Trip Coach: February 5, 2008
Amy Langfield of NewYorkology.com, a blog about NYC activities and event-listings, answered your questions on New York City.
Amy Langfield: Hi, Elaine. If you're taking the kids to Broadway both nights, my main concern is that you don't want to wear them out too much during the day. That said, I'd definitely head up to the American Museum of Natural History one morning and let them see the dinosaurs and all the other kid- (and adult-) friendly offerings. (Be aware that their basement cafeteria is far from soothing when crowded, so an early (or late) lunch there is advisable.) When they start getting stir-crazy, merely walk out the front door of the museum, across the street, and they're in Central Park. Take a short path and there are some great rocks to climb on, useful for burning up loads of crazy kid energy.
On the other day, I'd consider the Toys R Us in Times Square, FAO Schwarz at the southeast corner of Central Park, a ride on the Staten Island Ferry or a walk across Brooklyn Bridge. For skyscrapers, I'd pick Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building unless you can convince them it's worth the longer line in order to get to the top of the tallest building in the city. And if they're patient enough to do a second museum, do the Met Museum and get the free kids guide. Since you're trying to cram in a lot, I'd suggest making a bee-line for five or six kid-pleasers and head out, such as the Temple of Dendur and the enormous painting of "George Washington Crossing the Delaware." And if you're going to just make a quick walk through, you can go completely guilt-free by ignoring their "suggested admission" and pay less—as little as a penny per person. Actually, you could pay a penny and stay all day, but they don't really advertise that.
And in case you are taking the kids to Broadway (or even if you aren't) do whatever you can to avoid needing the restrooms at intermission. The lines are long seemingly before the curtain hits the floor of the stage.
Charleston, S.C.: Where is a great hotel in the heart of NYC for a young German couple to take their parents also. They are traveling in Feb and need a great rate.
Amy Langfield: Hotels are always tough. In September, BudgetTravel.com had Charlie Suisman of Manhattan User's Guide answer questions as the Trip Coach and he suggested a few good options including The Pod Hotel. You may also try your luck with the Hampton Inn at the South Street Seaport, the Holiday Inn Express in Park Slope Brooklyn or the Hotel QT just off Times Square, though its lobby pool parties hardly makes this an ideal family-friendly option. Also you may want to keep an eye on new hotels, which tend to have lower rates during their soft-open phase. However, I strongly discourage against booking into a hotel that hopes to open in time for your arrival. For every new hotel that opens its doors on schedule, there are 10 that end up with six months of delays.
While a lot of people think they're going to save money by staying at a cheaper hotel in New Jersey or out by the airports, plenty of them find they make up the difference and then some by blowing it on a cab once a twice a day rather than spend yet another hour on the PATH train/bus/subway from the outer boroughs.
In general, you can expect to pay $200 to $300 for a typical NY hotel room. And if you find a $99 a night deal, hit the Internet and see if the shared bathroom is down the hall, if it's in the right state or if it's twice been voted the dirtiest hotel in the country.
Bellingham, Wash.: My boyfriend & I are planning our first trip to New York April 7 through 11, 2008. We would love some economical recommendations for accommodations in the city. A must see & do list for us first timers would be so helpful as well. Thanks so much! —Michelle
Amy Langfield: Hi, Michelle. Again, the Pod Hotel or Hotel QT might be a good choice for you guys.
If this is your first trip to NYC and you have a few days, I definitely recommend the Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty trip. My key bit of advice is to book this online ahead of time, choosing the first boat of the day and most importantly—click the box for the free monument pass. It's the only way you can get into the statue's museum, see up into the statue itself and see the "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...." Poem.
Additionally, if you want to go up to the top of the Empire State Building, when you buy your ticket, tell them you want to spend the extra $15 to get the pass for the 102nd floor. The masses go to the 86th deck, blissfully unaware they could have gone higher. Also, you may want to invest in the fast pass here, which let's you skip much of the absurd lines. But if you truly hate lines, head over to the Top of the Rock at the top of Rockefeller Center, as their timed-ticketing system will whisk you in and out, and give you a heads-and-shoulders view of the Empire State Building.