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Trip Report: NYC April 2023

Recently returned from a whole week in NYC, my first visit since 1990. My first visit was 1980 and that was kind of grim city, lots of graffiti, litter, and urine stink. Things were much better by 1990, and even better today.

Safety: I had some people who asked about safety, honestly, took the subway 15 times and walked everywhere else and always felt safe (because I was safe, never saw or experienced anything). It's a let your cell phone sit on the restaurant table and keep your wallet in your back pocket kind of place. I've spent 28 days nights in Manhattan over the years and never an incident of any kind, personal or seen. Note that I have spent less time in Paris, Rome, Madrid, and Barcelona combined and have had lots of person experiences in those places: 2 attempted pickpocketings, 1 attempted scam at the metro ticket machine, 1 petition/pickpocket scam, and seen several other attempts, plus stories from friends. To me it's a no brainer that New York is safer than those four cities, at least for tourists doing touristy things.

Day 1: I always get the window seat and sometimes flying into LaGuardia the payoff is huge. Flew out past Staten Island and did a 180 turn and then the slow fly up the Hudson, all the bridges, all the skyscrapers-- it's magnificent. Saw the parked Trump plane while landing. I am a transit guy (and the last time at was at LGA and used a taxi he got lost!) so skipped the taxi/Uber line and took the free shuttle to Jackson Heights. If I knew the address where George Santos (supposedly) lived here as a toddler I would have walked by, but didn't have it. Saw on Google Maps an Indian restaurant called Angel with a 4.8 rating right at the bus stop, so we headed in with our bags and I experienced my first NYC dining shed, those temporary covid era shelters erected right in a driving/parking lane and still standing, allowing al fresco dining all over the city. The Indian food was just wonderful, so spicy and authentic (as authentic as non-veg can be). Then it was into the subway, much cleaner than I have ever experienced, no odors. They have contactless payment so no special plastic cards or tickets to buy, really handy. Arrived at apartment in the East Village. Ate at a French restaurant, it was good and expensive. The expat French community is really big in NYC. We even visited a bakery near the apartment that ships in French flour (we watched it unloaded, a lot of time in NYC is spent watching deliveries being made) for a very authentic baguette and pain au chocolat.

Posted by
11350 posts

Grew up very near there. Thanks for this wonderful report on a place I love.

Posted by
4589 posts

Day 2: Got a bit oriented, found a fairly scary food market with 20" wide aisles and then shelves going up 12 feet with special grabbers to pluck down stuff. There were better places to buy food we found out later. Sometimes you have to do the touristy things and we decided to eat lunch at Katz's, the wait was long and it was good, but it's a production and lots of being jostled. The bulk of the day was devoted to attending The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It was fun to be in the audience (row 4, about 20 yards from the desk) but the whole thing takes about 4 hours of this line then that line, then the warm up act, then the band plays, you get lots of directions. The show itself goes fast. It was fun to see the astronauts being interviewed.

Day 3: I got a membership to the Metropolitan Museum, and they had member-only hours Thursday morning so I enjoyed that a great deal, got to spend time with Monets and Pissaros and Van Goghs practically by myself. Then spent another 2 hours in the Asia collection. Sat under the flowering magnolias behind the Met by the Egyptian obelisk. Ate at a fine restaurant in Little Italy, Da Gennero.

Day 4: Went to the south end of Manhattan, visited the 9-11 Memorial, moving, there's a lot there like the tree that survived, and the relocated sphere sculpture that also survived. Walked though the Occulus, which for some reason played awful muzak inside. Walked to Wall Street which has become a pedestrianized place blocked off to cars, like Times Square. With all the bike lanes, plus the dining sheds and the pedestrianized areas NYC has transformed to a pedestrian paradise. Cars whooshing by the curb at high speed are a thing of the past, that movie where Cary Grant's car splashes Doris Day walking down the street couldn't happen today. Toured the federal building on the site of the first US Capitol, interesting, walked down to the place where my Swedish ancestors arrived, now called Castle Clinton, hard to picture how it was when millions of immigrants arrived and it had a roof. I had already visited where my first ancestors arrived in Baltimore, and also Ellis Island, where my last immigrant ancestors arrived.

For a show we attended Wicked. The last 10 minutes of the first half is sensational, but I thought it all got a little contrived in the second half. Walked around Washington Square, noted that a union had placed fresh flowers by the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire building, the anniversary was the week before. Walked to West Village and ate at another dining shed with great Mexican food.

Posted by
2474 posts

Aww, Stephen Colbert! And having the Met practically to yourself! Sounds fantastic.

Posted by
6609 posts

Enjoying this a lot, Tom. I spent a summer at 2nd and East 4th, then six more years in Manhattan, in the 1970s when things were a little scarier I guess. Worked near the Triangle factory site. Some of my Dutch ancestors are buried at Trinity Church. So you've been hitting my high spots, for me a nostalgia tour by proxy. LGA seems much improved too. Look forward to more.

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4589 posts

Day 5: This was our trek to the north end of Manhattan day. Started out touring the Alexander Hamilton House at the edge of Harlem in a park, pretty setting, tour is free. Then we set off for the Cloisters but the A subway line was closed north of 165th St so we switched to the 1 subway line and things really went south, although we met people, NYC is quite a friendly place really. We exited the 191st St subway the wrong way, up the elevators. A kind older lady helped us out with perplexing directions, couldn't quite follow them but we got the first part: back into the subway elevator, then the passageway around, and voila, there was at least a 600 yard long tunnel, straight, that took us out to Broadway, then another guy helped us with the next step: you have to get to the 190th St subway (A line) and although it's closed the elevator (yes, a second elevator) will take us up to the top, about a half mile from the Cloisters. We found the door in the cliff and the tunnel to another elevator, then once at the top picked our way through Tryon Park and finally found the Cloisters (although the entrance is hidden a bit). Next time I will take the M4 bus, it goes right to the door.

I have to say although this place enchanted me as a youngster, having now been to Europe the mish mash of different buildings relocated from Spain and France, and art from countries all over Europe-- it didn't really work that well for me now. However the tapestries are wonderful and so are the views up and down the Hudson.

Day 6: A return to the Met, this time for the Egyptian and American collections. The relocated structures from Egypt, a temple and two tombs, are pretty amazing. I suppose only the Louvre rivals the Met in collection size and depth. Finished the day walking the High Line with thousands of European tourists, it was really jammed with people.

Final note: LaGuardia is really nice now, it's been completely rebuilt and it's a gem.

Posted by
2267 posts

Tom, What a well-put-together report on what sounds like a great trip. Nothing like a subway fiasco to guarantee an authentic NYC experience!

I really appreciate you leading with notes on personal safety. There are too many misinformed people with unjustified fear of the city.

Posted by
9429 posts

I felt perfectly safe in NYC as a tourist, and used the subway a lot, but i disagree it is “safer” than Paris, my hometown. If you know not to do dumb things with your phone, wallet, purse, fall for scammers, Paris is much safer than NYC, particularly when it comes to physical safety. Much safer than SF too. It doesn’t deter me though, i still love SF and NYC.

Really enjoyed your report, sounds like a very fun week. SF has lots of outdoor dining shelters in parking spots on the street too, never heard them called “sheds” though, lol.

Posted by
4589 posts

There are too many misinformed people with unjustified fear of the city.

Way too many, including family members (who watch Vixen News) and wanted my first hand report. I can see that national and international "news" media besmirch American cities to feed (racist) fears for political ends. You would think there's a limit to indecency, but I guess not.

not to do dumb things

I understand where the comment is coming from, but is walking past the Louvre on the sidewalk wearing a backpack "a dumb thing"? I mention this instance because a friend we met at the French restaurant mentioned above related a recent story of losing a wallet pulled out of a backpack she was wearing walking on that Paris street by the Louvre. We were all thinking "never in New York." I am also reminded of a poll I once saw of Parisian top ten wishes for tourists to change behaviors, #2 was "Stop getting robbed." I'm thinking maybe "Stop tolerating thieves" is the better change to be made.

My point is that some people consider New York or other American city as too dangerous without relying on any real data to form that opinion, other than biased news reporting and decades of watching cop shows. When the same people don't consider Paris or the other cities I mentioned as having real tourist crime pressure, to the point that people like me experience it, and see it, and hear first hand about it.

Posted by
2267 posts

Standing Ovation for that last set of comments, Tom!

If we could tag people here I'd have to refrain from passive-aggressively tagging fourm members who are guilty of /complicit in perpetuating this fear-mongering.

You would think there's a limit to indecency

Hope springs eternal?

Posted by
3290 posts

Thanks for posting! I'm looking forward to my next trip to NYC. Personally, I've always felt perfectly safe there.

Posted by
723 posts

I love NYC--I have been there many times for work and vacation. There's just so much to do there. Thanks for your report.

Posted by
9429 posts

Hi Tom, yes, having your wallet in a backpack on your back is dumb. Definitely Paris, Rome, Barcelona and others are much more pickpocket risky, tourists need to know that and know how to carry their money, credit cards, passports, smartphones so they aren’t taken. But physical safety is riskier in SF, NYC, etc than in Paris. But like i said, i love NYC and SF, and i love being there.

Posted by
979 posts

Thanks Tom for sharing your trip report. Went to NYC last December for the holidays and it was magical. You have given me a lot of ideas for my next visit.

Posted by
1501 posts

I enjoyed your trip report. I am thinking of adding a quick trip to NYC this fall for a first trip to the Met and a show.

I agree that there is a lot of fear mongering, the recent response to the "riots" in Paris being a prime example. I have never been the victim of personal theft or physical violence when traveling, but I came close in a NYC subway car.

I was with my then 16 year old son. I was approached by a clearly mentally ill person who demanded money from me. As he was explaining to me why he deserved to have my money I was quickly exploring my options. The seats were full of people in baseball attire on their way to a game and my son and I were standing. Interestingly, all those strong burly sports fans were avoiding looking at me being verbally accosted. Luckily, there was a shift of bodies at a stop and I was able to remove myself from the situation. I will travel again to NYC without hesitation, but I am a wiser traveler now than I was then. Based on my personal experience, though, I wouldn't call NYC safer than Paris. I have no idea what the statistics are.

Posted by
2267 posts

The only New Yorker to ever try to steal from me was my ex.

Hahahah!

(Joking. But also not...)

Posted by
4589 posts

a first trip to the Met

Assuming you mean the Museum (and not the Opera), the reasons I got a membership:

  1. Out-of-state is no longer donation only, it's $30 per person per day.

  2. Members can bring in one guest free.

  3. Membership is $110, we had three 5th Ave museum visits and 2 Cloister visits so $30 x 5 = $150. I know it is possible to piggy back 2 museum locations on one day for $30 but honestly, who has the stamina for that? Just getting from the Cloisters to 5th Ave is a good hour even catching the subways right and jockeying from the locals to the expresses.

  4. Membership includes 1 hour early in Thursdays, but not everything is open. You are however in position to pounce on the 19th century European paintings right at 10 when the ropes go down. They are a 10 minute walk from the entry, so about 45 minutes pretty light visitor pressure.

  5. Membership includes a 20% off coupon for the Eatery (or other restaurant), for us worth about $8 for 2 lunches.

  6. $66 of the membership fee is tax deductible, that amount would have saved me $2 on my 2022 state income tax return.

Also, there's no chance of a good view flying into either Newark or JFK. The starboard side going into LGA is the seat to have, although I have also have landed flying over Brooklyn, in that case you want a port side window although it's a minor view. I suspect the strange flying pattern out to Staten Island then 180 turn (or 120 turn if landing over Brooklyn) has something to do with routing incoming flights from the west to fly directly over Newark Airport, but I don't really know.

Posted by
437 posts

I’m heading to NYC in June this year, it’s been 2 years since I’ve been and just love the city and all its energy. Your trip sounds wonderful and you got a lot seen and experienced. I keep a Metropolitan Museum membership because I dearly love it and I’m so grateful for the chance to visit their amazing collection. It doesn’t exactly balance out for me since I travel alone but I’m happy to kick in the extra to such a terrific resource in our country. I also hit the Frick every time I go just to see 3 more Vermeers.

Posted by
10288 posts

Great report. Your energy comes through. As for “safety” my youngest, the first year he lived in NY had his monthly transit pass picked a few months in a row. Of course he was carrying it in his back pocket, a walking invitation. LOL He learned.
As for being aggressed by a mentally ill person, happened to me a few months ago in the tram here where I live in France. Very unpleasant.
I have no idea what people say about NY in the States or why anyone feels a need to defend it, but comparisons and contrasts are useless because there will always be plenty of exceptions. Each of these cities stands on its own. Denigrating one or more to boost the others isn’t necessary.
I’m in NY, Paris, and Barcelona each at least twice a year, love them all, and take the same precautions that I do in my own city. The only difference is the lack of firearms.

Posted by
4010 posts

Great! I’ve never understood not taking the Q70 bus to the subway into Manhattan. It’s the quickest way and it’s so easy. I’m glad you had a wonderful time! Yup, no more need for a MetroCard; I just tap my iPhone and go.

As for Katz’s, did you arrive and just wait on one line or were the lines for each and every cutter long? We go there and have gone there for years and it’s just wonderful. Best pastrami ever.

I got a membership to the Metropolitan Museum, and they had member-only hours Thursday morning so I enjoyed that a great deal, got to spend time with Monets and Pissaros and Van Goghs practically by myself. Then spent another 2 hours in the Asia collection. Sat under the flowering magnolias behind the Met by the Egyptian obelisk.

I love this! So glad you did this.

Final note: LaGuardia is really nice now, it's been completely rebuilt and it's a gem.

Wow! I have not heard anyone praise LGA like that ever. I haven’t flown out of LGA since the pandemic and I will be doing so tomorrow morning. Which was your terminal? I’ll be in Terminal C.

You really had a great trip and I enjoyed reading your entire report.

I also hit the Frick every time I go just to see 3 more Vermeers.

Lyndash, I’m not sure if you know, but the Frick has moved to Madison and 75th where the Whitney used to be. There is controversy going on because the Frick house is undergoing construction and they may not return the paintings back to the original house.

Posted by
6793 posts

Tom, I really enjoyed your trip report. I used to travel to NY a lot when I was younger (both for work and to visit my aunt and her family who lived in Manhattan) but it's been at least 10 years since I've been, and this brought back a lot of memories. I'm glad you enjoyed the city - it's truly a beautiful place and one I have always loved.

True story here: My mom flew to NYC once to visit my aunt, who picked her up at Laguardia and then drove her to their apartment. On the way, they were stuck in traffic at a long slow red light. In front of them was a pickup truck with a man sitting in the back of the cab. All of sudden he got up, unzipped his pants and started waving his (ahem) and singing loudly. My aunt was mortified and began apologizing to my mom and explaining that not all New Yorkers are like that. My mom, however, thought it was the funniest thing she'd ever seen. She talked about this incident over and over to her friends back in Ohio, who loved the story as much as she did. 😊

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4589 posts

I have not heard anyone praise LGA like that ever. I haven’t flown out of LGA since the pandemic and I will be doing so tomorrow morning. Which was your terminal? I’ll be in Terminal C.

In case anyone is noting the numbers don't add up (when I said I haven't visited NYC since 1990) I have used LaGuardia more often.

2013: Connecting each way for Burlington on Delta, LGA was in it's old glory: jammed and decrepit and lots of planes sitting at ramp stands and people getting bused back and forth from terminal to plane.

2021: Flying in on American but driving immediately north to Hudson Valley, this the beginning of the end of the gross LGA, the concourse was old but then there was a transition to sparkling new heading into the main building, Terminal B.

2022: Connecting on American (it was a lot cheaper using points than a nonstop) at Terminal B, all construction done. Lots of space and power plugs, was able to easily sit at a table and join a meeting and watch a presentation during the layover.

2023: Flying in on American to the new Terminal B, left on Delta from the new Terminal C. Terminal C was just as nice as B, but looking when leaving the gate I am not sure all the concourses have been replaced.

Complaint: There was no announcement on the LGA shuttle bus as to which airlines were served by which stop, or even which terminal we were stopping at.

Katz’s, did you arrive and just wait on one line

We waited in the seating line for restaurant service at the far end, but there was kind of a mob line for the take out/self serve counter, then another line to pay, then another line to prove that you had paid to get out. When we left there was also a line outdoors all the way down the block.

I’ve never understood not taking the Q70 bus to the subway

The shuttle takes the freeway practically to the Jackson Heights station, just over 10 minutes, and the E express subway gets into Midtown pretty quick. I suppose the Q70 would have meant (in our case) only one transfer to the 6 subway at 125th St. Isn't the bridge sometimes slow, though? Noting that the free LGA shuttle does not make stops on city streets the way the former Q33 which it replaced used to.

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4589 posts

Denigrating one or more to boost the others isn’t necessary.

I'm indirectly addressing a faction on this forum who repeatedly post that certain cities (NY, Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore, etc.) are too unsafe to visit but pretend that no European city has problems. I am not trying to denigrate anyplace. You would have to experience the results of the propaganda to know where the defense reflex comes from. It's astonishing what some people will believe if it is repeated often enough. I know I am not imagining it because at least one poster above has noticed the same thing that I have.

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4010 posts

The shuttle takes the freeway practically to the Jackson Heights station, just over 10 minutes, and the E express subway gets into Midtown pretty quick. I suppose the Q70 would have meant (in our case) only one transfer to the 6 subway at 125th St. Isn't the bridge sometimes slow, though? Noting that the free LGA shuttle does not make stops on city streets the way the former Q33 which it replaced used to.

What you described as “the shuttle” is one of the bus lines that goes to/from LGA — in this case the Q70. We don’t use the term “freeway” in the Northeast. True there is no toll on either the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) or GCP (Grand Central Parkway). I took the Q70 out to terminal C from the E train at Jackson Heights early Friday morning and back to the E & into Manhattan yesterday.

Complaint: There was no announcement on the LGA shuttle bus as to which airlines were served by which stop, or even which terminal we were stopping at.

This is a HUGE problem as I noticed both this past Friday and Sunday. I thought it was just my bus driver going out to the airport but then the driver going back to Jackson Heights was equally as silent. I don’t understand that as MTA bus drivers were never silent on the Q70 about announcing the next terminal stop prior to the pandemic. They weren’t even any overhead screens announcing the next stop which I found odd considering they’re on other buses. Yesterday en route to Jackson Heights after we stopped at terminal B, a woman walked past me and went to the bus driver and asked when will he stop at terminal C. I felt so sorry for her. He pulled over and told her to walk back. She can’t be the first person to which THAT has happened. In addition, on Friday morning, I wondered why the bus drove right by terminal C and didn’t stop. The bus stop apparently is after terminal C without any announcement. If I hadn’t been paying attention, I would’ve been stuck on that bus too. I gave my husband the heads up about that as he picked me up yesterday and would be taking the Q70.

I suppose the Q70 would have meant (in our case) only one transfer to the 6 subway at 125th St. Isn't the bridge sometimes slow, though?

The bus that goes to 125th St in Manhattan is the M60, not the Q70. The M60 does not require a MetroCard outbound from LGA either; it’s free. I don’t know about inbound from Manhattan, however.

Noting that the free LGA shuttle does not make stops on city streets
the way the former Q33 which it replaced used to.

The Q33 didn’t go on the BQE or the GCP. The Q33 is still around and very much a busy line. It’s still goes along 82nd St. north toward LGA & 83rd St in the opposite direction. It no longer goes to LGA.

Posted by
626 posts

Tom, thank you for this important TR. You really got around. We too haven't been to NYC in a long time and are currently flipping a coin about whether to go there next. Last time we were there, it seemed every single restaurant had a TV showing some skinny kid in the NBA playoffs for the first time. I'm tryna remember his name...think it was 'Jordan Michael' or something like that.

I am done. the Blue Bloods episode

Posted by
4589 posts

The Q70 shows up in some places as “LGA Shuttle”, like signs and maps. I think the dynamic display in the subway car referred to it that way, and the signage at Jackson Heights, and maybe the destination sign on the front of the bus. It’s Q70 on the LGA terminal monitors.