Wednesday, June 04, 2008

We took a family trip to New York City over Memorial Day Weekend. The kids had never been to NYC, so we decided to embrace our inner tourists and check out some of the city's great attractions. We also paid a visit to Brooklyn to see A.'s cousins.

I took Friday off and we took the kids out of school for the day. After examining various options, we decided to get to drive to New Haven and take the Metro-North commuter rail to Grand Central Station. Back in my younger days this was my normal route into the city. I wouldn't have to drive in New York (which I avoid like the plague) and it's less expensive than Amtrak. Everything went off without a hitch. We got a noon train and got to Grand Central a bit before 2. From there we jockeyed for a cab and went over to our hotel.

Let me say a few things about the place we stayed. I got a reservation at a very reasonable rate (for New York) at the Hampton inn at 8th Ave. and 51st St. The staff was very friendly and helpful, the free breakfast buffet was very good and they added nice touches like a big bowl of apples in the lobby during the afternoon. The room was clean and big enough for the four of us. The hotel was very convenient to the subway, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square. I would certainly stay there again.

Once we got to the hotel we decided to relax for a bit before venturing out. Our first stop was the Top of the Rock. This is the observation deck at the top of the 70 story GE Building in Rockefeller Center. We had first considered going to the Empire State Building, but when A. checked it out they suggested needing up to two hours to get through security. As we later found out from A.'s cousin, the Empire State Building is considered a terrorist target, so the security is very tight (we would get a taste of this when we visited the Statue of Liberty).

We got through security at the Top of the Rock pretty quickly and soon found ourselves on the way up to the observation deck. One cool touch: the elevators have a glass roof and various images are projected on it while you watch yourself go up the elevator shaft.

One drawback to going to the Empire State Building is that you can't actually see the building while you are standing on it. That's not a problem at the Top of the Rock, so you are able to get pictures like this:

If you go all the way to the top, the 70th floor observation deck gives you a 360 degree view of the city. I took a few more pictures, including this one of Central Park.

After wandering around there for a bit, we were starting to get hungry and, continuing on with the tourist theme of the weekend we went to the Stage Deli. The Stage is in the theater district (in case you couldn't figure that out from the name) and has been a fixture for decades. I went for the Mel Brooks triple decker. Words fail me when attempting to describe how big this sandwich is, so I thought a photograph might give you the best idea.

Yeah. If there had been a fridge in our room I could have gotten another meal out of it. That's J.'s chicken salad sandwich in the background from the kids menu.

Gorged on cold cuts and tired from a long day of traveling and sightseeing, we headed back to the hotel. We had to head downtown Saturday morning to Battery Park to take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I'll cover those events in part 2.


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