|Quoting sebolino (Thread starter):|
I will visit NYC, Secaucus, New haven, Rhode Island, Cape code and Boston in a small car trip next April with my family.
I'm not sure how much time I'd want to spend in Secaucus, having worked near there at a point in the distant past. There's not much happening out there.
But hop on a train at the Secaucus train station and take the fifteen minute ride into manhattan, and there you've got an entire world to explore. I lived in New York city for almost thirty years, so here's my recommendation for a tourist:
From Penn Station take the #1 train down to South Ferry. This will deposit you at the very southern tip of Manhattan - Battery park and the Staten Island Ferry terminal. Down here you can see the remnants of colonial New York. If you're hungry, take a walk over to Stone street or Fraunces' Tavern - nothing's cheap down here but much of what's down in this area is quite good. Just want a coffee and a pastry? Financier. Scandanavian? Smorgas. Old world? Fraunces. You can even get Empenadas down there, which you might not be able to get in France.
Take a walk over to Castle Clinton (sometimes also called Castle Garden) in Battery park - for decades this was how immigrants entered the city, before Ellis Island was built into an immigration facility. In the 19th century, it once hosted concerts and before that, soldiers. You can see, and travel to, the statue of Liberty or Ellis from this park, but those are kind of long tours. From Battery park, walk north on Broadway past the customs house (a pretty early 20th century building designed by architect Cass Gilbert) and up past Trinity Church to City hall.
Although skyscrapers dominate this part of town, there are many hidden alleys and lanes, and you can see many remnants of older eras of New York, including original buildings that date back to the mid-19th century. Trinity Church is where Alexander Hamilton is buried, among other early American notables. This isn't the original Trinity Church, which burned down in the 18th century, it's the third (the second was severely damaged by the winter of 1838). When built, it was the tallest structure in Manhattan. Across the street, you can see down Wall Street, and you can go visit the stock exchange if that's your thing. Federal Hall is just one block down across from the exchange. It isn't the original building, but this location played a key role in the events that led up to the Revolutionary war, served as the first capitol (before Washington DC was built), and is the location where the bill of rights was drafted.
The area around city hall is from a later era. On the south end of the Broadway/Park row intersection you can see the Woolworth building - the most opulent skyscraper ever built. Inside and out, it's modeled on gothic cathedrals, which earned it the nickname "the Cathedral of Commerce." It is truly a sight to behold and more interesting than most later, larger skyscrapers. Inside, the Burj Khalifa or Petronas towers are plain by comparison. The building isn't open to the public, but you can take a quick look into the lobby, which will reveal a glittering ceiling of gold inlay and gothic detail - a permanent memorial to the gilded age. Like the Customs house the Woolworth building was also designed by Cass Gilbert.
At night, the southern part of City hall park is lit by gaslight, just as it would have been 120 years ago. There's also a secret, not-used-since-1945 subway station under city hall, but you can't see that without permission (there's a way to see it, but not explore it, from the subway). You can't tour much of city hall, sadly, and can't even get that close since 9/11. But the park is nice, and the old buildings on park row - which once housed America's media industry in the 19th century, are also nice to look at and walk through.
Behind city hall, go east on Chambers street over to Centre street, and walk north through foley square. There's not much that's interesting in Foley square, but you have to go there to get to the next destination. On your right, there's the old Federal courthouse and the new NY State supreme court - follow worth street east for a block after you pass that second courthouse (a hexagonal shaped modern building).
One block over and you're at the five points - it's a park today, but at one time, this was the most notorious and dangerous slum in America - a time depicted with a certain amount of artistic liberty in the movie Gangs of New York.
You're on the edge of Chinatown now, so turn up Mulberry street and go north,
Two blocks up and you're in another world. Chinatown has changed alot in the last thirty years, but it's just as vibrant as ever - and one of the finest Vietnamese restaurants in the city is on this street, Pho Viet Huong. The best part about this restaurant? It's super cheap for Manhattan, particularly the lunch specials. Not much to look at but the food is amazing. Feeling like Chinese instead? Walk east on Bayard street to Nice Green Bo. Not much to look at, but quite a nice place. Save room though, there's more to come. There's alot to see in Chinatown, though it is constantly changing. 20 years ago, it looked more like Kowloon than it does now, though it always has an unmistakable New York-ness to it.
Keep walking north on Mulberry, across canal street, and you're into little Italy. Don't be fooled into any of the main drag restaurants, they're okay but not that special and they're very overpriced - but keep walking up to Ferrara's on Grand Street. The pastries are worth it. Not the best, but a New York experience. Across the street, on the northeast corner (Grand and Mott), is DiPalos, which looks like an ordinary grocery store, but it ain't. It might be one of the finest gourmet markets in the country. I know the owner, so I'm biased. Worth a peek, but only for a minute, you're not buying groceries.
Head east on Grand Street over to the Bowery and turn north again. The Bowery has changed a great deal in the last thirty years - it was once the domain of punks and flophouses, but now it's full of high end restaurants and such, like so much of New York, it's been sanitized for profit. But there's still interesting things to be seen there as you walk north. If you're interested in the indie music scene, head east on Stanton St. at night over to Arlene's Grocery or Pianos. There are many little venues like this over there but these are late night destinations.
If you keep heading north on the Bowery, you'll pass the former location of CBGBs, and ultimately end up at Astor place/Cooper Union/St. Marks. Plenty of interesting places left on St. Marks although it's not quite what it used to be. Didn't eat yet? Hit up Klong for excellent Thai. It's on a level below the street but it's always busy, and worth it. Great mixed drinks, too. Or if you want something light, go over to 3rd avenue and 9th st. to Saint's Alp for bubble tea. If it's night time, head up to the Angels' share, a quiet bar where you can talk with your friends/companions. It's located inside the Yokocho Village restaurant. No more than four people can be with you to get in, and there might be a wait.
On experience everybody likes is the Strand Bookstore - which is just north of where you are at Broadway & 12th. It's the last bookstore of it's kind in New York and they don't come much bigger. Anything you could want, really. There's plenty to shop for in this area, and lots to see, and union square is just two blocks to your north.
You're now in the heart of NYU country, and you've walked about three miles. Time for the subway. Hop on the 4/5 train going north at Union Square and ride up to 96th street. This is a busy train, so don't be surprised if you can't find a seat.
At 96th, head west towards central park. You'll pass park avenue, which you can explore if you like, it's certainly worth walking up and down it for a bit. And fifth avenue is right along the park. You can go inside the park to the east meadow, or you can head a little bit north on fifth avenue to the Museum of the City of New York. This low-key museum is off the beaten path, but if you're interested in New York, it's a very interesting place. On a nice day though, the park will be calling. You can walk north towards the English, French, and Italian conservatory gardens, or south towards the reservoir. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Frick, they're all right there to the south on fifth ave.
A little walk over to 83rd & Lexington will take you to the Lexington Candy store. You'll recognize it right away, because it's a 1940's soda fountain/luncheonette. Somehow, it has been perfectly preserved for all this time, and a little piece of 1940s America remains just for you. Have an egg creme or a milkshake, made on the stuff they made it with when it was invented.
Yeah, that's enough nostalgia for now. And that is but a small fraction of the things you can do, it's just nice that you can walk most of that.
Other places to eat with things that you generally cannot get in France:
Katz's Deli on Houston & Ridge St. Made famous in the movie When Harry Met Sally
, some of us remember it from before that. This is an authentic 20th century Kosher deli with good food if you're into big pastrami sandwiches (Personally recommended), but much of the local culture that once surrounded it is gone now. Still, Katz's is a thing you can only get in New York.
El Malecon at 97th & Amsterdam. This is a Dominican restaurant, and if you want to eat at a simple place that's cheap and has something you can't get anywhere else, it's a good choice. Eat like a local. El Malecon also has other restaurants much farther afield (up by 175th street, and one in the bronx), this one is more accessible if you're a tourist.
Pio Pio. This is a Peruvian restaurant and WOW, grease. It's a local chain though and it's ALWAYS packed no matter which one you go to (there are several around Manhattan). One taste of the tomatillo sauce and you'll know why.
Edgar's. This is a dessert place at 92nd & Amsterdam. Nearby Cafe Lallo gets alot of attention for it's flashy but inept wait staff and celebrity clients, but the desserts and ambiance here are vastly superior. Cake not to be missed.
Indus Valley at 100th & Broadway, arguably one of the finest Indian restaurants in the city, maybe the country.
If you're downtown, the sublime nature of Indus Valley is contrasted by the craziness of "Panna II
Indian Garden", or as my friends call it, "Panna II
, electric boogaloo." Panna II
, at 1st avenue & 6th street, is festooned with every kind of christmas light you could ever want to see, and the food is quite good. A memorable experience.
Toloache. This is a Mexican place at 50th street and 9th avenue in the theater district. Ordinarily like a good New Yorker, I hate this area and Times Square, but this is a seriously good place with excellent food that isn't quite like Americanized "Texican" food. If you're in the theater district or even at the Intrepid, which is not that far away, this is a good place to go. Likely a wait for a table though.