Trip Coach: February 26, 2008
Maria Burwell, editor of "Fodor's New York City 2009," answered your questions on the Big Apple.
Houston, Tex.: I understand there is a way to get tickets to go directly to the front of the line of the Empire State Building without waiting in line. How do you do that? Thank you!
Maria Burwell: Well, buying tickets online (at esbnyc.com) will allow you to skip the first long line for purchasing tickets. Just be aware that tickets are non-refundable, which means if it's a rainy or hazy day, you just have to live with it!
Silver Spring, Md. : I am planning on visiting NYC for a day trip to get some bargain womens winter clothes. Where do you suggest I go to find these clothes at great clearance prices? Thanks
Maria Burwell: If you're looking for budget designer clothes, see my post on Century 21. You could also try Loehmann's and Daffy's.
Ellenwood, Ga.: Need a hotel room two nights, 2 days, March 15, 16, Times square area. Whats going on that weekend?
Maria Burwell: Want a budget hotel? Check out the Casablanca mentioned in my post above. If you can afford to splash out a bit on luxurious accommodations, the W Hotel in Time Square lays it on cashmere-thick with sleek, space-age rooms and a glamorous sushi bar.
If you're staying until the following Monday, you'll be able to catch the famous St. Patrick's Day Parade. The weekend before is full of all sorts of related revelry, including several pub crawls, like the one that takes place in the Seaport area. But you can also hop into several Irish pubs around town to enjoy the celebration informally.
New London, Conn.: I am traveling to New York City with 4 girl scouts who are in their freshman year of high school. We are planning on going from 6/7-6/8 this summer. This is the girls last year in scouts and they want this to be a great trip. We are planning on going to a show and staying overnight. I am looking for suggestions for somewhat affordable suite type lodging for 6, a good dinner spot for teenage girls and another activity that they may enjoy. Also, if you have any suggestions on discounted show tickets that would be great.
Maria Burwell: Take a look at the itineraries I've described above for 14 and 15 year old girls. As for accommodations, you could take a look at the suites for the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel New York. They're inexpensive compared to most Manhattan rates, but it is over on the Eastside. Still, you'll be in Midtown (somewhat close to Grand Central Station). You could also look at the Gershwin Hotel. Definitely inexpensive. It could use renovations, but the cheerful riot of colors each wall is painted and the funky Andy Warhol-esque vibe it gives makes up for it.
As for discounted shows, if you're willing to be flexible, you can go to the TKTS booth at the Marriot Marques Hotel (W 46th Street in Time Square). Here you can buy tickets for performances that same day at 25% to 50% off. You have to choose from available titles, but they usually have a wide selection. A quick glance on the Web site www.tdf.org shows the tickets that were available last week, including the Tony Award-winner Spring Awakening, which would be my first choice!
Milwaukee, Wis.: We are traveling to NYC for All-Star week, July 12-16, 2008. I have been researching hotels, and have made multiple reservations with establishments of various price points and locations. The one dilemna we are facing is whether to stay in Times Square (and face the noise issue at night), or venture up toward Central Park area. Most hotels "clubs" have suspended or artificially their points rewards for that week ( IE Marriot raised the rewards bar for a free night from 30,000 to 70,000points for the Courtyard establishment). As well, virtually all hotels have a per person limit of three in a room, except for the Double Tree Guest Suites in Times Square. What is your opinion on Times Square versus the 53rd Street area? Also, we are seeking wonderful restaurants in this same vicinity (48th-57th Streets, Lexington, Park, Broadway) that give a range of menu choices without busting the budget.
Maria Burwell: Sounds like you've done your homework! Like most New Yorkers, unless I have out of town visitors, I tend to avoid Time Square. It's bright, loud, and always full of people—which is exactly why it's so fascinating. There's no other place in NYC that says "Big City" quite so clearly. But personally, when I'm ready to crash after a long day, I want a place that's a refuge from all the hustle and bustle! I'd choose the 53rd Street area. It's also closer to the park, which on nice days in July will make for ideal picnic excursions.