Sunday, May 18, 2008

Raleigh/New York City + New York City Travel Tips - May 2008

Kara and I recently were on vacation in North Carolina. We had a blast touring Raleigh and the Outer Banks. We saw a nursing school and the adjacent hospital, we played a few rounds of golf, ate at "Top of the Hill" on UNC's campus among other things.

While in the Outer Banks, we played a few rounds of miniature golf, walked the beach, toured the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras, jumped off some sand dunes (my personal highlight) and I got to tour the Wright Brothers museum.

Here's a few pictures from that leg of the trip:

After 6 days wthere, Kara and I headed up to NYC for 4 nights to take in the sights of the Big Apple. Having never visited the city before, I couldn't believe the immenseness of everything coming up to street level from the subway. A few days in NYC made Seattle seem like a small town in comparison.

We were able to take in quite a few sights while we were there including the Letterman show, Broadway, Central Park, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, Wall Street, UN Headquarters, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and a few others. We stayed at Hotel St. James on 45th Street, in between 7th and 6th Avenues. If you're familiar at all with the area, we were sandwiched between Rockefeller Center and Times Square (a pretty ideal location).

Overall, it was an amazing time in a great city. In addition, there were a few things we learned that we wanted to post in case it can benefit others:
  • Buy reserved tickets for Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island. The ferry takes awhile to load and unload. This process occurs three times (Battery where you get on in New York, Liberty Island, and Ellis Island). We waited some 45 minutes in the rain to get on the ferry the first time despite getting there at 9:15 am when the first ferry leaves at 9:30. Reserved tickets let you come back at a certain time and skip a bunch of this line. Apparently they can be ordered online.
  • Purchase a week long unlimited Metro tickets for the subway/bus system if you’re going to be there for 3 or more nights.
  • Walk the Brooklyn Bridge, but first take a subway into Brooklyn so you can walk into the city. We accidentally took the JHZ subway line that crosses over the Williamsburg line. It then took a 40 minute bus ride to get to the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Rollerblade in Central Park. We carried our blades in luggage, and this turned out to be a highlight of the trip. You may even have Lance Armstrong blaze by you on his bike a few times! It allowed us to see the entire park in a shorter amount of time given that the park consists of 843 acres (6 miles to go completely around).
  • Get 50% off same-day Broadway tickets. Look for signs for “tkts”. Ticket sales open at 3 pm, although people line up before hand. I would get there no later than 2:45. Note: there are two lines, one for plays only and another for musicals. Also, they only take cash, and they didn’t have that posted in anywhere. Some people definitely got burned when they got to the cashier after waiting in line for 30 minutes.
  • Request tickets to the Late Show with David Letterman. You can do it online. This too was a highlight, and it’s free! Note: you have to answer a trivia question if they do call you! Requesting tickets this way will guarantee you seats.
  • Buying breakfast and lunch supplies can save a lot of money for other activities. We hit up the closest Whole Foods and were good to go.
  • If you want a great Italian dinner, be sure to hit up Little Italy.
  • Check out the Federal Hall. This historic landmark/museum is located right in the middle of Wall Street. It felt like we had teleported to Washington D.C. as we were getting a heavy dosage of colonial history. I had forgotten that the government was first situated in New York when Washington became president.
  • Don’t expect to see much at the Twin Towers. They are heavy into construction, and have a lot of the site boarded up to prevent traffic from slowing down due to onlooking drivers.
  • The American Museum of Natural History is a great museum to see. I think they have the largest collection of dinosaur fossils of any museum in the world. We weren’t able to see all the exhibits even though we spent nearly 3 ½ hours there, so we recommend picking out your top exhibits and making sure you see those first rather than tackling the entire museum floor by floor given you could spend an entire there taking in all that it has to offer. Also, the museum has a suggested $15 donation to go through the museum. If you would rather not pay the full suggested fee, be sure to enter through the main entrance that faces Central Park. There are self-service pay stations located there.
Here are a few pictures from our time in New York. If you would like to see the rest, click here to go to our Picasa Web album.

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