It’s the Most Wonderful… well… it’s the holidays and New York
Bob and Terry on Tour with The Family 2013
The Best of New York

I need to say something up front… I really, really love New York.

I love the state. I’ve lived in upstate New York, and I’ve experienced the incredible sense of community throughout. The big city, running the thruway along the Erie Canal, smaller cities and communities, the Canadian border, lake effect snow, and everywhere and everything about it is fantastic.

I love New York City. I think the layout is terrific. Most other cities… Boston and Los Angeles and Miami to name three… cannot approach it for the ability to take a breath, look around, and quickly understand where you are. Plus, I don’t know if there is another place in the world that can offer so much… from points of interest like the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building to the museums… from the shopping to the dining… the variety of neighborhoods, communities, and culture… and I haven’t even touched on the sports, the shows, and opportunities like subways and walking to really immerse yourself into the fabric of your surroundings. It is phenomenal. A brilliant city with amazing residents.

The fact remains, I feel I need to say this because if you simply read about the 2009 holiday visit… or portions of the daily journal from this 2013 family visit… or even some of my comments in this piece, well, it is quite possible you might think I don’t love New York. And that’s not true.

Mentioned Los Angeles. Mentioned Miami. Those are two cities I never got the hang of during past visits. Those are two cities where… while I hope to give both visits in the future, and sincerely hope for improved results… as of right now, the word love would not be used with reference to my experiences.

Mentioned Boston. I do love Boston. Incredible city. Great friends there… enjoyed some phenomenal meals and seen some fabulous things… love it. The layout, however, will drive you beyond batty. Roads twist and turn and, literally, rise and drop and even pass other streets without crossing. Roads end without warning but not as dead ends, then change names, only to pick up again blocks away. Insanity.

For New York it’s different. There are so many superb experiences from trips I’ve taken there—wonderful memories… especially a trip that involved Terry, Jay, Justin and I visiting the Statue of Liberty and the top of the World Trade Center—that when there is some sort of breakdown or frustration when I am there, it tends to be a bit more exposed. The highs are so incredible that disappointment means a tremendous low.

New York is magnificent. I will get there again, and I encourage all of you to visit as well.

What were your favorite things from the trip?

Bob: Visiting the Statue of Liberty was pretty cool. I’ve been to the top and enjoyed the view from the crown at least twice previously… and would have liked to have gone inside this time. But there are so many layers involved in getting reservations and tickets.

In a way, all over the world, the ease that is growing in making reservations and solidifying plans is taking a bit away from being able to spontaneously do anything. Just getting out to Liberty Island and walking around was great. And yet I don’t know if we could have done even that without having tickets ahead of time for the ferry.

The two dinners were really good, especially Don Giovanni’s on Saturday night. (Friday night was The Keg Room.)

Terry: I’m trying to remember the last time the Hockings—Mom and Dad along with Bobby, Kris and Kerri—were together. I’m sure there are some moments where everyone was in Rhode Island at the same time. I’m sure the kids, Nick and I were with those five for a real family event in the past couple of years. But as far as I can recall, it just might be 2005 and the Disney trip. So I really enjoyed having Nick and Kerri with the kids, Kris, Mom and Dad, and then Bobby and I all together.

For a specific thing, the Statue of Liberty really stands out.

Naya: The views from the Empire State Building.

Tamsin: The Empire State Building.

Ky: A little of everything. It was my first time there. M&M’s World, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty were all great.

Kerri: Just the overall spending of time with the family.

Nick: I feel like spending time with my wonderful wife, beautiful kids and fantastic in-laws is the correct answer. Instead, I’m going with the Statue of Liberty.

Mom: It’s pretty basic for me. I enjoyed the family being together, and being in the city allowed for me to be able to see how independent those children are. (Naya, Tamsin and Ky)

Dad: The Statue of Liberty.

What were you most impressed by on the trip?

Bob: You know… for possibly the first time since I started asking this type of a question, I’m kicking my answer around a bit. And it’s because of that seemingly love-hate relationship with New York.

As with the 2009 visit to New York, several individual moments really stand out as simply brilliant. Walking through Times Square… then continuing that walk down to Rockefeller Center. The next day a walk that began with emerging from (and then walking past the façade of) Grand Central Station and seeing the New York Public Library. Liberty Island. For what basically was not even 48-hours in New York with no Broadway shows involved, there are a few pretty sweet moments.

But… nothing in New York is purely sweet… it tends to also provide some bittersweet. And here’s an example of the bitter…

On Saturday night, Terry and I were toast. For reasons that don’t need expanding here, we had passed on waiting to head up the Empire State Building, broke off from the group, and trudged the two blocks back to the hotel room to rest up for dinner and whatever else Saturday evening might bring. After a few phone calls, the dinner meeting point had been arranged, and we set off from the room.

Now… most people will understand that New York is a very strange city. At time it is much, much easier to get around by foot than by virtually any other kind of transportation. And… when foot doesn’t work… you usually go to things like the subway or a taxi before you would ever think about taking your own car.

Our hotel was in a simply phenomenal location… on West 36th Street, between 5th Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas. Dinner had been set up at Don Giovanni Ristorante, which is located on West 44th between 8th and 9th. (Check out a map if you wish… locals are already nodding. It’s not a tremendous distance. It does border against being a significant distance. Depending on the flow of foot traffic swinging their elbows and swirling around you, any signals you might have to wait out to cross a road, your habit of stopping when gorgeous lights such as those in Times Square are in front of your eyes, and your walking pace, an estimate of 20 minutes seems about right.)

If you read the New York 2013 travel journal, you might recall that on Friday we had walked from our hotel to Times Square, over to Rockefeller Center, and then back up 5th Avenue to our hotel. Decent walks are not things we normally avoid.

Still… after walking on Friday, and then the journey around the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island on Saturday morning, a walk from Battery Park over to the Freedom Tower area, plus another walk from Grand Central Station to the Empire State Building and back to our hotel on Saturday afternoon… the idea of a casual, brisk, early evening stroll from West 36th to West 44th (including the three or more block difference from side to side that it would take… if you will, we weren’t just heading north-south, but a bit east-west as well) just wasn’t all that appealing.

So Tigg and I left our room, went to the front desk of the hotel, and asked about our options for a ride. We had no clue if the hotel offered any type of shuttle, van or car, and also weren’t certain if calling for a cab might be better than going outside and looking for one. A girl at the desk pointed to a gentleman emerging from an office a few feet away and said he could assist us.

Nope. She was mistaken. Instead of helping, he argued with us.

It started out as a geography lesson. Apparently we, the two tourists, didn’t understand our destination was walking distance from the hotel. We responded by saying we knew it was only a few blocks, but we didn’t want to walk it that night.

He repeated himself.

And then repeated himself again.

Each time he repeated himself with more emphasis on insisting we should want to walk, which he had apparently decided would be better than telling us we were bothering him. You know… because I’ll just assume he was thinking that Terry and I didn’t understand “Times Square is right there, and the restaurant is two blocks away from Times Square, and you can walk it as quickly as a ride will take” the first time. So he repeated it, with extra frustration. He certainly wasn’t repeating it just because he was a jackass.

As we stuck with our request, he adjusted his defense a bit to try to explain that it was so close that it wasn’t worth the money he would have to charge us for a car. And, cabs are hard to come by on West 36th.

It didn’t matter what we said, as each time his response involved us walking.

So we just walked away from him. We caught a cab at the corner of 36th and the Avenue of the Americas. Worked out just fine for us.

The point is… between our encounter with the tank in 2009 and this blockhead in 2013… there are moments about New York that you love and could never replicate in any other city, and, there are moments when you would love to roll up a newspaper and bop someone on the nose while forcefully saying “No! Stupid! No!” in the hopes that common sense might suddenly bless this person with a flash of the obvious and situational awareness. (Given our past two visits to the city, I feel comfortable saying the holiday season only seems to increase the numbers that could use a good swat on the nose.)

The point is—the impressive part—New York City is incredible. And yet it also will quite often leave you shaking your head in disbelief. There is very, very little middle ground.

Terry: New York!!!

(That’s it. The entire city.)

Naya: The size. I was impressed by how large, and overwhelming, the city was.

Tamsin: The M&M’s shop.

Ky: The differences between the stores. I mean the quality of them, but the contents too.

Kerri: Well… certainly not the elevator in our hotel.

I suppose the people with a fast pass at the Empire State Building. Jealous can look a lot like impressed.

Nick: That the Naked Cowboy is still there even when it’s below freezing.

Mom: The thing that sticks with me today is taking the subway. For whatever reason, I thought it would be more dangerous or difficult.

I enjoyed M&M’s World and seeing them in all colors.

And the Naked Cowboy was there on a really cold day. We saw him before, but it was warmer then. (What a way to make a living.)

Dad: The crowds, but it was Christmas time.

Best place to eat (overall)?

Bob: Don Giovanni’s. Drinks… appetizers… entrees… desserts… it was all delicious. And the prices, especially for a place so close to Times Square, were amazingly reasonable.

Terry: Don Giovanni’s. That was a great meal.

Naya: I’m just going to go with the Italian restaurant.

Tamsin: The Italian restaurant, Don Giovanni’s. They had really good pizza.

Ky: The sports bar across the street from the hotel. I liked the food and enjoyed watching all of the TVs.

(Bob’s note: Ky is referring The Keg Room. The place actually likes to refer to itself as an “American-Irish Bar and Restaurant” on its web site, but he’s not wrong… plenty of televisions broadcasting all types of sporting events, and the food was good.)

Kerri: I’d got with the Italian restaurant, Don Giovanni’s.

Nick: Italian restaurant. Loved it.

Mom: The Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to sit down in the French patisserie near Bryant Park.

Dad: Italian restaurant. The food was good, service was great, and thanks to Kris and Greta we had pretty much no wait.

Best place to eat (inexpensive)?

Bob: I’m going to stick with Don Giovanni here. Prices were fantastic overall… menu was good… food and service were terrific.

Terry: I agree with Bobby. The prices seemed really great at Don Giovanni’s, and when you add in the food and service it was quite reasonable.

Naya: Stuff on the side of the road.

(Bob’s note: Naya is a comedian. You’d have to be sitting with her to truly capture the wit and sarcasm in her comments, as the written word simply does not convey the message and its cleverness (and brilliance). When I asked her if she meant the carts with this answer, like the one where we had purchased some nuts on one of the days… a question that sent Mom off on an amazing tangent of previous trips to New York and food from street cart vendors… Naya responded by dryly saying she meant foraging through the garbage cans. Lovely.)

Tamsin: Maccas.

(Bob’s Note: McDonald’s.)

Ky: The free breakfast at the hotel.

Kerri: I suppose you can’t do better than free. I’d like to do better, but it was a quick trip and, unfortunately, Ky may have a point since we were there more than once.

Nick: Really inexpensive… free breakfast at the hotel.

Mom: Five Guys on the way home.

(Bob’s note: After hearing Naya answer this question, Mom wanted to add the carts on the side of the street. She actually meant the carts though, pointing out that we had stopped at least once during this trip, and that the carts are a part of the New York experience. Fair enough.)

Dad: It wasn’t in the city, but Five Guys on the ride home is the best answer for this trip.

Biggest surprise…

Bob: Years ago, I was discussing Las Vegas with a friend. It was ahead of my first visit to Vegas, and one of his nuggets of advice was to never be fooled by walking distances. Basically, his idea was that properties are so gargantuan that it shifted, altered, and totally distorted perspectives. You’d think you were getting ready for a nice little stroll from The Mirage over to Bellagio, and end up with over a half mile here and a half mile there to cover on the sidewalk alone. And then, Caesars Palace sticks out for this, you think you’re entering the building only to find out you’re just at some extremely on the outer edge doorway to the complex and have a beyond huge shopping mall to walk through before even reaching the first signs of the main portions of the building. Eventually, those half miles add up.

The thing is, Las Vegas never really caught us in that way. We walked… and walked a lot… but I don’t know that we really walked more than we thought we were going to travel based on expectations and views from the sidewalks. His warning was probably part of the reason in that reaction, since we had been warned.

New York is an entirely different concept, and yet the idea itself applies. Oh… it sounds fine when you consider setting off from near Rockefeller Plaza for the Empire State Building on foot. Depending on exactly where you are standing as you begin, that’s about 15 blocks and roughly a mile straight along 5th Avenue. Actually, it… takes… for-E-VER.

No matter where you are in New York, everything seems to be close, and yet you are consistently finding yourself a minimum of three blocks from where you want to be.

Don’t believe me? Ok…

Pull up your favorite map app or search engine option. Select Grand Central Station. Then take a look at, if you were there, how many blocks you’d be standing from the New York Public Library… or, consider walking to Times Square or Radio City Music Hall.

Three blocks here… seven blocks there… it’s all so tantalizingly close… and somehow, once you get started, every time you look up, Rockefeller Plaza and Central Park never seem any closer than when you started.

New York is one of the most sensibly designed major cities in the world. Streets one way… avenues the other… mostly numerical order for both. I told you not to be fooled by my comments in the efforts from this trip or even back in 2009… I LOVE New York City. But it will exhaust you, and can be amazingly, sinisterly deceptive when it comes to distances between point a and point b.

Terry: The line for the Empire State Building.

Naya: I don’t know. What should have surprised me?

Tamsin: Nothing.

Ky: The amount of stores for shopping. Especially those that seemed set up for women.

Kerri: The lines. New Year’s Eve was closing in and it was a weekend, still, it surprised me how many people were there in December after Christmas.

Nick: Length of queue at Empire State Building. (Not a good surprise.)

Mom: Seeing Nick out of work so early on Friday.

Dad: On the boat going to the Statue of Liberty, Nick met a co-worker from Australia.

You know, I never thought of this before, so I found it interesting when…

Bob: I always enjoy riding the subway.

When I do, it seems to happen in waves, and I end up out of practice and unfamiliar with the process or way too knowledgeable about it. In both Boston and New York during the 90s, I was in each city and riding the subway often enough that I became pretty comfortable with the process and figuring out the routes. It’s actually really easy in general, though there are certain parts to it such as different tracks and routes. After a few years of not riding them though… say 10 or so… they were both fascinating and scary as far as thinking about using them during this trip.

It was nice to use the subway a couple of times and get a bit of the feel back.

Terry: I don’t have an answer for this one.

The line for the Empire State Building surprised me, but otherwise there really wasn’t much that seemed unusual for this visit compared to others or to my expectations. We were there around the holidays, so the busy stores, crowded streets, and most other things involving lots of people didn’t really stun me. And we didn’t do anything so out of the ordinary that it created some amazing or unusual observations.

I do want to get back to the area around the World Trade Center site again, see the memorials and the new building. That was really interesting for the brief time we were in that location.

Naya: What?

Tamsin: I didn’t really learn anything

Ky: Going on the subway and the way we moved around. I always knew there were a lot of people.

Kerri: That you would need to investigate the speed of the elevators in your hotel before booking a reservation.

To be a bit serious, I was stunned about having to pay for pictures with the characters. I get the general idea, which is that these people are attempting this as a job and source of income. But after seeing someone dressed as Elmo not looking for tips after a picture but outright expecting to be paid in advance, I started noticing more stories about incidents involving this situation. Seems scary.

Nick: We struggled to find a restaurant in the whole of NY for dinner.

Mom: I know it was between the holidays, but the number of people still in the city on midweek days caught me by surprise. I suppose I expected some sort of down time for a day or two after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve.

Dad: When the elevator goes out, and you’re on the 19th floor, you have a problem.

If I had to recommend something that a person had to do, regardless of expense, I would say…

Bob: Landmarks are an easy response… so Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. Both can include not just some dollars, but also an investment of time.

Times Square isn’t necessarily expensive… hey, looks are free. (Character pictures are not.) But it can be monumentally annoying when it comes to navigating crowds. Same for Rockefeller Plaza, which is simply ridiculous around Christmas.

We didn’t do a Broadway show… but those are always worth noting as options.

From this trip? Staying away from the Statue of Liberty for something different? Don Giovanni and The Keg Room come out on top. Enjoyed eating at both places. Atmosphere was good at both. Staff was friendly at both. And we all seemed to unanimously enjoy both.

Terry: No clue. Every direction has something different to do, there is no way to do it all in a single visit, and on all of my visits to the city there has been something new that I hope to try again. So for the “regardless of expense” thought I can’t think of anything that stands out more than something else that a person wouldn’t already have in mind.

Since we are focusing on this trip though, I’ll go with the Statue of Liberty.

Naya: We weren’t there that long, and didn’t really do much. We did big things, but not lots of things. So I suppose I’d say the Empire State Building. Or, grab a lot of postcards.

Tamsin: The Empire State Building with express pass.

Ky: The M&M store, Empire State Building and Stature of Liberty.

Kerri: Pay extra when possible to cut all those stinking lines at the Empire State Building.

Nick: Empire State Building express pass.

Mom: The Statue of Liberty.

Dad: Hit the places we did and attend a Broadway show, which we could not due to time.

If I had to recommend something but expense did matter (so go cheaper), I would say…

Bob: For this one, we revisit the ideas expressed a moment ago, and pass along Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza. Both typically have something going on year round, and especially during the holidays. And the number of fantastic experiences you can have for free make both pretty sweet options.

The problem is that it’s just about next to impossible to not feel like cattle being shuttled from pen to pen in these places. So… many… people!

If you hop in the line for the M&M’s World in Times Square, I honestly believe that unless you are paying attention, and act assertively and decisively, it would be possible for you to be swept into the store, around the store, up and down escalators through the store, and out the other side of the store without coming within five feet of any products. In fact, that pretty much happened to us in 2009. And considering the flow of people continues, I can’t say for certain that it’s limited to being a holiday thing.

That understood… geez… New York is breathtaking. The architecture alone makes for some incredible sightseeing.

Midtown Manhattan… there’s my recommendation. Empire State Building… Broadway and Times Square… Grand Central Station, St. Patrick’s… there’s a lot to see on any corner of New York City, but for a day or two or three, you could stay here and see a ton.

Terry: I’m going to go with the Statue of Liberty and the boat ride to Liberty Island.

The entire package is pretty incredible. First, you get a fantastic visit to the Statue and the island. Second, the views of the city across the Hudson River are terrific. Third, our ferry went past Governor’s Island, plus you see Ellis Island, so the entire atmosphere of the history involved hits you.

Naya: Search through the garbage on the side of the street.

Tamsin: Chocolate shops (M&M’s and Hershey’s).

Ky: M&M’s in Times Square.

Kerri: Pack up food from the hotel buffet to use as snacks later.

Nick: Statue of Liberty.

Mom: Times Square at night.

Dad: I would say smaller meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and sneak between if you have to.

Thing that impressed me the most…

Bob: Midtown is something I always enjoy. I like Central Park… and I like the area in and around Battery Park and Lower Manhattan. But Midtown is just so diverse in everything from dining to shopping to entertainment to sightseeing. Always impressive.

Terry: I’ve been in Times Square before, but don’t ever recall seeing the ball for New Year’s Eve in place.

Naya: Learning about the Statue of Liberty, like that it is about two pennies thick.

Tamsin: The sheer amount of people that were there.

Ky: Times Square and how it lit up at night. Saw it during the day and at night, and it really stands out lit up.

Nick: Statue of Liberty.

Mom: I don’t recall ever seeing all of the things that were set up this time around the island when I’ve been to the Statue of Liberty before. Walking around, seeing exhibits and different views of the Statue and the city, that was interesting.

Dad: The ease to get around without using cabs, but know where to get on and off the subway.

Person/people that impressed me the most…

Bob: Hmm… probably should check my notes.

Our waitress at Don Giovanni was really nice. I thought she did a great job overall keeping up with a large party.

A few of the waitresses taking care of the breakfast buffet at the Hyatt were really good and very nice. (Trouble there was the food was just awful.)

Terry: I’m going with Bobby. (I love watching Tour Guide Bobby in action.)

On Friday afternoon we left the hotel and walked over to Times Square. The kids loved stopping at the McDonald’s… which, you know, wasn’t just McDonald’s. We were hungry and it was an absurdly busy place, though still a quicker alternative to waiting a minimum of more than hour for a table at another absurdly busy restaurant. All three kids loved stopping at “Maccas” that day though.

Anyway… out of Maccas, over to the M&M and Hershey stores… on to Rockefeller Plaza and seeing Christmas decorations along the way, including the tree… back up 5th Avenue to our hotel, with a quick stop to visit Patience and Fortitude at the New York Public Library. The route even allowed us to see the Lord & Taylor window displays.

There was a good deal of walking involved, but the whole thing seemed to just snap together with one moment after another lining up nicely and paced beautifully.

Somehow Bobby seems to do this on every trip. Recently it was Savannah… and even having been to Disney World with him before, I’ll be darned if he didn’t stun me again on our last visit there in April. Love traveling with him.

Naya: The Naked Cowboy.

Tamsin: Naked cowboy guy.

Ky: The first time through Times Square there was a huge crowd around some dancers in the street.

Nick: Anyone who can deal with NY on a daily basis and still be sane.

Mom: Naked Cowboy.

Dad: Everyone, being with family and enjoying something different together.

Event that impressed me the most…

Bob: Another good one to wonder about and ponder for a bit.

Dinner at Don Giovanni. Maybe because we kicked around a ton of thoughts and had to toss them all aside, and we entered this place not knowing much. Left really happy, thrilled with the meal, and impressed works as a description.

The boat trips to and from Liberty Island were fun… and the walk around the island and Statute of Liberty was interesting. Enjoyed all of that.

Terry: Everything associated with the Statue of Liberty.

Naya: Going to the Empire State Building.

Tamsin: Chocolate.

Ky: Everything about the Statue of Liberty… walking around and seeing all of the facts and stories.

Nick: Bumping into someone I work with from Sydney, Australia, while on the ferry in New York.

Mom: The lights at night. By the time we came out of the restaurant on Saturday, it was evening and Times Square was lit up. Even though we were a few blocks away, we were close enough that there were lights to see as we walked a bit before getting a cab. And, it was great looking out the window and seeing it as we rode back to the hotel.

And I did enjoy the ride. Ky and Nick walked it, and I was a bit jealous because it would have been nice to see and wander around, but I won’t complain. (I never would have done it and gotten back to the hotel as quickly as those two boys did.)

Dad: Getting in and out of New York traffic.

Thing I’m really glad we included…

Bob: The dinner in Times Square at Don Giovanni.

The walk on Friday… Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, and 5th Avenue past Lord & Taylor… was nice.

I’m tempted to say the Statue of Liberty… since we all seem to have enjoyed it, but… if you can follow the idea, we didn’t truly do the Statue of Liberty. We did Liberty Island and saw the Statue of Liberty. We didn’t have reservations to enter the pedestal or the statue.

Terry: Bob and I decided to pass on it, but the Empire State Building is something I am really glad the kids were able to do.

Naya: The M&M’s store.

Tamsin: Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and the chocolate shops.

Ky: Even with the long line, I liked the trip to the Empire State Building.

Kerri: The ferry trip and Statue of Liberty.

I am SO happy we booked tickets in advance online as lines there to buy/etc. are too long. And, we pretty much moved along. If you hadn’t done anything in advance, if you can even get tickets your departure time is going to be a lot later then the time you arrived to be there to buy your ticket. For example, if you buy onsite you might buy them at 10am and then end up with a 2pm departure to Liberty Island. Even if you decide to do something with those hours, you still end up in extra lines and having to carve out time to do things like picking up the tickets. When you buy online, you basically need to show up to get your tickets just a bit prior to the departure time. There’s more to it (picking up the tickets, security checks), but the idea works. Advance sales are better. Not even close better.

Nick: Statue of Liberty and Times Square.

Mom: I’m glad we got there with the kids, and saw Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza decorated for the holidays.

Dad: Being able to get to New York, because my granddaughter wanted to go there and we were able to accomplish it for her.

Thing I wish we had done…

Bob: Gone up the Empire State Building.

You could add in seeing a Broadway show. Been too long since I’ve done that. And, there are a few museums I’d like to check out.

Terry: Getting me to the top of the Empire State Building.

Naya: Gone in the Statue of Liberty.

Tamsin: Big Toys-R-Us shop.

Ky: Seen the view from the top of the Statue of Liberty.

Kerri: I would like to have climbed inside the Statue of Liberty. And, I would have liked more time at the World Trade Center site and maybe a tour of the area.

Nick: 9/11 Memorial.

Mom: The thing I would have liked to do was go to a show on Broadway. Just not enough time to fit everything in.

Dad: The memorial for 9/11 would be my choice.

Suggestions from this experience…

Bob: There is so much to do in New York City that you really need to plan ahead of time… even if for just one or two pieces of a trip.

Could be tickets for a show, or reservations for something… might be to see what is scheduled or going on. It doesn’t mean you have to plan. You don’t. I believe as fact that you could pick a way onto Manhattan completely at random… bridge, tunnel, whatever… park your car in the first space you see, never leave a five block radius of that parking spot, and have a brilliant visit, eat delicious food, and leave after a complete day of simply amazing experiences. (Not exactly true, but I’ll let the statement stand.)

In such a large city, with so many tourists heading in the same day you are, it’s only reasonable to think that those tourists are going to be looking at many of the same things you have on your list.

Terry: Do your homework for the Empire State Building and book your tickets.

Naya: Stay away from Bobby after a trip. He asks heaps of questions.

Tamsin: Do everything and don’t do it near Christmas.

Ky: Book your tickets and hotel early. This is especially true for the Empire State Building. You do not want to wait in those lines.

Kerri: Probably what you would expect. Spontaneous is nice, but planning ahead for the big things will help.

Book things for the World Trade Center, Freedom Tower, 9/11 memorials and so on in advance. Buy express tickets for the Empire State Building as the extra few dollars can save you hours of time.

Apply this idea to your thoughts for travel into New York. Maybe you want to see a certain show, visit a museum, eat at a specific restaurant. If that something is going to be a centerpiece of the trip for you, like the Statue of Liberty for us, you really need to see what the process is for getting there and at least consider the options available.

Also have a good idea of where you’re going and know whether walk, take a taxi or use other transport. All the different styles have their merits, and each can be quicker than another, but understanding them can save wear and tear on your legs, give you more time to do other things, and keep your spirits up.

Nick: Don’t travel with your in-laws. (Only joking.) If going to New York, plan your trip well otherwise you can miss out on a lot of things and pay a lot for hotels, etc.

Mom: Making plans for a few things.

It definitely helped us to have our Statue of Liberty tickets already. And I would have liked to have seen Lion King, or something else on Broadway or at Radio City Music Hall if that was possible. We didn’t really have much time on such a short trip, but I think if we knew the show was set for a certain point we could have built around it.

Dad: If you want to do something, just flat out do it and enjoy yourself.

Sure, this will be set up as a best of column, but you should always warn people about the bad, so here is something I think we need to mention…

Bob: Granted… Christmas holiday week. Still… I don’t ever recall seeing lines like those waiting for the Liberty Island ferry or Empire State Building on any of my previous visits to those places.

Also… trying to guide our group to meals could have been much more of a headache than it was. Actually… scratch that… it absolutely should have been more of a nightmare than it was. With that in mind... I give you, sitting at the bar. And here’s what I mean…

Just about every place we went had a bar. And, as you are likely familiar with the custom, it sure seemed like the you would be “welcome to sit at the bar until your table is ready” approach was in order at all of these places. And… here we go… if we were a group of two, or three or four and watching a game… from what I could see, those bars were offering full menu service. Easy seating just about right away, food service, and all available by sitting at the bar.

We were a large group though. With kids. Didn’t work. Worth mentioning.

Terry: The Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty really showed how much planning might need to be done ahead of time, especially if you are heading in to the city when you know there will be lots of people.

Naya: The stupid elevator.

Tamsin: When seeing the Naked Cowboy do not look down.

Ky: I remember Krissie breaking the elevator.

Kerri: Again… those annoying characters trying to take photos with you actually want money! No, wait, they actually expect money.

Also how long the elevators took in our lift. Way too small and slow for the size of most hotels. You shouldn’t have to wait 15-plus minutes just for one of two elevators to get you while you contemplate how many flights you’d have to walk and would it just be easier to walk the stairs instead of waiting each time.

Also this could be bad or good depending on how you look at it… you can see directly into the building across from your hotel room, from offices to other people’s apartments. You never know what you will see or what they can see happening in yours. We saw that some of them had telescopes, so no idea what everyone sees.

Nick: Research your hotels in New York well as there is a huge difference in price and features.

Mom: Empire State Building when there is a long line. I would have spent more and bought the tour ticket outside in the street. Those people really just walked right in. We watched them!

Dad: Give yourself plenty of time and make sure to plan for an occasional problem. (Subway fun as one example of where things can easily go off path.)

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