New York City 12/04

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Takin' a bite out of the Christmas apple...

Night view from Empire State Building

Twas two weeks before Christmas... Ben had just finished his first quarter at UCSB, so off we went for the almost annual Ben and Wayne end-of-year sojourn. This year we did New York City in all its pre-Christmas glory. We stayed mid-town so we could walk a lot of places and shifted our sleep to fit late hours. In the afternoons we visited movie locations from Spiderman and did some tourist venues. In the nights we did entertainment and meals and then in the late nights we soaked up the energy of the city and its people in and around Times Square.

Sunday December 12th

Our flight into JFK arrived at 7:30pm. It took about an hour to taxi to our hotel, the Royal Rihga, located five blocks south of Central Park. After a quick turnaround in the room, we walked down to Times Square. The streets were packed with Christmas shoppers, city people and tourists (first and second pictures below). After scouting dinner spots, we headed east on 42nd Street to Grand Central Station, it's ticket booths at night being one of our movie location sites (third & fourth pictures below).


Ben & Wayne's 'late show' NYC trip

We bought subway passes for the next day there - unlimited one-day Metrocards go for $7 - a bargain. From Grand Central, we turned back on 42nd Street to catch another nighttime movie location, the New York Public Library (first picture below). We grabbed dinner just after midnight overlooking Times Square at the surprisingly good Bubba Gump's and then hung around 7th Avenue and Broadway watching street performers (second picture below - I call this one "in motion") before heading back to the hotel for the night.


Monday December 13th

Up at the crack of 11am, we ate breakfast at the hotel and headed downtown on the subway to try and visit the Statue of Liberty. There's a lot of misinformation about visiting the statue on the internet. Here's the real story: You have to get to Battery Park very early to get a time pass for that day. Without a time pass, you can't go inside the statue. The ferry to Liberty Island is run by Circle Line and you can pre-reserve a time pass and ferry ticket for $10 on the internet two days or more ahead of when you want to go. I ended up booking reservations at the hotel that night for Wednesday. From Battery Park we walked up to the World Trade Center Site, which holds a lot of significance to me. The site itself just looks like a construction site now except for the memorials (third and fourth pictures below).

We took the subway uptown to Soho, walked around a bit and ate a late lunch at the Moondance Diner, another Spiderman movie site (first picture below). From there we headed uptown to Greenwich Village and walked the crowded streets over to Washington Square, a favorite New York City spot of mine ever since I first wolfed down pizza slices there during a summer college trip (second and third pictures below). Daylight was starting to fade as we continued uptown past the Flatiron Building, another Spiderman movie location (fourth picture below). After a quick stop at the Museum of Sex, to field test Ben's ID as a new 18 year old, we headed to the observation deck of the Empire State Building for a very cold and windy night view of the city (large picture top of page left overlooking the Chrysler Building).

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Rockefeller Center and passed Radio City Music Hall, decked out in their Christmas garb (first and second pictures below). After a quick turnaround, we headed back out around 9pm trying to find a particular movie location in the 50th Street & Broadway subway stations, without success. We grabbed dinner at the Roxy Deli on Times Square (famous, but expensive Rueben sandwiches, which stood up well to their reputation) and then headed east past Grand Central on 42nd Street trying to find a hotel lobby movie location at the Hyatt Grand, without success. After a stop at the Christmas park behind the Library, we headed back to Times Square for caffeine fixes at Starbucks and then wandered between groups of street performers until about 1am (third picture below).

Tuesday December 14th

I headed out alone at 10am to try to find some play tickets for that night. I have often had luck on Broadway getting singles or obstructed view tickets on the day of the play at the box offices. They just laughed at the "Wicked" box office - sold out for months - singles go to relatives & friends, but I got lucky with "Fiddler On the Roof" (starring Alfred Molina from Spiderman 2 as Tevye, no less), walking into the box office just as 2 tickets were turned in, 4th row center. Having secured the evening's entertainment, both of us headed out of the hotel at about 11am. We made a quick stop at the Trump Tower lobby on our way to the Queensboro Bridge and Roosevelt Island tramway, a major Spiderman movie location. A bit of trivia: the Queensboro Bridge is actually the 59th Street Bridge in the Simon and Garfunkel song of the same name. So, even without particularly 'Feelin Groovy', we took the tram (fourth picture above) across to Roosevelt Island (first picture below) where we saw the locations of some of the fights and the building that was blown up near the end of Spiderman. Back in Manhattan by mid-afternoon, we headed to Rockefeller Center again (second picture below) to find a roof garden location, but none of the roof gardens were open to the public. Across the street, Saint Patrick's was the next Spiderman location (third picture below). As night set in we subwayed up to Central Park West, walked by the Dakota entrance where John Lennon was killed and then walked through "Strawberry Fields" in Central Park. This can be a powerful place for those of us from the Beatles generation (fourth picture below, getting my own images). We grabbed pizza at Ray's for dinner and then went to the play, which was very well done. After the play, we wandered Times Square again, grabbed cheesecake and coffee at a diner and then headed back to the hotel for the night.

Wednesday December 15th

Waking up late again, we grabbed a quick breakfast and walked around the corner to the Museum of Modern Art, recently reopened in its new quarters. The MOMA has always had an unmatched collection and has been a long-time favorite of mine. The new building makes it even better (first picture below standing in front of one of my favorite Picassos - the Guitar). At around 1pm we subwayed downtown to Battery Park to start our Statue of Liberty ferry trip and tour. A Ranger tour is included with the Circle Line tickets outside and at both levels of the Statue. It was cold and windy on Liberty Island and waiting for and then enduring the seemingly endless Ranger tour outside was painful. We didn't realize that we could have just skipped the tour by showing our time pass at security and walking in. Having learned the cold-hard way already, we did the Statue without the tours at the base and top of the pedestal. You can only take the elevator through the pedestal to the base of the actual Statue - no further. You can't even enter the steps up to the crown any more. They say that's because they couldn't evacuate the steps fast enough in an emergency - ridiculous. From the top of the pedestal, you can see the spiral staircase and up into the statue's superstructure (second picture below). The whole Statue of Liberty visit could be done well in a half an hour, but instead it took hours. The ferry stops at Ellis Island on the way back to Battery Park (third picture below, view from Ellis Island, fourth picture below from the front of the statue). We grabbed dinner at a deli off Broadway and later met relatives at the Old Castle Pub near our hotel for drinks and snacks. On our last late-night, we wandered Times Square again, twice stopping by the late-night Starbucks on 7th Ave and Broadway to warm up. Thursday we hung around the hotel before our flight back to LA.

All in all, not a bad father-son bite of the big apple pre-Christmas.

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