Wednesday, January 23, 2013

14 Hours in New York City

There’s no place like New York City. A mere four hour megabus trek away from Boston, NYC is easily accessible so whenever we’re feeling big city, we score some cheap seats and nap our way to Manhattan.

Last December we discovered the best worst idea ever. Traffic between NYC and Boston is practically constant, the path populated by the infamous “Chinatown” buses and a variety of double deckers rolling back and forth between the two spots almost continuously (and they say we don’t like each other). Last winter we discovered an overnight megabus that dumped you in NYC at 4:15am, giving you an entire day to explore the city sufficiently without feeling like you missed out by not staying overnight. That is, Friday night 12:30am we board the bus and arrive mid-town four hours later for a 14 hour (or longer) day trip in the Big Apple powered by sleep deprivation, caffeine overload, and excitement.

Arriving anywhere at four in the morning seems ridiculous but it is a surreal experience to be the only person in Times Square or Rockefeller Center, to be able to gawk at the Christmas tree or the neons without being constantly jostled by several thousand people. The city that never sleeps takes a short pause before dawn; the clubs close and their patrons burst forth to the fast food joints and the taxi stands, the street sweepers and night crews take advantage of a lull in traffic to work uninterrupted, the lights dim. New York City never stops: the buzz, the rush, the noise follow you through the night and accompany the sunrise but the lull before dawn let’s one take up a little more space than usual in the city.
Time Square - with room to spare!
We tend to stay near the more populous places until it gets light out, but then we set off walking and pick a neighborhood. Each trip is dedicated to a different region of Manhattan. Even with all the time and money in the world, you can’t see all New York has to offer so I don’t stress out. I can always come back.
NY Public Library Mural
This past weekend we focused on the Village, exploring the streets and shops, having breakfast in a little British-style tea shop where the owner seemed to know everyone that came in. We did a lap around the universities campuses and checked  out the Fashion Institute’s museum. I wasn't feeling very well, so we took our time this trip but we still had a great time and spent next to nothing, in New York dollars.
One of the many 9/11 tributes
We took our time with my being sick and not eating all that much to support the 16 (!) miles we walked, but each time I'm in the city I find a dozen undiscovered treasures to come back for. 

If you’re in the Northeast / Boston area and going to give the NYC marathon day trip a shot, some helpful things to remember:

  • Grand Central Station opens at 5:30am. Before that, you’ll be stuck in the vestibule with the Jersey kids going home from the clubs and the local color. But after GCS opens it is warm, large, and has free bathrooms. It is also a beautiful building and landmark worth seeing with a lovely dining hall and sitting area downstairs.
  • Starbucks are plentiful and whether you like them or detest them, they are some of the first places open in the early morning. If you don’t see one from where you are standing, walk a block in any direction and take a look around. There you go.
  • The New York Public Library is another gorgeous building which also features rotating exhibits on a variety of topics. It is also free!
  • Bring a snack for the bus (and for the hours before everything else opens)!
  • Dress warm, regardless of season. NY’s skyscapers create wind tunnels that make it feel much cooler than Boston and other coastal cities. It is also much less sunny because of said buildings.

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