I have been a bit absent on the blog of late. Not intentionally of course. Part of this is due to my recent nuptials and also because my trusty MacBook cord fried, making it difficult at best to get computer access.
I was also preparing for a travel conference called TBEX, that I attended this past weekend in New York City.
Over 200 travel writers, travel bloggers and travel industry experts gathered for some fun and some good old fashion travel learnin’.
And while most of what I learned will be very helpful to me , I know you could care less about podcasting this and SEO that. Nor would you be really interested in my thoughts on them. There are far more interesting blogs on those topics!
However, I really wanted to find a very direct way to make my NYC trip beneficial to my readers. And I think I’ve found just the thing! I decided to reach out to some of these fine, knowledgable, travel folks that I mingled with, to get their insight, advice and travel tips for the New York City area. I figured, who better than a bunch of in-the-know travel bloggers to offer up advice after spending some time in the Big Apple?
First, I’d like to share five of my own travel tips, and then we’ll add the tips from the others.
1. For cheap eats, NYC has some of the best street food and food trucks around. One that saved me from hunger this weekend was the Halal Food Cart on Madison and 28th in the Flatiron District. Their falafel platter with yellow rice, iceberg salad and falafel swimming in white sauce was filling, delicious and only Five. Damned. Dollars. For New York City – it’s a downright bargain!
2. If you are looking for a good NYC guide, I really like the Not For Tourists series. It’s portable, and offers subway maps, info on food, drugstores, supermarkets, shopping, hotels, nightlife, bars and coffee houses categorized by sections of the city.
3. For finding hotel deals and discounts on concerts, attractions and theater tickets, sign up for Travelzoo’s Newsletter. It’s how I found an affordable rate on my otherwise expensive hotel.
4. Even if you aren’t traveling by train, I implore you to include a visit to Grand Central Terminal on your itinerary. This magnificent, historic building is an architectural marvel with beautiful Beaux-Arts decor. Astronomy buffs should remember to look skyward to admire the celestial scene, complete with constellations, on the pretty aqua-colored ceiling. Among the bustling crowds, you’ll find many restaurants, chic cocktail lounges, a gourmet food market, bakeries and over 65 fantastic shops.
5. Speaking of Grand Central, just steps away from the station is a ladies only, bargain hot-spot for Chinese massage, called Lilly & Raul. Don’t expect a spa at the Ritz, but it’s clean, basic and a perfect way to rejuvenate after sight-seeing around the city. Relaxing hour-long massages are only $40!
And now onto my friendly travel bloggers’ travel tips. You’ll find the tips set up with their name, and links to their websites and Twitter handles. And remember, if you do happen to pop by and comment on their sites or blogs, or happen to follow along on Twitter…please don’t be afraid to say howdy and mention how you found them!
- Idlewild Books, located at 12 W. 19th Street near Fifth Avenue, is a beautiful independent shop near Union Square, specializing in travel and international literature, it carries fiction and non-fiction from all parts of the world, including new and classic works in translation, travel guides, books about politics and culture, graphic lit, language-learning books, maps and more.
- Quite by accident I came across Kinokuniya Bookstore (1073 Avenue of the Americas) located across from Bryant Park. This Japanese shop is called a bookstore but it is much more than that. It has three floors crammed to the hilt with Japanese merchandise — funky T-shirts, magazines, games, stationery, gift wrap, toys and yes, books. The atmosphere is gentle, perfect for browsing. Best of all I loved the small 3rd floor cafe serving Japanese treats.
- Looking for great food in NYC? Try Momofuku Ssam Bar on 2nd Ave between 13th & 12th Sts. Steamed Buns are the best. Supple. Busy place. Great food.
- You can find the best veggie pizza at Ray’s, located at 5th Avenue and 12th Street. Try the eggplant, roasted red pepper, spinach and more!
- Ess-A-Bagels are HUGE & delish – their whitefish salad is divine – and they FedEx anywhere in the world.
- Avoid trying to catch a cab between 3 and 5 in the afternoon, especially on the weekend. That’s when cabbies change shifts and you’ll see taxi after taxi pass you by in a mocking procession with their “off duty” lights on.
- The Empire State Building is totally worth it, even if it’s touristy, even if there’s a line. You can beat the crowds by showing up on a weekday right at opening time (8 a.m.). They are open 365 days a year, so you truly can pick when you go.
- Take time to walk the side streets in Greenwich Village. Stop at the Community Garden behind the library to sit by the water garden.
- The Staten Island Ferry, which runs from lower Manhattan to Staten Island, is a great way to get on the water for a tour of the NY skyline including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governor’s Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, downtown Manhattan and Wall Street’s skyscrapers. And it’s free! In Manhattan, catch the ferry from Whitehall and Water Streets, at the water’s edge; nearest Subways are J or Z to Broad Street; 1 or 9 to South Ferry; 4 or 5 to Bowling Green
- It seems cheesy, but in fact the best free thing to do in my book when visiting New York is to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. The architecture is iconic, but walk it and see it from a new perspective. It’s a busy walkway, and once you get to Brooklyn you will have access to the riverfront and area for bars, restaurants, and great Manhattan views. Then just jump on the subway to catch a ride back home. What’s not to like?
- Pack bandaids and put them in your day bag. You’re going to end up walking more than you expected, and you’re definitely going to get blisters. I don’t care what kind of shoes you have, it’s gonna happen.
- Head out to multi-ethnic Flushing, Queens, near La Guardia Airport, for delicious, affordable Asian food of all kinds. At the Chinese restaurant I visited, dim sum dumplings to die for (you can skip the chicken feet) were less than $2.00 per steamer holding three or four pieces. If I hadn’t been so eager to sample as many different flavors as possible, I could have walked out at lunchtime for less than $10.00. Patience with limited English-speaking servers required, plus the specials are only in Chinese, so you’ll have to ask for translation.
*If you go: East Manor, 4645 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing (Queens), NY (718) 888-8998
- Most vacationers equate NYC with theater, shopping, museums, and visits to iconic tourist destinations, but few mention New York and beaches in the same breath. Yet in 2009 two new water taxi beaches opened at South Street Seaport and Governors Island, joining the original water taxi beach in Long Island City, Queens. South Street Beach offers the most spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and East River, an 18,000 square foot indoor/outdoor beer garden and a nine-hole miniature golf course, making it one of the best places to take the family for a fun-filled day.
Governor’s Island Beach, reached via a free ferry, is the city’s premier waterfront spot for great music all summer long and has one of the best views of the skyline of lower Manhattan. All three have nice sand beaches, but swimming is not allowed. The beaches are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, with South Street Seaport beach staying open weekends through December, where heaters keep visitors warm.
A big thank you to my colleagues for their participation! Have any fab NYC travel tips that you are just dying to share? Leave them in the comments!
And don’t forget to check out Cherrye’s Travel Tips today.