Trip Coach: February 26, 2008
Maria Burwell, editor of "Fodor's New York City 2009," answered your questions on the Big Apple.
San Antonio, Texas: My husband and I are taking our almost 16 year old daughter to New York City for 5 days and 4 nights in late July. What type of activities would you recommend? None of us has been to the city for pleasure--I have been once for a very short business trip. We are very comfortable travelers and enjoy a variety of activities! Thank you, Melissa
Maria Burwell: Hi, Melissa! Aside from what I've already recommended for teenage girls, I'd also hit the MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art). Too often families focus on the Met, but the MoMA has a contemporary cool that teenagers can relate to (not to mention a really fun gift shop). If you want a museum that's a bit more bite-sized, try the Neue Galerie. The building alone here is a delight with its "grand old New York" palatial foyer. And on the ground floor, Cafe Sabarsky serves rich dark Viennese coffee and authentic Sacher torte in an environment straight out of a European film. (One caveat: the artists on display here—Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, to name two—have some racy subject matter. If that makes you uncomfortable, stick with a day at the Tenement Museum.)
Another idea: take your daughter around the East Village. Walk down St. Marks Place (for the obligatory tour of booth-after-booth of neon sunglasses, sarcastic T-shirts, and studded jewelry), poke around in St. Marks Bookshop (art books galore), and walk down 7th Street to Caracas Arepa Bar for cheap pockets of golden fried cornmeal with cheese, beans, and shredded beef. Heaven!
New York, N.Y.: Hi Maria:
My English boyfriend is coming over to NYC for Easter, and I want to arrange an Easter Brunch for us and several friends. I'd like to give him an "NYC experience," (he has a fascination with Central Park, which we have yet to "do.") but I also refuse to subject my die-hard NYC friends to anything too, too touristy. So 'Tavern on the Green' is out! Is there a middle ground you could recommend? Thanks, Alycia from the West Village
Maria Burwell: I hear you! Consider doing the soul food brunch I recommended above. It's an authentic NYC experience without being cheesy. Or you can leave Manhattan entirely and head for Brooklyn. Dine at Applewood, the farmer-centric foodie haven, and then explore the tourist free neighborhood of Park Slope and stroll around Prospect Park. (If your boyfriend has a fascination with Central Park, let him know that the same architect did Prospect Park—and considered it his crowning achievement!)
Tampa, Fla.: We have only one day May 21 to see the installations of Chinese Artist Guo-Qiang at the Guggenheim in NY. We need a place to stay the night of the 21 and 22 nearby. Can you recommend a B&B or inexpensive hotel within walking distance?
Maria Burwell: Oh, his work is incredible—certainly worth the trip to NYC!
Well the decor is a little funky, and the rooms can be a touch small, but I think the Franklin will meet your needs. It's on 87th and Lex. (the Guggenheim is on 88th and 5th Avenue) so you really could just roll out of bed and stroll over and, most importantly, it doesn't have stratospheric prices!
Lebanon, Ind.: My adult son and I are registered as contestants in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament to be held at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott, February 29-March 2, 2008. We will fly into LaGuardia on the evening of February 28. Neither of us has been to NYC before. Since the tournament activities do not begin until the evening of Feb 29, we will have most of that day free. Your suggestions, please. Specifically, would the Gray Lines "New York Minute" tour be a good choice? Joe
Maria Burwell: Hi, Joe! The Brooklyn Bridge Marriott is near the terrific neighborhood of DUMBO (Down Under the Brooklyn Bridge). Stroll down to the waterfront and you can admire the beautiful view of the New York skyline with the boats passing by. On a clear day, it's stunning. Grab ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory right on the pier, its high-quality, thick-n-creamy scoops lure many a sweet-lover over the East River. Or you can walk down Water Street to Jacques Torres Chocolate for a real Willie Wonka moment. You're also steps away from what is (debatably) the best NYC pizza—Grimaldi's Pizzeria (on Old Fulton St.).
As for the Gray Line tour, if you haven't been to NYC before, this is a good way to get your bearings. They cover the basic "lay of the land" and will help you and your son get familiar with the different neighborhoods and what each of them have to offer. I would just caution that much of this is simply driving through the neighborhoods, and in winter, there won't be much street life. It's cold out there!