Maximize the experience on a drive from Mpls to NYC
May 25, 2006 9:38 AM   Subscribe

My 17-year-old sister and I will be driving to New York City from Minneapolis, MN some time this summer. When should we go? What route should we take? Where should we stop on the way?

My sister is graduating from high school and going off to an East Coast school next year. Our dad is sending us on a once-in-a-lifetime road trip to a destination of our choice. As neither of us has ever been to NYC, we've chosen to end up there. However, I'd like to make the whole experience (driving there, staying there, driving back) memorable and exciting. We're up for pretty much anything that can be done without being "legal." Also, are there any fun places to go within a few hours by train from NYC? Should we keep our car or park it somewhere and rely on the subway/cabs?
posted by yogurtisgenocide to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Keep plenty of cash and change on you for the drive, as the tollbooths start coming faster and faster and you don't want to be stuck pulling over to hunt for an ATM.
posted by hermitosis at 9:47 AM on May 25, 2006

What you want to do in NYC has to do entirely with what you and your sister enjoy. I've visited family there a few times and my impression is that NYC has pretty much everything, so do yourself some research about what sort of things interest you. I guarantee there is something in NYC that will facilitate that interest. If you guys are art fans you could probably spend the entire weekend in museums and never see the light of day. Also remember that parking is SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive in NYC than it is here in Minneapolis. I once complained to my New Yorker uncle about the parking rates at the U of M garages and he found that inexplicable. He said he'd never paid so little for parking in NYC. For that reason, staying somewhere on a train line and taking the train in might be way more economical for you.

Another expense factor to figure in while driving to the east coast is tolls, like hermitosis said. My dad and I drove from the Twin Cities to Philadelphia a few years ago and all told the tolls going one way added up to around $40.

Despite how expensive it can be NYC is an incredible down, much fun to be in, and if you guys are interested in drinking you don't have to worry about getting carded at a lot of places. Another reason to park the car and use the city's extensive public transit system to get around. Also many people in New York drive like suicidal maniacs, once on a cab ride to downtown Manhattan from JFK I had to keep my eyes shut to prevent cardiac arrest.
posted by baphomet at 9:48 AM on May 25, 2006

Just on general principle, I'd drive across Wisconsin to Manitowoc and take a ferry across Lake Michigan. Nothing enhances a road trip like being on a boat.
posted by COBRA! at 9:53 AM on May 25, 2006

Things I enjoyed in NYC the one time I was there:
- the Carlton Arms Hotel (cheap and full of cool artwork, but be prepared for the bathroom to have no door, there to be no alarm clock, etc.)
- Rockefeller Center, and Teuscher Chocolatier nearby
- UN Headquarters
- getting tickets in Times Square for whatever plays were on and cheap
- the Guggenheim Museum

With a little research, you can save a lot of money by going to art galleries/museums/zoos/etc (if you do that sort of thing) on their free days. Most of them have a day which is free or reduced price, or have student prices. Carry your student id if you have one.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:59 AM on May 25, 2006

If you are at all interested in science or in glass as an artform, I highly recommend detouring to Corning, NY. The glass museum there is fascinating.

There are all kinds of interesting places within a few hours of NYC. It'd help to know what kinds of things you and your sister enjoy.

Niagara Falls is much cooler than it sounds. The Maid of the Mist boat tour is awe inspiring. It would be a little out of the way, unless you decided to cut up to Detroit (if you do, let me know, and I can show you the sights here), then across SW Ontario to the Falls.
posted by QIbHom at 9:59 AM on May 25, 2006

I wonder if travelling through Canada (via Sioux Ste Marie and Niagara Falls) would be cheaper than paying tolls and driving through northern Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Whatever you do, I suggest avoiding interstates and other large highways, opting for the smaller roads like William Least-Heat Moon did for his book.

Maybe you check out Gettysburg or raft the New River.

Or, alternatively, you can ride the largest collection of record-breaking roller coasters in the world at Cedar Point.
posted by billtron at 10:00 AM on May 25, 2006

I drove from NYC (well, Newark, but who's counting) to Glacier Natl Park a few years ago. Route-wise, your best bet is to go southeast until you hit route 80. Other then that, hate to break it to you, but the trip is semi-scenic and boring. Route 80 through illinois/indiana/ohio is mostly flat and uneventful. Once you get into PA, be aware that the roads get very tedious/curvy/hilly, and the truck drivers become temporarily insane and very aggressive. I've taken 3 cross country road trips, and the part I've hated the most every time has been going through that stupid state. Once you get 30 min into NJ, you'll notice actual things going on, and everything gets denser (more dense?), if its rush hour, its better to just find a diner, eat a meal, and wait it out. When you go by exit 37 in Rockaway, wave as i'll probably be at work. Route 80 essentially goes directly into the George Washington Bridge via I-95, so if you want to take a tunnel and get to the 'cool' part of nyc, take the turnpike south to route 3 (lincoln tunnel, takes you to 40th street/times squareish area) or even route 78 (holland tunnel, takes you to chinatown/village/where fun things actually are).

There isn't much to do along the way, but when I went, I didnt have time to explore too much. You could check out Chicago, though you've probably been there. Also in Ohio, there's Cedar Point in Sandusky, with most of the best rollercoasters in the world.

As for the city, cars are a useless burden, get yourself a nice subway/city map. NYC can keep you busy for days, but if you want to get away, come back to jersey and take a trip to the jersey shore. I recommend seaside for a bunch of young toughs like yourselves. They have a real nice beach down by the seaside park area, along with an extensive boardwalk with lots of rides and games, and, most importantly, buffalo chicken cheesesteaks (get one from the booth across from the sawmill). NJ also has Six Flags Great Adventure, another good amusement park.
posted by Mach5 at 10:08 AM on May 25, 2006

I live in Mpls also. I've driven in Manhattan, and found it VERY challenging, and not an experience that I plan to repeat.

Having a car (at least in Manhattan) is MUCH more of a liability, than an asset.

My advice would be to rent a car both ways. This says that you can rent a Budget Rent-A-Car for $154 a week, although there's probably some taxes and hidden fees that would bring it to more than that, still if you took a week there and a week back, it should be roughly $350 to $400.

I'd pick up car at Mpls airport and drop off car at Newark, and take a bus to NYC Port Authority (midtown Manhattan). Iv'e only stayed in Manhattan, and believe me you can easily take subways to almost anywhere so long as you don't mind walking a few blocks. I've only taken cabs a few times. And if you want/need to, cabs in Manhattan are VERY easy to hail most of the time (or at least that was my experience), and not all that expensive either, since I was never going too far, and I loved most every cab driver I ever had.

I LOVE New York, and I found that if you expressed your enthusiasm for their fabulous city, every single New Yorker I ever crossed paths with was VERY friendly and helpful.

Get a flashmap. It will get you EVERYWHERE, and make navigating the subways so much easier. And a good guide book too. There are many. Cruise Amazon and should be easy to pick a good one. Sorry, no recommendations on that front. But do get one.

Have a blast !!
posted by marsha56 at 10:19 AM on May 25, 2006

You really need to stop here on your way: Roadside America.
posted by mattbucher at 10:22 AM on May 25, 2006

Read this for NYC transportation options.

Maybe you park the car in New Jersey and take public transportation into the city. Read this for NJTransit park and ride info.
posted by billtron at 10:30 AM on May 25, 2006

Or park and take the PATH.

I seem to be the only person in my office who doesn't commute from New Jersey. Thanks, coworkers, for all the info and for unknowingly enabling my mefi addiction!
posted by billtron at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2006

Canada. Go in at Windsor and come out at Niagra. The border crossings shouldn't take too long, less tolls, and the added adventure of going into a foreign country. You also have the added advantage of taking 1-94 across southern michigan (assuming you are going via Chicago), and take advantage of it's 75 mph speed limit. The land is mostly boring (until you get close to Niagra), but it's less time and still kinda cool.

Another possibility has you going in at Sue Ste. Marie, and then going around the eastern shore of Lake Huron. Looks to be somewhat scenic, but very long--and it's almost all 2 lane roads.
posted by lester at 10:41 AM on May 25, 2006

I wonder if travelling through Canada (via Sioux Ste Marie and Niagara Falls) would be cheaper than paying tolls...
Last time I took this route (MPLS to Boston), the tolls came out to about $25.00 one way. This was maybe 4 years ago? But hey, if you go through Canada you can see the falls and visit a whole 'nother country!!

fun places to go within a few hours by train from NYC?
Boston's 4 hours north by train, about 5 by bus. Bus costs 25% what the train does and runs more frequently, but is also 25% the comfort level.

DC's probably a similar distance south, but I haven't explored that.

Everybody who says you should leave your car in Jersey or something is spot-on. It is not worth it to deal with bringing the car into Manhattan.

Along with your usual and interesting tourist destinations, you might consider renting (or bringing) a bike to ride the perimeter of the island, or to walk the length of it. You get a view of all kinds of life and see some rather unusual things. And the food is awesome. Make sure to check out this list of cheap international eats all over New York. Every one that I've been to has been *superb*.
posted by whatzit at 10:46 AM on May 25, 2006

Agreed to leaving the car in New Jersey. If visiting Manhattan/Brooklyn for more than 1 day, I would say to leave your car in any of the numerous public garages near either the Exchange Place or Newport/Pavonia PATH stations in Jersey City, NJ. Although you will have to pay (typically $15-20/day), it's infinitely, infinitely cheaper than paying for a Manhattan garage.

PATH = Interstate (NY/NJ) subway system. A ride from Exchange Place to the World Trade Center site typically takes under 5 minutes.
posted by huskerdont at 12:04 PM on May 25, 2006

Holy Construction Season, Batman! Don't come through Chicago to get around the southern edge of Lake Michigan this summer. You'll spend half your trip in traffic. Use I-80 if you must come this way. (I really like the idea of the ferry across the lake myself.)

On the way to NYC, stop at the Rock & Roll Museum in Cleveland!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:14 PM on May 25, 2006

You can park the car on the street in Queens...Astoria, Sunnyside, Long Island City...and just take the subway into the city. Really, you can. (You could even explore some of the really interesting neightborhoods in Queens.) Just make sure to check the don't-park-for-street-cleaning signs (works the same way as in Mpls). Don't drive to NJ if you don't plan on visiting NJ - it's south of your destination.
posted by hsoltz at 2:47 PM on May 25, 2006

How about the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom? It's a beautiful setting and a world class orchestra. And we've got lots of other great music from smaller classical groups to jazz and much more.

If you fill in some details about what you might be interested then I might be able to offer tailored sugggestions. We have some nice parks. I could also recommend some nice restaurants at any price point to suit most tastes. Unless you plan to eat gas station sandwiches while you're driving...
posted by stuart_s at 9:11 PM on May 25, 2006

We like art and music, we like nature, we like kitchy small towns, we like big cities, we like fun neighborhoods... Like I said we're up for anything and we'd also like to expand our horizons a bit. We are not hard to entertain.
posted by yogurtisgenocide at 2:34 PM on May 26, 2006

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