Monday, September 22, 2014

NYC Advice and Tips

Getting Around: Use Public Transportation
Before we left for New York we looked into possibly buying a 7 day pass for a hop-on-hop-off style bus. We have them all over San Francisco and it seems like the easiest way to get around in the city without getting lost. However due to the higher cost we decided against it and went with the 7 day unlimited metro card for $30 each.
We found that getting around in New York was very easy with the aid of our friend Google Maps. We did a lot of walking which is made relatively easy due to their grid like numbered streets and avenues. And with the help of Google Maps we always knew which subway or bus we needed to take to get to where we wanted.

Attractions: Buy Online and Go Early
We considered buying one of the many city passes available for New York. However, after careful consideration of the attractions we actually wanted to go to it was cheaper for us to pay the individual entry fees instead (especially when you take into account that many museums offer discounted/free entry days, student discounts, or are donation based).
We purchased most of our attraction tickets online a day ahead of time which meant we didn't need to stand in line at the attractions to buy tickets. This ended up saving us a lot of time. We also tried to go to the attractions earlier in the day. We went to the Top of Rockefeller Center as soon as they opened and because we bought our tickets online ahead of time we had no lines to wait in to get up. Not to mention that it was so nice and peaceful up there since there were only a few other people at the top while we were there.

Tapings: Only if You Have an Extended Stay in NYC
The tapings we went to were great and definitely a ton of fun. But if you're only in NYC for a few days don't waste your time. Going to the tapings was a huge time investment between standing in line to pick up tickets and then standing in line to get into the studio. Attending the live tapings we went to took up a good 5-6 hours of our day. If you have a short stay in New York don't waste it all by standing in line. There's so much more New York has to offer.

Broadway/Off-Broadway: TKTS for Deep Discounts
Tickets for almost every Broadway and off-Broadway show are available at the TKTS booth in Times Square. There are only a handful of extremely popular shows you won't be able to get there (ie: Wicked and Book of Mormon). I think it'd also be safe to assume that if a show has won any Tony awards this year (especially best musical or best play) you'll need to buy your tickets ahead of time.

While I'm no travel expert hopefully those of you who may be visiting New York for the first time will find these little tidbits helpful.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Motown: The Musical

Good morning, ya'll! Last night we went to see the first musical in our SHN 2014-2015, Motown: The Musical. This was our second year with season tickets and we decided to pick up a set of 4 tickets this season so that we could share our musical experience with some of our friends and family. We tried to figure out which of our friends and family would enjoy this show the most and ultimately decided to bring hub's dad and girlfriend with us. It seems like we made the right decision as they reminisced about growing up with the music of Motown.

 The music for the show was great! I mean how could it not with all the super hits that came out of the Motown record label? With songs like Ain't to Proud to Beg, What's Going On, and ABC the music of this show definitely had the audience bopping along. The story follows the conception and life of Motown Records by legendary producer and song writer Berry Gordy.

For me the plot fell short, so much focus was put on the music of Motown which is great, but I still feel like they could've done more with the story. I understand that clearly the focus of the show would be the amazing music they made, but there are other similar musicals out there like Jersey Boys and Beautiful: The Carol King Musical that focus highly on the music and are still able to make time to tell a story. My final thoughts...go for the music, but don't expect much of a storyline.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Our Favorite NYC Eats [picture heavy post]

Since we ate a lot of good food in New York I thought it'd be a good idea to compile some of our favorite eats from our trip.

On Sunday morning we brunched at Good Enough to Eat which was highly recommended by one of my high school classmates who lives in New York. Although the food was good it wasn't out of this world. But it was all worth it experience the quintessential brunch staple of the Upper West Side, strawberry butter. It boggles my mind to think of the genius who thought this delicious concoction up. Slathered on their warm biscuits or or all over fresh waffles it was absolutely magical. 
I'm literally drooling on my keyboard right now

That night we made our way to a Momofuku Milk Bar to try the legendary crack pie. When we got back to our hotel room with our pies we were a little weary of the fact that butter is the first ingredient listed...what had we gotten ourselves into??? After our first bite of buttery, sweet, chewy goodness I was in love. We went back to get crack pie to finish off our day almost every night we were in New York. There's definitely no denying why they call it crack pie. 
Oh butter, you've never done me wrong!
Unwrapped and in all it's crack pie glory
While researching places to eat in New York we happened across the BuzzFeed Donut Crawl. Although the author doesn't make the latter half of the donut crawl sound enjoyable by any means they did mention a creme brulee donut at Doughnut Plant which we knew we just had to try. Not only was the creme brulee donut to die for but their cake donuts all have fillings which make them extra moist and extra delicious. So good we had to do a repeat visit on our last day in New York.
top R to L: coffee cake donut and creme brulee donut
bottom R to L: creme brulee donut and tres leches cake donut
Coffee cake donut filled with creamy goodness

Later that day we went to Eataly and had lunch at Rosticceria where we shared to most delicious prime rib sandwich my mouth has ever had the pleasure of meeting. The bread was just the right amount of crusty (crunchy without tearing up the inside of your mouth) and the meat was seasoned to absolute perfection. So glad we stumbled upon this gem.

The next day we ate dinner at a New York staple, Shake Shack. I remember standing in line for HOUUURSSSS in Madison Square with my parents in 2010 just to get a taste of Shake Shack goodness. Luckily now there are many more chains open and we were able to get our grub on in a reasonable amount of time. While the burgers ain't no In-N-Out their shakes are undeniably good.

I love a good pastrami sandwich so we had to make a trip to the famed, Carnegie Deli. Their pastrami is so flavorful and tender without being overly fatty. Not to mention their monstrous portions are legendary. Even after sharing a sandwich we were so full we had to take our cheesecake to go.

Almost every night we came back to our hotel from the theater we would pass by a street cart with a huge line of people. We finally looked into it and found out that The Halal Guys is basically a New York City institution. Once we knew that we just HAD to give it a try. After reviewing yelp we decided on chicken and rice. The plate was so big that the two of us were able to fill up on just one plate. Needless to say yelp didn't lead us astray and the food was delicious.
so simple yet so delicious

Last up on our list of favorite eats was Gotham didn't think we'd have a list of NYC eats without pizza did you??? We ate a lot of good pizza but the grandma square pizza at Gotham was the best. The homemade marinara sauce and the drizzling of olive oil on the thin crispy crust was a perfect combo.
what New York trip would be complete without pizza?

And that concludes the series on our New York trip. I'm glad I  got to wrap up this final post just in time for us to get ready for out trip back in November!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

NYC Sightseeing [picture heavy post]

Hubs and I will be sharing our birthday presents and taking another trip to NYC in November. Earlier we heard rumblings that one of my favorite actresses, Emma Stone, might be taking a role along side Alan Cumming in Cabaret on Broadway. Once the rumors were confirmed we knew we had to go back. With our next trip to New York booked I figured I better get on with finishing up my original NYC posts.

In the week we were in New York we tried to get in as much sightseeing as possible without overly exhausting ourselves. In the end I think we saw pretty much everything on our list of NYC sights.

We didn't do much sightseeing on our first day in New York. We mostly familiarized ourselves with the subway system and caught a matinee of Cinderella.

We hit the ground running on our second day in New York by going to the top of Rockefeller Center as soon as they opened. It was a nice clear day and we were early enough to beat the crowds allowing us to really enjoy the breathtaking views of the city.
L to R: city view and central park view from Rockefeller Center
Then we were off to a boat tour around half of the island of Manhattan with Circle Line Cruise. A friend of mine who lives in New York highly recommended doing a boat tour which gave us a pretty nice overview and some history behind some of the sights we planned to see later in the week.
top L to R: Lady Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and Empire State Building from Circle Line Cruise
bottom L to R: Staten Island Ferry and lower Manhattan skyline
After the boat tour was over we rushed over for our Daily Show taping. After that we were off to see Avenue Q off-Broadway.
Before the end of the night we stopped by the Rockefeller Center one more time to take in the view with the city lights on. Again we were lucky to go late enough that there wasn't much of a crowd and we could enjoy the view without all the hassle of waiting in line or having people photobomb our pictures.
L to R: night view of Central Park and the city from Rockefeller Center

The next day we spent window shopping in SoHo. We also went to check out Eataly, an Italian-style market in the Flatiron District. So many people had mentioned we should check it out when we were getting suggestions for our New York trip. I thought it was so strange that people would recommend visiting a market, but once we entered I totally understood why it was so highly recommended. It really was a sight to see unto itself.
L: flat iron building
R top to bottom: handmade pasta and huge cheese selection in Eataly
That evening we went to our Tonight Show taping.

The following morning we spent in downtown. We started with our trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We spent some time at the Statue of Liberty where we were able to go up to the pedestal and visit the museum. But we just briefly got off the ferry to snap some quick photos of Ellis Island...since none of our relatives would've immigrated through there it wasn't really a point of interest for us.
L to R: Lady Liberty up close and personal, windy stairs up to the crown, replica of the torch
Once the ferry brought us back we headed to Wall Street to check out the financial hub of the United States.
L to R: rubbing the bulls balls for good luck, New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street,
and Trinity Church at the end of Wall Street
We then made our way to the 9/11 Memorial. Unfortunately for us we weren't able to go to the museum since it was scheduled to open a couple weeks after our trip. Although we were really disappointed that we couldn't go to the museum I'm glad we were able to pay our respects at the memorial. It's such a beautiful and peaceful place with such a tragic history behind it. I definitely got a little teary eyed being there.
L to R: 9/11 memorial pools and Freedom Tower
Then we made the long track across the Brooklyn bridge which provided a pretty awesome view of the Hudson River.
walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
We finished the day off with A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

We spent Thursday morning wandering around Central Park. Even though it was a gloomy morning it was impossible for me to day dream about how lovely it must be to live close enough to stroll the park every day. We even had a Gossip Girl moment as we sat on the Met steps.
That afternoon we strolled around in Grand Central Station. It's amazing to think how many trains stop there and go through New York everyday.
top L to R: hanging out in Central Park on a rainy day, Bethesda Fountain, and spotted on the Met steps
bottom L to R: outside and inside Grand Central
We ended the day with Rocky.

On our last day in New York we walked along the High Line which is a park built on a historic freight rail line above the Lower West Side of Manhattan. We took one last walk through Central Park and then made our way to FAO Schwartz for some window shopping. Our last stop on our trip in New York was MOMA where we learned that we aren't huge fans of modern art. But since we got in free for Uniqlo's Free Friday Nights so we couldn't really complain.
L to R: strolling along the High Line, of course we had to check out the Lego displays in FAO Schwartz,
and enjoying Van Gogh's Starry Night

We sure had a ton of fun playing all over the city. Next up I'll be sharing some of our favorite eats from the trip.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

NYC Musicals: Rocky

On the Thusday we were in New York we planned to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Neal Patrick Harris. It was the musical that hubs bought tickets for as soon as we knew we'd be in New York because we love NPH. Needless to say we were super excited to see that show. However, it wasn't until we were on our way to pick up our tickets from will call that we realized we'd made a terrible mistake. Apparently we put Hedwig on  the wrong day in our calendar and booked A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder for the same day. We completely missed Hedwig without even knowing it! We hurried over to the box office to see if there was anything we could do to get tickets, but they informed us that tickets were sold out over a month in advanced are escorted Heartbreaking to say the least.

We sadly walked toward Times Square where I proceeded to get separated from hubs in the hoards of people when he crossed a street before I was able to. Thank goodness for cell phones! After being reunited we made our way over to the TKS booth to see if there was anything we wanted to see. Hubs had been pointing out the Rocky billboards everywhere we went in New York but I was less than excited to see a musical based on a movie I'd never seen. But since hubs was so forlorn about messing up our Hedwig tickets I suggested we see Rocky in hopes of cheering him up. The musical is up for a few Tony awards including best actor in a musical and best scenic design so I figured it couldn't be so bad.

Since I haven't seen the movie I can't attest to how true the musical is to the movie, but hubs says that they did a pretty good job. To me the story seems pretty depressing up until the big fight at the end, but again apparently that's how it's supposed to be. The actor who played Rocky definitely had the Sylvester Stallone voice down, but strangely had a very distinct country twang whenever he sang. I honestly wasn't very impressed with the lyrics throughout the musical. For some reason they seemed forced. But maybe that's just what happens when you're trying turn a non-musical movie into a musical.

Even though I wasn't blown away by the story or lyrics of Rocky I'm glad we saw it for it's production value alone. If this play doesn't win best scenic design I will be shocked. The stage design of this show is absolutely incredible. From the little things like the rain that trickles down the windows in scenes where it's raining to the cameras they use to put up live images so it looks like we're really watching the news coverage of Rocky training for the big fight. But most impressive is the boxing ring that moves seemlessly around the stage throughout the show. In fact for the fight scene between Rocky and Apollo Creed a regulation sized boxing ring slides out into the audience and a jumbo tron drops from the ceiling just like you'd see at a real boxing match. The audience members sitting in the center of the first 10-15 rows are escorted on stage to sit in bleachers to watch the big fight. It really makes you feel like you've been transported into the movie. I can't imagine how they would possibly take such a large production on the road so if you liked the movie I'd reccomend seeing the musical in New York just for the sheer amazingness of the set.

Friday, May 30, 2014

NYC Musicals: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

About 1-2 weeks before we left for New York the list of Tony nominations were released. Upon reviewing the list of nominees, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder clearly stoodout amongst the crowd with a whopping 10 nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score. Hubs insisted that we try to get tickets for this musical while I tried to convince him that if this musical was as good as it seemed that it would probably be in next years line up for us as SHN season ticket holders. As usual hubs won after arguing that the people nominated from the musical for best actor in a musical and best featured actress in a musical wouldn't be performing in the traveling version. We just lucked out and got some of the last tickets available for the week we were in New York.

The musical is a comedy about a gentleman who finds out that his late mother was from a very prestigious family, but was disowned after marrying her less than prestigious husband for love. He learns that he is actually 9th in line to inherit earldom. With that knowledge in handhe sets forth to eliminate the 9 relatives (all which are played by a single actor) ahead of him in order to earn his rightful spot as an earl.

I am sooo glad hubs convinced me that it was absolutely imperative that we see this musical while in New York. The musical was spectacular and absolutely hilarious. Jefferson Mays, who plays all 9 of the relatives who are eventually off'd was absolutely brilliant. In fact the entire cast is quite sensational. I'm so happy that we had an opportunity to see this musical and I hope to see it in line up for next years SHN season.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

NYC Tapings: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

A few months before Jimmy Fallon took over the Tonight Show we became pretty avid Late Night fans after seeing a couple hilarious skits that were popular around the interwebs. Once we started DVR-ing Late Night we were instantly hooked. Some of my favorite skits were Ew with Lindsey Lohan, the worlds most epic lip sync battle, #hastags with Justin Timberlake, and this amazing rendition of "Your Body" with Christina Aguilera . I mean how can you not love a guy who has a serious bromance with JT? Needless to say, we were back to excited when Jimmy Fallon got upgraded to the Tonight Show and even more excited at the opportunity to see a live taping of the show.

Similarly to picking up tickets for the Daily Show our email confirmation said that we needed to pick up our tickets at the NBC Experience Store by 3:40. However, just like the Daily Show they overbook the tapings so we started milling around (aka: stalking the NBC Experience store) around 1:30. We were told to come back at around 2:30. So we basked in the sun and people watched near Rockefeller Center and checked back in around 2:15 when they let us upstairs to wait for them to hand out our official tickets. By that point there were about 10 people ahead of us.

Before they started handing out tickets they let us know that everyone's tickets would have either a number or a letter written on it. They assured us that the system was arbitrary and not to fret over which you got it because it just meant that you would be lining up to get into the studio at a different time. We were also told that there would be no food or drinks allowed in the studio and that once inside we couldn't use our phones or cameras and wouldn't be allowed to leave to go to the restroom. They started handing out tickets around 3 or 3:30. We were given alphabet tickets and were told to meet back in the lobby of the Rockefeller Center at 4:45.

We arrived just at 4:45 and were quickly ushered through airport-like security. After clearing security we were lined up alphabetically in one of the hallways in Rockefeller Center. While standing in our line we noticed a very distinct difference between our line (the alphabet line) and the other line (the numbers line). Even though the producers had told us that the selection of alphabet versus line tickets were arbitrary, the alphabet line had a significantly lower average age than the numbers line. They let us into the taping studio one group at a time we were seated in the second row front and center...I thought I was going to die of excitement. Once we were seated we looked around, interested to see how the alphabets and numbers would be arranged in the studio. By the end it was clear that the alphabets were seated up front and center...god forbid we see old people in any audience shots (JK!) The nice thing about the Tonight Show is that they show highlights from previous shows to keep the audience entertained since they don't let you use your phones inside the studio.

Similar to the Daily Show they have a comic come out and warm up the audience. The guy reminds us that we are the "laugh track" so we should laugh heartily at anything remotely funny that Jimmy or the guests say. Then the Roots came out and played a few songs before they bring Jimmy out to do the show. Once the show got started we realized that being so close to front and center wasn't all that great since the cameras were constantly moving around and blocking a lot of our Just like the Daily Show, once the show gets started the entire taping runs pretty quickly.

The guests that night were Seth Rogan, Matt Bomer (plays Neal Caffery in one of our favorite TV shows, White Colllar), and Coldplay. Like I mentioned in a previous post we signed up for tickets for a couple of different days so that we could choose the day that had the best guests. Even though our view was always a littlee obstructed it was a great show.

Once the show was over Jimmy Fallon did a run up and down the aisles to high five the audience members and I even saw him sign an autograph or two. After that he dug out pretty quickly and the warm up comic came back out keep us company as they escorted us out from the back of the studio to the front.

After getting out from the taping we were starving! All that cheering and laughing really works up an appetite. We grabbed some yummy ramen and headed back to our room to rest up for our next day.