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August 1st, 2007


by Lawrence Pfeil Jr

It can happen to anyone…without warning or provocation…and come at anytime. The dreaded phone call from a distant relative or long lost friend living in one of those square states across the river, or worse, the friend of a friend:

“…and you’ll never guess where we’ve decided to go on our vacation…New York City! We’ve never been to the Big Apple so we want to see everything and can’t wait for you to show us all the sights! Won’t it be fun?”

To a native or even a “naturalized” New Yorker (i.e. someone who has lived here more than seven years with absolutely no desire to live anywhere else) the thought of playing tour guide for out of towners from the hinterlands is a fate worse than a two week old garbage strike in August with no AC.We wouldn’t be caught dead going to any place listed as a “Top 10 tourist attraction” and would be mortified if someone we know saw us waiting in line to “see a sight.”

But truth be told, we’re actually missing out on some great things to see and do because we’re too damn jaded for our own good at times. It seems like we’re always so busy going somewhere–work, an audition, an opening, home, a movie, whatever–that we really forget where we live. Sure, when we sit next to a celeb in a restaurant we remember, or when we get into a club NO ONE can get into we remember, but generally we are too distracted by the grueling pace of our own lives that we forget. And it is these times, when we schlep someone around town that we realize how cool New York really is, and you remember how cool you are for being able to show the rubes around! So before you book your guests on every Greyline Bus Tour, or Circle Line dinner tour available, here are just a few activities and attractions you may want to reconsider visiting yourself.

Top of the Rock: Having reopened less than two years ago, Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza is the “newest” scenic spot in the city. Closed to the public for more than 50 years, it’s 70th floor observation deck offers a unique and breath-taking 360 degree, unobstructed, panoramic view. This includes Central Park and the northern half of Manhattan, which can’t be seen from any other public vantage point. Its beautifully restored art deco interior from 1933 is equally spectacular and features two dazzling new pieces of art created by Swarovski Crystal. “Joie,” a stunning crystal waterfall chandelier, greets visitors entering fromWest 50th Street and “Radiance,” a massive crystal geode wall, shimmers with 600 custom glass and crystal panels spanning a width of 180 feet on the first level of the Observation Deck.

The Empire State Building: Without question The Empire State Building is the grand dame of city landmarks, with long lines daily to prove it. Be a savvy visitor and order tickets in advance online, but more importantly take in the grandeur of our city from its 86th floor observation deck or from its recently reopened 102nd floor observation deck…at night! It’s open till 2AM so crowds are sure to diminish through the evening hours, and the view of city lights is unparalleled–making it one of the most romantic spots in Manhattan. According to its website, “Static electricity buildup is so mammoth on top of the Building that, under the right conditions, if you stick your hand through the observatory fence, St. Elmo’s fire will stream from your fingertips. Lovers who kiss up there may find their lips crackling with electric sparks.”

Come Sail Away: For a truly unique way to experience Manhattan in all of her glory, go sailing through New York Harbor! Classic Harbor Line offers several daytime, twilight and night sails aboard the Adirondack, an 80 foot pilot schooner.While sipping complimentary drinks, you’ll sail south from Chelsea Piers down the Hudson River to Battery Park, passing by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.Wind and time permitting, it’s up the East River to the Brooklyn Bridge and then home again. To complete the experience, pack a basket with your favorite goodies and munchables to bring along and have a picnic on deck as the cityscape drifts by.

The Bronx Zoo: When it first opened its gates in 1899, The Bronx Zoo had 22 “caged” exhibits and 843 animals. Today its high-tech, ecosystem based habitats like the Congo Gorilla Forest are home to over 4000 animals, making it the greatest zoo in the world thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates it. This summer, the historic Astor Court reopens in the heart of the Zoo after being carefully restored to its original grandeur. Visitors can once again enjoy the splendor of peacocks strutting, sea lions splashing, and rosebushes blooming on the Beaux-Arts campus, the way it was when it first opened.Whether strolling the grounds or riding the zoo’s monorail, visitors will feel a part of its mission to protect wildlife and wild lands for generations to come.

Statue of Liberty: Admittedly, this may be most New Yorkers’ breaking point when it comes to tourist attractions. We can see the lady with the torch just fine from where we are, thank you very much. Standing in line to ride in a boat to go stand in line is out of the question. Except…given she was a finalist for one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, you have to “wonder” if maybe she is worth a closer look after all.

First-time visitors to the city are almost certain to have sticker shock when they see what things cost here in the big city, including the price of admissions. Knowing already that your brother-in-law is so cheap he won’t even pick up his paycheck, his vacation could become a large out of pocket expense for you. So here are some of the best “free for nothing” things to do in the city that will leave you looking like a prince but not put a drain on the royal treasury.

The Staten Island Ferry: While hundreds of thousands of daily commuters wouldn’t make the trip again on their day off for love nor money, they would undoubtedly agree it does offer some pretty spectacular views. Crossing to Staten island may not be all that but coming back you’ll get an up close and personal view of Lady Liberty like no other, as well as an amazing view of the Financial District, our southern skyline and some of the best photo ops in the city. And in the time it will take you to ride the ferry over and get right back on to come back, the people in line on Liberty Island will still be waiting.

The Winter Garden: Located in the World Financial Center, the soaring 45,000 sq. ft. glass atrium of the Winter Garden, with its 30 skyscraping palm trees, overlooks New York Harbor. In addition to shopping and dining it is home to the Arts & Events Program, an innovative, year-round series of free performances, exhibitions and festivals.Whether you’re looking for a tranquil escape from the deafening din of the city or to take in a concert or art exhibit, the Winter Garden is always a great place to spend the day.

The NY Philharmonic in Central Park: July 11th and 17th are this year’s dates for The Philharmonic’s annual summer concerts on the great lawn. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and arrive early for an evening of great classical music by New York’s finest orchestra. Concerts begin at 8pm and are followed by fireworks!

Shakespeare in the Park: The Public Theatre continues its tradition of offering free Shakespeare at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, August 7th through September 9th. Since 1962, approximately 80,000 New Yorkers and visitors have seen these plays each summer. In fact, since its inception over 80 free productions have been presented and seen by almost 4 million people.

MoMa: You can visit the Museum of Modern Art for free? Who knew? Well you can on TARGET Free Friday Nights, from 4-8pm every Friday. Advance tickets are not offered, only the day of, but it’s free for everyone.

The Bronx Zoo: Every Wednesday admission to the zoo is free! Don’t worry… It will still be the same animals. They don’t put the understudies on just because admission is free.

Times Square at Night: Walking down Broadway into Times Square and standing at the Crossroads of the World at night is a thrilling experience the first time and the one hundred and first time. But lets face it–thrilling or not, no New Yorker in their right mind, and there are a few, would willingly do it and deal with the overflowing throngs of tourists who don’t know how to cross a street or like to abruptly stop in the middle of the sidewalk. Still, it’s a must-do if ever there was one, so remember that Times Square is just as electrifying at 8:15 after the Broadway shows have started as it is at 7:45 when 30,000 people are all trying to get to their show before curtain.

Coney Island: While it’s true you do have to pay to ride the Cyclone and other rides and attractions at Astroland Amusement Park, the boardwalk, beach and fireworks every Friday night at 9:30 are still free to enjoy– but you better do it quick. Last November Astroland was sold to a developer and at the end of the season the Coney Island that hosted its first carousel in 1876 and gave the world the hot dog will be no more. In its place will be a $2 billion commercial and residential development complex. Still, there are those with a sense of history who have organized the Coney Island History Project, currently housed in a booth at the base of the Cyclone, and The Coney Island Museum, open 12:00- 5:00PM on Saturdays and Sundays with a year-round Admission of $.99. The Cyclone rollercoaster will always be a fixture at Coney Island. On June 13, 1991, the ride was named a New York City Historic Landmark, and subsequently added to the National Register of Historic Places and thus protected from demolition.

Whether you will be entertaining those pesky out of town guests or not, put jaded thoughts aside this summer and try to see the city with fresh eyes again. Be your own tour guide to the city and let yourself do those “touristy” things you’ve been resisting for so long. You’ll probably end up wondering why you hadn’t done them sooner! Discover what’s new and revitalized, bid a fond farewell to the passing of an era, and remind yourself again why this is the greatest city in the world.

Filed Under: Arts & Leisure | Community | New York





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