First-timers Guide to New York City

Before I start I must ask that you not judge or criticize me for what I am about to disclose. Just recently I got back from my FIRST trip to New York City. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, in between your smirks and chuckles- “Ed, you mean to tell me, that with everywhere you’ve been, you’ve never been to NY City? Really?” And the answer is- You are correct. However, with that now in the open, NYC will be a frequent travel place in my future.

For those who have never visited the ‘Big Apple’ before let me offer up some ideas that will make your first-time enjoyable. First, I recently vacationed there for 4 days, and though you can drive there and fight the traffic and pay outrageous parking fees, or fly if you’re coming from a longer distance, I chose to ride MegaBus. MegaBus provides service from Central NY (where I live) to NYC for about $80 roundtrip. They offer free WiFi and have power units at every seat. The four-hour and thirty minute ride was enjoyable and effortless. The cab ride to and from my hotel was about $12 each way. So for about $104 my travel to and from the City was paid for. Try driving for that!

When I got to my hotel, The Millennium Broadway, I found my view breath-taking. From my corner room on the 38th floor I overlooked both ends of Times Square. The lights and energy were already becoming infectious, and I couldn’t wait to get out there with the masses. My wife and I headed to Times Square and spent our first hour just taking in all that the world-famous area had to offer. After visiting some of the stores we headed to grab a bite to eat at a place we were told about more than once. John’s Pizzeria, located just off Broadway on  44th Street, is a refurbished church that has some fantastic Italian food and a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. The two levels and four brick ovens at John’s makes for a great dining experience.

A neat way to take in the City for the first time is to purchase a tour package. One of the best is the “Hop-on, Hop-off” bus tour. The double-decker bus company has three different tours around Gotham, and even offers a Hudson River boat ride. The neat thing about it is that your ticket is good for 48-hours. So for example on Day 2 of our trip we purchased our tickets right there in Times Square and enjoyed a 2-hour tour of Manhattan. As it makes its 20+ stops throughout the tour, riders can hop off at any location, and then hop back on the next bus coming through about every 30 minutes. Rachel and I hopped off at the famous Stage Deli for lunch. The experience was neat, our sandwiches were tasty, but our waiter was down right rude and nasty. Welcome to New York?

On Night 2 we took in a taping of the David Letterman Show. I was able to secure tickets by applying in advance online at the Letterman website. After the show we headed around the corner from the Sullivan Theater to a neat pub called the Irish Pub NYC. With a full menu and authentic Irish pub feel, this stop was a ‘winner’.

On Day 3 we started with a visit to the Times Square Starbucks, right next to the ABC studios. From there we hopped on the tour bus and hopped off at Canal Street (Chinatown). All that you have heard about this experience, is nothing until you are actually there. Purses, shoes, watches? You want Gucci? They’re all there- I think. At least that’s what the nice ladies and gentlemen tell me standing next to heavily padded-locker doors with their walkie-talkies .

From there we walked through the financial district and then to Ground Zero. We walked into the Winter Garden building and overlooked the new construction taking place on the hallowed ground. It was as moving as I had been told. From there we walked along the Hudson River to Battery Park, where we hopped back on one of the tour buses. As we traveled back uptown we got off near Bloomingdale’s and took in the 8 levels of shopping. Later in the day we stopped at the famous Serendipity 3 restaurant for dinner. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time. Quite often they are booked several days in advance.

On Day 4 we had until about 7pm before our MegaBus was leaving from Madison Square Garden, and took full advantage of a great sunny day. We walked a few blocks from our hotel to Rockefeller Plaza, where we ate a late morning lunch at the Plaza’s Cucina & Co. Eatery. Unfortunately the tour of NBC was sold out already for the day, so lesson learned, always make reservations for nearly everything in NYC.

Around the corner from NBC is a fabulous little bakery called The Magnolia. Be sure to stop there for a quick little sugar-hit. As we walked just a few blocks further we reached Grand Central Station. Standing inside the often filmed iconic landmark was pretty neat, though I was disappointed that a FlashMob didn’t break into song and dance while we were there. As we headed back to Times Square in the afternoon we walked through Bryant Park. Its Citi Pond and Celsius Bar was a neat place to sit and take in the day. As we got back into the Times Square area Rach and I decided that John’s Pizzeria deserved another visit before we headed for home.

Though this may have been my first visit to NYC, I can guarantee you that there dozens of more trips planned in my head for the future. New York City is truly the “City That Never Sleeps”, with so much to see and do. While my next visit will likely include taking in a Yankee game, Broadway show, and a trip to one of the many museums, it will also include getting there on MegaBus, staying at the Millennium Broadway Hotel, and of course another trip to John’s Pizzeria.