A little over a year ago, I made a whirlwind trip though all five boroughs of New York City (NYC - Five Boroughs in a Weekend). While there was a little time for sightseeing, it felt like most of the weekend was spent on the subway just trying to reach each of the “county seats” in greater NYC (I did have to take the Staten Island ferry to reach one county). This year with Independence Day falling on a Tuesday, it made sense to go back to New York to enjoy a bit more of what the city has to offer at a slightly less hectic pace.
The trip began on a sour note with weather and air traffic control delays. By the time Friday evening ended, both my original flight on AA and the UA flight they rebooked me on had both been cancelled. I contacted the Renaissance Midtown and requested they keep my reservation intact, despite the fact I would not be arriving until late morning the following day. Since I had booked a 5-night redemption, losing the first night really made no difference. Besides, I had already done a mobile check-in, so I knew the room would be available no matter what time I arrived on Saturday morning.
Instead of arriving at LGA as originally planned, we landed at EWR around 10am and took the Airport Express through the Lincoln Tunnel into midtown Manhattan. Though I didn’t stop in the county seat, the bus did drive though Hudson County, New Jersey, a county I had not visited before. iahflyr might find it interesting that EWR is located in two counties, Union and Essex (terminal A and part of terminal B are in Union, while the rest of terminal B and all of terminal C are in Essex). Then again, maybe I’m the only one who cares about such things. Regardless, I get to add another county to the list of those visited, but since I didn’t “collect” it yet, I’ll be back in the area one day. Hey, I can even do before and after maps showing the "new" county I added.
Over the course of the next 5 days, we explored NYC without my pressing need to visit each borough. Before arriving, I had purchased a couple 5-day New York Passes, which provide admission to over 80 attractions in and around New York. The pass is available for 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, or 10 days and if purchased online, usually offers a discount. The 5-day pass listed for $299, but if I recall, I paid $239. The amount of the discount varies by now many days the pass is for and by when you buy. I noticed the price of the 3-day pass varied between $190 and $210 in the month before my trip. By monitoring the price, you could end up with some decent savings. I added up the cost of the individual admission prices for the places we visited and came up with a total of $292. By purchasing the pass, we each saved $53 over what we would have paid at the door. I’ll admit, there were a couple places we might not have visited without the pass, but since we’d already spent the money on the pass, anything included on the list didn’t add any additional cost.
During most of the year, we’re fans of Broadway Across America, which brings touring shows though town, so for us, when in New York, seeing something on Broadway is a must. We opted for one play and one musical. We were fortunate to catch Present Laughter starring Kevin Kline on July 1, one night before its final performance. No question about whether he deserved the Tony for Best Actor. The musical we chose was Bandstand. Being set in Cleveland, all the references to Ohio were quite familiar. One thing wonderful about seeing shows on Broadway is the opportunity to see musicals, whether well-known or not, and to see famous actors on stage. That’s not something available in many cities across this country.
The sights we took in courtesy of the New York Pass were the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Circle Line Landmarks + Brooklyn cruise, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Empire State Building Observation Deck, Big Bus hop on, hop off tour, Grand Central Station audio tour, the National 9/11 Museum, and Coney Island. As I mentioned earlier, had we paid for each of these at the door, it would have cost $292 each. One thing I will say about getting good value out of the New York Pass. It can be done, but fitting more than 2 or 3 attractions into a day is difficult. I would certainly buy this pass or a similar one again. By making sure I know what I want to do and, more importantly, how much I can do in a day, I’d be able to decide which pass offers the best value.
One of the unexpected discoveries on the trip occurred at Coney Island. Wandering the maze of pathways between the rides and arcade games designed to separate fools from their money, I was surprised to find the fortunetelling machine Zoltar. Some of you may recall it from the 1988 Tom Hanks film “Big.” I couldn’t resist spending a dollar to get my fortune. I was, however, careful not to wish for anything. Perhaps I'm just another fool, but the entertainment value made it worth a dollar to me.
There were two other highlights worth mentioning. One was the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular over the East River. We had a decent view at E 18th St and Avenue C.
The other was a small tiki bar called Otto’s Shrunken Head in the East Village. We stopped in both before and after the fireworks for a couple drinks. Those who know me won’t be surprised that even in NYC, I was able to find my way to at least one tiki bar. I even brought home a souvenir mug. Check out the colorful pufferfish lamps above the bar.
So, while I did not collect any new counties on this trip, I did traverse one county in New Jersey I had not visited before. Perhaps that’s a bit of tenuous connection to my blog, but it does give me at least some justification for including it here. Current plans put the next county collecting trip in mid-August when I’ll be in and around Lincoln, Nebraska. Unless something else comes up sooner, look for the next blog post on that trip in about 7 weeks.