Category Archives: New York InSight

Living it up at Madame Tussauds

by Louise, Director of Operations

Last night we were lucky to be invited to check out the expanded exhibits at Madame Tussauds in Times Square. This branch of the famous wax museum (which originated in London over 175 years ago) has been open since 2000, and is one of the most popular additions to the area. It is well worth a visit on your next trip to New York!

Leo and Ash wore the same outfit. Awkward.

Leo and Ash wore the same outfit. Awkward.

The exhibition encompasses 6 floors – you’ll be brought to the top by elevator and make your way down. On the way you’ll find dozens of stunning replicas of movie stars, historical figures, famous athletes, fictional characters, and more, all ready for wonderful photo ops in a variety of poses. Some of the more distinctive displays (ET, the Obamas, etc) are manned by professionals to snap a high quality photograph of you, but most are available for casual smart phone photos (or real cameras, if you are still doing that).

Melba tries her hand at being Don Draper's secretary

Melba tries her hand at being Don Draper’s secretary

We’d had a glass of wine or two before embarking on the exhibit, and while it’s fun and silly no matter what I don’t NOT recommend being a little loosened up. It definitely makes for some fun pictures! You can also get wine, beer and snacks at a few different snack bars on your way through.

I might identify a little too closely with Dorothy Parker

I might identify a little too closely with Dorothy Parker

The work, of course, is stunningly accurate. You may find yourself staring into the eyes of Anderson Cooper, certain that at any moment he will suddenly spring to life. Or maybe that was just me. I can guarantee, however, that the lifelike nature of these figures is nothing short of remarkable.

Kelly loves the Jonas Brothers and she doesn't care who knows about it

Kelly loves the Jonas Brothers and she doesn’t care who knows about it

Madame Tussauds is great fun for all ages, and the location makes it a fantastic way to bridge the gap between say, your day of sightseeing and your pre-theater dinner. It is included in a number of our sightseeing packages, including the Freestyle Tour and the New York Pass, or as a standalone ticket. We can also include it in your customized New York City Vacation Package – e-mail us at info@newyorkguest.com to start planning, and you, too, can find yourself soon contemplating life with Dorothy Parker, or performing with the Jonas Brothers.

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Manhattanhenge: The Beauty of the Grid and Sun

Manhattanehnge3New York City was one of the first modern cities to embrace the grid plan. The streets are divided into parallel axes from north to south and then east to west – making it easy to trek across the city using cardinal directions. The lower portion of Manhattan does not follow this grid system (which is why it’s the most common area in which to get lost – even if you live here!)

While the Manhattan grid makes getting around the city considerably easier, the grid also allows for a natural phenomenon twice a year – Manhattanhenge (so dubbed in 2002). Twice a year the full sun aligns perfectly with the Manhattan grid at sunset creating a beautiful sight that attracts more and more viewers and photographers each year. The phenomenon can be viewed by facing west from any street in midtown Manhattan. 42nd street tends to be the most popular, with some folks viewing from as far east as possible to get the full spectrum, and some choosing to go further to the west for a close-up view.

Manhattanhenge1This year Manhattanhenge will happen on May 28th, 29th and 30th around 8:18 PM and July 11th, 12th and 13th at 8:24 PM. The middle dates will always have the most impressive display, with the full sun positioned exactly between two buildings. The surrounding dates will afford you a view of half the sun – still spectacular, but not quite as majestic.

Happy viewing!

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A Realistic Approach to Spending New Year’s Eve in New York City

by Eileen, Travel Consultant

New York City is always very busy but once we get past Christmas, the race to New Year’s Eve feels like a whirlwind.  On December 31st visitors from around the world will descend to Times Square to watch the annual ball drop, a tradition that dates back roughly 100 years.  Seeing the ball drop live is a once in a lifetime experience and a venture that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.

nye131To see the ball drop in Times Square is free of charge.  The ball has been dropping from 42nd Street since 1904 and it is estimated that around one million people will be in Times Square at midnight.  Revelers will line the streets from 42nd Street all the way up to about 53rd Street along Broadway and 7th Avenue.

The deciding factor in all of the New Year’s festivities is the weather.  If the weather is nasty (cold, snow, rain), the crowds will stay away longer until mid-afternoon.  If the weather is mild, the crowds get there bright and early (think 8 AM).  Streets will begin to shut down to pedestrian and car traffic around noon.  At this point in time, the NYPD will begin to align the barricades and guide revelers into the sectioned off areas.

Once you enter the barricades it is in your best interest to stay in the barricades until after midnight.  If you choose to leave, you are not guaranteed re-entrance and will most likely be directed to head out of the immediate Times Square area.  At a certain point in the evening, you will not be able to get into Times Square at all.

nye132Security is incredibly heightened during the holidays and each person heading into Times Square will be patted down or scanned with the wand (electronic metal detector).  You cannot bring in any liquids or backpacks.  There is no seating available (except the pavement) and there are no public restrooms.  The New York City Police Department is in complete control of what happens in Times Square.  The police protect and serve our city 365 days a year, 24 hours a day – it is in your best interest to listen to them on December 31st.  They protect and serve, so let them do their jobs and enjoy yourself!

There are a number of other alternatives to ring in the New Year.  We will be hosting our annual New Year’s Eve party at St. Andrew’s Pub in Times Square.  St. Andrew’s is located just off of 7th Avenue and is a perfect way to spend the evening indoors.  The food is always great, the drinks will flow and there is always good company to be had.

If you are interested in any of our other partner New Year’s Eve events, you can see the full listing here.  Be sure to book early as availability and prices are subject to change.

You are more than welcome to contact our planning team directly at info@newyorkguest.com.  We’re native New Yorkers and here to help with all your questions.

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See NYC Without Waiting In Line

by Leslie, New York Guest Concierge

New York City has a million things to see and like most of us have very little time to see it!  This post shares some insider tips from a New Yorker who made all the touring mistakes. In the hope that it helps the fellow traveler, the man or woman who wants to see everything in New York in a short amount of time.

noline1Let’s start with those major sites that are featured in every high budget action flick, The Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building.  You will be one of the millions that come to NYC each year to see these sights so avoid the Lines to Liberty Island by taking a harbor cruise.   The City Sights Midtown Cruise sails by Lady Liberty daily while a tour guide provides vast knowledge of the statue.  While learning about all of her secrets you can take amazing pictures and view other architectural wonders like the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge and get shots of the iconic NYC skyline.

The Empire State Building offers fantastic views but also fantastic long lines.  Consider visiting the Top of The Rock at Rockefeller Center instead.  The large viewing area guarantees a crowd free experience and provides a fantastic view of The Empire State Building as well as The Chrysler Building and Central Park.

noline2One of the most famous treats in New York City is the Cupcake.  Rising to fame on the coattails of the HBO comedy Sex and The City, Magnolia Bakery has become a hotspot for the individual with a sweet tooth.  While the cupcakes are delicious I don’t want to wait in line when the craving hits.  Check out Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery on the Lower East Side for a cupcake that isn’t too sweet.  The bakery is decorated with a hippie flair making you feel like a time traveler.  Billy’s Bakery in Chelsea is a posh bakery with pretty cupcakes.  The frosting is delicious and is generously atop each cupcake.  Lastly is Sprinkles Cupcakes, this bakery claims to be the world’s first cupcake bakery and talk about adorable, this bakery gets me over to the East Side of Manhattan on a regular basis.

noline3Before moving on from sweet treats let’s talk about Dylan’s Candy Bar Café.  I’m not going to lie to you; Dylan’s is probably the cutest candy store I have ever seen, probably due to the fact that the owner is the daughter of fashion designer Ralph Lauren.  But the long lines and gobs of loud children keep most locals out of the store and on their way to Economy Candy.  Located on the Lower East Side Economy candy has an old fashioned charm.  The doors opened here in 1937 and offer a wide variety of classic candy and new favorites.

Looking for a great restaurant but don’t want to wait in line for an hour or more to get a table?  Check out Restaurant Row located in the theater district on West 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenue.  Even the pickiest eater will find a restaurant to his or her liking and hungry travelers can do cuisine window shopping before deciding on one of the sixteen eateries.   Also remember that a hotel concierge is available to make dinner reservations for you at any restaurant and can also make great recommendations of the best places to dine.

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Short term apartments in NYC

by Eileen, Travel Planner

One of the worst feelings in the world is when you realize you’ve been duped.  It’s happened to all of us— something seems too good to be true and then you realize (too late) that it is.  It’s happened to me with concert tickets, “discount” coupons, and unfortunately with apartments.  The hardest one getting over was the apartment.  All my friend and I wanted was an apartment to call our own.  We searched the internet, we asked every friend we knew, and we even called a couple of brokers.  After finding “the one”, we arrived on move in day only to discover a very much present tenant still living in “our” apartment, who had no clue what we were talking about.  Our deposit and the perpetrator where gone, never to be seen again.  Luckily it worked out for us in the end; we found a legal apartment and lived happily there for a year or so.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the horror stories from friends and family— the apartment that was presented to them ended up being unsafe, filthy, or illegal.

Now I’m sure it doesn’t come as a shock to you that New York can get expensive.  It’s hard to find a hotel in Manhattan for under $200 throughout most of the year, and during the holidays prices can get exponentially higher.  We know what makes travelers tempted by the “too good to be true” offers— you’re on a budget and you want the most bang for your buck when it comes to your vacation.  Many people assume that renting an apartment for a few days or weeks is the most cost efficient option left; it is actually illegal.

It is illegal (against the law) to rent an apartment for less than 31 day in New York City.

That’s it.  No “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.” Don’t believe us? Here’s a link to the actual law: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/downloads/pdf/NYS_chapter_225.pdf

There are several reasons why this minimum is imposed; however it ends up coming down to safety.  The so called apartment units can lack fire alarms, sprinklers, and create fire hazards to residents in the neighborhood.  Most people discover that at the end of the road, when you come to New York and you make it into the apartment.  Unfortunately most people don’t make it that far, for them the road ends when they produce payment.

We had a case last year when someone had produced payment and thought she was all set to go, only to arrive to New York and find out that the apartment she was intending to stay in didn’t actually exist.  I’ve also heard a story about someone just sending off their credit card information only to never hear from the “owner” again.  The most terrifying story I heard was when a couple arrived in New York from abroad.  They were able to get into the apartment and decided to leave for the day, only to find themselves locked out of their apartment when they returned later that night.  Locked inside the apartment were all of their belongings and passports.

If you are interested in economical options for your visit, we suggest looking into hotel in Queens, Brooklyn, and New Jersey.  You would be surprised at how easy it is to get into Manhattan and how much more cost efficient hotels are outside of Manhattan.  We love hotels outside of Manhattan because you get to see real communities and neighborhoods.  New York City has one of, if not the most, comprehensive transit system in the world.  Our subways are in service 24/7 365 days out of the year.  We always recommend investing in a Metrocard since it is a pass that allows you access to New York City.  Getting around the city is as easy as swiping a Metrocard!

Don’t be fooled by anyone trying to rent you a short term apartment – remember that they are knowingly breaking the law by making this offer, and by providing them with your personal information or trusting them with your vacation, you are putting your money and trust in the hands of someone who is knowingly breaking the law.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have! We’re here to protect your best interests and provide you with the most cost efficient ways to travel in NYC. For more information on budget trips to NYC, read our New York City on a Shoestring blog or e-mail info@newyorkguest.com!

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Tips for Moving to New York City!

by Maeva, New York Guest Concierge & Travel Planner

# 1- Land the job first!

Earlier this year, I came to visit my high-school gal pal in NYC to celebrate our birthdays. In catching up on old times, she mentioned her new job as a concierge and how much she loved guiding people around the city and making suggestions for the best Dim Sum, or Rib Eye Steak. As I joked around with her about how we both naturally love to talk about food and our own experiences, she suggested that I should apply for the position and with my background, I’d be sure to get the gig. And I sure did!

 # 2- Find an Apartment!

Though I was able to stay with my aunt who lived in Yonkers (about an hour and a half away from the city) my first week on the job, I still had to find my own place. I looked everywhere, NYHabitat, StreetEasy, local Church websites, and even Craigslist! Most of the neighborhoods in Manhattan were totally out of my budget, and the majority of the apartments had broker fees that were outrageous! When it comes to looking for an apartment in NYC, it’s better to do it By Owner, which is what I did-thanks to Craigslist, I found a two bedroom basement apartment for $1350 in a neighborhood called Sunset Park in Brooklyn. It took me two weeks to find the place, and three of my friends from Florida live in my neighborhood.

 # 3- Don’t Neglect the Other Boroughs!

At first I was hesitant about living outside of Manhattan since my job was there. I was thinking about my commute and if it would take forever to get into Manhattan. However, all of my friends who work in Manhattan live in the outer boroughs. My gal pal from high school lives in Astoria, Queens, my manager and several of my co-workers live there as well. Brooklyn has become a special place for me because I get to see more trees and fewer buildings. Being an island girl, I need some nature in my life. I also feel like I’m escaping from the hustle and bustle and noise from the city. There are great neighborhoods in Brooklyn like Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Carroll Gardens, and Williamsburg. They are the up and coming trendy locations I enjoy going to. I love Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum-Free Concerts are amazing! I can’t say that much about Queens; though I have family that lives there, I prefer Brooklyn.

 # 4- Sell the car and get a Metrocard

Seriously, don’t move to New York with your car. You’ll end up paying more for parking and gas. A monthly Metrocard is all you need. And if you are worried about groceries, almost every store in the NYC delivers.

 # 5- Get a Roommate Questionnaire!

While you are thinking about getting your own place, you may consider roommates to be a little more economical. When thinking about roommates there is a lingo that you’ll need to learn. Example, 420 Friendly. Uhm, I suggest you google that. There is nothing more important that knowing and understanding the people or person you will be living with. My roommate is an angel sent from heaven just for me. She cooks, cleans, and loves to entertain. We were made for each other. We discussed expectations, habits, things that piss us off, and even décor ideas. It’s always good to be on the same page at the beginning!

Those are my tips for now as this new kid on the block continues on with her Empire State journey. There’s so much to capture here in New York City, so you’ll be hearing from me more often.

A bientot,

Maeva- Travel Planner, Concierge, Foodie Extraordinaire, and Flat shoes enthusiast!

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What’s on your New York City Bucket List?

For everywhere we live and everywhere we visit, we all have our list of things we must do before we run out of time. Last week I asked the staff of New York Guest for some of the top items on their “Bucket lists” for our great city of New Yor. Check out their answers here and then let us know – what is YOUR New York City Bucket List?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Maria, Accountant

  • Spend a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Walk down 5th Avenue from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Rockefeller Center
  • See the Frick Collection
  • Get a drink at Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle
  • Explore the Meatpacking District: walk the Highline and Chelsea market, have drinks at STK or Gaansevoor, dinner at Buddakan or Spice Market

Kayaking on the Hudson

Lora, Group Travel Manager

  • Go Kayaking on the Hudson River
  • Visit Ellis Island
  • Visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
  • Spend the night at the Plaza Hotel
  • See a movie at the Paris Theater

New Year's in Times Square

Richard, CEO

  • Watch the Grand Central morning commute from the top of the steps
  • Spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square
  • Watch the sunrise from Battery Park
  • Ride the Staten Island Ferry
  • Have a Manhattan at the Oak Bar in the Plaza

A path in Central Park

Karissa, Reservations Manager

  • Go to the top of the Empire State Building
  • Visit the Statue of Liberty
  • Take a walking tour of Central Park
  • Go on the CitySights All Around Town tour
  • See a Broadway show from house seats

Jeanette, Director of International Sales

Law & Order: SVU films in NYC

  • Stay at the Presidential Suite in the Four Seasons
  • Eat dinner at Rao’s
  • Be on an episode of Law & Order
  • Take a helicopter to the Hamptons
  • Private shopping at Bloomingdale’s

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Megan, Concierge

  • Have dinner at Per Se
  • See an opera at the Met
  • Spend the night at the Plaza
  • Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park
  • See the Thanksgiving Day Parade in person

Night at the Museum

Louise, Community Manager

  • Have a meal at Blue Hill Stone Barns
  • Stay at the Marriott Marquis on December 31st (you wouldn’t catch me standing outside!)
  • Sleepover at the Natural History Museum
  • Sail to Bear Mountain and spend the day hiking
  • Go to the Vendy Awards on Governor’s Island

USQ Greenmarket

Michael, Director of Hotel Sales

  • Have a leisurely lunch at Da Silvano’s
  • Walk through Central Park in the autumn
  • Sip a Bloody Mary at the Central Park Boat House
  • Go shopping at the Saturday Union Square Greenmarket
  • Spend a day exploring all the neighborhoods of Manhattan – North, South, East & West

What are your New York Dreams? With all of our local NYC resources, we can make any wish come true! Contact us at info@newyorkguest.com and let’s start planning.

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