Tete-a-tete Archives

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Tete-a-tete: A traveler’s guide to the Big Apple

Whether your destination is a far-flung foreign locale or the next town over, any trip is better when you have suggestions and recommendations from someone who’s already been there.

Having recently returned from my latest excursion to New York City, I feel qualified to offer a few tips on how to make the most of your time in the Big Apple. As it is a big city and I am a leisurely walker, I can only speak to those aspects of the city I have experienced myself.

It’s amazing how accessible New York City is from southern New Hampshire. One-day bus trips are frequently offered by local organizations, and you can easily travel on your own by taking the bus into South Station in Boston and taking the train into New York City from there.

So without further ado, I present Teresa’s Very Limited Insider’s Guide to New York City.

• Plan your stay, and pace yourself. Trying to cram as much as possible into your visit will only result in unnecessary stress and blurry memories. Focus on one geographic area and one or two attractions and really take the time to enjoy them. For example, get tickets for the NBC Studios tour at Rockefeller Center and follow it up with lunch reservations at the Rainbow Room and ice skating. Speaking of ice skating …

• The skating rink at Rockefeller Center is not as big as it looks in the movies – it can only accommodate about 150 skaters. It’s still a worthwhile stop, however, if ice skating is something you enjoy and you’d like to experience the most widely recognized ice rink in the world. Make sure you bring a non-skater to take your picture from the plaza – and wear something brightly-colored so they can pick you out among the other skaters.

• The line for the women’s restroom in the food court area at Rockefeller Center is long. Really long. You may want to consider eating your meal in line so that by the time you need the facilities, they’ll be available.

• You can’t go wrong with building your visit around a restaurant. Mom, Younger Sister and I love the movie “Eloise at the Plaza,” so our family has had brunch at the hotel’s iconic Palm Court (just like Eloise did in the movie) and lunch at the Oak Room. We’ve also dined at Sardi’s in the theater district, the Russian Tea Room next to Carnegie Hall, and Robert, a gem of a restaurant in the Museum of Arts and Design with incredible views of Central Park. None of these establishments disappointed.

• If you eat at a restaurant like those previously mentioned, talk to your waiter or waitress. Ask them if they have a favorite item on the menu or what wine or cocktail would best complement your entree. You will be amazed at how vastly this will improve your meal experience. As someone who, at my waiter’s recommendation, took a chance on the Russian Tea Room’s vanilla cheesecake, I can completely vouch for this.

• Should you dine at non-peak hours, your waiter or waitress may talk to you about more than the menu. At Sardi’s, Mom and I got to hear about what it was like to wait on Al Pacino, who had eaten there a few months earlier, and were treated to a mini history lesson about the restaurant itself. Which brings me to …

• Make reservations and buy tickets ahead of time. On our most recent trip, Mom and I had some free time in between meals and tried to see if we could get last-minute tickets to a Broadway show. It was pretty near impossible, especially if we wanted to sit together or see the stage without binoculars.

• If you’re taking a taxi, only take yellow cabs and look for the driver’s license and information posted on the back of the front seat before you get in. Don’t be bullied by limousine services, who will try to pick you up instead of a cab and charge you exorbitant amounts. And while we’re on the subject of safety …

• Do not be taken in by random costumed characters that may approach you on the streets. More often than not, they do not represent the character or brand and are simply people looking for attention.

• Take a carriage ride around Central Park. It really is a lovely experience, even if the weather is a bit cold. If you get a good driver, he or she will regale you with colorful anecdotes about the park’s landscaping and how the ending of “Ghostbusters” was filmed on the roof of that building over there.

• And last but not least, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to your bus or train well before you are scheduled to depart. There’s no need to spoil an enjoyable visit with a frenzied dash to catch your ride home.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Jan. 30, 2014.

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