TRANSCRIPT

Trip Coach: September 18, 2007

Charlie Suisman, editor of ManhattanUsersGuide.com, answered your questions on New York City.

By , Tuesday, Sep 18, 2007, 1:09 PM

Charlie Suisman: Hi. Charlie Suisman here -- it's a beautiful fall weather day in the Big Apple -- and I'm glad to be chatting with you. Let's get rolling....

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Lansing, Michigan: We are coming to New York for a weekend in December to see the Radio City Christmas Show (Rockettes) and spend time enjoying the sights and sounds of NYC at Christmas. We are looking for a good Asian restaurant that is not overly expensive and located in the midtown area. Any suggestions? Any other "December" things we should consider doing while we are there? (12/14-16)

Charlie Suisman: There are so many things to do at holiday time, it's hard to select just a few -- there are annual holiday markets at Grand Central and Bryant Park, Paul Winter's annual (number 28, I think) Winter Solstice Celebration at Cathedral of St. John the Divine, is great. There are many Messiah performances -- of all kinds. There's a tradition at the 21 Club of the Salvation Army doing these boisterous singalongs at lunchtime -- there's nothing like those anywhere. There's Tuba Christmas at Rockefeller Center (Rock Center is the city's unofficial Christmas center, with its mega-tree and ice-skating rink). As for an Asian restaurant midtown, since you didn't specify any further, I'd pick two, one expensive, one not. At the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, Bar Masa is the small sibling to the faintingly expensive (but genuinely transcendent) Masa. If you like sushi, it's fantastic (less expensive than Masa proper, Bar Masa is still quite expensive). The bar is walk-in only. Much less expensive is the Chinese restaurant Grand Sichuan. There are several locations; the one in midtown is at 1049 Second Ave between 55th/56th -- delicious.

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Peotone, Ill.: My husband and I are visiting New York for the first time. We are flying in on 9-27 and leave on a cruise on 9-29. Since we have only 2 nights in New York and we are staying at the Sheraton Towers, what would you suggest we see and do to make the most of our short time in The Big Apple? Thanks for your suggestions.

Charlie Suisman: The first thing I'd do is go up to one of the observation decks, either the Empire State Building or the one at Rockefeller Center. I'd go with the latter because it's likely to be less crowded. Get an overview of the city, to see how it's laid out. The best thing to do in New York is walk -- it's the best way to get a feel for the city. I'd get out of midtown, too -- go to the Flatiron district, Greenwich Village -- that's where a lot of the action is these days. But since you're here for a very short time, you'll probably want to check out a few of the must-sees. For museums, choose from the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (I feel terrible leaving out so many other amazing museums!). If the weather's nice, I'd go down to Battery Park and see the Statue of Liberty from afar (rather than spending the time getting there and back). See a Broadway show. Central Park has never looked better and an afternoon stroll there would be memorable -- you could also hire a horse and carriage from the area of 5th Avenue and 59th to give you a tour of the park. Great shopping is always there for you -- Saks, Bloomingdales, and every small shop you can imagine. Or just wander. That sense of discovery can be the most fun of all.

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Woodbury, CT: Favorite Chinese restaurant in Manhattan? Bill

Charlie Suisman: That's actually a tough one for me. I love Chinese food -- and while it's possible to get good Chinese food in NYC, it's a lot harder than you'd think. I like the Grand Sichuan outposts, tea-smoked duck at Wu Liang Ye (I usually go to the one by Rockefeller Center), and a new one in Chinatown called Amazing 66, at 66 Mott.

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Little Rock, AR: I'd love to see one of the shows at the old style lounges like Cafe Carlyle or Feinstein's (especially Elaine Stritch this January.) However, I'm just out of college, and the shows are so exspensive. Do these places offer any other less costly options, such as standing room, or sitting at the bar?

Charlie Suisman: It's a good question and I wish I had a good option -- but the cabaret heavy-hitters have become so expensive that you can't just stop in as you could do once upon a time. The Carlyle is charging $125 for Elaine Stritch, dinner required. Ouch. I do have an alternative for you, though. On Monday nights at Birdland, when most Broadway performers are off, there's something called Jim Caruso's Cast Party. All kinds of Broadway performers turn up to sing -- lots of fun and affordable.

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Daytona Beach, FL: What is the least expensive way for one person to travel from La Guardia airport into Manhattan, specifically the Soho area?

Charlie Suisman: This page has your options, but the short answer is to take a bus from the terminal that will connect to (free transfer) to the subway. Cost: $2.

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Pinetop, Ariz.: Can the 'Adventure Pass' be used for the Ferry system also?

Charlie Suisman: If you're with us, can you let me know which Pass that is (who issues it?) -- I'll be glad to check it out and try to give you answer.

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cumming, ga: My daughters and I would like to visit NYC and would like to know what time of year to come to get the best hotel prices. Also is there a good time during the week where the prices are lower?

Thank you.

Charlie Suisman: You can generally find the lowest rates in January, February, and March. Some hotels will offer weekend packages, which can bring the rate down further. And don't just assume that a rate you see on the website is the lowest price you can get. Call the hotel and chat with someone from reservations. A little luck may be involved, but you may be surprised to get a lower rate -- with some polite persistence -- if the hotel isn't that busy.

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Lubbock, Texas: I'm taking a trip to NYC with one of my best girlfriends the first week of December. We are both first timers. Do you have any tips or secrets for us? Thanks, April

Charlie Suisman: That's a great time to visit. The city is bustling with events and shoppers and there's so much going on everywhere. The best tip is to bring comfortable shoes. There's no better way to experience NY than by walking, even if you don't know exactly where you're going. I'd hit up some of the big things -- a museum or two, the tree at Rockefeller Center, the tour of Radio City Music Hall is fun, a couple of department stores (Saks, Macys), the U.N. if that interests you, and then explore the neighborhoods of the West and East Village, Soho, and the area around Union Square.

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Washington, DC: Where are the cheapest hotels to stay in New York City?

Charlie Suisman: Many of New York's hotels have just gone nuts with their pricing. It's ridiculous. But you don't have to spend a fortune -- however, it's still going to be more expensive than most other American cities to sleep. Here are a few picks of places, depending on the time of year that should have rooms between $100 to $250.
The Pod Hotel (yes, that's the right web address -- it used to be the Pickwick)
Rooms to Let
Second Home on Second Ave
Country Inn the City
Mayfair New York
Broadway Inn
Abingdon Guest House
The Larchmont

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New Hyde Park. NY.: When is restaurant week in NYC? Picks on where to go?

Charlie Suisman: I haven't seen the dates announced yet for the next restaurant week (the most recent was in July), but it usually takes place in late January or early February. So I don't really have any picks that far out!

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Dallas, TX: We are planning on flying into LaGuardia early December to visit family in NJ. We usually fly into Newark but airfare prices into LaGuardia are really low right now. We need to know the easiest (and cheapest) way to get to NJ. We like to save our $ for fun trips not family trips. We're thinking maybe LaGuardia to Port Authority and then taking the train to NJ. Thanks, LouAnn

Charlie Suisman: That's the way to do it -- though the train is actually from Penn Station. It's the bus you'd get at Port Authority, but that's a good option, too.

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San Diego, CA: My wife and I would like to do some 4-6 day trips to New York. This summer we stayed right off Times Square which can get expensive. We've thought of staying out by JFK and getting a transit pass. Is this a good idea? Are there other areas of NYC that would have interesting things close by and accommodations that wouldn't break the bank?

Charlie Suisman: That's a pretty long haul and the airport lodging isn't that much cheaper than you can find, with a little effort, right in Manhattan. I've listed a few options in reply to another question for reasonable (which means reasonable by NY standards, not by real-world standards....) hotels. Another option is to stay at a bed and breakfast -- believe it or not they exist in NY and there are some terrific ones. Sites like bedandbreakfast.com/manhattan-new-york.html have good listings.

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Clearwater, Florida: Dear Charlie Suisman, My question is the same one I ask of all New Yorkers: What's your own personal favorite restaurant in The Village, please? Thanks!

Charlie Suisman: Just one? If I must, I'd have to say Lupa an Italian restaurant, run by a young, hard-working restaurateur. I've never had a bad meal there or a bad time -- it's crowded, and bustling, and can be noisy, but I'm always happy to go back.

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Sanford FL: We are 2 adults visiting October 12-17, and finding the hotel prices are ridiculous. A room I paid $189 for, six months ago, is now $400. I'm "lucky" in that I booked it for "only" $265 before prices shot through the roof. MY QUESTION - are there any good and reputable "home / apartment sharing" services, where someone like us, who can provide EXCELLENT personal references, can find Manhattanites that may be away for extended periods of time, and are willing to rent their apartment for a reasonable price? There are some places on Craigslist that offer this service, but there are an equal amount of associated horror stories. Thanks in advance, and love your MUG newsletter. F in Fla.

Charlie Suisman: Thanks! I don't know of any reliable local services. Even though you have to pay a fee to become a member, people have had generally very positive things to say about Home Exchange.

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Huntington Woods MI: We (my husband and I) will be in NYC October 6-7. I'm familiar with TKTS, but I know some shows have 'auctions' just before show time. Is there a way to find out which ones do this? Is there some other way to try to catch a deal on a show? What is the 'buzz' on the best new show? Thanks Ilana

Charlie Suisman: TKTS is still your best bet overall, but check out Broadway Box that provides discount coupon codes for some shows. As for the new season, there's a lot of buzz around Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein, The Farnsworth Invention by Aaron Sorkin about the invention of television, and Cyrano de Bergerac with Kevin Kline.

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Naperville, Illinois: My son recently relocated to Manhattan. In researching hotels for our upcoming visit , I came across several hotel consolidators , whose raates were very much lower than the typical Manhattan hotel prices. My question, are these legitimate companies? Thanks!

Charlie Suisman: There's nothing inherently fishy about these companies -- they buy in bulk and then sell at a discount. But you still want to go with a reputable firm. One I like is Quikbook.com.

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Modesto, Ca: We will be viiting New York for 2 nights in Nov. as a stopover on to Europe. We have been several times and have done all the tourist stuff. Can you suggest something new to do and maybe a cool neighborhood we can stay in instead of the usual Time Square?

Thanks

Charlie Suisman: Definitely! Whenever my friends and family come to visit, I suggest they stay anywhere but Times Square and midtown. Nothing wrong with it, but you'll get a visitor's view of the city, rather than an insider's. And so many great chefs, and shops, and nightlife is now below 34th Street. So, I'd suggest staying in the West or East Village. If you want to get a *really* different angle on the city, try the Lower East Side. It's far from bucolic, but there's so much history there, not to mention a definite hipster scene. The Hotel on Rivington caters to the neighborhood's new-found vibe.

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Grand Rapids, MI: We're going to NYC next week; have been there several times and would like to explore Brooklyn. Ideas? Also, now that the Second Ave. Deli has closed (!), any other really authentic kosher delis that aren't Katz or Carnegie? Jane

Charlie Suisman: The good news is that Second Avenue Deli has plans to re-open, though not on Second Avenue. It was by far my favorite. You're right to mention Katz's and Carnegie. There aren't that many any more, alas. But there's Ben's to add to your list until 2nd Ave comes back to us.

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Paw Paw, Mich.: A group of 40+ female teachers travel to NYC every November (usually the second weekend) for a three day weekend. We have seen the usual tourist attractions plus numerous plays. What would you say are the best "under-advertised" NYC attractions that we should put on our list for this year or even coming years?

Charlie Suisman: Somehow visitors miss the Frick Collection and it's an amazing small museum. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden sounds like it's hard to get to, but it's not --- and well worth the subway ride. The Morgan Library had been closed for a renovation but it reopened last year and it's now even more interesting than before. If you've never walked along the string of connecting parks along the Hudson, beginning at the southern tip of the island and extending northward -- it's a fantastic walk. If you like classical music, you can't do better than the chamber concerts of Bargemusic, held indoors on an old barge in Brooklyn. World-class musicians and views of Manhattan. Speaking of Brooklyn, if you haven't been to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) -- they have amazing theater, dance, opera -- all kind of great events. If you want a place that even most New Yorkers don't know, the Fisher Landau Center in Long Island City was formerly a private collection of art, now open to the public, in what was an old parachute manufacturing facility! And one more about art: the galleries that used to make up Soho are now in west Chelsea -- you can see many galleries in one swoop because they're grouped within a few blocks.

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Bethesda, Md.: I'm traveling to Manhattan for business early next month and for the first time will fly rather than taking the train from D.C. Which airport is most accessible to downtown--I'll be staying near Rockefeller Center--and how much time should I allot for travel to and from the airport? Thanks!

Charlie Suisman: LaGuardia is the closest of the three airports. If you're not arriving at rush hour, the ride can be as little as 25 minutes to midtown. But don't count on it. You should figure 45 minutes -- maybe you'll get lucky!

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Santa Barbara, Calif.: What is considered appropriate "city clothing" for day and night?

Charlie Suisman: That depends so much on what you're going to be doing, time of year etc. But it may help to know that New York has become much less formal over the past 10-15 years. Few restaurants require a coat and tie for men any more. 'Upscale casual' is how restaurants sometimes describe the code of how they think you should dress. But if I had to describe a general rule -- go for stylish, understated clothing - basic black always works. The nice thing about the city is, though, you'll fit in if you're wearing old jeans and sneakers, or if you're in designer clothing.

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Salem, Ore.: My husband and I will be in New York Oct. 13-16. We are interested in going to a comedy club. Any recommendations? Also, we're staying in a hotel on the upper west side (74th and Broadway). Any recommendations for dinner? Thank you!

Charlie Suisman: The biggest names tend to go to Caroline's but you can also try the Comedy Cellar and one right near where you'll be staying, StandUp NY. As for dinner, one of the neighborhood's classics is Cafe Luxembourg. A favorite of mine (but fair warning: noisy, tight quarters, cash only) is called Celeste on Amsterdam Ave. -- delicious Italian food at very modest prices.

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Las Vegas, Nev.: I will arrive at JFK in the early afternoon after an international flight from Istanbul,and will need to spend the night around the vicinity of the airport for an early morning flight to Las Vegas. Any suggestions for economic accommodations?

Charlie Suisman: There is a limited choice but The Ramada Plaza should fit the bill. And it's the only hotel actually on JFK property.

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Orinda, CA: Best activities for a 14 year old music (rock and roll, blues) loving boy, and a nature and animal loving 11 year old girl. Both day and evening activity suggestions would be appreciated!

Charlie Suisman: For the nature loving girl, the Museum of Natural History is a must -- I just took my niece and nephew there and it was a big hit -- one of the highlights of their trip to New York. There's the Bronx Zoo, too, an excellent way to spend an afternoon. As for the boy, he's too young for most of the city's music venues I think. But I would check Radio City Music Hall to see who will be performing there when you're in town.

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Exeter, Calif.: Recommended moderately priced restaurants on the Upper West Side? Will be in NYC 10/1-10/5/07.

Charlie Suisman: Sure. I mentioned Celeste and Cafe Luxembourg elsewhere, I also like Indian Oven, Land (Thai food), and Onera (Greek).

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Lake Mary, Fla.: I have visited NYC several times and have loved it! We have always taken bus tours of the city. As a result, we have seen all the normal things (Statue of LIberty, Times Square, etc.) I would like to know if there are personal guides that can be hired to show us NYC through the eyes of a "native". I would like to contact them ahead of time so they could recommend the best place to stay so we would be centrally located to the things we would be seeing.

Thank you,
Anne

Charlie Suisman: There are a lot of options. Myra Alperson does food walking tours, there are companies like Big Onion for history and there are individuals like Justin Ferrate who will do custom tours depending on your interest.

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Upland, CA: We are going to New York/Manhattan the day after Christmas thru the 5 on January. we are 6 adults & 1 toddler - cannot find any info regarding carseats, taxi regulations for my grandson! None of us have been there before and cannot find anything on it. We are staying at the Shelburne/Murray Hill on Lexington. Thank you for your help!

Charlie Suisman: Drivers of yellow medallion taxicabs and for-hire vehicles and their passengers, are exempt from laws regarding car seats and seatbelts. Keep in mind, the TLC encourages everyone in the vehicle to buckle their seatbelts while riding in a cab. There are no Taxi and Limousine Commission rules regarding this, as it is a State exemption. Passengers with children are encouraged to bring their own car seats, which the drivers must allow passengers to install. Children under the age of seven are permitted to sit on an adult's lap.

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San Francisco, CA: Tentatively planning on going to New York City over Christmas with husband and 13 year old daughter. What would you suggest we do on Christmas Day when most stores, museums, and other attractions will be closed?

Charlie Suisman: It's true that New York is at its quietest on Christmas Day. Weather permitting, I would go to Central Park -- it's a lovely, family-oriented feeling on that day in the park. Big Onion Tours does their annual Jewish Lower East Side Tour on Christmas Day. Check the Broadway performance schedule that week. Some shows may be performing. Check Radio City and the Rockettes schedule. And a fair number of restaurants will be open Christmas night.

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Valencia, CA: Dear Mr. Suisman, my husband and I are planning a quick two to three day trip to New York to see Spring Awakening at the end of September (yes, my idea). What is the best airport to fly into when staying in Manhattan? I have been told it is sometimes quicker/easier to fly into one farther afield than battle the traffic around JFK. And, bonus question, what are the best seats in the Eugene O'Neill in your opinion? Many thanks, C. Cameron

Charlie Suisman: Bonus question first: if I could sit exactly anywhere, I'd pick row E on the center aisle, or first row center mezz. About flying into the airports -- the truth is, it's never fun getting into Manhattan from any of the airports. But, even with horrendous traffic, it's never taken me more than 70 minutes to get in from JFK, and that's been the worst-case. The distance from La Guardia is shorter, but there are no non-stops to/from California.

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Lawrence, Kans.: We are going to be in NYC 12/25-12/30. Right now we are booked at the Radio City Apartments, but I am thinking it would really be more fun to find something in Soho, Tribeca, etc. Since it will be winter, we'd like to be somewhere where it is easy to walk to a cafe, shopping, etc. for those times we're just hanging out. Any suggestions? Thanks!

--Karen

Charlie Suisman: Soho and Tribeca don't have a lot of hotel options -- I think you're better off in the Village where you'll never be more than a few feet (!) from cafes, shopping, the subway etc. And from the Village, it's an easy walk to Soho and Tribeca.

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Charlie Suisman: I've really enjoyed this -- thanks for letting me talk about New York -- my favorite subject. Come visit -- I know you'll have a great time no matter what you do. For more info on New York, you can also check out my website, Manhattan User's Guide -- thanks for the great questions! Charlie Suisman