New York City is full of little gems waiting to be discovered. Truthfully, though, we become so dazzled by the lights, mesmerized by the skyscrapers or are in such a mad rush to get from one place to the next that we miss some of the more obscure jewels that are in plain sight.
One such jewel is Library Way, a two-block long stretch of 41st Street between Fifth and Park Avenues that is a celebration of the written word. The project was born out of a partnership between the New York Public Library and Grand Central Partnership and was aimed at sprucing up the street.
Using passages from notable authors and artists as inspiration, over 40 unique bronze plaques created by the Andrews/Lefevre Studios now grace the otherwise grey sidewalk.
They’re not hard to spot, these plaques, but you’d probably walk right over them during rush hour. And if you did happen to spot them then, you’d hardly be able to stop and read let alone photograph them because of the foot traffic.
New York City is a great place for kids. Before my nieces and nephews got to the age when they didn’t want to hang out with me anymore, I’d plan a range of activities and let them choose which ones they wanted to do. Here are the ones that never failed to amuse, educate or surprise them, and entertain their somewhat slightly jaded auntie.
Sony Wonder Technology Lab: Hands down, Sony Wonder is one of my favorite places to take kids. This gem of a museum might seem a bit out of place among the ritzy shops and office buildings that line Madison Avenue but inside there are treats for kids and adults alike. Highly immersive, you log in when you arrive and a profile is created for you. At the end of the visit, you get a certificate listing all the exhibits you interacted with. You get to see how communications technology developed, feel what it’s like to perform open-heart surgery, mix music, build computer games, and other activities. There’s also a high definition theater that shows feature films on Saturdays.
Admission to Sony Wonder museum and high definition theater is FREE however, reservations are recommended. Sony Wonder Technology Lab is located at Sony Plaza, 555 Madison Avenue at 56th Street. Hours: 9:30 – 5:30 pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays. 212-833-8100.
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum If your little ones are interested in planes, helicopters or space ships, the Intrepid is the museum to visit. The Intrepid offers an array of interactive exhibits from aircraft carriers to space ships, to supersonic jet simulations, that will keep your kids entertained and educated at the same time. Two days ago, on July 19th, the new Space Pavilion featuring the Enterprise, NASA’s first space shuttle, opened at the Intrepid. (I saw the Enterprise in 1983, I can’t wait to see it again up close.) The day I took my nephew to the Intrepid, we also saw the Aurora 7. I was shocked how small the interior was. The highlight of the visit for me was riding in the jet simulator. What a cool experience! Also at the Interpid is the Concorde.
Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum, 700 W 46th Street at 12th Avenue, 212-245-0072. Hours (Spring/Summer): Monday-Friday, 10-5; Weekends and Holidays 10-6. Winter Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10-5; Closed some Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. Admission: Adults $24; Children (3-6) $12 and (7-17) $19. With admission to the newly opened Space Pavilion, tickets are $30, $16, and $23 respectively. Check the website for ticket prices for seniors, the military, veterans, and students with IDs. You’ll save $2 if you purchase online. Or buy a New York Pass, which will grant you free entry to several museums and landmarks.
Toys R Us Times Square: If you love your kids, you’ll want to take them to Toys R Us; if you love your kids, you’ll not take them to Toys R Us because they’re going to want everything they see. When you pass through the revolving door to this cavernous 110,000 square foot store, you’ll spot toys and games and the 60-foot Ferris wheel even before the photographer snaps your photo (you can decline). It’s as if you’ve just landed on the red carpet! Head to the escalator or take the elevator to the 4,000 square foot Barbie house, or the life-sized T-Rex at their Jurassic Park or take a ride on the Ferris wheel. Toys R Us Times Square is ginormous and your kids will have a whale of a time. Wear comfortable shoes, pack your patience, be prepared to pull out the plastic often. Just don’t get carried away.
Toys R US, 1514 Broadway at 44th Street. Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturdays until 11 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. 646-366-8800.
China’s Terracotta Warriors have been dazzling the world since they were discovered accidentally by a farmer in 1974. Now several of them, along with artifacts and treasures dating to 221 B.C.E., are on view at Discovery Times Square until August 26, 2012.
Standing more than 6 feet and weighing 600 pounds each, the soldiers were created 2,000 years ago to protect Qin Shi Huangdi, China’s First Emperor, in the afterlife. Qin, who proclaimed himself emperor in 221 B.C.E., is responsible for unifying warring factions into the country we now know as China. He built the first Great Wall and China’s canal systems, standardized weights and measures and introduced a uniform writing script. Qin died in 210 B.C.E.
So far, about 8,000 uniquely crafted terracotta soldiers have been excavated. In addition, horses, helmets — though no terracotta warrior wore a helmet, pottery, cooking utensils, and ornaments have been discovered in vaults across an area of 22 square miles.
The exhibition at Discovery Times Square begins with a look back at the Qin Dynasty and continues to the Han Dynasty. It features at least 5 life-sized terracotta warriors, pottery, cooking utensils, armor and two short films – one featuring the farmer, Zhifa Zang, who found the site and another showing a simulation of the army preparing to attack with bows and arrows.
Terracotta Warriors – Defenders of China’s First Emperor is on view until August 26 at Discovery Times Square, 226 W 44th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues. Hours: Sunday-Thurs 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Friday/Saturday until 9:00 p.m. Tickets: Children $20.50, Adults $28.00, Seniors $24.50. Audio Tour: $6.43. AmEx cardholders can get a complimentary audio tour. Flash photography not allowed. Allow 60-90 minutes for this exhibition.
Note: Groupon’s half-off ticket deal has expired (I was lucky!) but you can still get discounted tickets from Broadwaybox.com, Theatermania.com, etc.
This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.
Everyone was excited about yesterday’s Manhattanhenge the twice yearly (May and July) phenomenon during which the sun sets in perfect alignment with the east-west grid of certain New York City main streets: 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th Streets.
This year’s Manhattanhenge dates are May 29th and July 12th and 13th. Yesterday, with its beautiful sun, promised to make up for May’s dismal rain. To say I was excited would be an understatement.
My niece and friends had planned to view the sunset from the overpass near Grand Central. The overpass is a perfect spot. High above the traffic, it offers the perfect vantage point to get a clear shot of the sunset without distractions. Unfortunately, as soon as we took up our positions, the police arrived and told us to leave. We had no choice but to take to the busy 42nd Street, which is not closed to traffic.
At 42nd & Fifth Avenue, a crowd had gathered. Perhaps the police had urged some of them to leave the overpass. There were a few intrepid photographers, one had set up his tripod right on the yellow line in the middle of the busy intersection. Of course, as the lights changed he, and the rest of us, were forced to move.
When the traffic stopped again, everyone, myself included dashed back into the street to get a view and take some photos. The photo above is what I got before cars and buses started honking.
Unfortunately, yesterday’s Manhattanhenge was almost totally obscured by a thick clouds. Normally, you’d see something that looks like this.
Manhattanhenge doesn’t occur only in Manhattan. If you live in Chicago, Toronto or Montreal, you have your own henge. Although this is such a short and an unpredictable event, it’s definitely worth looking forward to.
When the sun dropped behind the clouds, we headed to a nearby bar and rounded out the evening with a few cold ones.
Have you experienced Manhattanhenge?
I’m linking this post to Endless Summer, a round-up of summer-themed travel posts
hosted by Travel Rants and Raves.
You’d never know it, but there’s a cheap New York City that beckons the budget savvy traveler. Here are my picks for cheap ways to get around and enjoy the Big Apple.
Most travelers, including Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor will agree that New York City has one of the best transportation systems anywhere. With express and local buses that connect to major subway stops, it’s a breeze to get around the city or get to the airport. And Bloomberg, one of the city’s richest residents, takes the subway to work.
As soon as you get to the city, buy a MetroCard. A single ride on the bus or subway costs $2.50 but a better buy is the one-week unlimited ride MetroCard which costs $29.50 and gets you on subways and buses. Sold at vending machines at subway stations and some kiosks. Vending machines take cash and credit/debit cards. Cards are better for refunds if your MetroCard is lost or stolen. Most subway stations have elevators and/or escalators; many are wheelchair accessible.
Making connections to the airport
La Guardia, take the A, B, C, D or 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 train or M1, M101 bus or Metro North to 125th Street then connect to the M60 bus which takes you directly to the airport. Price by bus or subway $2.5o one way or Metrocard. Add $6.75 for Metro North peak hour rate.
For JFK, take the A train to the Howard Beach/JFK stop and connect to the AirTrain which will take you to the airport. Cost $7.25, including $5 Air Train fare. You can also take the E, J or Z train to Queens, get off at Stuphin Blvd and connect with the Air Train or the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) to Jamaica Avenue. There’s an in station link to the Air Train which runs every 4 to 10 minutes. For LIRR, add $8.75 peak time rate.
Going to or from Newark? Head to Penn Station and take NJ Transit to Newark Liberty Airport station and connect to the Air Train, which picks up passengers every 3 minutes. Cost $12.50, includes the $5.50 Air Train fee. Travel time 25 minutes.
New York Airport Service operates express buses that will take you to and from the major airports. Buses run every 15 minutes and make stops at Grand Central, Penn Station and the Port Authority. If you reserve online, the fare to JFK and La Guardia is $10.
Shuttle Vans/Shared Ride. If you want door to door service on a budget, schedule a pickup with the Supershuttle, also called the Blue Van. For under $20, they will pick you up at your home or hotel and take you to any of the airports. This is a shared service so they’ll be picking up other passengers as well.
On your next trip, make sure you take advantage of these cheap New York deals.
There’s nothing quite like summer in New York City. School’s out, buses and subways are less crowded, restaurants spill out onto sidewalks, beaches are open, and there are free concerts and movies in the parks.
Although I won’t be in New York City the entire summer, I’ll be there next month. Just thinking about it makes me feel giddy with excitement. I’m really looking forward to doing a few things while I’m there, like:
Try out a new restaurant. With more than 3,000 in New York City, there’s always something new to try. My favorites: Thai, Mexican, Spanish, Brazilian, Italian, and Indian.
Catch a Broadway play. High on my list, the revival of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. I’ll check TKTS for half price tickets.
Watch the fireworks at Coney Island. No matter how many times I’ve done this, it always feels like the first time. Fridays 9:30 p.m. Ends August 31st. FREE
Take in a movie at Bryant Park. It’s Monday, I’ve found a spot on the lawn and I’m waiting for dusk and the start of another classic movie. Ends August 20th. FREE
Experience The Ride. Never heard of it? The Ride is a bus with seats facing sideways and a huge picture window so you see what’s happening on the sidewalks. It’s like moving theater with the action changing as you drive by. Best of all, this summer, The Ride is offering a special rate of $59, down from $74.
Walk the High Line. The High Line is an elevated park that runs over the old New York Central Railroad line. 10th Avenue from Gansevoort to 30th Streets. FREE.
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. One of the oldest suspension bridges in the country, and definitely one of the most beautiful, it spans the East River and connects Manhattan and Brooklyn.
So that I can soak up more of New York’s frenetic energy (wish I could bottle some and take back with me), I plan to stay in the city and have identified a few places, including B&Bs and hostels near my old neighborhood.
Now that I’ve made my list, I can’t wait to see New York City again, and hear what my friends have been up to. It’ll be just like old times.
Last year was another fabulous travel year for me. I visited London for the third time and Paris for the first time, though it was my second trip to France. So here’s my Best of Travel 2011 roundup —
Best Domestic Travel Destination: To me, Washington, DC is the best domestic travel destination because it has so much to offer. The National Mall, the White House, galleries and (free!) museums, theater (not as many as NYC but still good and good bargains), restaurants, festivals like the Folk Life Festival, the National Book Festival, etc. Whether you’re looking for history or entertainment, Washington DC is the best place to be and the best part? It’s compact – you can cover a lot of territory over a few days.
Best Travel Experience: I’ve been fascinated by Stonehenge since I saw a documentary about it several years ago and added it to my Must See List. As soon as I decided on the dates for my UK trip, I booked a tour. The best part was that the group was small enough so that we weren’t tripping over each other. We could go into the circle and get up close (but not touch) the monument. The tour also took us through the bucolic English countryside and Bath, a very historical and picturesque town.
Best International Destination: My best international destination for 2011 was, without question, Paris. I love Paris – it’s all of the things we’ve heard, and more — romantic, picturesque, fashionable, etc., and though I felt a bit intimidated by the stories I’ve heard about Parisians looking down their noses at people dressed in jeans, I never felt out of place or slighted. In fact, I met quite a number of friendly Parisians. One night, I got talking to a waiter and when he found out where I was staying and that I was traveling alone — it was nearly 10 p.m. when I finished dinner — he called one of the waitresses who was taking the same train and told me to wait for her so we could travel together. Although I could have found my way back to the hotel on my own, I was very touched by his kindness.
Worst Travel Experience: My worst travel experience in 2011 happened before I even left my destination. I turned up at the airport to board my flight on Spirit Airlines and got a huge surprise. I owed $93 in baggage fees! I was so furious at myself for not paying attention to the fine print — I know better (or should) — that I forgot that I wanted to buy a few gifts in the duty free shop. The worst part is that on the return leg, I couldn’t figure out how to pre-pay and ended up paying again. Suddenly, the deal that I thought I had worked out to be one of the most expensive New York/Montego Bay tickets I’ve ever bought.
Most Embarrassing Travel Experience: Last year, my travel was embarrassment-free but 2010 wasn’t. I started to feel sick the day I was scheduled to return to the US from Johannesburg, South Africa. My body felt weak and I began to sweat. I didn’t know what was wrong – I didn’t think it was a cold but by the time I got on the flight, I was sneezing. I was so petrified of coughing that before I finished a cough drop, I’d pop another one. I felt awful. I still think of the people I know I passed my cold on to. Thanks goodness, it was a night flight so (hopefully) my no one remembers my face! The best part was, I was traveling with two friends who were also coming down with colds so I didn’t infect the people on either side of me. The worst part is, our row probably passed our colds on to everyone in coach.
Best Local Destination: Since I relocated from New York City to Jamaica last year, I’m going to take the liberty to name two best local destinations. In New York, the best location destination is Coney Island. It’s a place where you’ll find everyone – toddlers, young adults, couples, singles, grandparents – and there’s a variety of activities for everyone, from the hot dog eating contest over the July 4th weekend to summertime fireworks displays to roller coaster rides.
My best travel location in Jamaica is Treasure Beach. It’s laid back, it’s funky, it’s fun. It’s just a charming location that I’ve written about several times.
Best Travel Lesson: When I visited Paris last year, it was the first time that I traveled on my own to a place to a place where I didn’t know a soul and no one was meeting me when I arrived. Thank goodness, I know some French so I didn’t feel completely at sea. Interestingly enough, I was very excited the morning I left for Paris — it’s probably the most excited I’d been in a while about a trip. It turned out to be a very liberating experience and surprisingly, made me feel very grown up.
Now, I get the pleasure of inviting the following 5 bloggers to write about their Best of Travel 2011.
It’s difficult to think of winter – the topic of this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge — when the temperature’s nearly 80 degrees and I’m looking at the sea. I’m glad that I had these photos in my collection.
Lately, with changes in weather patterns, winters are not as severe as they used to be. Sometimes, weeks pass without snow and we get spoiled by so -called ‘good’ weather. We experienced a period like this in March. Then towards the end of the month, we woke up one morning to some ‘white stuff’ — a dusting, really. I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been. It was still winter.
Now this is winter!
The third snow fall on January 27, 2011 brought total amount to 36″ and made it the second snowiest month in New York City.
Looks pretty, doesn’t it? Until you have to go out in it. Especially when it starts to melt.
Scores of people visit New York City everyday. Last Friday, one British couple, Craig and Lucy Johnson, got the surprise of their lives when they found out that the city had named them its 50 millionth visitor.
According to the New York Times, the city’s tourism officials selected the couple because the U.K. is the largest source of visitors to New York and because of the Johnsons’ connection to the city — they met in the Big Apple 10 years ago. The newlyweds were married at Rockefeller Center.
They were presented with a symbolic gold card and saluted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Johnsons also received a $10,000 gift card for this trip and a $10,000 package of gift cards to visit and spend money in famous stores and at Broadway shows again in 2012. NYC & Company, the city’s tourism office, will even pick up the tab for any taxes they incur on their purchases.
Of the 48.8 million people who visited New York City last year, 10.7 million of them were foreigners. By the end of the year, 50.2 million visitors will be recorded.