Archive for the ‘New York’ Category


5 Things to Do in Queens, NY

The US Open is held in Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs and home to the most culturally and ethnically diverse communities in the United States. If you’re attending the US Open and you’re not from New York, you might wonder what there is to see and do in the neighborhoods that whiz past you as you take the 7 train to the Mets-Willets Point station.

Though few tourists and visitors venture into Queens, favoring Manhattan and Brooklyn over the other boroughs, there are lots of “only in New York” experiences you can have in this under-visited borough.

Here are five things to do in Queens while you’re in town for the US Open, or really any time when you want to check out the cool attractions in this region of NYC:

1. Time travel in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

You won’t have to wander from the US Open grounds to act on this tip, as the tennis stadiums are located in the park’s boundaries. The park–New York City’s second largest–was host of two New York World’s Fairs (1939-1940 and 1964-1965); several relics from those fairs remain on display today. The large Unisphere sculpture is the most visible and photogenic of these relics, but the most interesting (and the ones that are closest to the US Open venue) are the mosaics and time capsule that serve as snapshots of mid-century pop culture.

And those snapshots aren’t without controversy. Read this interesting article from local radio station, WNYC, to learn about the “mosaic mystery.”

Time Capsule Mosaic

Time Capsule Mosaic

Image: calestyo

2. Eat your way through Flushing’s Chinatown.

One stop beyond the US Open on the 7 train is Flushing, home to New York City’s lesser-known Chinatown. As busy and bustling as Manhattan’s Chinatown, Flushing is, well, flush with Chinese restaurants specializing in most regional cuisines, though locals in the know tend to visit Flushing for dim sum.

Get off the 7 train at Main Street, come to street level, close your eyes, spin around, and wherever you’re facing when your eyes open, head in that direction to find an authentic Chinese restaurant.

Flushing's Chinatown

Flushing's Chinatown

Image: Terry Ballard

3. Walk Flushing’s Freedom Trail.

Barely familiar even to New Yorkers who consider themselves connoisseurs of the little-known, Flushing’s Freedom Trail is a walking path with historically significant sites that offer important insights into both New York’s and America’s past.

Along the path, you’ll find the home of the man who invented the carbon filament light bulb and New York City’s first public high school, as well as the oldest house of worship in the city.

A stop on Flushing's Freedom Trail

A stop on Flushing's Freedom Trail

Image: Francisco Collazo

4. Visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

Harlem and Greenwich Village are more famous for their roles in musical history, but Queens is a surprisingly rich repository, too. For almost 30 years, Louis Armstrong lived in a modest house in the Corona neighborhood; today, the house is a museum that is open to the public.

Though it’s a bit out of the way, it’s a must-visit for serious Armstrong fans, as the house has been preserved as it was when he and his wife lived there.

Louis Armstrong House Museum

Louis Armstrong House Museum

Image: Paul Lowry

5. Watch the sunset from Gantry Plaza State Park.

Long Island City, one of Queens’ neighborhoods and the closest one to Manhattan, sits on the East River and has perfect, unobstructed views of Manhattan, best seen at sunset. Take the 7 train to Vernon-Jackson, walk west on 50th Avenue all the way to the water, and enjoy the view from the end of one of the piers or from your own hammock at the northern end of the park.

Gantry Plaza State Park

Gantry Plaza State Park

Image: Francisco Collazo

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Travel + Leisure Names America’s Most Beautiful Neighborhoods

Travel + Leisure has released their list of America’s most historic, charming, and downright beautiful neighborhoods, and folks across the country are bound to have strong opinions about which towns were left off the list. I’m happy to say I’ve personally spent time in four of the ten neighborhoods selected, and the others are now on my short list. I was surprised to see parts of Baltimore, Oklahoma City and Houston on this list, and you may be surprised by some of the other selections.

Check out the article and let us know which ‘hoods you think should have made the list, and which ones you think were deservedly named “Most Beautiful.”

Photo credit: Travel + Leisure / Nik Wheeler/ Alamy

Photo credit: Travel + Leisure / Nik Wheeler/ Alamy

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Boardwalk Empire Vintage Subway Cars in NYC

This weekend is the season premiere of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, the 1920’s gangster show set in Atlantic City, New Jersey. To kick off the premiere, the New York City MTA has converted some subways into fully-functioning 1920’s-era trains, from the subway cars themselves, to the maps, and even the advertisements displayed.

Boardwalk Empire Vintage NYC Subway

Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid @

If you’re in NYC anytime in September, see if you can catch one of these cool-looking trains on the 2/3 line for a truly transporting experience!

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Travel & Leisure’s Top Cities Worldwide

Every year Travel+Leisure invites readers to vote in its 16th annual World’s Best survey, rating cities on things including overall value, sights, shopping and more.  The results include some perennial favorites, and some surprising new additions.

Rome, Italy - Coliseum

Rome, Italy - Coliseum

Florence, Rome and New York City are annual favorites, and this year is no exception. Readers love the culture, cuisine and character of these cities, and they flock to them in droves.

Istanbul is back in the top 5, with its glittering mosques and super-trendy culinary delights. Siem Reap, Cambodia is another top choice that may not be on everyone’s bucket list, but it should: it has evolved from a cluster of riverfront villages into a full-fledged destination complete with art galleries and boutique hotels.

See them all in the World’s Top Cities Slideshow.

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Fourth of July really snuck up on me this year, as it seems to do every year. If you’re in the same boat as me (read: have no idea what to do for the holiday), here is a list of great events and fireworks displays going on in some major U.S. cities.

Photo: ** Maurice **

Photo: ** Maurice **

San Francisco

Fourth of July Waterfront Celebration
Head down to the touristy, but always fun, Pier 39 for a day of clam chowder in bread bowls, free live music (80s hits and soft rock), street performers and, of course, the city’s annual fireworks display. You can’t really beat watching fireworks over the San Francisco Bay.

For more information, visit

Las Vegas
For the more adult crowd, hotels and casinos galore will be featuring fireworks displays, from Caesars Palace to the Las Vegas Hilton to Mandalay Bay and many others, as you can easily imagine. Parties are also abundant and many feature celebrity hosts, DJs or performers.

For more information, visit

Los Angeles

July 4th Fireworks Spectacular
Have a star-studded Fourth of July at the Hollywood Bowl. Pack a picnic, bring a blanket and watch LA’s largest fireworks displays. Add in performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West, special guest Vince Gill and more, and you’ll have a rockin’ Fourth of July celebration.

For more information, visit

Beer fanatics be aware, July 2 to July 4 is the Seattle International Beer Fest! With approximately 130 different beers from 15 counties, Beer Fest is a great place to spend the earlier hours of Fourth of July. By nightfall, you’ll be warm and content watching the fireworks over Lake Union.

For more information on Lake Union’s fireworks display, visit

Head down to the Windy City’s Navy Pier to check out three simultaneous fireworks shows. In addition to downtown, the fireworks will also be visable from the north and sides of Chicago.

For more information, visit

Washington D.C.

The National Independence Day Parade

For those looking to really connect with the true meaning of Independence Day, The National Independence Day Parade is a great event to attend. The annual event takes place at 11:45 a.m. on Constitution Avenue, from 7th to 17th, and includes invited bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, giant balloons, equestrian, drill teams, VIP’s, national dignitaries, and celebrity participants.

For more information, visit

New York City
Macy’s Annual Fourth of July Fireworks

Head to the Hudson River for the nation’s largest fireworks display—Macy’s Annual Fourth of July Fireworks. More than 40,000 fireworks shells at a rate of 1,500 per minute will quell any pyrotechnic lover’s desire to see elaborate and beautiful explosions in the sky.

For more information, visit


Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular dates back 37 years and continues to be one of the most beloved Fourth of July celebrations in the United States. Featured guests include Toby Keith, Craig Ferguson, Keith Lockhart and more. So head down to Charles River on the 3rd and the 4th to enjoy the concerts and the amazing fireworks display.

For more information, visit



Trip Photos: Central Park

Few things are more representative of New York City than Central Park. Created in 1857 by Fredrick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, Central Park is located in the heart of Manhattan. From carriage rides to picnics and jogging  to open air concerts, the park is enjoyed in a variety of ways. What is your favorite way to enjoy Central Park? Personally, I like finding the perfect hot dog and eating it while I people watch.

Central Park. Photo: Brian Struble

Central Park. Photo: Brian Struble

Plan your trip to New York City on TravelMuse.

Want to share your recent Trip photos and have them featured on TravelMusings? Add your photos to our TravelMuse Flickr group or TravelMuse Facebook page, and we’ll publish our favorites.

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College Visits – New York

New York can be an intimidating (though exciting) city. If your prospective student is interested in attending college in the Big Apple, it is highly recommended that you take a trip to New York City so he or she can get a feel of what it will be like to live in of the world’s most infamous cities—chances are that it’ll be quite an adjustment!

People gather outside the steps of Low Memorial Library at Columbia University. Photo: David Berkowitz

People gather outside the steps of Low Memorial Library at Columbia University. Photo: David Berkowitz

Day One: NYU, New School

Greenwich Village is one of the hippest parts of town for college students. New York University radiates out into the Village from the famous arch in Washington Square Park. On campus, be sure to check out NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, home to several world-class art exhibitions.

North of NYU is The New School, founded in 1919 by such luminaries as philosopher John Dewey and economist Thorstein Veblen as a place where ideas could be presented and discussed without fear of censorship. The university’s home, on West 12th Street, houses colleges of urban planning, music and drama, as well as Parsons—the design school of Project Runway fame.

Day Two: Columbia University, Fordham University

Morningside Heights

Take the 1 train up to Morningside Heights in Manhattan for a trip to Columbia University, a member of the Ivy League and, at 254 years old, the oldest institution of higher learning in New York City. Three colleges have their home under the Columbia umbrella: Columbia College, Teachers College and Barnard, a college for women. The main campus at West 116th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue is an academic oasis from the rest of the city dominated by the domed Low Memorial Library building. The wide steps in front of it serve as an “urban beach” where students hang out.

The Bronx

Up in Rose Hill, in the Bronx, there’s Fordham University. Getting there is no problem: both the D train subway line and the Metro-North commuter train stop there. It’s one of the more scenic areas in the city. Be sure to visit the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo.

The Pratt is a private college in New York City specializing in art. Photo: diluvi

The Pratt is a private college in New York City specializing in art. Photo: diluvi

Day Three: St. John’s, Art Schools

Your final day destinations depends on what type of student you have: traditional or one who plans to follow his or her creative soul.

St. John’s University in Queens is home to the city’s major college basketball team. Transportation is a bit tricky—if you don’t have a car, you’ll have to take a subway and transfer to a bus to get out to the Jamaica campus.

Art Colleges

Brooklyn is home to one of the top art schools in the city— Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill. Take the downtown A or C trains from the city to the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station and transfer to the G train.

Back in Manhattan, as noted above, Parson’s The New School for Design is part of the New School. From there, it’s a short jaunt up to East 23rd Street to take in the School of Visual Arts, one of the premiere art schools in the city. There are three galleries that showcase a mix of student and professional artists, located at 21st, 23rd and 26th streets.

As a final stop, head west to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), located in the midst of the Fashion District on Seventh Avenue between 27th and 29th streets. The Museum at FIT mounts critically acclaimed fashion-related exhibits. Admission is free.

Plan your New York City college visit on TravelMuse.

Post adapted from “New York City: College Visit Guide” by Laurie Bain Wilson and Donna M. Airoldi.

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NYC Walking Tour: The Wall Street Experience Financial Crisis Tour

For my final post on TravelMusings, I leave you with information about a great new walking tour company in New York City—The Wall Street Experience.

Andrew Luan is your guide on this journey through the canyons of New York’s financial district, arguably the most important financial center in the world. And he’s a tour participant’s dream—an inside expert. He has lived and worked on Wall Street for years, most recently at Deutsche Bank (until he was one of thousands laid off due to the financial crisis), where he was a vice president trading structured credit bonds and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), a type of asset-backed security that has been blamed for the industry’s troubles.


In front of Federal Hall, looking at the original J.P. Morgan building. (Photo: D.M. Airoldi)

Luan offers four types of tours, but the signature Financial Crisis Tour ($45, 2 hours) is the one to take if you’re interested in insider information about what factors led to the financial collapse; how and when those on The Street realized it was imminent (months before it actually happened); perspective on the culture inside a large investment house; and how the industry and area might look in the future.

You’ll also get easy-to-understand explanations of CDOs and tranches, securities, ratings—Luan says Standard & Poor’s gets paid by the very companies it rates, making for a conflict of interest—asset, credit and equity markets and more, with copies of actual reports, charts and graphs, and bond sales sheets used by traders and analysts.

The tour starts at 15 Broad St., in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Today only 10 percent of the floor is now used for trading, with the remaining 90 percent taking place online. Our group also learned that the equity asset class traded at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) represents just $10 percent of the $100 trillion financial market industry.

You’ll see several of the area’s other key financial sites—including the Merchant’s Exchange, Bank of the United States (the first bank to collapse during the Great Depression), J.P. Morgan & Co., Deutsche Bank, AIG, Goldman Sachs and, of course, the Federal Reserve—as well as many historical attractions. Be sure to check out the marks on the original J.P. Morgan location, made from dynamite when the building was bombed in 1920, and I learned that Maiden Lane was so named because it used to be a stream where young women came to wash clothes.


Andrew Luan showing equity market charts used by analysts and traders. (Photo: D.M. Airoldi)

Luan is a font of knowledge—not just about the finance industry and historical attractions, but also of architecture—and he clearly enjoys sharing his insights to help people better understand the finance industry, Wall Street and human behavior, at least when it comes to investing. He even hands out laminated cards to remind participants of the lessons learned on the tour. “My goal is to give visitors a real understanding and sense of Wall Street, while also providing a historical context,” says Luan, who developed the tour after having given an informal one to visiting friends and family members who kept recommending it to others.

One thing I would like to see added to the tour is the ability to enter some of the buildings we learn about, not just view them from outside. But I know that’s a tall order for an industry and area of New York City that requires high levels of security. Otherwise, the Financial Crisis Tour exceeded my expectations, with Luan sharing more insider info than I thought would have been possible, taking us to an extra site that isn’t typically included and sticking around for any additional questions from participants.

“This is just about the best walking tour I’ve ever taken,” said Harriette Shakes of Palo Alto, Calif., who was in my group. I have to agree.

The Wall Street Experience, Financial Crisis Tour. Cost: $45 per person + tax, 2 person or $90 minimum; children under 15 free. Hours: Mon., Wed., Fri. at 10 a.m.; Sat. at 1 p.m.

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Got a sweet tooth?

Then New York City is the place for you. As one of the culinary capitals of the world, New York has more than its share of places to indulge the kid in you—or, you know, like, your actual kid.

When I was a lass, we once had the grand pleasure of getting room-service sundaes from Rumplemeyer’s in the now-defunct St. Moritz Hotel. Considering that I’m 37 years old and can still taste the hot fudge sauce, you could say it made an impression.

Make a similar lasting impression on your wee ones and hit some of the city’s sweetest spots.

Dylan’s Candy Bar: From gummy bears to popcorn, if you can’t find it here, you can’t find it anywhere. This Third Avenue shop is a must-see for any chocoholic, no matter how old.


Chocolate Bar

Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar: Putting a modern spin on retro favorites is this café’s speciality. Billing itself as a “candy store for grown-ups,” you can indulge in savory chocolate sandwiches, nostalgia-inspired candy bars, gelato or the classic brownie. Or a salad. I say skip the salad, dude. The original West Village store recently closed and relocated to the East Village.

Rice To Riches: Candy not your thing? How about pudding? Mmmmm, puuuuddding. Rice to Riches specializes in nothing but rice pudding. But this ain’t your mama’s pudding, mamas. No, this shop has flavors ranging from traditional to “Category 5 Caramel.” I know from what I speak—I once ordered a vat of the stuff for my honey for Valentine’s Day, and we both ate our way to nirvana.

Serendipity 3: What could be better than frozen hot chocolate? Hey, Oprah loves it, and America loves it some Oprah. Run, don’t walk to this legendary New York City sweet spot. Grab a burger, then top the meal off with an Outrageous Banana Split or a Strawberry Fields Sundae. Expect long lines.


Dessert Truck. Photograph by Rich Velasco.

Dessert Truck: Need your sweet fix while on the run? Scout out this sugar-on-wheels purveyor pushing $5 treats, such as molten chocolate cake served topped with sea salt and roasted pistachios. Two locations Park Avenue and 52nd Street days; Third Avenue and St. Marks Place (8th Street) nights.

Now I’m craving chocolate. Excuse me while I go scheme ways to get myself to New York City. Perhaps parcel post?

(For recommendations for more substantial family friendly fare, read TravelMuse’s 7 Favorite Family Friendly Restaurants article, or for adults, its 10 Top NYC Restaurant Experiences piece.)

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5 Overrated New York Dining Experiences

I wrote about 10 of my favorite places for a good meal in New York in this week’s Taste Buds column, but wanted to share a few of my least favorite, or what I think are overrated restaurant experiences in the city. Yes, I know both lists are subjective, which is why I ask you to please send in your comments and share your favorite or least favorite New York restaurants.

1. Magnolia Bakery. Cupcakes are dry; frosting is too sickly sweet. And that line—oy! If you must go, visit the new location opening next Monday in Midtown’s Rockefeller Center, where all the other tourist traps are located. Otherwise try Billy’s Bakery instead for a truly great cake.

2. Lombardi’s Pizzeria. Dry crust, bland sauce, overpriced. Pizzeria worth its hype? Stick to Grimaldi’s on Fulton Street near the East River in Brooklyn, worth every bit of its hype.

3. Dos Caminos. The service is fine and the portions good sized, but the food is average at best, and the restaurants are way too noisy (have been to the Park Avenue South and SoHo locations). Though in a teeny tiny space, I’m a big fan of the authentic Itzocan Café in the East Village. Excellent dishes all around. 438 E. 9th St., tel. 212-677-5856.

4. Sylvia’s. Why this place still gets recommended I’ll never know. It’s been calling it in and living off its reputation for years. The vegetables taste canned; the fried chicken burnt during my last visit. Instead go to the much tastier Spoonbread, with two Harlem locations.

5. Nobu. I know I’m committing sacrilege to many, but after poor service coupled with good but not great sushi there, followed by a merely average meal at Nobu Next Door, I’ll pass on spending my disposable income here. A favorite low-key, affordable alternative: Tsukushi. No menu—you get served whatever six or seven courses the chef decided on based on what was fresh at the market that morning. 300 E. 41st St., tel. 212-599-8888.