Howdy! I am sooo excited today because we’re going to be talking about a place very near and dear to my heart. The place where I grew up – and that place is none other than the fabulous New York City!
I recently had the pleasure of welcoming Joel Cohen, the General Manager at Beyond Times Square to one of my video chats. Now – most of you know that even though I now live in Texas I am still and always will be a New Yorker at heart. But since I cannot be there, Joel is my eyes and ears on the ground and together, we want to give you guys an amazing experience in the Big Apple – one where you will truly come to understand why New York City is an amazing melting pot with so very much to offer. So, without further ado, let’s go to Gotham gang!
A Positive Post-COVID Update
After a very rough 2020 – and start of 2021 – we are happy to report that New York City is once again wide open. Museums are open, the restaurants are open at 100% capacity, the attractions are open, sporting venues are open, and Broadway is back! It’s all there just waiting for you to come and visit again – or for the first time!
Give My Regards To Broadway
Broadway is obviously a huge part of New York and I, being in Texas, love to see the productions via the Broadway touring companies who travel here – but really there’s nothing like seeing a show on the Great White Way aka Broadway. There’s nothing like seeing Phantom of the Opera in the Majestic Theater on 45th Street, there’s nothing like seeing Roxy and the gang from Chicago on Broadway. It really is just an experience that you won’t ever forget. And since September 14th, when the first four shows returned, new shows are returning weekly and they’re opening to 100% capacity! So, you guys – if you want to go see a show in New York City you need to call me because will work with Joel and the staff at Beyond Times Square to get you the best seats and make all the other arrangements for you as well – such as hotel, tours, activities – you name it – we can set it up!
The Great Outdoors In Gotham?
Now – typically when people think of New York City they are thinking of Broadway and museums and the Empire State Building – in other words, inside activities. What they don’t realize is that there is so much to do outdoors in the city! Not just in Manhattan but in all of the boroughs, as well in the areas surrounding New York City such as Long Island. Long Island has beaches. It has the beautiful town of Montauk. It has colleges like Hofstra and CW Post. It even has wineries and the wineries on the island are great. So, there’s a lot to do outdoors not only on Long Island but in other areas of New York State that are easily accessible from New York City like the Hudson Valley. In the Hudson Valley you’ll find great historic mansions like the Vanderbilt mansion and FDR’s residence. And if you’re a baseball fan Cooperstown is there which is the home of the Baseball of Fame.
Now – one of the things that I love that Beyond Times Square does as well is that they’ve got a helicopter or private jet tour to Niagara Falls. Typically, Niagara Falls in itself is a whole trip but if you don’t have the time to do all of that you can easily just take a private jet or helicopter to Niagara Falls for the day, walk around, get pictures and truly enjoy and experience it and then come back to the city that night! Not only do you get an incredible view of the falls and private tour, but you really experience the falls like you wouldn’t if you had to drive it. I mean think about going back home and saying “You’ll never guess what we did when we were in New York City. We actually took a private jet to Niagara Falls and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life!” I mean it truly is just a fantastic thing to do for a day especially if you’re staying longer in New York City and you’re looking for something different to do. It’s not an easy drive to the falls but to take a helicopter or a private jet – oh my goodness what an experience!
The Core Of The Big Apple
New York City is one city consisting of five boroughs and thousands of neighborhoods – each one unique. The landmarks, the cuisine, the history, the culture, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, Central Park – they are all part of the experience but there is so much more. There is the rest of New York City – or as Joel said – the best of New York City. The boroughs and neighborhoods that make NYC the greatest city in the world. And since BTSQ specializes in private tours and unique NYC experiences for both individual parties and group travelers throughout the five boroughs and beyond – I can easily work with them to customize the perfect experience for you.
The Five Boroughs
Manhattan: Let’s start our excursion to the boroughs of New York City with Manhattan where we can arrange for a local tour guide to meet you at your hotel and take you on a private tour of the neighborhoods that make up the island. From the boisterous midtown the cinematic West Village to Little Italy and Chinatown. And if you’re a foodie – there are private food tasting tours we can hook you up with and you can even join a private culinary experience where you will cook with a professional chef and take home your favorite local recipe! Or how about experiencing Manhattan’s art culture scene like a VIP? You can join an art specialist on a private pre-opening or after hours tour of museums and enjoy art without the noise and distraction of crowds. Then as the vibrant nightlife starts you can see a Broadway show and afterwards get a private tour backstage and meet the stars of the show! And don’t forget Central Park – which Joel joked is what we New Yorkers call Manhattan’s backyard! Despite what you might have heard it is perfectly safe and features beautiful statues, monuments, bodies of water, gardens and a host of other great spots to explore
Brooklyn: Next stop Brooklyn! Brooklyn is a borough filled with youthful energy. You can start with a nice stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge where you can take in the stunning views of the East River. Then when you arrive you can get up close with an authentic graffiti artist and understand how the neighborhood inspired this amazing art form. There are also some yummy food tasting tours available that will satisfy your craving for a nice cheesy Brooklyn pizza and other trendy neighborhood snacks. Now you will see later that Queens is a mecca of different nationalities, but the reality is that Brooklyn is too, and Brooklyn has so much history. Guys when you get to Brooklyn you want to enjoy the Jewish history there. There’s so much living history to be discovered in Brooklyn and people are actually living the lives like they used to back in the day. So really there is a great opportunity overall to be able to walk in history and learn about other cultures.
There is also a very popular cemetery in Brooklyn built in the mid-19th century called Green-Wood Cemetery. Here you will find the graves of civil war veterans as well as some famous folks – but one of its biggest draws is that it’s got an incredible view of Manhattan. So incredible that at one point Brooklyn residents would actually buy plots in the cemetery, even though they weren’t going to be used for hopefully a long time, and on Sundays they would take the family and go there and that would be their picnic spot. It was a beautiful location with a great view of Manhattan – so why not! And it’s become a tourist spot now – people visiting Brooklyn will go there to see the beautiful mausoleums and old tombstones that are there. Joel joked that it sounds a little maudlin but it’s not – it’s really a beautiful place to visit.
Also, in Brooklyn is Brighton Beach, which happens to be in the Russian neighborhood where you can find some of the best Russian restaurants in the city. You can also visit Crown Heights for the history of the Hasidic Jews in New York City. And of course, the pizza in Brooklyn! Joel and I 100% agree that Brooklyn really has the best pizza of all the boroughs – maybe in the world! Yes, I’m going to go to that length because I’ve had pizza all around the world and I will tell you that every time I go back to New York I have to get a slice of Brooklyn pizza!
Joel also noted that one of his favorite outdoor activities is to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and thinks that everybody needs experience it. And I agree – it’s a great walk and its free! Plus, on the other side of the bridge – right at the end of it – is the Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s beautiful open green space with a magnificent view of the Manhattan skyline. And to be there for sunset and watch the sun set behind Manhattan as the lights come on in the buildings is magnificent. Joel calls it watching Manhattan dress for the evening! What an amazing experience. Plus, the park sits right between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge, and you also have the promenade there and so after you have this amazing experience go and enjoy the promenade and have dinner outside. There’s also another park you can explore in Brooklyn – Prospect Park – which is like a mini Central Park that is not is crowded and another great outdoor space.
The Bronx – And Harlem: Now it’s time for the tale of two cities – Harlem and the Bronx. Here you will find jazz clubs, museums, beautiful Botanical Gardens with the chicest art exhibition, an Ivy League college – Columbia University – and New York City’s Champs-Elysees, Yankee Stadium. And be certain to combine it all with a food tour of the real Little Italy on Arthur Ave in the Bronx. The Bronx has so much to offer food wise – not just Italian. There are many of the Caribbean cultures there such as Dominicans and Puerto Ricans and other islands and so many fabulous restaurants.
Joel shared that for him the Bronx was always just Yankee Stadium. Anytime he was going to the Bronx it was simply to go to a Yankees Game. So, he recently had one of BTSQ’s private tour guides show him around and they drove up to Harlem and across to the Bronx and past Yankee Stadium and into an area that he had never been before. It was filled with beautiful greenery – a lot of greenery. So much so that he said they say Staten Island is the greenest borough in New York but he’s not so sure because the Bronx is very green too with some beautiful residential areas. He noted that the architecture in the Bronx is also amazing and that it was just a beautiful ride and they ended up on a place called Arthur Ave in the Bronx also known as the REAL Little Italy. Here you will find restaurants and markets and cheese shops – you can even see cigars being hand rolled. And the restaurants there are generations old – they’re still family restaurants that go back generations. Plus, it’s easy to get to the real Little Italy – either by subway or hiring private vehicle and a tour guide
Staten Island: Just one ferry ride away from Manhattan and you’re now in Staten Island – the greenest borough in New York City. It’s the home to the magnificent Saint George Theater, Greek revival buildings, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden and its gorgeous Chinese Scholar Garden. Here you can participate in a private walking tour that takes you to the treasures that even native New Yorkers do not know about. Joel shared that of all of the boroughs the most surprising to him is Staten Island. You can take the Staten Island Ferry over – it’s free and you get a great view of the Statue of Liberty from it. You can’t get off at Liberty Island, but you can get off at the Staten Island terminal and walk a few steps to the Saint George Theater which was built in 1929. It’s a magnificent structure that was just renovated over the past 20 years. It was decrepit and falling apart and they were going to tear it down and then locals got together and raised enough money for the renovations and now it is just a beautiful place to tour. Then not far from there is Snug Harbor and their Chinese Scholar Garden which is absolutely beautiful. And did you know guys said Staten Island has beaches too? So, New York City literally has everything you need!
Queens: Queens – or the world’s borough – is the most linguistically diverse place on earth. Here you embrace both the beauty of nature and the diversity of cultures. In Queens you can opt to do a Chinese food tasting tour in Flushing as well as a private sightseeing tour of Astoria that takes you to one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the city. Queens is a mecca of different nationalities. I’m a Queens girl so I will always preach Queens – that’s why I’m in New York Mets fan! And food I mean you can find a restaurant of every single culture in the world here, so you truly can travel globally in New York City and not need a passport. Just hop on the seven train in Midtown and take it right through to Queens where you can eat anything from Ethiopian to Thai to Chinese – anything that you can think of you will find. Fun Fact: 100 different languages are spoken in Queens. And that’s just Queens alone!
Off The Beaten Path
Finding off the beaten path locations in New York City is not as hard as you think it is and I think that’s important to highlight because when people go to a major city like New York they don’t think that there is really anything off the beaten path. But I’ll tell you what, being a native New Yorker, there’s off the beaten path even for me now when I go back and visit. I am always finding things and saying wow I didn’t know this existed! And Joel agreed as that is exactly how he felt when he went to Arthur Ave in the Bronx, when he went to Staten Island for the first time and more recently when he went to Stone Street in the Wall Street Financial District. It’s an area – just a short narrow street that’s blocked off to traffic and no cars are allowed. It’s just filled with tables and the restaurants and bars just come out and serve you as you sit outside and enjoy the day. Definitely something only New Yorkers know about!
The Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade
We can’t talk New York without talking about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – especially since this is being published in the beginning of November! This is one of those bucket list experiences that is beyond amazing. Do you guys want to see how all of those balloons are blown up? Did you know that you can actually watch that happen the day before the parade? And guess what between Joel and I we can make that happen for you! Not only that but we can book you at a luxury indoor parade viewing party to watch the parade in a climate controlled area while you enjoy food, drinks and entertainment inside. Now that’s the way to watch a parade! And Joel agrees and added that the parade is absolutely amazing – even to him who has watched it live now for about ten years. He also shared that when that parade kicks off at 9:00 o’clock in the morning his heart is beating, and he gets the shivers up and down his spine. It really is that spectacular folks!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing New York City is open for visitors!
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date COVID protocols in New York click here.
There’s just so much to see and do here – we could talk about New York for a day and a half and still not cover it all. But now that you have all these amazing tidbits let’s start planning your New York City trip and let’s add some extra time so that you can go explore Long island, the Hudson Valley and Niagara Falls!
For more details on things to see and do in New York City, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!