Newbie Tourist Report
tl/dr: Fairfield Inn @ Times Square has good breakfast and good location and price. Subway not overly complicated. Walking great for seeing things. Central Park and 9/11 Memorial don't miss. Most people helpful, always felt safe. Discount theater tickets are good deal. Don't take a leisurely pedi-cab through Central Park. Pizza slice for dinner is very economical. NYC is amazing and we just saw the tip of the iceberg.
We just returned from a long weekend in NYC. We were taking my daughter to check out three colleges she got accepted to and do as much sightseeing as possible in just 3 days. None of us had ever been to NYC.
Took the redeye from LAX so arrived at JFK at 8am. We took a cab (fixed price $61 + tip) from JFK to our hotel since cabs were cheaper than UBER/Lyft and I knew they could fit our luggage. At this point we were not brave enough to try and figure out the subway to our hotel. Went right by Empire State Building which was cool. We were right by our hotel, but due to one way street had to circle the block -- took 13 minutes to circle block, glad it was a fixed price.
We stayed at the Fairfield Inn at 330 W. 40th Street, right across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. It was just under $600 for the three night stay. It included a hot buffet breakfast each morning which was really good for a hotel and I figure it saved us a ton of money and time by have a big breakfast right on site. We arrived around 10am on Friday and hoped to drop our luggage, but they actually had our room ready so we were able to check in. Since breakfast went to 11am they let us have breakfast that morning which was awesome. We actually liked everything about this hotel and all the staff were very nice.
The initial plan had been to get a pass for the double decker buses that take you around to see the sights since we really did not have much time. However, with the weather forecast being for rain and/or snow each day we decided sitting up top would not be fun.
So, with the weather being cold, but nice, we decided to walk from our hotel to Marymount Manhattan -- about 2.5 miles that took us through time square, through the theater area (daughter is a musical theater person), through Central Park and then to MM College. This walk could have been sponsored by the NYC tourism board because it was amazing. Central Park was covered in snow and it was beautiful. Was not overly crowded, we were dressed warmly, and every so often a few snow flakes would drift down. Classic moment was watching the facial expression of the two young Asian girl tourists as the pedi-cab driver showed them the amount being charged to their credit card -- $4.99 a minute so I can only imagine how much it was.
Toured MMC (a no-go) then headed back through Central Park and saw a bunch of sights there, another great walk. Google and google maps were our friends.
One of the leads of Mean Girls is an alumni of the musical theater program at my daughter's high school, so we had 8pm tickets to see that. We headed to Ellen's Stardust Diner for lunch/dinner around 4pm. Had to wait about 20 minutes, not too bad. It is somewhat expensive diner food, but the wait staff take turns singing so it is basically a show also. With a musical theater kid this is the type of stuff you end up doing. It was fun and entertaining and glad we did it -- all in is was about $130 for the three of us. Not bad since the show and food were both good.
Walked back to our hotel and took a nap. About 7:15 we walked to theater which was about 15 minute walk. Mean Girls was really good and then after the show we got to go backstage with Kyle. He gave us a tour and my daughter was in heaven. After the show we grabbed a slice of pizza and wandered back to hotel.
Saturday morning is was snowing so we got a late start. Ubered up to Manhattanville. After tour and lunch, Ubered down to 9/11 Memorial rather than our hotel.
Got into the 9/11 Memorial about 4pm. There is a lot to see and it is quite an experience. Talk with the docents, many were there that day and have stories to tell. We moved along at a decent pace, but still ended up spending about 4 hours there. And that was kind of rushing through the last parts of it (the before 9/11 and after 9/11 sections). Glad we got to this.
We then walked down to Battery Park so we could get our first glimpse of Statue of Liberty. Wandered around a bit then caught an Uber back to hotel. Went back out and wandered around Times Square just checking things out.
Sunday morning took the Subway downtown to Pace. Port Authority Bus Terminal was right across street so it was simple and google maps had told us which lines we could take to get to Pace. Was at Pace until about 4pm. First glitch of trip was Alaska notifying me that our Monday 1pm flight was cancelled. Ended up calling and getting a 7:30am flight through Portland to get us home. Hoping overnight snow storm does not mess that up.
From Pace we started to walk across Brooklyn Bridge, but decided did not have time. So walked down Broadway towards Battery Park in order to see Statue of Liberty during day. Saw Federal Hall, Trinity Church, New York Stock Exchange, and the "Charging Bull" (line to take picture next to the Bull's balls was a bit longer than line to take picture with his head, fwiw) along the way. Wandered around Battery Park, looked at the Statue of Liberty and a cool carousel, then back towards 9/11 Memorial where we caught the subway uptown.
Took subway to Time Square so my wife and daughter could buy last minute theater tickets (48th Ave and 8th I think). They got center, row C, tickets to see Chicago for less than half price. Show started at 7 so we had time to walk to Radio City Music Hall to see it. Went by the NBC building where Jimmy Fallon is filmed. Stopped for a slice of pizza on way to theater.
Left my wife and daughter in line and at this point it was raining/snowing and I walked back to our hotel, got warm, and watched out the window to see if this big storm actually was going to happen and hope our flight did not get canceled/delayed.
We had planned to take the subway to our 1pm flight since it was a simple train ride, but with the change of time and weather (and my daughter getting sick around 3AM) we ended up taking a taxi to JFK. Snow stopped around 4am and at 5:45am it took just about 40 minutes to get to JFK. Got home 4pm. If not for my daughter being sick the whole way home, it would have been a perfect trip.