Friday, August 1, 2014

Day One - Ethan & Madison First Trip to New York (Summer 2014)

My family and I recently came back from our trip to NYC. I'm a frequent visitor due to my business travels. Nancy has been to NY as well. But it was a first for Madison (10 yrs old) and Ethan (13 yrs old). Back in Feb 2014, we had plans to go, but the snowstorm put a damper on our trip which ended up getting cancelled. We decided to try and go sometime in the summer instead. 
This trip was a vacation for the family and it coincided with my business trip to New Jersey. We stayed in Secaucus (Harmon Meadow area). Why? The Courtyard Marriott we stayed at was just across the street from the bus stop that took us to NY. Without traffic, that ride into the city is around 20 mins. With traffic, oh boy, it could take 1 hour. I could've stayed in the city, but didn't want to risk all the transportation issues that could happen in the tunnel or at the turnpike when I make my way to work in New Jersey. 
My goal for the weekend was to educate my family with as much as I could with using the subway, inform them of the difference between street vs. avenue, uptown vs downtown, Brooklyn - bronx...I needed for them to have a good sense of direction, so while I'm at work during the week, they're able to go around the city and use the subway with no problem.
Wishlist for this trip? Definitely visit lots of the popular tourist spots, watch as many Broadway shows (we're big theatre enthusiasts), and eat good, good food!
Day One - Saturday
Leaving LAX for New York (via Newark's EWR)
We arrived at Newark International Airport by 6 am, picked up our rental, and drove to Secaucus (about 15 mins drive). Our hotel check-in was at 3pm, but the hotel allowed us to check in earlier (thank you, Courtyard Marriott). Knowing that we were tired from the night before, we went to bed and slept, right???? NOPE. We dropped off our stuff upstairs, freshened up a bit, and caught the 8:30am bus to NY. As expected, for that Saturday, there was no traffic going in to the Lincoln Tunnel. We were in the city sometime after 9am. We were starved so we ate at Au Bon Pain inside Port Authority - it's like a hub for buses, trains, subways that connects you to NYC.


 Wearing our tourist uniform
After leaving Port Authority, we headed to 42nd St to New Amsterdam Theatre to try and score Aladdin tickets, but the lottery was scheduled around 12noon. So we made our way towards Times Square and because it was our kids' 1st time, you can imagine the dozens of pictures we took. We walked quite a bit, and on that Saturday, there was also an outdoor market on Broadway so that added interest to the already interesting views that Times Square had to offer. While walking down Broadway,
Ommar and Jonathan - Times Square
someone tapped Nancy, it was her college friend Ommar, and her husband Jonathan. They live in NY. Nancy and Ommar have not seen each other since they graduated in college back in 1992. They communicated via text and Facebook, and planned to meet up during the week....but seriously, what were the chances of accidentally meeting up in NYC, in the heart of Times Square! Small world, indeed!!! 

Foodie item #1
It was around 11am already and I knew that The Halal Guys was just around the corner on West 53rd St. We ordered Chicken over Rice, and the kids ate their 1st halal street food. Whenever I visit the city, I try and make it a point to stop by The Halal Guys. For $6, you you get this round deep dish filled with rice, veggies, pita, and your choice of meat and the most amazing yogurt sauce, and fiery hot sauce. Typing that just made my mouth water. Instead of eating next to the halal cart, we walked over to Starbucks, and we ordered iced tea. Our goal at this time was to eat, recharge our bodies, and phones. We headed to a Starbucks somewhere on 8th Ave, I think. 
Broadway shows at a discount
Since we are big theatre fans, and we planned on watching as many shows, we knew it wasn't going to be cheap. Regular tickets are priced over $50 all the way to $300 or more. There are many options to get discounts - via online, via TKTS booth, or you can rush or join the lottery. What's the difference between Rush and Lottery?


  • RUSH TICKETS - typically sold on the day of the show, heavily discounted, and they'll sell whatever is available. People tend to line up outside the theatre's box office before it opens, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning
  • LOTTERY on the other hand 
  • Front row orchestra - Wicked!!!
  •  s a raffle drawing, a game of pure luck. There's a designated time when names will be drawn, typically 20 seats are given out, so if there's a lot of people, then your chances are slim, but you just never know. Tickets are even more discounted for the lottery, and there's an added thrill when your name gets picked.
Wicked Lottery
The Gershwin Theatre was close enough to Starbucks and we wanted to try our luck with the lottery for Wicked. Around 150 people showed up, the good news, Nancy's name got picked, the not so good news, only 2 tickets per winner. So Madison went (she's never seen Wicked), and Nancy went with her. She's seen it a few times on Broadway and in LA
Newsies Rush
Ethan and I then rushed to West 41st St to the Nederlander Theatre and got ourselves 2 rush tickets to Newsies - 4th row side orchestra...SCORE! It was $30 each....double SCORE! I saw the show in 2013 during another visit to NY, and I told the kids that they have to watch this show.

Prior to the Matinee shows
We had 1 hour to kill, and for some reason we got hungry again. I took them to Patzeria Perfect Pizza (on West 46th St)., the only pizzeria place I trust in the Theatre District. At 2pm, all 4 of us watched separately, and that was okay because we knew we were just taking our chances with rush and lotteries. Fortunately we are frequent theatre-goers in California so to miss a show wasn't a do or die situation for us. After our shows, we all met up at New Amsterdam to try our luck with Aladdin lottery, this time, we weren't that lucky. Since we are big on theatre, Madison asked if she could watch Newsies at night. Ethan enjoyed Newsies so much that he highly recommended it.

People watching - Bryant Park



Newsies and father/son bonding
For the evening show, it was Nancy and Madison at Newsies, again 
we paid around $30 each (this time they were give Mezzanine seats), I still think it's a great deal instead of paying full price. Ethan and I on the other hand walked away from Times Square, went to Bryant Park, and people watched. He had ice cream from Mr. Softee, and then we walked towards the nearest Barnes and Noble to read books and magazines.


Falafel with rice, pita, veggies - The Halal Guys
Mister Softee
Lo and behold, we found ourselves near the Rockefeller Ctr, and not far away was The Halal Guys, and guess what? We ordered Halal food again :-) We ordered extra for our girls. We all met up at the Nederlander (where they were inside watching Newsies).
Rockefeller Center
When we got to the theatre, the theatre manager came out towards the lobby, and asked if we needed assistance, and we told him we were waiting for my wife and daughter. Ethan told the manager that he watched the matinee show earlier and thoroughly enjoyed the show. Not long after, the manager asked us to go in the theatre, just stand in the back, and he allowed us to watch the last few scenes....very cool!!!!
Tired
It was now close to 11pm, and we've been on the go ALL DAY!!! It's time to head back to the hotel in Secaucus. Fortunately, the theatre was near Port Authority, and we made it to the bus in good time.
That's Day 1 folks..... :-)
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