Category Archives: NYC News and Information

Where to Find a Fireplace in NYC

by Louise, Director of Operations

So far, it’s been a pretty cold winter in NYC (and everywhere else!) We’ve seen temperatures in the teens enough times that there’s nothing more we’d all like to do than huddle around a nice fireplace – unfortunately, working fireplaces are not so common in New York hotels and apartments. But if you know which bars or restaurants to visit, you can still hear the satisfying crackle and feel the decadent warmth. Here are some of our top picks:

fp_campCamp
179 Smith Street, Brooklyn.
You’ll have to venture into Brooklyn for this one, but you should visit Brooklyn on your trip no matter what! Camp is located on Smith Street in Cobble Hill, one of the best neighborhoods in Brooklyn for dining and bars. The cozy layout with a generously sized fireplace, faux animal heads on the wall, board games and make-your-own s’mores could not be more inviting, especially when the mercury drops!

fp_ninthwardNinth Ward
180 2nd Avenue, Manhattan
In addition to the quintessential fireplace, Ninth Ward offers rustic décor, mood lighting, inviting booths, and some of the best poutine in the city – it comes with andouille gravy and gouda! Also try their signature cocktail, the Laura Palmer: Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka with fresh lemon juice. You might forget that it’s winter entirely.

fp_lanternskeepLantern’s Keep
49 W 44th Street, Manhattan
If you want this cocktail snob’s opinion, midtown is rather bereft of really special cocktail bars. Lantern’s Keep, in the Iriquois Hotel, is a notable exception. The intimate atmosphere feels like a step back in time, and the traditional speakeasy-style cocktails are all expertly crafted. If you’re trying to avoid a crowded bar scene, this spot is for you – make reservations at least 24 hours in advance (more is recommended) and a table will be waiting for you.

fp_blindtigerBlind Tiger
281 Bleecker Street, Manhattan
On the other hand, if you’re into the “scene,” there aren’t many more active spots than the Blind Tiger, in the heart of Greenwich Village. They have one of the best and most extensive beer collections in the city, a delectable small-plates menu that is above and beyond your traditional bar food, and a very devoted clientele. If you want to avoid the crowds, pay them a visit for lunch.

These are just my favorites – if you have your own top spots for blaze-gazing in the city, leave them in the comments!

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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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Cronut Crazy

by Tara, New York Guest Concierge

After reading so much about the delicious dessert that had taken the city by storm since May, I decided to use one of my days off to finally get my hands on one of the sweet must haves of the summer. Being no stranger to waiting in line for hours on end (from free concerts to standing room tickets to meeting celebrities at conventions) I figured it was worth a go, especially for something so delicious!

cronut1My journey to the Dominique Ansel Bakery began at 5am. Multiple sites recommend getting there before 6:45 to make sure you get one before they sell out. On average they make around 250 a day and only 2 cronuts are allowed person. I arrived at 6:30 and could see the line as I exited the Spring Street stop which already reached around the corner from the bakery. I counted myself 89th in line. There were many different types of people on the line; guys in business suits, families, interns, tourists, even two young girls playing card games on a blanket. By the time my coworker arrived ten minutes later 20 people had already lined up behind me. I would have liked her to join me, but an argument I witnessed minutes before between a man who had come to meet his friend in line and a man that had lined up behind them showed me that this kind of thing is frowned upon, so she had to go to the back of the line.

cronut6Over the next hour and a half several people would walk past and ask what the line was for (each one gave a confused or incredulous face when they were told we were waiting for the cronut), one even walked by and referred to us as “Cronies”, which I’m guessing is the name of the cronut fans. Several people (including myself) got out of the line just to take pictures of how long the line was.  Finally 8 o’ clock came and the line began to move along, the workers came out from time to time to move us to free the sidewalk and to answer any questions. They had also come out with a plate of treats, but I’m lead to think that they were only for the front of the line as I didn’t get one. I found out that the bakery had made 325 cronuts to sell for the day, but also 200 for their preorders (which you don’t have to wait in line for if you are lucky enough to get through to call in Monday mornings) and also 600 for a segment they were doing for the Jimmy Fallon show. They only let in around 15-20 people at a time, so even though they opened at 8, I did not get in until 9am.

When you finally reach the doors, which at cronut5this point felt like the golden gates, Mr. Ansel himself is there to hold open the door for you. The shop really is on the small side like most bakeries (even Cake Boss’ Carlo’s Bakery is on the small side!) so to have a limit of 15-20 people makes the atmosphere much less hectic than the outside line. The workers at the bakery could not have been nicer and treat you as if you are visiting on a nice relaxing day (as if there was not a huge line of over 100 people outside). They also had some classic rock piping through to create a very nice vibe. We were ushered to the back of the bakery where there is a window so you can see the chefs baking and preparing. I watched as they used pastry bags to inject cream and the blackberry goodness inside. They are then brought to the front where the icing and small sprinkle of lime was added.

cronut2My time at the register finally arrived and in addition to the cronuts I had also ordered the frozen smore which I had also read about online. The frozen smore is a giant marshmallow that holds a center of vanilla ice cream and chocolate. The marshmallow is placed on a hibiscus stick and then burned to order with a torch. (To answer your question, YES! It is as delicious as it sounds. )

cronut3Sadly, by the time my coworker reached the bakery she had run out of time and had to leave for work, so she only had time to purchase a coffee and a DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann). I decided to do the right thing and give her one of my two cronuts to which she traded her DKA. When she left I went into their back garden; they actually have two, one air conditioned, and one outside. I wanted to save my cronut for home so I enjoyed the frozen smore and the DKA. They were both delicious and surprisingly available without having to wait on the long line (which is only for the cronuts). The smore was a lovely gooey, cold, and sweet bite all rolled into one and the DKA reminded me of the flavor of the old pretzel butter cookies with the sugar “salt” that would come in the blue tin (which were always my favorite) but of course it was so much more fresh and delicious. As I told a friend, you could taste the butter, sugar, and love. There were a few birds in the garden as well; I shared a bit with one and felt for a few minutes as if I were back in Paris. I was amazed that despite this bakery’s newfound popularity they are still able to keep this relaxed atmosphere. As I left with my golden box The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun was playing and Dominique Ansel held open the door for me and thanked me for coming; which could not have been a more perfect ending.

cronut4After all that the big question- How was the Cronut? Was it worth waiting for? Is it really like taking a bite out of Heaven? A resounding yes! Though it may seem silly, it felt good to finally hold the thing that I had wanted and waited for so long. The cronut as a whole was fresh and delicious and the little bit of lime added just the right amount of tart to the blackberry. I’m excited to try the August flavor… coconut!

Tips and tricks:

  • Do your research, check out yelp reviews and also the Dominque Ansel Website http://dominiqueansel.com/cronut-101/ It’s also good to know what you want to get before you get inside so that the lines move along and the people in line behind you are less likely to be feisty. (I HIGHLY recommend the Frozen Smore and the DKA)
  • Get there early! Especially if you plan to go on a weekend. Plan for 6-6:30am, some even get there for 5am.
  • Be sure to bring a book or something that can keep you entertained for 2 or more hoursGet there as a group; you cannot meet up with friends already in line and friends cannot meet up with you; from what I have witnessed this is strictly enforced by other people on the line.
  • Visit the garden in the back; after waiting for hours to get inside you may as well, it’s like a little Paris café within SoHo.
  • If you’d like a Cronut without waiting in line, they do take 2 week advance preorders on Monday mornings at 11am. It is very difficult and only the lucky get through. Or there is always Craigslist or some that offer a Cronut delivery service, but those often charge around $50-100 per order and also might not be that reliable. Though it is far more rewarding to just take one morning and wait in the line.

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Independence Day is a Week Away!

So you’ve survived the frozen days of winter and the pollen filled days of spring— summer is here! The Fourth of July is just around the corner and there are so many things to do in the city.

1. The Macys Fourth of July Fireworks

4j1The most famous firework display on the East Cost, the Macys annual display of fireworks is perhaps the most traditional way to spend the Fourth of July. Over 40,000 individual fireworks will be lit at 9 M EST along the Hudson River. Revelers get there early, so be sure to claim your spot along the Hudson between 24th and 57th Streets. There are many cruises and ticketed events with a view of the fireworks as well – so if you’re looking for something special give us a shout and we’ll be happy to make some recommendations!

2. The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

4j2Since the Fireworks don’t start until 9 PM, why not head out to the Coney Island Boardwalk to catch a hot dog. The famous hot dog eating contest starts at noon (but it is recommended for spectators to arrive by 11 AM for a good viewing spot). Watch as contests from around the world attempt to eat as many hot dogs they can in ten minutes. Joey Chestnut of San Jose, who won with 68 hot dogs and buns last year, will attempt to win for the seventh straight year and sent a new world record for consecutive wins. Nathan’s has been a staple of the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1916; selling their first hot dog for five cents (yes, you read that right- 5 cents for a hot dog). In addition to sponsoring the event, Nathan’s is also expected to donate 100,000 hot dogs to the Food Bank for New York City this year.

3. The New York Philharmonic Summertime Classics: Star Spangled Celebration

4j5The New York Philharmonic will be performing July 3rd and 4th at Avery Fischer Hall in Lincoln Center. The orchestra performs classic American theatrical pieces as well as some of the armed forces anthems. Tickets start at about $35.

4. The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

4j4It’s a exciting day for these two important monuments in New York City. During Hurricane Sandy last fall, both islands were badly damaged and were not safe for the public. They were closed indefinitely and every tourism worker was laid off. Over the past 7 months a huge amount of work has taken place, and on July 4th, 2013 they will both be reopened to the public at last! You can be one of the first to visit the newly reopened Statue and Ellis Island – but be wary, there are going to be long lines! Get there early if you want to be part of this historic day. The first ferry departs at 8:30 AM.

As always, feel free to e-mail us with any questions and we hope you will join us in celebrating the 4th of July in New York City! It may get crowded, but there’s always room for everyone!

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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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How to Have an Awesome Times Square New Year’s Eve

by Jeannette, Director of International Sales

tsq The first time I saw Times Square on New Year’s Eve was from Central Park South as I scurried to connect to N train from the 1 line at Columbus Circle. Times Square station had long shut down to make way for the masses of people lining up to celebrate the Millennium at the Crossroads of the World. It was 5pm and the crowd was to 57th Street and I looked down and thought to myself, nothing in the world would make me ever want to be part of the debacle which is Times Square on December 31st!

Fast forward to 2003,  2 career changes later, now head concierge at the Crowne Plaza Manhattan Times Square, I am now literally living and breathing Times Square for 50 hours week. The Starbucks with the line out the door knows my name and order, the deli with the overpriced Matzah Ball soup know I like 2 packs of saltines with the $8 cup of soup and the ladies at the Thai walk up nail place know I have exactly 17 minutes before I have to rush back to my job and make peoples’ New Years dreams come true.

And how do I do that? I let them in on the little known secrets on how to celebrate in Times Square. I start with my diagram of the Square. Each block represents 1 hour, which is approximately how long is take NYPD to herd you like cattle into blockaded squares each holding about 100 people.   The Square begins filling up around 12pm so those lucky ones that are up front, have been waiting for 12 hours to get that coveted spot.

timessquare1Some people say bring crossword puzzles, drink water sparingly and make sure to have sandwich on hand!   I say run unless you want to be cold, hungry and possibly soiled.

So what do I tell people when the ask where to spend their New Years in Times Square?

There are countless restaurants on the side streets leading up the main event. A reservation at one of these gets you coveted NYPD pass giving you a reason to be loitering about. Try getting a spot on 47th or 46 on the east side, and you might catch a glimpse of the concerts in Duffy Square.  Most of the restaurants have loose policy when it comes to toasting the New Year so if you are lucky, you just mind find yourself wandering into Times Square just after the ball drop with a glass of champagne with confetti in your hair as the revelers are running to the toilets and subways to get out of Dodge!

standrewsThis year’s event features performances by Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen and my top pick has to be St Andrews on West 46th.  There multi level party features open bar and different dining options so come midnight look for me, reveling in 46th Street with my glass of cheer in hand! You can call me directly at 646-867-8253 if you want to join in the festivities.

 

 

 

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Hurricane Sandy: How Can You Help?

The Manhattan Skyline, blacked out by Hurricane Sandy

It’s been more obvious than ever the past few days: You love NYC as much as we do. All around the world, people want to help. While we remind you that serious efforts should be made to help our wonderful neighbors in New Jersey and the more seldom visited sections of New York City (Staten Island, the Rockaways) as well as Manhattan, we really appreciate the outpouring of love and affection for our area and are happy to provide information on ways you can help!

Donate

Definitely the quickest and easiest way to help is with a donation.  Here are some ways you can donate a small amount easily (every little bit helps!)

  • American Red Cross: Text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10.
  • Salvation Army: Text “STORM” to 80888 to donate $10
  • Humane Society: Text “HUMANE” to 80888 to donate $10
  • New York Cares: Text “iCARE” to 85944 to donate $10

For more substantial donations please visit:

Volunteer

If you can make it into the area, please consider donating some of your time to the relief effort. Here are two great ways to help:

New York Cares, one of our favorite organizations for volunteering in the New York area, has waived their usual orientation requirements for Hurricane Sandy volunteer projects. Check out the available projects here: http://newyorkcares.org/volunteer/disaster/

The New York Parks Department is looking for volunteers to help with clean-up efforts throughout the city: http://www.nycgovparks.org/stormupdate/storm-details

Visit!

Make no mistake, New York will get through this. We’ve gotten through worse. Believe it or not, one of the best ways to help us get through the aftermath of this tragedy is by planning a trip to visit us! The NYC economy will take a hit in the aftermath of the storm – many restaurants, hotels, and shops have been closed for the majority of this week, quite a few restaurants in the city sustained serious damage and lost all of their inventory. We will rebuild, but we need business to keep us going! What a great excuse to visit the best city in the world and be doing a good deed at the same time, right? Fill out our quote request form: http://www.newyorkguest.com/vacation-packages/#quote to start planning your visit. We’d be happy to give you recommendations of specific restaurants and areas of the city to visit that really need your help!

 

 

 

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