New York City; The ultimate people watching trip

Visit New York City; the city never sleeps, providing the ultimate people watching trip

We had not been to New York City for several years; armed  with air miles and Marriott points we booked a laid-back one week vacation for our wedding anniversary. Planning the ultimate people watching trip, we decided to focus on Times Square, the south end of Manhattan/Battery Park and the Staten Island Ferry, the 911 Memorial, High Line park, Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Central Park, Little Italy and splurge on a couple of luxury evenings. Those included the performance of Madame Butterfly by the Metropolitan Opera and the Broadway show Tootsie, along with several fancy dinners out.

First things first: fly into Kennedy Airport, buy the five dollar Air Train ticket to reach the Jamaica Station of the New York subway and buy a week-long subway pass. No need for a rental car; the subway will get you anywhere in the city within about four blocks. Subway stations are a treat by themselves, full of New Yorkers from all walks of life, talented street performers and a few decidedly-eccentric people. One of our early experiences included a subway singer with a good Frank Sinatra-type voice, who crooned a tune and then proceeded to cuss out nearby passersby for not giving him a donation. Seldom a  dull moment.

Spouse Susan, on New York Subway, heading home from dinner in Little Italy.
New York City Subway map; with a bit of practice, you can find a subway line that will take you anywhere in Manhattan or Brooklyn, within about 4-5 blocks.

On our first full day, we took the subway in the direction of the financial district and the 911 Memorial, found a nifty place for lunch, Nancy’s Whiskey Pub (neighborhood pubs with good food are found On almost every block), then walked to the 9-11 Memorial. As it has been on previous visits, always a sobering and heartfelt experience.

The 9-11 Memorial, at base of the North Tower.

We then walked south to the Battery, one of the four original forts surrounding Manhattan Island for security from invasion, and then took the Staten Island Ferry (it’s free) across to Staten Island, spent a little time and returned on the same craft. The views of the Statue of Liberty, adjacent Ellis Island and Freedom Tower are spectacular, making for great photo ops, as well as interesting people watching on the boat itself.

The Statue of Liberty, with a passing Staten Island Ferry,
shot from deck of another Staten Island Ferry (free rides)

We spent the next day shopping in the Times Square area, with towering bright lights and always packed with people from early morning right up to 11 o’clock at night. We checked out the TKTS ticket booth just before 3 o’clock, where many Broadway shows go on sale for that night, at 30 to 50% off. We would come back a few days later and buy tickets to Tootsie, a delightful show.

Susan, in Times Square, about to check the TKTS booth for discounts on that night’s Broadway shows.

In our seven days we dined at a number of restaurants, but the one you arguably shouldn’t miss is Carmines on 44th Street near Times Square, a boisterous, large Italian stalwart where the orders are huge – our plate of linguine and clams would feed four people. We took about 2/3 of the food with us to our hotel suite for lunch later in the week.

Another day we took an early afternoon subway over to Brooklyn and walked about five blocks to near the Brooklyn Bridge, then south to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This elevated, 10 block-long Park looks west across the East River for stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. We dined at a nice restaurant on Montague Street, the Custom House, then walked back to the Promenade after dark and reveled in an absolutely spectacular night view of Manhattan. A 9 PM ride on the subway was packed with both tourists and workers returning from their jobs.

Manhattan skyline, taken from Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Central Park was on our destinations list, and we spent a half-day wandering through the woodsy trails, rock climbers climbing on the crags, enjoying street musicians, admiring horse drawn carriages, boaters enjoying The Lake, then headed west and walked a mile south along Columbus Avenue, lined with shops and eateries, where we dined in Guyer’s, a most interesting neighborhood bar, complete with a talkative Russian bartender doing her hair with a curling iron between pouring drinks.

Because it was our wedding anniversary, we splurged on tickets to Madam Butterfly staged by the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. It was a stunning production, full of pomp and majesty, though opera glasses would have improved our view from this huge, 4100 seat theater. Prior to the production, we dined at the Atlantic Grill, an intimate and impressive restaurant just a few blocks away from the opera.

Lincoln Center fountain, outside the showing of Madam Butterfly by the Metropolitan Opera.

Our week included several other adventures, including a morning hike along the High Line Trail, a marvelous city park converted from an elevated freight-train line, running from the Meatpacking District 1.5 miles north to Hudson Yards. Here the new art installation, The Vessel, draws huge crowds to admire its multi-tiered structure, and (for those who get a free online ticket), the chance to climb it’s hundreds of cantilevered steps for one of the best views on the west side. Alas, we had not ordered tickets in advance and they were sold out for the day.

Other options included a walking tour to the New York Public Library at 42nd St., with marvelous ceiling frescoes in its stately halls, nearby Grand Central Station and it’s cavernous food court complete with Oyster Bar and nearby Bryant Park where people congregate (the carousel will delight children). Or, do a subway ride/walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge, then head north to the United Nations building along the East River. And with a host of sports teams, including baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and football, never a dull moment!

The carousel in Bryant Park is a favorite for kids!
Crowd on the High Line Trail.

For more info: New York City,

Contact Tim at or follow him at Happy travels in your world!

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