Art, Fashion and Theater – New York Sizzles with Adventures Day and Night
If San Francisco is my girlfriend, New York is my boyfriend. I can’t get enough of the city of lights, fashion and action and neither can Super G.
We have an infatuation with the Big Apple that can only be cured by an annual fling to catch some shows on Broadway and discover changes in our favorite neighborhoods.
This time we went to the city in the thick of summer. I couldn’t believe it. Super G booked us tickets into hell. Anyone and everyone who is familiar with July and August in New York know that any true New Yorker is selling their first child to get out of the asphalt jungle. The pavement becomes Jell-O beneath tourists’ feet and even air conditioners might not save you. The city we love turns into a woman having severe hot flashes during menopause. I think you get the picture. Not the best time to travel to New York.
We love the city when Christmas lights drape the trees along the narrow neighborhood streets of Manhattan and the windows are all dressed up and lit up with cheer, yeah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve! When the snow has just melted, new strappy sandals and sun dresses and tank tops and shorts and flowers are springing up everywhere, oooh spring. When the trees turn into pallets of rich auburns, mahogany, cherry and terracotta and galleries and New York’s biggest art institutions and fashion hounds rule the city displaying their latest creative endeavors, bring on fall. But deep summer, oh God no!
Nervous about being miserable in New York (my Auntie and Super G plotted out escapes into air conditioning per our itinerary). We were pleasantly surprised and very grateful (especially my Auntie and Super G) when the weather cooperated. A little mild San Francisco weather followed us out to the East Coast during our week-long stay before the city returned to being the “arm pit of hell,” as we heard from people over and over again.
This allowed us to enjoy the city as we always do.
It’s Broadway, Babes!
You can’t beat Broadway. The shows are fantastic. We had so much fun at Kinky Boots, you just can’t go wrong when Cyndi Lauper writes the music and Harvey Fierstein is the writer. You are just in for a damn good time, a really good message and maybe a fabulous pair of shoes. Unfortunately, The Book of Mormon didn’t fare as well with us. We had a better time grabbing drinks at E & E Grill House Restaurant and Bar (233 West 49th Street; 212-505-9909) before, during the break, and after the show across the street from the theater where Mormon was playing. We aren’t big South Park fans, so the charms of Mormon failed to endear us to the musical. It didn’t live up to the hype in our eyes. We also had a great time at Newsies, which is a fun and entertaining show for the whole family. It is Disney you know.
So, what do you do after a night on Broadway? Head to Sardi’s (234 West 44th Street; 212-221-8440), go for an after show cocktail somewhere near where you are staying, or meet up with friends for drinks. On one of the nights we headed back downtown to Zio Ristorante (17 West 19th Street; 212-352-1700) where the bubbly flowed as we hung out with friends we met during other adventures.
It was the perfect night for some chicken and rice that one of our New Yorker friends back in San Francisco suggested. So, we headed uptown to 53rd Avenue and 6th Streets to The Halal Guys for the best chicken and rice on the East Coast. Super G and I were the only girls hanging out in the middle of the night with the drunken club kids while boyfriends and husbands fetched the coveted bowels of savory chicken and rice for their girlfriends or wives who stayed in the car. It was a theater filled with nonstop action and characters as the men shucked out bowl after bowl to the hungry masses that surrounded the truck at 1 a.m.
We still crave that chicken and rice.
Views of New York
Broadway and the scene around the Halal Guys truck is a sight to see, but New York offers up a variety of ways to take in the whole city. Most people know about the observation deck at the Empire State Building. I mean, who can forget An Affair to Remember, King Kong, and Sleepless in Seattle to name a few silver screen moments at the top of the Empire State Building?
That’s impressive, but there’s another spectacular view that we were introduced to thanks to our New York Pass and CityPass New York, courtesy of the NYC&Co, the city’s visitor’s bureau and center, that we checked out, The Top of the Rock.
High above the city, we spied Central Park, Times Square and Rockefeller Center, The New York Times building, looked for my Aunties apartment building, and saw the new towers reaching high into the sky inching closer to completion at Ground Zero. It was a spectacular view of the city.
Afraid of heights? Closer to the earth, sight seers can get a great view of the west side of New York, the Hudson River and more at The Highline. The Highline is an above ground park on the old Nabisco train tracks that stretches up from the Meat Packing District toward 34th Street. It’s a great way to get some exercise and see New York and New Jersey from a different perspective.
Another great view of the city is from the Staten Island Ferry. This free ride across the Hudson River to the borough made famous in Working Girl and an episode of Sex and the City, when Charlotte got a little too drunk on Long Island Ice Teas at a Staten Island nightclub and nearly went overboard on the ferry, and back also provides a great view of the city and of the Statue of Liberty. A twofer! You can’t go wrong with that.During the fall, spring, and summer there are a ton of art exhibits, outside concerts, movie nights and more along The Highline.
Our New York Pass also offered an option for a boat tour around the island.
On one of the days, my Auntie took us down to Ground Zero where business and life has been returning to the gaping hole in New York after 9/11. We walked around the memorial, through Battery Park, and over to the Fraunces Tavern (54 Pearl Street; 212-968-1776) for a beer on the site where President George Washington bid farewell to his men in the Continental Army trading his officers for retirement after six long years battling the British in the Revolutionary War. The pub has party rooms upstairs, a restaurant, and a museum. The museum offers guided walking tours and exhibits.
We enjoyed a pint of beer in the historic bar listening to music and the sound of Irish accents leading Super G to question, “Is it a requirement at Irish pubs that you have to be Irish to work in one?” She’s never been in an Irish pub where a majority of the staff isn’t direct from Ireland. I rather find comfort in the lulling Irish brogue. I am half-Irish after all. So, I just shrugged my shoulders as my Auntie, Super G and I cheered to the Irish and soaked in being in a historic place before shoving off onto our next adventure.
In the city of art, fashion and romance, I couldn’t resist a SATC tour. Super G indulged me during our recent New York adventure to commemorate the 16 year anniversary of when SATC first hit HBO, so we took On Location Tours’ Sex and the City Hotspots tour.
Super G and one brave man (also indulging the lady in his life), got on board a bus filled with at least 52 women ready to follow in the stillettoed heeled fabulous foursome – Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha – through the city (well turns out most of it was filmed in my Auntie’s backyard and my vacation stomping grounds since I was 13-years old: the Village, Chelsea, the Meat Packing District and some of NoHo. The exception was uptown at The Paris Theater, Bergdorf Goodman, The Grand Army Plaza and The Fairmont.
OK. I know as the travel writer I was supposed to be in the background, but I couldn’t help but shoot my hand in the air trying to contain spitting out the answer for nearly every trivia question asked by our expert tour guide, Staci Jacobs, who knows her SATC.
I had a great time. Super G got really embarrassed several times. Really, one of my best girlfriends, Erica, would have eaten this tour up along with me, but alas she wasn’t there. In any case, Super G appreciated the cosmos at the bar that stood in as the Scout Bar. I enjoyed the cupcake treat in the Village and recalling many of the great moments of SACT (even though I have every DVD).
In the city for a girls night out? I dare suggest the private SATC tour packages named after each of the fabulous foursome and tailored for an extra special night out on the town. Otherwise, if you are SATC fan, this is the tour for you. You won’t go wrong.
Super G was girlied out by the time we met up with my Auntie again, so we let her entertain herself while my Auntie and I took off for the galleries and museums with our handy passes and shopping at designer boutiques in the Meat Packing District.
For additional ideas of what to do while in the “Big” city I suggest checking out Woman Around Town (this blog covers the Big Apple and the Federal City (Washington, D.C.)) and for queer girls Go! Magazine … oh and don’t forget the bible, I mean, the New York Times.
City of Food
OK, San Francisco and New York have been deep into restaurant wars long before I was born (that’s a long time). Super G and I like what both cities have to offer and of course a home cooked meal a la Chef Auntie.
We love sampling as many restaurants as possible in New York, but this time we missed our traditional slice of New York pizza and we hung out at the flat for several dinners with my Auntie’s and our friends.
For our gourmet meals at home, we headed to the Chelsea Market (75 9th Avenue; 212-727-1111; ChelseaMarket.com), Eataly (200 5th Avenue; 212-229-2560) and Union Square’s Greenmarket (East 17th Street; 212-788-7476).
When we weren’t at home we headed to Spin New York (48 East 23rd Street; 212-982-8802), a ping-pong restaurant co-owned by celebrity Susan Sarandon, which serves up scrumptious healthy bar food, and Raymi (43 West 24th Street; 212-929-1200), a Peruvian restaurant.
On Sunday, we enjoyed brunch at the Wyeth Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Sleeping In The City That Never Sleeps
While we stayed with my Auntie this time, we’ve had the pleasure of staying at a number of great hotels in New York. Depending on the experience you want, this is what we suggest where to get some shut eye after a day and night out on the hot Manhattan streets.
If luxury is what you want, we suggest The Lucerne Hotel (201 West 79th Street; 212-875-1000); 70 Park Ave. (70 Park Avenue; 212-973-2400); The Muse Hotels (130 W 46th Street; 212-485-2400); INK 48 (653 11th Avenue; 212-757-0088), and the recently built Hyatt Union Square (134 4th Avenue; 212-253-1234) and its sister hotel Hyatt Times Square (135 West 45th Street; 646-364-1234).
If you are looking for a cool and funky boutique hotel, check out the Chelsea Pines Inn (317 West 14th Street; 888-546-2700). The rooms are named after Hollywood stars of a bygone era and it has a rare thing in New York, a garden and back patio to enjoy breakfast. Warning for petit girls, ask to have a step stool in your room. This hotel is built for modelesque women. If you’re tall, you will love this place.
If you are on a budget, check out The Jane (113 Jane Street; 212-924-6700).
On The Go
Getting into the city late, schedule an ExecuCar, the sophisticated side of the company’s older brother Super Shuttle and less crowded unless you are with a group of your best girlfriends or co-workers. Super G and I arrived very early in the morning after a long flight. We were happy to see the coordinator of the drivers who took our luggage from us and arranged for the black sedan to show up curbside and whisk us away from Newark Liberty International Airport into Chelsea to my Auntie’s flat. We got comfortable in the leather seats as traffic – even in the middle of the night – was a nightmare as we inched our way into the tunnel through the New Jersey Turnpike onto the bridge that brought us into Manhattan. It took us an hour, but it was better than waiting for a bus to take us to Penn Station to transfer to the 1 Line on the Metro or watching our meter skyrocket as we sat bumper to bumper in traffic and our drivers to and from the airport were friendly and proud of their slick new black cars.
Once in Manhattan we got our Metro passes and we were good to go. An unlimited week pass is $30 plus $1 for the new card fee per person. If you are running all over the city from events to shows to museums to going out to dinner and to various boroughs like Super G and me this is the best deal in town. They are easy to get at any of the machines or ticket booths at any Metro station, but just in case you need to locate a place to buy your passes when you hit town, check out the MTA locator for the closest merchant to your hotel.
Other than that, believe it or not, there are a couple of free rides in New York. One, the ferry over to Staten Island where you pass by the Statue of Liberty and the other, the Ikea water taxi on the weekends from Wall Street over to the Brooklyn’s Redhook neighborhood.