Category Archives: NYC with Kids

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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Mangia! The Brooklyn pizza tour!

by Tara, New York Guest Concierge

pizza5When boarding the bus for the Brooklyn Pizza Tour, I was not sure what else to expect besides getting pizza from two of the best pizzerias in Brooklyn without having to wait in line (which by itself is worth taking the tour!) Our tour guide, Paula, was very entertaining and informative, telling a lot of great stories about the Brooklyn Bridge (and the woman who made it finally happen), the Grimaldi’s pizza feud, sites of attempted mob hits, and other little known facts about Brooklyn.

pizza4The views coming in were wonderful; within the first half hour or so, we passed over the Manhattan Bridge, (which included photo ops for the Brooklyn Bridge), saw work being done on Jim Carrey’s new NYC apartment, and made our first stop into DUMBO where we were able to walk around Brooklyn Bridge Park and take pictures of the beautiful skyline.

We boarded the bus again for Grimaldi’s and Paula showed us a few spots that were used to film major motion pictures. She used the television screens on the bus to show us the movie clips and paused the screen when we approached the exact site. We reached Grimaldi’s to see a long line of people wrapped around the corner and were advised to not make eye contact (a standard NYC rule of thumb). Whenpizzatour1 exiting the bus I could see why. We were able to walk right inside where our tables were waiting, and received their delicious thin crust Margherita pizza within minutes. All of the ingredients are fresh (with the cheese brought in every morning) and are cooked in one of the few coal brick ovens left in the city for about 3 minutes. The basil adds a touch of flavor and color (The colors of the Italian flag!)  They also have a nice selection of bottled sodas; the Black Cherry was popular choice at our table.

After our first pizza stop we learned more about Brooklyn’s pizza history from Paula as we headed toward Bay Ridge and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. She took us past beautiful mansions and brownstones and showed us a few more movie locations complete with scenes (Goodfellas and Annie Hall to name two). We then headed over to our second pizza stop L&B Spumoni Gardens but not without driving along 86th street, location of the opening of Saturday Night Fever, complete with the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive.

pizza2We arrived at our next pizza location, L&B Spumoni Gardens, where we were able to, once again, skip the line. This restaurant was voted to have the best Sicilian pizza in the city by an NYC magazine for so many years in a row that they eventually did away with the contest altogether. L&B were also featured on a Travel Channel favorite, Man vs. Food. Due to the special way they prepare their pizza (you’ll find out how when you take the tour!) it is light, fresh and simply heaven on a plate. I hope my favorite pizzeria in Jersey City, NJ never sees this write up, because I can say L&B has the best Sicilian slices I have ever had. Even as I write this I am contemplating the next time I can go back.

By this point, my friend and I were just about full, but we still had it in us to get a small cup of their spumoni. Spumoni, as I learned on the tour, is a type of Italian ice cream that is typically layered. The Spumoni Gardens’ spumoni consists of vanilla, chocolate and pistachio. I advise, even if you couldn’t eat another bite, to at least ask for a free sample of spumoni (after all L&B’s is famous for it!) It makes for a sweet, refreshing end to your meal.

pizza3Our group then boarded the bus to make one last stop at Coney Island to walk the boardwalk, (no stops at Nathan’s, but then we didn’t need it!) though our tour guide did offer to give subway directions back to the city for those who wished to stay at Coney Island, and walk more of the boardwalk or check out the rides at Luna Park. As we walked the boardwalk, our guide walked among the group to talk to us and answer any questions we had. Once we passed the Cyclone, it was time to board the bus one last time to come back to Manhattan.

During the ride back, Paula played one last video of all the famous actors, musicians and athletes to come from Brooklyn. Just before we entered the tunnel, she put on some Frank Sinatra which felt appropriate as we rode back to NYC relaxed, full, and happy. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who wants to try amazing pizza without waiting in long lines, and also those that may have done most of the Manhattan tours and is looking for something different. This tour definitely has something for everyone; a great neighborhood tour, some movie sites, and of course great pizza.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Further Afield, New York Restaurants, New York Sightseeing, NYC with Kids, Out on the Town

Hot Summer in the City

by Louise, Director of Operations

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s definitely summa-time here in NYC, and if you’re going hard on the sightseeing chances are you’re going to want a nice cold treat at some point. But you’re on vacation! You don’t want to hit up a chain you could easily patronize at home. Resist the millions of Starbucks, Haagen Daaz, and frozen yogurt shops of all ilks and indulge in some treats you can only get in New York City.

Schmackary’s
http://schmackarys.com
schmackarysSchmackary’s is a haven for those seeking delicious snacks before or after a Broadway show (or really anytime) – and that includes the stars of the shows themselves! Located on 45th street near 9th avenue, just on the border of Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square, Schmackary’s opened just over a year ago by a former aspiring actor from Lincoln, Nebraska. Since then, it has taken the theater district by storm with inventive and ridiculously delicious cookies. As if their cookies weren’t awesome enough on their own, they will take any two cookies and sandwich them with a scoop of ice cream for a treat you won’t soon forget. Their shakes are also pretty insane – the malted milkball shake haunts my dreams.

Blue Marble Ice Cream
http://www.bluemarbleicecream.com/find/scoop-shops/
Blue Marble owns and operates NYC’s only certified organic ice cream plant – located in Brooklyn. They also use locally sourced ingredients, biodegradable bowls/spoons/etc, “green” building materials for their shops, and on and on. Plus they have a partnership with a group of women in Rwanda, whom they helped to open the country’s first ice cream shop. “So,” you’re thinking, “They sound like great people but WHAT OF THE ICE CREAM?” Don’t worry. It’s freaking amazing. You should eat all of it.

Big Gay Ice Cream
http://biggayicecream.com
biggayWhere else but New York could an ice cream truck bill itself as the “Big Gay Ice Cream Truck” and launch a successful business with two brick-and-mortar locations? Okay, San Francisco…but still! It’s a pretty New York thing. The owners of BGIC combine traditional Mister Softee-style softserve cones with a variety of toppings I can pretty much guarantee you haven’t had on ice cream before – wasabi pea dust, sriracha, curried coconut and much more. Supporting small business, enjoying an old comfort food, AND trying something new all it once? It’s almost too much awesome. BGIC has two locations now, one in the East Village and one in the West Village, serving the combos that made them famous and a variety of other treats. Make the trip!

il laboratorio del gelato
http://www.laboratoriodelgelato.com/thelab.php
You can buy pints of this these fresh, unique gelato and sorbet flavors at several retail locations around the city, but for the full experience you should go to the storefront on Orchard Street, where you can watch the desserts being made in the open kitchen before your eyes! There are over 200 flavors (though only 48 are available at the café at a time), so bring your appetite and at least a few friends.

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
http://www.vanleeuwenicecream.com/
vanleeuwenLaunched in 2008 by some more of those crafty Brooklyn kids, Van Leeuwen produces some of the best ice cream you will ever taste, made primarily from local ingredients and supporting small producers and artisans. Everything is delectably rich and creamy while not being overly sweet and with nothing artificial. They have an unbeatable mint chocolate chip flavor that is (gasp) NOT bright green. They’re signature yellow trucks can be found around the city and they have several stores too.

I could go on and on, but you’re probably thinking you need to stop reading and go get some ice cream…so please, I implore you, when you visit NYC this summer walk past the Mister Softee and the Baskin Robbins and find a real New York ice cream shop!

Recommendations of your own? Post them in the comments!

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A Yankee Stadium Primer

by Louise, Director of Operations

Opening day was this week at both Yankee Stadium and Citifield, and now we’re in the midst of what we hope will be a very long and exciting baseball season!

While Citifield is always a more economical alternative for baseball games during your visit to NYC, most requests we get are to see the 27-time World Champions. I can’t say I blame you – I LOVE the Yankees! Based on the numerous conversations I’ve had when helping fans book Yankees packages, I thought I’d offer some of my best tips:

Have an idea of where you want to sit

Yankees1Before you go, you need tickets, right? It’s always a good idea to know where you want to sit, although we’ll be happy to offer you options. Here are some quick tips:

–          400 Level is “Grandstand”: The highest up seats, furthest from the action, and also usually the best prices (of course). There’s no bad view, so if you’re just looking for the experience Grandstand is a great option. But don’t think you can buy 400 level tickets and sneak into the field level seats – there are security guards!
–          300 Level is “Terrace”: Technically the same level as Grandstand, but the terrace level includes the seats closer to the field.
–          200 level is “Loge” or “Main Level”: Quite a bit closer to the field, with higher prices to match!
–          100 level is “Field Level”: The closest you can get to the action without being a very wealthy person who can get their hands on “legends suite” seating. But be wary – if you’re looking at sections labeled 129 or higher or 111 or lower you’ll be in the outfield, and not much closer to the action than the less expensive bleachers or 200 level seats.

If you love a specific player, you may want to choose a seat that gives you a good view:

Yankees14–          Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez both play on the third base side (I would hope you’d know that if you’re a fan!). Any section that ends in 24-27 is a good option. If Jeter’s your man and you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, right by section 117 is usually where he hangs out when he’s on deck (instead of the on deck circle), and it’s also right next to the Yankees Dugout.
–          Mariano Rivera is retiring after this season (sniff) and of course spends most of the game around the Bullpen. Section 136 is field level and still next to the Yankees Bullpen, though far from the rest of the game. Bleachers 237 and 238 are pretty economical choices that will also put you right behind the Bullpen, though you could end up being fairly far back.

So in general: a section ending in 24-27 is on the third base side, 12-16 is the first base side. 17-23 are behind home plate. Anything under 12 or over 27 is the outfield. Put a 1 in front, that’s the most expensive (At least $175, usually more). Put a 4 in front, that’s the least expensive (as low as $25 for some games).

Take the subway

Yankees2Yes, Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx. I highly encourage you to freely use the subway on your visit to New York, but I know it can be a little scary if you’re not familiar. Here are my reasons why it is extra not scary to take the subway to Yankee Stadium:

–          The 4 on the east side and D on the west side go directly there with no transfers. You can transfer from most other lines to the 4 or the D without even leaving the platform
–          The stop is called Yankee Stadium. And what’s more, basically everyone on the entire train is going to get off there. You won’t miss the stop!
–          You can see the stadium from the moment you get out of the subway. All you need to do to get there is cross the street. You can’t miss it!

So in conclusion, traveling to Yankee Stadium on the subway is easy, fast, and much cheaper than taking a taxi or booking a car in advance! However, this is an important subway tip: Make sure you have money on your Metrocard for your return trip before you go to the game. You do NOT want to be waiting in line to refill your Metrocard after the game!

Get there early, but not TOO early

Yankees3The gates don’t open until 2 hours prior to the scheduled start of the game, so there’s no reason to be any earlier than that! Guests are permitted to go right up to the front of the field level to watch batting practice for the first 45 minutes after the gate open, and after that you won’t be allowed in that section unless your tickets are there. So it’s a great opportunity to get up close to the team and the players, even if your ticketed seats are in the Grandstand!

Once batting practice is over, there’s still plenty to do before the game! Monument Park, a tribute to Yankees Legends, is open until 45 minutes prior to the scheduled start time, but go early because the line will often be closed an hour or more beforehand so they have time to empty the park before the game.

If you still have time, the Yankees Museum near Gate 6 is open prior to the game and does not close until the 8th inning, so make it your last stop.

Be Water Wary

Yankees4You’re going to see a lot of people outside the stadium selling bottles of water for $1. It’s a great deal, in theory, because water bottles once you get inside are going to be $5. So go for it, but this is important: DO NOT OPEN THE WATER BOTTLE OUTSIDE THE STADIUM. Stadium policy is that you can bring in factory-sealed water bottles (up to 1 liter), but once it’s opened, it’s not allowed, and you just wasted $1 instead of saving $4.

Get some Grub

An average game is 3 hours long – you’re going to get hungry. If hot dogs and cracker jacks with a side of bud light are your jam, I say go for it – you’ll see them at every turn! If you’re looking for something a little different, there are more food options than you might think. Take a walk around the field level to see the widest array of culinary delights. Here are some of my favorites in the stadium:

–          ParYankees5m You’re in New York City, have an authentic NYC meal, why dontcha? Parm, an amazing sandwich shop with its flagship location in Soho, is in the Great Hall between gates 4 and 6 and they serve up a delicious fresh turkey sandwich or a meatball sub. It’s the place to go.
–          Garlic Fries What more do I need to say? They are fries. With garlic. Like, a LOT of garlic. You can find them in three locations: By section 108, by section 205, or by section 331.
–          The Food Court If you’re with a large group and everyone wants something different, the food court on the field level is your best bet for diversity in one spot. It’s located near the third base line on the field level, adjacent to section 127. You’ll find all the basics there, plus stuff like sushi, noodle bowls, fried dough, and Dylan’s Candy Bar. Nearby at Gate 4 there’s even a little farmstand that sells fresh fruit, if you are 100% set against a traditional calorie-rific baseball experience.
Yankees6          Real Cocktails & Good Beer I don’t know about you, but by the time I was 21 I was already too old for giant sugar-laden slushies with a shot of vodka. When I’m at the stadium and I want a cocktail, I usually head for the Malibu Rooftop Deck near section 310. There’s a scenic(?) view of the South Bronx and it’s not usually jam-packed. The signature Malibu Rum cocktails are not a great value at $16-18 each, but regular mixed drinks are more like $10-12 and they have a full bar. They also have a couple of microbrews on tap.

Got more questions or looking for a Yankees package? I’m always happy to talk Yankees! E-mail me at lgeller@newyorkguest.com.

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Naturally Cool: The American Museum of Natural History-

by Kelly, Manager of Partner and Group Services

AMNH3When I moved to New York City, I made a “New York City Bucket List.”  On it were all of the amazing things I wanted to do and see as a brand-new New Yorker – climb the Statue of Liberty, look up my ancestors at Ellis Island, see classic NYC staple shows like The Lion King and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, go to the very top of the Empire State Building, take the Staten Island Ferry, tour NBC…and visit the Museum of Natural History.  I have lived in New York City for almost a decade now, and after this past weekend, I am proud to say that I have finally completed my bucket list with a trip to the Museum of Natural History.

Located on Central Park West between the blocks of 77th – 81st Streets, the Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869 and sees approximately 5 million visitors annually.  It is comprised of 25 interconnected buildings that house 46 permanent exhibition halls, research laboratories, and its renowned library.

Some of the “must-see” staples of the museum:

AMNH41.)    The 94-foot long, 21,000 pound fibreglass replica of a female blue whale that hangs suspended in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.  Underneath the whale is a large open space amongst the other ocean life displays where museum dwellers can rest, take pictures, and get their bearings before moving on to the next exhibit.

2.)    The Hall of Dinosaurs – my favorite dinosaur display was (of course) the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is combined of actual fossils found from two specimens discovered in the 1800s in Montana.

AMNH23.)    Henry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals – with hundreds of unusual geological specimens and many rare, valuable gemstones – I loved getting the chance to view both the raw minerals (the quartz and giant amethyst were my favorites) and the cut gems both on their own and set in jewelry pieces in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems.

4.)    Rose Center for Earth & Space – the Hayden Planetarium’s “Journey to the Stars” space show is an amazing sight to behold, spanning the expanse of the domed ceiling of the Planetarium.

Along with spending time at these wonderful staples of the museum’s installations, I was also lucky enough to visit three of the special exhibits on display as well:

1.)    Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture – this exhibition explores the complex and intricate food system that brings what we eat from farm to fork.  My favorite part of the exhibit was an interactive video installation where I learned how certain food items like apples, bananas, lamb and tuna reach my area from their origins in Washington, Ecuador, New Zealand, and Japan.

AMNH12.)    The Butterfly Conservatory – the butterfly vivarium is a custom-fabricated, temporary shell structure of approximately 1,315 square feet that sits within one of the museum’s existing galleries.  Filled with butterflies, the vivarium is a flurry of color and beauty.  One of the curators walking around making sure the butterflies were hydrated by misting them with water had a hitchhiking butterfly attached to her the entire time I was there – in fact, many patient visitors found a winged friend attached to some part of them while in the exhibit!  Along a side wall of the vivarium is a guarded display of live chrysalises where at any moment a live butterfly may hatch.  The day that I was at the museum, the curator had seen 4 butterflies hatch (just moments before I arrived, unfortunately), and told me that they would be released into the main vivarium to thrive with the other butterflies throughout the day.

3.)    Whales: Giants of the Deep – on tour from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (which houses one of the largest whale collections in the world,) this exhibit features more than 20 skulls and skeletons from various whale species and showcases many rare specimens, including the real skeleton of a male sperm whale measuring 58 feet long.  The skeleton is AMAZING, and I wish I could have taken a picture for posterity – unfortunately, the museum has a no-picture policy for that exhibit (guess you’ll just have to go see it in person!)  Another notable feature that the kids seemed to love is a replica of a whale heart that youngsters could climb through and explore – a whale’s heart is the size of a small child!

My recommendation to anyone looking to visit this amazing New York City institution would be to carve out a day to explore.  I was at the museum for just over 5 hours, and there are still things I missed (I have to go back and see the Willamette Meteorite in the Hall of the Universe – it’s 15.5 tons and is the largest meteorite ever found in the United States and the sixth-largest in the world!).  I would also advise purchasing the All-Inclusive Super Saver Pass, which gets you entrance to the museum, all special exhibits, and the “Journey to the Stars” space show, because you don’t want to miss any of the amazing exhibits featured at the museum.  The Butterfly Conservatory will be available through May 27th, and if you can’t catch that – a new exhibit called “Frogs: a Chorus of Colors” is coming in on May 18th.  The “Global Kitchen” exhibit is on hand until August 11th, and “Whales: Giants of the Deep” will be available through January 2014.  If you’d like any assistance with adding the museum to YOUR New York City Bucket List, please give us a call at 212-302-4019, or email me at kshoemaker@newyorkguest.com.

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A Trip to the Tryp!

by Beth, New York Guest Travel Planner As the New York Guest Family of 5 Specialist I have been waiting in anticipation for the Tryp Hotel to open in its doors. Today we went to visit the trip and I can say that the wait was well worth it. The Tryp Hotels are known for their Mediterranean and Spanish flare while still added an at-home feel. Once you walk into the Plaza Central (their lobby) you feel like you’ve come home. There are couches and tables set up near the bar as well as separate sitting areas and a library.

The Tryp is very technologically advanced, having its own App that you can communicate to the hotel staff and other residents with. The live feed is displayed on flat screen televisions throughout the area. After roaming around the lobby, we made our way up to see the rooms.

New York City hotels can have a bad reputation for being smaller than most rooms. This hotel goes against the grain as all of their rooms have more than enough space. Their rooms all have separate walking areas so your bed is separated from the door and the bathroom. They are also decorated like the lobby in a Spanish and Mediterranean flare. A big part of why we love the hotel is that they have hardwood floors, again giving the hotel a more at-home feel.

After seeing their standard room we moved onto the Family Room, the one I have been waiting to see. The spacing of this room is incredible! This room is perfect for groups of travelers and families. Housing two Queen beds, a set of bunk beds, and a pull-out couch, there is no longer a need to share beds or cram together. The rooms all also have iPod docks and Keurig coffee machines. Any one staying at the Tryp will feel like they are right at home.

The Tryp Hotel is located in Midtown Manhattan where guests can walk to the Empire State Building, Herald Square, Times Square, and Broadway shows in just 5 to 10 minutes! The location, the rooms, the amenities… this hotel is one to try! Whether you’re a solo traveler or coming in with the whole family this is the place to be. Contact me at blenowicz@newyorkguest.com or at (212) 302-4019 and I can help you feel right at home right in New York City!

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Party of Five: Traveling with a big family

by Beth, New York Guest Travel Planner

My love of travelling has developed from an early age thanks to my parents. They wanted to show me and my 2 siblings what was beyond Long Island and the New York City limits. My mom and dad are both teachers and they took advantage of having summers off to travel and see the country. I can luckily say that I have visited 40 out of the 50 states (plus Australia, Mexico, and the Virgin Islands). Most of these states were visited in the two times that we hopped into a mini van and drove cross country. Yes, you read correctly… 5 people in a mini van driving for a month straight to California and back! I have some of the best memories from these trips with my family and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.

Most people think that travelling with 5 people is difficult (in a room with 2 beds with 2 people in each bed, where does the other person sleep?), but it’s very easy. There are hotels all over the country that will accommodate a family of 5. All over New York City hotels are accommodating the growing family with more options. I have been dubbed the Family of 5 Guru so email me at blenowicz@newyorkguest.com and I can get your family started on a package that will include memories to last a lifetime!

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