Mid-December NYC solo traveller travel plan
December 3, 2012 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I have some vacation days I need to use this year and I want to go somewhere where I can spend a few days alone and get my mind off things. I also enjoy spending time at museums and art galleries. So I am thinking about staying in NYC for three or four nights and basically just visit MoMA everyday. Is this doable and advisable?

I am thinking of flying in on the evening of the 12th (Wednesday) and leaving in the afternoon on either the Saturday or the Sunday via Newark airport, coming from Toronto on Porter Airlines. I have enough loyalty points to stay at the Element Times Square hotel for those nights and plan to simply walk to wherever I need to go. Food budget is about $50 a day.

All I have planned is MoMA during the day, window shop & people watch when I get tired, and quiet reading at night. Maybe splurge on a meal or two. I have never been to MoMA so I think I'll be OK but I do have the MET and Guggenheim as backup daytime activities. Other than Times Square, not sure where I can go to window shop or people watch in the evenings. I plan on using Yelp for dining options.

Last time I was in NYC was more than a decade ago and on a tourbus package with family so I am essentially visiting NYC for the first time and a bit overwhelmed with the possibilities when I am just looking for a slow, simple few days where I can collect my thoughts and relax.

How does my plan sound to you? Do you have better and specific suggestions of things I can do if all I really want is a bit of decadent alone time? How can I actually get from Newark airport to my hotel for a reasonable price and not much hassle?
posted by tksh to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (45 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Can't offer much opinion about the rest of your question, but the New Jersey transit system goes through Newark at the airport and continues on to Penn Station (at 34th Street, not far from Times Square). To me this would be the easiest and most economical method.
posted by amicamentis at 12:21 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is the link on the NJ Transit page regarding airport transportation.
posted by amicamentis at 12:22 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

For a city with so many people, it is surprisingly easy to feel alone, so I kinda like your plan. All alone doing your own thing hidden in plain sight amongst millions of people!

As for transport, the closest option getting to your hotel would be to get on a bus from Newark to Port Authority and then you can walk from there. Slightly easier to navigate than the bus (at least for me) is the airtrain to NJ Transit to Penn Station, but then your walk will be a bit longer (10 mins vs 5 mins maybe?) to the hotel, but still very manageable (assuming you're not bringing 3 suitcases).

I'm sure there will be plenty of folks coming in for suggestions on what to do while you're here. Enjoy your trip!
posted by Grither at 12:22 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, the Guggenheim has a good Picasso exhibition, so I would recommend that. I would also recommend the MET over the MoMA any day, but that's definitely personal preference, so if you want more MoMA after day 1, then definitely go back there!

And yes, take the airport shuttle (or whatever it's called) to the Newark Airport NJTransit stop, and from there, trains should take you to NY Penn Station. Here's their website to plan your trip around your actual time of arrival: NJ Transit Trip Planner
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 12:24 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I love MoMA, but I don't think you can spend more than a day or a day and a half there. Definitely plan on back up museums. We have a ton!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am just looking for a slow, simple few days where I can collect my thoughts and relax.

This as much the opposite of Times Square that I can think of. Times Square is loud, crowded, obnoxious, and full of people who have absolutely no idea how to behave on a crowded city street. There is nowhere worse I can think to have a peaceful time gathering your thoughts short of a popular bar at midnight on a Saturday.

Try SoHo (take the D from Times Square to Broadway-Lafayette) for window shopping at a slightly less ridiculous pace. Although on the weekend it is just as bad as Times Square, if not worse.
posted by griphus at 12:28 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

The bus is the Newark Airport Express. It's cheap -- $28 Round Trip -- and a no-hassle option.
posted by Lescha at 12:30 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, there's good "overwhelming" -- SO MUCH AWESOME STUFF WHERE DO I START?! -- and bad "overwhelming" -- OH GOD TOO MANY PEOPLE WHAT DO I DO?!

You can be assured that anywhere a tour bus took you is liable to be the local epicenter of bad overwhelming
posted by griphus at 12:31 PM on December 3, 2012

It sounds fantastic, except for the expense part for the museums - you'll have to pay the full admission every day for MoMA. (Well - except for Friday, if you want to wait until 4 pm - then it's free.) Meanwhile, the Met is "suggested admission," so you can get away with paying the "suggested" $20 your first day and then only $5 the next day. I'd consider the Met at least once so you're not spending too much on museum admission (or, look into how much the admissions are for different museums and plan accordingly).

As for the people watching -- BOY HOWDY are you going to be able to do that. If your'e looking for a more chill experience, that's another reason to pick the Met at least once - it's basically IN Central Park, so you can escape for a stroll there.

As for evening windowshopping - Times Square will be a bloody zoo. But if you walk down Fifth Avenue, from 59th Street (the southern end of Central Park) down to 42nd, you'll see all the big department store windows, which often pull out all the stops for Christmas displays. (Although, in the evenings and weekends that will also be crowded.)

Another fun neighborhood to explore is the West Village (from 14th Street down to Houston Street, and then from about 6th Avenue west to the Hudson River); it's a little easy to get lost and turned around in odd directions, but there definitely would be a "there" there to explore. And there are some lovely old coffee shops there (I'm partial to Caffe Reggio, which was one of the first places to introduce cappucino to New York bohemians). Or go to the East Village (14th and Houston, only this time you'll want "anything from about 5th Avenue to the East River") for a more funky experience. (And if you do that, you must eat at Katz's deli.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:31 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think your plan sounds great...I spent a week at the Louvre on my last trip to Paris.

It'll be best to look at the windows late at night when the shops are closed.
posted by brujita at 12:35 PM on December 3, 2012

Having just been to NYC and being a museum and gallery fan myself, I would plan now to check out some other museums. MoMA is great, but an entire day there could very well be enough time. It was actually somewhat smaller than I had expected.

You could check out the NYC City Pass, which offers admission to the MoMA and other attractions. I found it worth the money to do some of the more touristy things NYC had to offer.
posted by Nightman at 12:43 PM on December 3, 2012

Times Square is loud, crowded, obnoxious, and full of people who have absolutely no idea how to behave on a crowded city street.

Trying to relax in Times Square is like trying to relax while a dozen screaming babies punch you in the face amidst a crowd of half a million other people all being punched in the face by screaming babies. Other screaming babies will be in cars, driving them very badly and honking the horns solely for the sheer joy of honking.

Then they all crap simultaneously.
posted by elizardbits at 12:46 PM on December 3, 2012 [16 favorites]

I can't imagine 3 days at MOMA (conversely a week at the Met would not be enough). Backup museums are a good idea - I suggest the Brooklyn Museum. Possibly the galleries in Chelsea. And if you want to get a drink with another mefite then memail me.
posted by bunderful at 12:48 PM on December 3, 2012

I like your plan except there are so many other great museums in NYC too, and you don't need more than a day at MOMA. I'd add the Whitney, the Museum of Natural History, and maybe the Tenement Museum.
posted by susanvance at 12:50 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

First of all, stay at the Intercontinental Barkclay. We stayed there, it was awesome.

Go to the Eugene O'Neill theatre for the Book of Mormon Lottery.

Go to Rockefellar Plaza, drink hot cocoa and watch people skate.

MOMA is a great place to spend a day, Friday evenings are free (and crowded).

Apply for tickets to The Daily Show or the Colbert Report, or Letterman. Free and Fun!

I've been called for last-minute Letterman tickets, so even if you don't get them, keep your phone on, they'll call you if they have them.

Window shop on 5th Avenue, NOT Times Square. I HATE Times Square. However, if you want half-price Broadway tickets, go down there, but then leave again.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:52 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

MoMa is great but probably only a day or two. Add the Whitney to your list, methinks. I also enjoy the exhibits at the Armory, not sure about the current one but that area is certainly very quiet and it may be within your interests.

Regarding the Met, the cloisters is extremely relaxing and in a very nice park. If you pay admission to one you have entry to the other for the day (but it's kind of a hike between the two). There is nothing wrong with suggested donation of a few dollars if you really can't afford it.

An unlimited metrocard is $29 for a week if you get cold (otherwise its $2.50/ea or so).

People watching: anywhere. Window shopping: herald square has a lot of good stuff around christmas, and is *slightly* less insane than times square.
posted by shownomercy at 12:53 PM on December 3, 2012

Backup museums, definitely. Maybe more peaceful than MoMA or the Met at Christmastime: the Morgan Library.

The Cloisters is a superb spot to mediate and relax. If you get a decent day that you can sit on a bench and read outside in the garden there you are in for a treat.

Times Square is so hectic. People watching is good anywhere in NYC really. Find a coffee shop with a window seat and you'll have fun.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was done with MoMa after about three hours. MoMa is great but the Met is ten times as wonderful.

AND as shownomercy said, the Met is pay-what-you-wish. The ticket prices are a suggested donation -- you can actually march up to the ticket desk and say, "I'd like to pay $5 (or $10/etc.)" and they will give you a ticket. This really helps if you are on a tight budget, and they have a huge endowment (why can't I type that without giggling?) so they can allow this fee rate.

Even just walking through galleries in Chelsea is free and memorable.

And just WALKING. Pink cheeks and dark wool coats on everyone. Wonderful.
posted by mochapickle at 1:03 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

+1 for The Cloisters if you want a different museum experience and some quiet time.
posted by crocomancer at 1:06 PM on December 3, 2012

MuseumFreeDays.com | January 2013 NYC table.

You can change it to any month you want.

I am sure it is not all NYC museums, but a fairly good listing.
posted by lampshade at 1:12 PM on December 3, 2012

Is it doable? Sure!

Is it advisable? Well, there are hundreds of museums in New York, and if you expand that to galleries as well as libraries and other spaces with (worthwhile) exhibits on view, that easily becomes thousands. So coming to New York just to go to MoMA every day would be silly. I would, at minimum, also visit the Metropolitan Museum (which you could easily spend three days in), the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and the New Museum, just for starters. If you want more, I'd add the Neue Gallerie, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Frick Collection. If you like history, the Tenement Museum is a must. If you like dinosaur bones and anthropology, you can't miss the Natural History Museum. You could easily visit dozens more. Just to give you an idea of how dumb "visit New York. Only go to MoMA." sounds, even if you are really just into looking at art.

Oh, and PS1. You also gotta go to PS1.

Keep in mind that a museum admission in New York tends to run around $20, and there aren't many combo deals. Though if you plan perfectly, you could visit most museums on free days. And the Metropolitan is "suggested donation".
posted by Sara C. at 1:12 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

so you can get away with paying the "suggested" $20 your first day and then only $5 the next day.

Aw, hell no. Give 'em $1-2 every time. They have billions of dollars in endowments. It's practically criminal that they even suggest a "donation".
posted by Sara C. at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

N'thing what everyone else has said. MOMA is done in a day, the MET is fabulous and the Cloisters are a poetic experience, including getting there. Also, the Whitney. Small but wow. And the New Museum of Contemporary Art. And the Earth Room.

For evenings, you need to go downtown or to Brooklyn. It's much more homey and friendly, which is necessary if you are alone. Also, you should really visit the High Line, even if it's winter now.
Look for great music - every single night in NY, you can hear world class music for little money. Downtown and Brooklyn are also easier when it comes to finding good meals and service at all prices when you are alone.
posted by mumimor at 1:20 PM on December 3, 2012

I actually prefer the Met's modern collection to MOMA. PS1 is also good for the avant-garde. Put those together and you totally have 3 days of entertainment.
posted by zvs at 2:57 PM on December 3, 2012

There are plenty of other Starwood hotels in non-terrible parts of the city that I think you should consider switching to.
As others have said, Times Square and relaxation don't belong in the same sentence.
The St. Regis would be nice and is very close to the MOMA. Or the Four Points sheraton in Soho if you don't mind being downtown and taking the subway.

Your MOMA ticket usually gets you in to PS1 as well, so you could do those back to back one day or over 2 days.
posted by rmless at 3:21 PM on December 3, 2012

Thank you everyone for your feedback, especially about MoMA. I think I got the message!

Based on what everyone has said, I've come up with the following tentative daytime schedule instead, partly based on admission costs and based on what I think is walkable from my hotel:
  • Thursday: MET & Cloisters
  • Friday: MET & Whiteney
  • Saturday: MoMA & PS1 & Guggenheim
  • Sunday: Natural History Museum or Frick or Morgan Library
Window shopping/people watch: 5th Avenue apparently. I'll avoid Times Square but will stick with the hotel choice unless Westin at Grand Central or Four Points at Chelsea are better options. I have few options with the hotel choice because I will pay entirely with loyalty points and yet stay at a hotel that's within walking distance to the museums.

My biggest worry is energy actually. I would love to do everyone's suggestions but I'll only be in the city for 3.5 days and I do want to take it easy and not feel rushed.
posted by tksh at 3:45 PM on December 3, 2012

5th Avenue not anywhere near as bad as Times Square but it is still crowded and hectic. I'd opt for Soho/Noho/NoLita area instead (especially during a weekday afternoon).

There is a really excellent exhibit at the Asian Art Society by Lin Tianmiao. It's free admission on Friday nights and would be relatively uncrowded in general since it's not a huge museum.

Also, if you want some rest and relaxation, why not hit up Central Park and take a long walk through there? The Northern end is less crowded but it's really easy to find a quiet relaxing area anywhere in the Park.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 4:05 PM on December 3, 2012

Personally I loved the energy of staying right on Times Square last time I was in NYC, especially since I was just walking places anyway - I didn't have to deal with driving or super-crowded subways.
posted by muddgirl at 4:13 PM on December 3, 2012

Not, like, the whole subway, but the stops right near Times Square.
posted by muddgirl at 4:18 PM on December 3, 2012

Most of those places are not in walking distance of each other, let alone from any hotel.

You should plan to use the subway system, which is very easy to navigate and an integral part of the New York experience.

Minimally, you will need the subway to get to the Met, the Cloisters, and PS1. It's possible that you could set up a schedule that allowed you to walk from the Met to the Whitney, the Frick, and the Guggenheim, or the Met to the Natural History Museum.

I also forget where the Morgan Library is exactly, so I don't recall whether you could walk there from any of the other places. I think it's in midtown, though, not on the Upper East or Upper West sides. Potentially walkable from MoMA or your hotel, probably not walkable to any of the uptown museums.

With your itinerary as given, you would have to take the subway between almost all of the museums on all of the days. Except for Friday, though you'd need to use the subway to get between the Met/Whitney and your hotel.

Frankly, if you want to set up something that's at least vaguely convenient, I'd do it like this:

Met/Whitney/Guggenheim/Frick. In other words, you spend your whole day on the Upper East Side.

Met/Natural History Museum/Cloisters. This would be a day between the Upper East and Upper West sides, with a subway trek up to the Cloisters.

MoMA/PS1/Morgan Library. This would be in Midtown, with a subway trek out to Queens.
posted by Sara C. at 5:08 PM on December 3, 2012

Also, looking at how many museums you want to visit are on the Upper East Side, it might be worth finding a Starwood hotel in that neighborhood.

Optimal for both "Rich Old Capitalist Fat Cat Museums" (Whitney, Frick, Met, etc) and MoMA/Midtown East Museums woud be to stay somewhere in the east 60's.

This would also be be better in terms of avoiding the holiday crowds. It won't be in any way hip, but it's at least more convenient for what you want to do than staying in Times Square. Especially if you're not footing the bill for the hotel room due to points.
posted by Sara C. at 5:13 PM on December 3, 2012

It seems like you have an agenda now, but I wanted to add one thing. I was there just for a day about a week ago and we went to the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park. Perfect people watching place around the ice rink, and all the little stores made it an interesting place. We were there during the day, but I think it would be great to go in the evening when maybe museums are closed. There were some yummy foods, so get a snack, find a spot to sit and observe.
posted by maxg94 at 5:20 PM on December 3, 2012

Since you're coming from Toronto and thus are blessed by the goodness that is Caplansky's, it's kind of pointless to recommend Katz's over Carnegie Deli. If you're going to be staying in Midtown, then definitely make a stop at the Milk Bar location on West 56th, and you can tag-team it with lunch at Ma Peche. You could also get thee to 53rd and 6th and partake of chicken and rice goodness, though you can see from the comments that Mefites have their preferred halal carts.
posted by evoque at 5:51 PM on December 3, 2012

This is all starting to sound like a crowded agenda for a mellow, contemplative vacation. Give yourself permission to stay at a single museum for multiple days if you like it, to walk for hours and stop at a coffee shop to people watch whenever you feel like it, to do little and experience much. You don't sound like you're looking for a whirlwind tour of New York -- not even a whirlwind tour of its most exciting museums.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I somewhat agree with croutonsupafreak, though I'd more say to pace yourself on the museums.

MoMA can be pretty much entirely seen in a day, and PS1 isn't all that big so those both work together for a day.

The Morgan Library is probably going to be maybe two galleries -- highlights from the permanent collection and something special, likely to be Christmas themed glurge this time of year.

The Met is really overwhelming. I usually tell people to go, pick three things on the map that look interesting, and spend your time navigating between those three things. If you see a cool thing on the way between your chosen things, feel free to wander, but it's just not possible to "do" the Met. I worked there for a year and have visited countless times over the decade I was in New York, and I have still not seen everything. I am not sure I'd recommend a second day there unless you really feel like you want to and have specific things you'll just die if you don't see. Otherwise you could easily get burnt out.

The Cloisters isn't that big, unless you're a serious medieval art fan and plan to scrutinize every inch of the place in depth.

The Guggenheim takes a full afternoon if you are actually into the main exhibition. If you're not, I'd probably give it a miss unless there's a specific Kandinsky or Picasso Blue Period piece on view in the permanent collection that you want to see. IMO the permanent collection highlights are not worth the price of admission.

The Whitney is about like the Cloisters in my experience -- not overwhelming unless you are a huge fan of 20th century American art and are going to come yourself at every Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth painting. Or they happen to have an exhibition that really interests you.

Similar for the Frick. I have a massive boner for Vermeer and spent maybe two hours there, including, like doing the full audioguide and everything.

Natural History Museum is another museum that can be very overwhelming, and in many years of visits I can just barely say I've seen the whole place. Pick stuff that interests you, get a little lost, and just enjoy. Don't worry about "doing" the museum. They charge extra (non "suggested", too) for special exhibitions, and they have a shitload of IMAX and planetarium and other stuff that is more like a show than a museum. So you could spend an entire day there, or you could spend a few hours if you just wanted to see the Hall of Evolution and the dinosaur bones.
posted by Sara C. at 6:08 PM on December 3, 2012

I like your plan, and I have some thoughts:

1. As others have said, you can see the MoMA in a full day, max. You may want to have back-up museums, which as someone also mentioned, we have many of.

2. Most NYers think of Times Square as "the tourist area", but it's improved considerably with the advent of pedestrian plazas. To be honest, I don't think any hotel in NYC is in a "calm & relaxing" area. Times Square has a few things going for it: (a) Very centrally located for cabs and trains, (b) lots of food options in Hell's Kitchen, (c) walking distance to the MoMA, Lincoln Center, AMNH, etc etc.

3. To get from Newark Liberty (EWR), you can (a) take a cab @ $70ish, (b) take a bus (I've never done this, or (c) take the air-train to the NJ Transit stop, then take that into Penn Station. That runs about $20 or less and is fairly efficient as long as it isn't past 10 pm or so (the trains run hourly after that). You might have more luck flying into LGA, and taking the M60 bus in, but not if the airfare is more expensive.

4. Toronto has fabulous public transit. NY has "decent" public transit. It runs 24 hours, but with a lot of delays and problems. Give yourself time to get places and don't be in a hurry. Also, rush hour is brutal.

and finally ...

5. Food: Your best bet is going to be Hell's Kitchen on 9th Ave, as this will be walking distance from the hotel. With a few exceptions, the area south of 14th and north of Chambers will have the most restaurants and tend to be cheaper.

Let me know if you have any additional questions, and good luck!
posted by NYC-BB at 6:27 PM on December 3, 2012

I'm going to put in a plug for getting a snack or dessert at one of the cafes in the Neue Galerie (museum) when you are on the Upper East Side (you don't need to pay the admission price to eat in the cafes, though I happen to like this museum quite a bit). They tend to be popular, so going at an off time is better or you may have to wait in line.

Seconding the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. While you are in the neighborhood, you could grab a bagel at some place like Russ & Daughters.

I vote for spending time in the Met's permanent galleries, if you don't want to feel rushed. Have you been to their Egyptian Art galleries, for example?
posted by gudrun at 6:30 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would recommend not doing the Met first thing in the morning unless it is the only thing scheduled for the day-- it is deceptively large and very easy to tire yourself out in. I personally especially would not do the Cloisters after the Met for two reasons: 1) Ft. Tryon Park is a long subway ride coming from the East Side, and you'll be wiped out and not enjoy the museum as much, and 2) the Cloisters closes much earlier than the Met on weekends (4:45 pm vs. 9 pm!). The Met is great fun on Friday nights. I'd recommend getting there in the afternoon and spending a couple of hours looking at stuff, and then going to the (overpriced but pretty) cafe in the sculpture court with your book for a snack/cup of tea/glass of wine before venturing back out into the art.

I've grown to really love the period rooms in the back of the Met on the first floor for solitary/introspective museum time. They're usually much less crowded than the more famous galleries and are really well done. The study collection above the Greek and Roman gallery is also low-traffic but great.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:02 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think I have more on schedule already than I'll probably end up doing. I'm also reconsidering the viability of walking to everywhere. I'm OK with walking 10Km+ a day but it sounds like I'll be better off just getting a 7 day Metropass and make sure my hotel is near a subway station. (St. Regis, W and the other Starwood properties close to 60th Avenue, east or west, are definitely out of my range.)

Thanks again everyone for your input. My plan looks doable, just a matter of logistics and pace.
posted by tksh at 7:41 PM on December 3, 2012

You might want to consider upping your food budget. Fifty per day is doable, but if you are going to be eating out three times a day, that will go pretty quickly (unless you're taking breakfast at a deli or coffee cart or bagel shop). Also, if you are at one of the museums on the UES (e.g., the Met), you will have to hoof it over to at least Lexington to find any place for food.

Oh, and if you decide you get enough of the alone time, post a last-minute meetup and I'm sure a few of us would love to join you for drinks.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:54 PM on December 3, 2012

unless you're taking breakfast at a deli or coffee cart or bagel shop

Which you should be. New York has great restaurants, don't get me wrong. But you can probably get as good a breakfast as can be obtained on this planet for about $7, in New York.

You could easily eat a deli/bagel shop breakfast, a cafe or takeout lunch, and mid range dinner with a good beer or wine by the glass for $50 a day. An extra $10 per day would put you on the level of pretty amazing culinary experiences, while you could still eat damn well for $40 a day.

I highly second the food in the Neue Galerie, by the way. Might be at the upper end of your budget, but eat a light dinner and you're fine. The Neue Galerie is right across the street from the Met, so no, you don't have to go to Lexington for food. The cafe in the Met is also passable, if you don't want to leave.

All museums here have perfectly OK food, and some have quite good food.

MoMA has at least one really good restaurant inside. I also remember their employee cafe being really good, so I'd guess that the main cafe in the museum is pretty good, too.

There's a Shake Shack within a couple blocks of the Natural History Museum.

Food trucks, too, have revolutionized what is available near the major tourist attractions, including museums. It used to be that you had to schlep pretty far from the big museums to get decent affordable food. Now you can just hit the Waffels & Dinges truck, or grab a lobster roll, or whatever you have a hankering for.
posted by Sara C. at 8:06 PM on December 3, 2012

Just seconding Sara C. My gf used to work at the Met and we'd eat there for half price and that made it about worth it, but I feel like the Met's cafe is overpriced. The Neue Galerie food is amazing.
posted by Brainy at 9:17 PM on December 3, 2012

Oh, also, people seem to really like the christmas market at Union Square, although I personally find it super vexing because I have to walk around it to get anywhere.
posted by elizardbits at 7:23 AM on December 4, 2012

MoMA is my favorite museum in New York because it has Starry Night and Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. It is the museum I recommend to most people because it has so many of the greatest hits of art. I could see those paintings every day for 4 days but thats me. However, I do like going to the Met, too, and getting lost within the space. There's just a lot to see at the Met so it might be overstimulating, but in a good way. I have spent a lot of lazy afternoons at the Met and it never disappoints.
I wouldnt plan too much though. It seems counterintuitive to what you seem to want to do.
Have a great trip.
posted by bookshelves at 9:38 PM on December 4, 2012

I just came back on Sunday and had a great time. Just wanted to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions. I only marked a handful as best answer but everyone was helpful. In case anyone's using this thread as a basis for their own trip, here's how my trip went.

After someone pointed out how far the Cloisters are far from everywhere else, I created a Google map with all the points of interest marked out. I've exported my map here. Just save it as an KML file and import it into Google maps.

I carried around an offline copy of this map on my phone (with additional restaurant suggestions and Uniqlo/MUJI locations) and just did whatever my map said was nearby as I walked around. Worked out well.

Like everyone said, MoMA could be done in half a day. And yes, after two days of MoMA, MET, Guggenhiem, and American Natural History, I got overwhelmed and instead I started walking around, exploring random neighbourhoods and people watched.

I stayed near 39th & 8th Avenue, which turned out to be really convenient to everywhere I wanted to go. Only downside is that you'll still hear a lot of street noise 20 floors up. I personally have no problems sleeping through traffic noise but yes, the lullaby of screaming babies driving cars very badly and honking for the sheer joy of honking well into the night and early in the morning.

Likewise, Times Square was nicely crowded and full of people -- I enjoyed it a lot, just walking through with ear buds and watching other people do their thing but not good if you don't like crowds or don't want to multi-task between jay walking, collision avoidance and looking around. Kind of like the MTR area in Mong Kok in Hong Kong but in a larger area and less crowded.

American food servings are LARGE! I couldn't eat fit three meals a day. A few times, I just had fruit and a snack in the afternoon so my food costs were quite under $50 per day. And finally, the transit from Newark airport to Manhattan Penn Station was hassle free and quick using NJ Transit. Terrible signs but there were attendants everywhere to guide you.
posted by tksh at 12:32 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

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