October 25, 2007 12:07 PM   Subscribe

NYC travel filter: it's kind of a big town, it seems, but I'm sure it has exactly the thing I'm looking for.

I'm going to NY for the first time somewhere around May 08. I'll be staying something like 5 days with Mrs. NekulturnY. We want to experience Manhattan - we think (cuz that's where all the action is, no?).

- where do we stay? What neighbourhood is fun? We're not night ravens, but very much into nice restaurants. Masa is on our wish list, or Per Se - suggestions for less known (and less pricey) but equally gastronomic are welcome.

- Which hotels should we consider? Our budget is about 250 - 350 dollars per night: will that get us into a decent/well located hotel? Say we wanted "plush" as well as "pretty central", how much should we budget (and where would we look)?

- could we watch some exotic and barbaric American sports like an NFL game? Or this cricket thing you do with round bats? How would we arrange that? Price?

- And a curveball: if I wanted to do a one day Robert Moses-trip (bridges, parks, swimming pools), how would I go about?
posted by NekulturnY to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (29 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If you use Priceline, you may be like me and finding yourself staying at the Algonquin for $150 a night. And yes, it's very nice and very centrally located. I certainly liked it more than the various chain hotels I've stayed at there.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 12:11 PM on October 25, 2007

Response by poster: Ah, I knew I would forget something:

The Iroquois (44th, NY 10036): would that be a good choice? It claims to be "only a few moments" away from Fifth Ave. and Broadway. It's just that I have no idea if that's a good thing (and if it's true).
posted by NekulturnY at 12:12 PM on October 25, 2007

If you've got the money to spend on a hotel, why not try something small and interesting?

For midtown quirky (or as quirky as midtown gets), The Library Hotel names each room after a segment of the Dewey Decimal System, which decor and books to match, and it's close to Bryant Park, Grand Central, and Times Square.

Down in the Village, I recommend The Washington Square Hotel, or, slightly farther north, the Inn at Irving Place (the latter of which is very Jamesian, with no sign and a exclusive feel).

Or, go all out and stay in the Tribeca Grand. Not that small, but hey, it's the hotness (or so I've heard.) Spot some celebrities, drink trendy cocktails, feel, er, swanky.

(Note: these are all places I've put guests in at my job. I don't have first hand experience except for the hotel bars at the first two...)
posted by minervous at 12:23 PM on October 25, 2007

Your budget will get you into some great hotels, not to worry.

The football (NFL) season ends in February, but May is the beginning of the baseball season. Go to Mets.com or Yankees.com (although their tickets for 2008 may not be up yet) to purchase tickets.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:24 PM on October 25, 2007

You could definitely go see a baseball game. The seaon starts at the beginning of April. I saw the Yankees when I visited NY in May 2006. The stadium is easily accessible by subway. Tickest were sold out, as they often are, but you can buy from a scalper; or you can show up to the stadium really early and maybe you'll be lucky, or you can buy in advance if you're very organized. Face value baseball tickets range from $5 for cheap bleacher seats up to maybe $50-$100 for the best seats in the house. If buying from a scalper, multiply the price by about 4. You have to haggle and start walking away before they give you a decent price though. You can also see the New York Mets, the stadium is in a different part of town, also accessible by subway, and maybe easier to get tickets for. Check the team schedules; games happen almost every night but the teams are only home about half the time.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:31 PM on October 25, 2007

The two restaurants you mention are both in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, which is an enclosed shopping center. I'd advise that you don't need to stay near there, since it's an easy subway ride from every other subway, and there's nothing else in the area to do -- unless you have tickets to something specific at Lincoln Center.

The Iroquois is indeed close to Times Square. Times Square has bright lights, big stores, chain restaurants, tourists and theater. You would be close to all of the subway lines by staying in this area.

Personally, I'd stay somewhere in the West Village, which will still be central to most subways (or a $6 cabride to Times Square, maybe $8 to Columbus Circle), but more unique and less touristy.

If you like Thai food, Kittichai is a great restaurant.
posted by xo at 12:35 PM on October 25, 2007

Response by poster: Small add on question: is there an optimal time to visit NYC? I was thinking April/May. I might reconsider if hotel rates are better in March or June.
posted by NekulturnY at 12:36 PM on October 25, 2007

For about $350 you can stay at the Waldorf - it's a great location and a very famous hotel. There's a good chance you'll run into someone famous if you hang around the lobby long enough (I saw Tyne Daily and Elton John last time I was there).

I have a lot of experience planning travel programs in NYC - if you want to email me directly, my email is in my profile.
posted by kdern at 12:37 PM on October 25, 2007

yes, it's very well located. midtown can be a little tourist-ridden, but it's very convenient for transportation.

for restaurants, the spotted pig is a good choice. also balthazar, babbo, artisanal, craft or craftbar, mary's fish camp. katz's deli is a classic.

visiting the empire state building is cheesy but fun. i would avoid broadway unless that's really your thing--the shows are mediocre, expensive, and uncomfortable. off broadway theater is usually more interesting. check the new york times's theater section for reviews and listings. give yourself time to

it's not football season in may, but it will be baseball season! mets and yankee stadiums are both convenient by subway, and a lot of fun.
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:39 PM on October 25, 2007

and the sentence that got cut off was supposed to say: make time to walk around central park for an hour or two.

may is wonderful time to visit. but do bring an umbrella, just in case.
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:40 PM on October 25, 2007

Mrs. JMStephan and I spent a weekend in the City last year. Had dinner at Daniel and stayed at The Mercer in Soho. Both were extravagent and wonderful. The Mercer especially, with a very friendly staff and a lovely location for strolling about, shopping, and eating (mmm Balthazar).
posted by jmstephan at 12:50 PM on October 25, 2007

We want to experience Manhattan - we think (cuz that's where all the action is, no?).

Well, not ALL the action. Brooklyn is a pretty happening place. I'd wager than it many ways, it has more character than Manhattan.

Here's my recommendation:

1) Weather permitting, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan into Brooklyn (if weather is bad, take the 2/3 to the Eastern Parkway stop).

2) Once on the Brooklyn side, catch the 2/3 and take it to Eastern Parkway.

3) Go to the Brooklyn Museum. It's all great, but definitely check out the Ancient Egypt exhibit, which is the third biggest in the world (behind London and Cairo).

4) Weather permitting, go to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (next door to the museum).

5. If you're not exhausted, stop by Prospect Park, the biggest park in NYC (bigger than Central). It's more wild then Central. The Park is right by the Museum.

7. Eat at Tom's Diner on Washington. Just around the corner from the museum. It's a pretty-much preserved diner from the the 30s, with egg creams, cherry-lime rickies, etc. It's only open for breakfast and lunch. It's so beloved, that in the 90s there were race riots in the (now totally safe) neighborhood. People in the area banded together and linked hands so that vandals couldn't get through and damage Tom's.
posted by grumblebee at 12:59 PM on October 25, 2007 [5 favorites]

It's so beloved, that in the 90s there were race riots in the (now totally safe) neighborhood.

Heh, reading this makes me think Tom's Diner sparked race riots.
posted by pravit at 1:07 PM on October 25, 2007

Well, not ALL the action. Brooklyn is a pretty happening place. I'd wager than it many ways, it has more character than Manhattan.

Brooklyn is a nice place to visit when you are living in NYC and/or the suburbs. If you are coming to visit NYC for the first time, however, and are only here for 5 days, it really isn't too wise to waste (for want of a better word..."use" maybe?) a day out in Brooklyn when there is no way you can come close to experiencing all that Manhattan has to offer in such a short time period. If you want to experience all five boroughs, go for it, but if you're looking for the real city experience, Brooklyn is not the place to go.

That being said, the Brooklyn Brewery is pretty kick-arse, and I do like the Williamsburg area in general.
posted by Grither at 1:07 PM on October 25, 2007

Best answer: For restaurants, Momofuku Ssam gets a lot of love, but I don't know how it could live up to the hype. Our absolute favorite restaurant is Blue Ribbon on Sullivan Street. If you go, the roasted bone marrow is not to be missed.

We're used to getting up early, so one day we got up at the crack of dawn and went to the Doughnut Plant for some of their transcendent donuts. They were hot out of the oven and were the best we've ever had. If you can't make it to the store they're also sold at Dean and Delucas around town.
posted by Atom12 at 1:12 PM on October 25, 2007

If you go to Brooklyn, stay the heck out of Williamsburgh. It's just like every other hipster haven on the planet.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:15 PM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

for restaurant recommendations, head to the chowhound new york forums. nyc is the city where you can eat in a different restaurant for every day for the rest of your life and eat very well doing so. everything constantly changes.

I would suggest you don't stay in midtown but either in lower or upper manhattan, depending on how old you are. yes, times square and the musicals are in midtown but you know what? it's all tourists there. stay in the village or in tribeca for a bit and suck up the feeling of what it's really like to live there. if you're 45 and up, go to the UES, somewhere near central park.

here's a tip: many new yorkers rent out their apartments when they go on trips. the rents are outrageous, so it makes perfect sense to do this. my friend craig has a list where you can search for temporary apartments. I did this once and stayed in a studio on the upper west side (near columbus circle) for two weeks for $900. this was beyond awesome and freed up some extra cash to spend on the town.

oh yeah, go see moma. really.
posted by krautland at 1:42 PM on October 25, 2007

This thread has a lot of restaurant recs, including my own.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:48 PM on October 25, 2007

I have to disagree with Grither and roomthreeseventeen. Brooklyn (and Queens! And the Bronx!) are the places where old New York still exists.

You have to leave Manhattan to see ethnic neighborhoods that aren't a shell of their former selves (i.e. instead of Manhattan's sad Little Italy, go to Arthur Ave in the Bronx, or instead of Indian Row on 6th street, head out to Jackson Heights in Queens for not only the real food but the jaw-dropping furniture stores, clothing shops and restaurants of India).

To see actualy real live artists re-making, tagging, fucking up, beautifying, and even gentrifying neighborhoods, you have to go to the South Bronx, to Gowanus, to Hunter's Point, and, yes!, to Williamsburg.

In my opinion, 5 days is perfect to spend one outside of Manhattan. I second the Brooklyn Museum and Tom's. Also consider going to Williamburg, seeing the City Reliquary, catching some avant-garde theater at The Brick or at Radiohole, and strolling up and down Bedford Ave, world hipster central.

Or, go to the Queens Museum and see the city in minature!
posted by minervous at 1:55 PM on October 25, 2007

SECONDING Doughnut Planet. For the love of all that is good and worthy on this planet, yes.
posted by minervous at 1:56 PM on October 25, 2007

(er, Plant)
posted by minervous at 1:56 PM on October 25, 2007

If you are coming to visit NYC for the first time, however, and are only here for 5 days, it really isn't too wise to waste (for want of a better word..."use" maybe?) a day out in Brooklyn

I understand what you're saying, and I don't want to hijack this thread and turn it into a debate about what constitutes "The Real New York," but I think it depends on what you're looking for.

If your goal is to do all the normal, touristy things (I'm not knocking that -- many people want to partake in that ritual), then you're right. If your goal is to see The Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, Rock Center, etc., then Brooklyn is a waste of time.

Me? If I was visiting, say, London, I'd be more interested in experience "the live blood of the city" (people watching, odd little shops, etc.) than I would in visiting Buckingham Palace, The Eye and The Tower Bridge. Yet I'd still be a tourist. To each his own.

My feeling (as someone who has been in-and-out of NYC for the last 40 years) is that the CHARACTER-based NYC -- the one you see in movies like "Crossing Delancy"has moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn (and some of the other Boroughs). It's much easier to find the old pickle salesman in Brooklyn than in Manhattan. If you care. Yet Brooklyn DOES offer some of the Big Features, too -- such as its museum.
posted by grumblebee at 2:10 PM on October 25, 2007

Prospect Park, the biggest park in NYC (bigger than Central).

Actually, Central Park (843 acres) is larger than Prospect Park (585 acres), the largest park in NYC is Pelham Park in the Bronx.

Momofuku Ssam Bar is great. I don't know what level of hype it needs to live up to these days, but it's one of the best restaurants I've been to this year.
posted by andrewraff at 2:13 PM on October 25, 2007

Thanks for setting me straight re: parks, andrewraff!
posted by grumblebee at 2:38 PM on October 25, 2007

Seconding Katz's deli. In fact, I would allow at least a full day to explore the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan. Lower East Side, Chinatown and Little Italy could be one excursion. Greenwich Village and SOHO could be another. These are my favorite parts of the city and feel completely different than midtown.
posted by kdern at 3:48 PM on October 25, 2007

I can think of no more appropriate way to do the Robert Moses thing then by renting a car. What sort of Robert Moses things do you want to see. Robert Moses blight (South Bronx) or his successes? If the weather is nice he was the guy behind nearly all of the New York City/Long Island Beaches. Jones Beach being most notable.

Restaurant suggestions I'd say look towards Chowhound and Mouthfulls Food - good boards with lots of ideas. All of the ideas mentioned above are pretty great whatever my personal preferences. Mouthfulls is probably better for the kinds of places its sounds like you want to try. I love Ssam Bar.
posted by JPD at 4:05 PM on October 25, 2007

Restaurants: don't feel the need to stay near the nice ones. They're mostly in midtown and that's a shitty place to stay. Cabs are plentiful and relatively cheap (and frankly if your wife is dressed to the nines or wearing fancy heels the subway might make her rather cranky, as it does for me).
You will need to call Per Se/Masa a month out if you want a reservation, ditto Babbo, Le Bernardin, and anything new or hot. For nice but not super-expensive we are huge fans of Blue Hill, Devi, Mercadito, Annisa. Babbo is great, but so hard to get a reservation that I've only been once. Le Bernardin is amazing and significantly cheaper than Per Se or Masa, probably the best price/quality ratio I've been to.
Mmm now I'm hungry.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:29 PM on October 25, 2007

I've written some basics on how to visit New York City, as part of a whole series on the topic, and that covers a lot of the items you've asked. I will disagree with the skepticism about Ssam Bar -- I eat there once a week (holy crap, that's a scary realization) and it's well worth the hype.
posted by anildash at 8:43 AM on October 26, 2007

As far as hotels go: I spent a few nights at the City Club Hotel (on west 44th, between 5th and 6th) last year.

The rooms are a bit on the small side, but they're very very plush; the location doesn't get much better (it's about two minutes' walk from the 42nd-Bryant Park subway, and five minutes' walk from Times Square if that's your thing), and they won my heart with the chocolate-chip cookies at turndown.
posted by The Shiny Thing at 2:19 AM on October 28, 2007

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