We had an enjoyable visit to NYC, for anyone considering going between Christmas and New Year's, be prepared for HUGE crowds! While we saw lines everywhere, we somehow managed not to stand in any of them for longer than a few minutes. Before I left home I bought Go Select passes which I customized (Met, MOMA, ESB, TOTR and Guggenheim), when we arrived I bought a weekly Metro pass even though our stay was shorter. I bought tickets for shows before I left, all at a discount. We didn't do as much as I thought we would but we fit in the stuff that was important to us
Friday-arrived into EWR, took the Air Train/NJ Transit option for $12.50 into NY Penn Station. From there we took the subway to our hotel, the Residence Inn Times Square (we could have easily walked). The hotel is very nice, free breakfast, free wifi, easy check in, good location, full kitchen. We walked around taking in the holiday windows, walked through Times Square and decided we were hungry around 2pm. John's pizza had a huge line outside so we went to Bond 45, the meal was OK but not a keeper. We took advantage of the MAD museums pay what you want Friday and went to see the jewelry exhibit that is there until April 2014, lots of beautiful baubles to look at. The rest of the museum wasn't really my thing.
We had tickets to the Rockettes Christmas show so we headed over there, they start the show on time so get in line early to make sure you get in. Waited until just a few days before the show to buy, found a discount code on BroadwayBox or TheaterMania, the seats were in row T which is 46 rows from the stage, not 20 as the AA-ZZ rows are in front of A-T. Enjoyed the performance but didn't enjoy the family behind us that broke every rule of theater etiquette in the book! Talking, eating, kicking my seat, crinkling paper. Decided to go see the Empire State Building after that, we went up around midnight. The daytime lines simply were too long, when we asked they said they died down around 9pm. The line outside is security, everyone, even pass holders, has to wait in it.
Saturday-predicted to be the nicest day of our visit, we headed to the Top of the Rock. The pass skipped the ticket line, we got a timed ticket for 45 minutes later so we wasted some time around Rockefeller Center before going up. By far a better experience than the ESB, the timed tickets make the crowds manageable and who wants to wait for several hours in a ticket line? The view is great, really, I can't fathom why the ESB is more popular than the TOTR. Had lunch at Gazala's on 9th with a friend, a very small restaurant that serves middle Eastern food, very good. We had tickets for La Soiree that evening at the Union Square Theater, highly recommend. It's bizarre, sexy, funny, sometimes all at the same time. Afterwards, we went to La Nacional for tapas, it was good but not a place I'd hunt out again.
Sunday-soaking rain was the forecast so we headed for the Met. I could have stayed here all day, the collection is vast and varied. We went early, when we left the security line was out the door and down the street, people standing in pouring rain. We didn't want to wait for cafeteria food though so we left around 2pm to find lunch, it was pouring and we didn't have umbrellas, by the time we found someone selling them we were both soaked so we went back to the hotel after grabbing a slice of pizza. Dinner was at Victor's Café, a bustling Cuban restaurant in the theater district. While a little pricey (what isn't in the theater district), the food was excellent. The ropa vieja was delicious and the rice pudding was wonderful. We should have made earlier reservations, a lot of the food (paella and several of the desserts) take extra time. We had tickets for "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder", also highly recommended.
Monday-MOMA opened at 9:30 and we got there just after it opened. No line when we got there, at least a 1/2 hour ticket line when we left. The Pass would have skipped that. Enjoyed most of the collection, not a huge fan of modern art but much of the collection is not what I consider "modern", the 5th floor is 1880-1940-Picasso, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh etc. Stayed for about 2 1/2 hours, then went out for lunch at Europa Café which is a decent place to get a salad or sandwich and then to the Guggenheim, mainly because it was on our pass otherwise I might have skipped. It is not a place I'd return, just not my taste in art. It's a small museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, I think we saw all of it in less than an hour. Then it was time to go home.
We probably broke even on the weekly metro card, for a longer visit it makes sense depending on what part of the city you are staying in or visiting. Go Select Pass worked out OK, saved time on the lines but we probably wouldn't have visited the ESB or the Guggenheim had I not prepaid for it. Buying theater tickets ahead of time was a good idea, I bought all of them at a discount from either Goldstar (La Soiree) or with a code from TheaterMania or Broadway Box. Wouldn't come after Christmas ever again though, while we didn't wait in line for anything significant, the cost and number of people would dissuade me. Pre Christmas seemed more manageable in terms of crowds even if busy.