Saturday, August 31, 2013

2 1/2 Days in New York City - Part 1 of 2

On Monday, my cousin's son was having a religious ceremony done, so my wife and I traveled to New York for a long-ish weekend of fun and family.  This was going to be a pretty quick trip, leaving Saturday afternoon and coming back Monday evening, with a full schedule thanks to lunch with Prita's friend and a surprise party for my cousin on Sunday.  It's been a few years since we've been to NYC, so we decided to pack in as much as we possibly could (not the most brilliant idea, in hindsight).

I intended to do this as one post, but quickly realized it was getting long in the tooth, so I broke it up in to 2.  The first post will cover our first day, last Saturday, August 24th.

Day 1 - Saturday, 8/24/13

Our quick vacation would start with a 1/2 day on Saturday, with our flight out scheduled for a little after 1 P.M.  Having already blown most of our vacation budget for the year, I decided to use frequent flyer miles to get up to New York and back, and had just enough left over on United to do first class on the way up.  One of the benefits of flying first class is you get fed (yes, it's airline food, but I'm never one to turn down free food, and it did let us get to the airport just a little bit later).  Dallas to Newark was an old Continental Airlines route, and Continental used to be well-known for serving cheeseburgers on their flights, even in coach before meal service was cut back in steerage a couple of years ago.  Sure enough, cheeseburgers it was.

The bun was a bit hard - perhaps a little too long in the on-board oven - but the burger itself was actually pretty tasty.  The meal also came with a southwestern chicken soup.  It was really more like a spicy cheese dip than a soup, but I love spicy cheese dip, so it worked.  Overall, this is about as good as it gets, at least for airline food.

The rest of the flight was uneventful.  Those who know me know that I'm something of an amateur meteorologist, so naturally, I just had to snap some photos of some weather off to our south while en route.

A little later, we had some nice views of Philadelphia, and finally, New York City to our right as we approached the airport.

We arrived about 20 minutes ahead of schedule, a little before 6:30, and headed straight for the hotel shuttle bus area.  Unfortunately, we found out that the shuttles to our hotel, the Hilton Newark Penn Station, only ran once an hour, and we missed the last one by about 10 minutes.  We just decided to wait.  The hotel itself was fine.  The rooms are pretty small and basic, but the staff are friendly, and most importantly, it is connected to Newark Penn Station, which means just a short walk across a skybridge to catch a train to NYC or other points in North Jersey.  Very convenient, especially after a long night in the city, as we'd soon find out.

It was close to 8:00 by the time we got to our room, so we were both just about ready for dinner.  I had a craving for some crappy, greasy street pizza, and my wife wanted pasta, so we decided to head to the City (Newark really isn't a city you want to roam around at night unless you know where you're going).  This would also give us a good opportunity to see Times Square at night.  So we walked across to Penn Station and hopped on the PATH train ( to 33rd Street Station, at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue in Midtown.  About 40 minutes and $2.25 each later, we were in Midtown.

A note about PATH, though - during the week, a normal ride from Newark Penn Station to either the World Trade Center or 33rd Street takes about 25 and 30 minutes, respectively.  However, the Port Authority conducts quite a bit of construction on late nights and weekends to repair lingering Sandy storm damage.  Trains can either be delayed, or sometimes just get skipped entirely.  Our trip in to NYC was delayed by about 10 minutes, but we'd have a somewhat more adventurous time getting home the next night.  Just keep that in mind if you are staying over the weekend, and check the website for service advisories, like I wish we had.  If service is significantly delayed, you can take NJ Transit instead ( to New York Penn Station, for $5 per person one way.

We stepped out into a beautiful night for walking (about 70 degrees and no humidity), and headed north on Broadway to walk to Times Square.  It didn't take long to find a place to get my crappy, greasy pizza, at Pronto Pizza (corner of 36th and Broadway).  I must say, two slices of this really hit the spot.

So greasy you have to fold it to eat it - just what I was looking for!

Helpful hint if you are walking around Times Square around mealtime:  don't eat in the immediate area around Times Square itself.  As the tourist mecca of NYC, you pay dearly for the privilege, like the $25 I spent for a reuben sandwich at the Roxy Delicatessen the last time I visited Times Square.  It was a good sandwich, but not that good.  Walk just a few blocks away in any direction, and you can get the same food at 1/2 the price.

With a belly now full of grease, we made the rest of the short walk to Times Square.  When you come to New York, you have to visit Times Square.  Just beware, it's a pretty insane place.  It's one of the few places in America that's somewhat comparable to India, at least as far as the constant crush of people go.  All the neon lights make it a good place to take the kids for a walk to keep them entertained, though (there are even roving Di$ney characters to take pictures with).

Mission for the night accomplished, we walked down 7th Avenue to the famous Midtown Macy's at 34th Street (mainly to burn off the pizza grease), to catch the subway to the World Trade Center to get a PATH train back to Newark.  The construction gremlin got us, though.  There was supposed to be a train at 11:12 and then another at 11:27, but the 11:12 didn't show up, and the 11:27 didn't make it until 11:35.  Fortunately, all we had to do was walk across the skybridge to get back to the hotel, and with no plans until noon the next day, we really didn't care.

In Part 2, I'll cover the last day and a half of our short vacay.

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