Our NYC Staycation

PicMonkey Collage - NYC

This past spring break was an interesting one. After living in and near NYC for a lot of years, I decided it was time for my kids to have a NYC staycation.

We stayed in hotels, went to museums on 42nd Street like Madame Tussaud’s, took a bus tour, ate in Chinatown and Korea Town, went to the top of the Empire State Building, visited the Statue of Liberty and toured Ellis Island, went to the 9/11 Memorial, explored the orchids at the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and had pizza on Arthur Avenue, indulged in cupcakes at Carlos Bakery, strolled through Soho, munched on hamburgers at Five Guys in Times Square…wow, I’m tired from reliving it all. But I want to relive it for you here, so I can wear you out.

Here are highlights from our weeklong staycation in New York City:

– We stayed overnight at The Westin New York at Times Square, where they offer a WICKED Night Out, an exclusive WICKED-themed hotel package. As fans of the show, the experience of seeing the cast perform in an intimate setting was a one of a kind, in addition to our fabulous views of the NYC skyline from our room.  Find out more about our experience here.

The Westin New York at Times Square at Times Square is located at 270 West 43rd Street and you can get more info about the WICKED Night Out at their web site, www.westinny.com.

– We took a 3-1/2 hour bus tour of the film and TV sites in NYC via On Location Tours, along with an animated tour guide and a bus full of tourists. The guide mentioned sites used in Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, GhostBusters, Serendipity and to off the beaten path to Manhattan neighborhoods including SoHo, the Meatpacking District, Greenwich Village, Tribeca and the Upper East Side. We were shown where Taylor Swift lives and driven by film and TV shoots. The guide gave out yummy black & white cookies and there were several opportunities to take quick strolls and get off the bus. It was a great way to see all sides of the city, even natives will enjoy it.

Information about On Location Tours can be found at http://onlocationtours.com.

– We went to see the extremely creative and utterly wonderful CATCH ME! (Attrape-moi) at the New Victory Theater, featuring the six young talents of Flip FabriQue, an up-and-coming troupe from Quebec City, Canada, whose members have performed with Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Éloize, 7 Fingers and more. It’s one of those fearless, fast-paced shows that takes athleticism and showmanship to new heights in a high-flying spectacle that highlights the artists’ (men and 1 woman) individual talents, including aerial hoop, aerial straps, banquina, juggling and trampowall, among others. Read the rest of my review here and check out the New Victory’s upcoming shows here.

The New Victory Theater is located at 229 West 42nd Street.

– We had lunch in Korea Town, not once but twice, at a place called Mandoo Bar. They make the dumplings in the window and then serve them sizzling hot and they’re divine. When you sit down, they bring salad and Korean pickles over. I lunched on Spicy Ramen Soup with Tofu, the kids had bibimbap, steamy delicious meat and veggies served in a hot stone bowl. The waiter adds hot sauce and rice and stirred it up in front of us. 

Mandoo Bar is located at 2 West 32nd Street in NYC’s Korean Town. For more info, visit http://mandoobarnyc.com.

– We spent an entire day at the annual orchid show at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Chandeliers are the theme of the NYBG’s 13th annual orchid show. Each year showcases a different design. Along with the show’s massive chandelier, the exhibit features hanging baskets and columns of orchids and plants and it was all ogle-worthy. The NYBG offers classes on orchid care, as well as gardens that are available all year. We rode a 25-minute tram around the park to take in all its offerings and look forward to future visits. Our visit also took us to nearby Little Italy where we indulged in the real thing – Italian pizza and pastries.“

The Orchid Show: Chandeliers” runs at the New York Botanical Garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory through Sunday, April 19. Price of admission varies, with tickets costing $20 for adults on weekdays. For more info, visit www.nybg.org.

– I hadn’t been to Madame Tussaud’s in years, since BlogHer 2010, so when my daughter asked to go during spring break, I was happy to oblige. I took both my kids and one of her friends, and we spent about 90 minutes taking the tour. There are six themed, interactive environments showcasing nearly 200 masterfully crafted, lifelike wax figures, that includes Woody Allen, Bette Midler, Nicolas Cage, Hugh Grant, Oprah Winfrey, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Donald Trump, Marie Antoinette, The Dalai Lama and Maya Angelou. The tour is historical and interesting for pop-culture lovers like my kids, who loved the new Taylor Swift and Jimmy Fallon fixtures.

Madame Tussaud’s is located in Times Square on West 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. Ticket information is here: https://www.madametussauds.com.

– We also stayed over-night at Wyndam Garden Chinatown on Bowery, a hotel right in the center of Chinatown. The hotel is clean, cozy and gave us complete access to the area including Soho, LES, Tribeca and Little Italy.

The Wyndam Garden Chinatown is located at 93 Bowery and booking info can be found here:  wyndhamchinatown.reservations.com.

– We each used a CityPASS for reduced admission to some of the city’s best attractions. It gives free entry to all top iconic places but also to many unique tours, as well as easy access. There are over 80 attractions to choose from. We went to the top of the Empire State Building, an attraction my kids had long awaited. They enjoyed going up 86 floors and looking down on a city they live near and love, but the crowds on the top were pretty intense. The CityPASS also took us to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, two places my kids had yet to visit, and a visit, which took a full day, and the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Information about the CityPASS is located at http://www.citypass.com. New York CityPASS is a booklet of admission tickets to 6 must-see tourist attractions in New York City. You’ll save 41% compared to combined regular box office prices.

– Other stops included Carlo’s Bakery in Times Square where we waited 45 minutes for a cupcake made by the Cake Boss chef; burgers and fries at Five Guys Burgers & Fries; Shanghai Cafe at 100 Mott Street for an authentic Chinese meal; Taqueria Tehuitzingo on 578 for high-quality, low-cost Mexican fare and Full Moon Pizzeria at 600 East 187th Street in the Bronx for real Italian pizza.

I want to emphasize what a treat it was to be a tourist in my own town. As a New Yorker, I saw the city through a slightly different lens and it was very impressive. It was also very crowded. We actually ended our tour at the 9/11 Memorial, which was fitting and a wake up call to the reality we are living in. We were also reminded that life has changed immensely since I first moved to NYC and went to some of these same sites for the first time by the extra-tight security at many venues. The security checks made the lines longer and added to the time at each venue and the tourists are certainly spilling in, but we just blended right in and I love New York even more than I did before. And that’s really saying something.

Disclosure: The CityPASS, On Locations Tour, hotel visits and Madame Tussaud’s were complimentary to facilitate the writing I am doing here and on other web sites, but as always, all opinions are my own.

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  1. Very informative article.. I live in Pennsylvania and love to visit NYC. Korean barbecue is my favorite.

  2. Great list of things to do in NYC. I live in Manhattan, but I’ve never been to Madame Tussauds. I really want to do the bus tour thing. It seems like it would be a great vantage point from which to see architecture. Thanks for the post.


  3. As a former New Yorker this sounds like a fabulous stay cation. My kids live in NYC and I love to visit and walk around the city.

  4. I, too, live very close to NYC — we have done some “touristy” things in the past and really enjoyed doing them. I highly recommend downloading some of the walking tours of places like the East Village. They are really fun to do (and free)!

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