some good deals.

* I know you said no restaurants, but a couple of them are genuine only-in-New-York things; one of them, Katz's, is also very budget-friendly. If you saw the movie WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, that's where they filmed the fake-orgasm scene, and they have a little sign on the table where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal sat during filming. The food is also good. There are also a few old-school coffee houses in Greenwich Village - my favorite, Caffe Reggio, also has very affordable food, all kinds of coffee beverages, wine, and Italian sodas, and the vibe feels cool as all hell. Or, hit up the dim sum place at 20 Mott Street, which is a short hobble from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.

Or, if you really just want ice cream, go for Serendipity (although, try to get there early -- the wait can be kind of ridiculous; although, it's like a block away from Bloomingdale's, so you could do that at the same time -- and I'll tell you something about Bloomingdale's in a minute). Serendipity is a New York institution, and is like if Willy Wonka decided to open a diner -- and the desserts are wild. My own friend came last year and asked for "the smallest dessert you have," and it was a chocolate mousse in a glass the size of her head. "That's as small as it gets here," they said.

* Okay -- honestly, forget the subway. I've just started riding it again, and FIVE TIMES now I've been stuck on a subway with a big-ass cane, with people looking right at me and the big-ass cane, and even looking me right in the eye, and still no one gives me their seat. Buses are a better option; they're easier to get onto and off, and you have more of a chance of someone giving you a seat. But subways suck, even just the getting down the stairs TO them.

* If you do try to check out the wheelchair option in a department store, go for Bloomingdale's -- I learned recently that they sometimes have a special coupon they also give out-of-town visitors where you get 20% off everything.

* Another getting-around-town tip - if you do try to go with taxis, avoid trying to get a taxi between the hours of 4:30 and 5:30 pm. That's when the shifts change and it will be IMPOSSIBLE to hail one. However, if you get really stuck, see if you can sneak onto the taxi line at a hotel, so it's the doorman of the hotel who's trying to hail the taxi for you; I tried that move myself (and the doorman figured out that that's what I was doing and whispered to me, "don't worry, other people do this all the time").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:15 PM on March 15, 2012

Oh -- fair warning that the line for TKTS may be really long, so that's probably something that you should do while your sister is stashed somewhere waiting. Or -- go to the booth at the South Street Seaport; that one sells tickets to matinee shows one day in advance (i.e., go there on a Saturday to get tickets for a Sunday matinee).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

One other tip for the mobility-impaired: think of your days in clusters.

The best way to do this is to cluster things around a meal.

For example, you could go to the High Line, do some shopping at Chelsea Market, walk along 14th Street, through the Meatpacking District (though those cobblestones might be a pain), and then have a cheap meal over at Corner Bistro and then dessert at Magnolia Cupcakes (cheesy, I know). All of that falls within a very small radius given how far people in the City tend to walk.

Another example: you could go to the New Museum (I know you said no museums, but that is a bit less stuffy), shopping in Nolita (less crowded than Soho), and then dinner in Chinatown.

Another example, but this one is ONLY if she is feeling good: take the 1 train to the very last stop at South Ferry. You will have all the time in the world to get off and there are escalators (walk in the opposite direction the train came in when you get there). Hobble over to the waterfront -- bam -- and now you've seen the statue of liberty without going there. Crutch up Broad Street and take a break for a snack on Stone Street, crutch back up Broad past the Stock exchange, past Trinity and to Ground really isn't that far...then go shopping at Century 21 after. Grab a cab if she is tired, and head over to the South Street Seaport to try and get tickets to a show. If you get tickets, you are golden. If not, you could cab it up and do the Nolita/Chinatown thing that day. Make sure to look at the Woolworth Bldg on the way to the seaport, and make sure to stare at the Brooklyn Bridge once you are down there. Given that you will be hitting Stone Street and the Seaport, you will want to avoid doing this on St. Paddy's Day.

Might not be a bad idea to bring a few towels if her armpits get sore, and some moleskine and band-aids in case she gets blisters. I tend to give pretty brutal (but good) tours, so that last one may be a bit ambitious.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:48 PM on March 15, 2012

For example, you could go to the High Line, do some shopping at Chelsea Market, walk along 14th Street, through the Meatpacking District (though those cobblestones might be a pain), and then have a cheap meal over at Corner Bistro and then dessert at Magnolia Cupcakes (cheesy, I know). All of that falls within a very small radius given how far people in the City tend to walk.

The doing-things-in-clusters idea is a good concept, but -- speaking from the perspective of one thus impaired -- this particular itinerary is problematic in a few ways --

* There are elevators to get you up and down FROM the High Line, but once you're up there all there is to do is sit or walk, and I think there are some shallow stairs up and down from one level to the next. It'd still be a fair bit of walking.

* Chelsea Market has some shopping, but it's also hella crowded, and if you're not seriously into food it may not be all that interesting shopping (unless you want, like, a pound of raw swordfish).

* Yeah, the cobblestones would suck donkey balls.

Also, a general observation that yeah, people in the city tend to walk far under normal circumstances, but INJURED people tend to walk much, much smaller radii. (My thirty-block radius shrank to TWO blocks when I had my boot cast on. Walking while injured sucks.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:55 PM on March 15, 2012

Sure, she is going to have to crutch along the High Line, but I am assuming she is capable of a bit of travel. I have done a few months with a broken leg myself, and it definitely sucks, but I mention only going a few blocks along it (Gansevoort to Chelsea Market) because it is actually a really good way to see a lot of things from that vantage point without cross-traffic, with lots of benches for rest, and if you are resting...hey! you are on the High Line, so even sitting and people-watching is productive!

Hell, if you got a spot on a bench just south of the Standard, you could start by people-watching the passers-by on the High Line, rotate a few degrees and watch the Sunset over the Hudson, then rotate a few more degrees at twilight to voyeuristically gawk into the rooms of the Standard, rotate a bit to see the Empire State Building, rotate a few degrees to see if Diane Von Furstenberg is doing yoga in her apartment, and then rotate a few more degrees to stare down along 14th and the B&T going into the MeatPacking District. That is a pretty full tower from one spot on a bench!
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 9:25 PM on March 15, 2012

My daughter recently broke her ankle, went from a cast to a boot and had a big trip planned. She did the whole ten days using a Razor! I don't know if your sister's injury precludes that, might consider it!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:24 AM on March 16, 2012

Empire State Building! I went when a family member was on crutches and we got to skip to the front of all the lines.
posted by sparrow89 at 4:42 AM on March 16, 2012

check out The Ride. It's hard to explain, but it's a very unique way to tour the city. Tickets are affordable with a student ID.
posted by la_rousse at 1:16 PM on March 16, 2012

Following up months later:

Augh, you guys are the best!

We went Sunday instead of Saturday (thanks, This_Will_Be_Good!) and still ended up structuring our day around food: Alice's Teacup first thing -> Chinatown bakeries -> ASIADOG in Nolita -> Momofuku Noodle Bar (those pork buns!) -> Shake Shack for the train trip back.

She managed to hoof most of it (what a trooper!), but it helped that we walked (or crutched) at a leisurely pace, didn't really go shopping, avoided problem areas pointed out in this very thread, and took taxis for the last two legs. People were also very gracious in giving up subway seats— having the full two crutches probably helped there.

Thanks again, everyone! It wouldn't have been such a success without you!
posted by brieche at 10:33 PM on April 24, 2012

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