Top 5 Most Overrated NYC Attractions

After years of taking friends and relatives around the City that Never Sleeps, I’ve been forced more than once to endure the tourist traps that define this great concrete jungle, but no real New Yorker ever tries to visit unless absolutely necessary. Here are my Top 5 Most Overrated NYC Attractions, and a few alternatives to get the same or similar experiences, without overpaying and braving the slack-jawed masses.

5.  Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

Everyone wants to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Beneath the famous Christmas tree and the gaze of Prometheus, 150 skaters at a time can skate around in circles while being gawked at by hordes of tourists.

$25-$32 will get you admission to the rink and $12 will get you rental skates. Ouch.

Rock Center is beautiful and a must-see during the holiday season, especially. In the summer there’s a great outdoor bar and cafe that’s erected over the rink – so it’s a great place to be year-round. But, you don’t need to skate there.

Instead: Go ice skating at Bryant Park or The Rink at Brookfield Place – basically anywhere else.

Bryant Park‘s skating rink is free (yes, FREE!) with skate rentals of $20, and the Winter Village is definitely worth a look. You can store your bags for a fee and pay $28 to skip the line. Just allow plenty of time and you won’t need to do that, though. If you’re visiting, plan to visit during working hours, when the poor folks who live here need to be at work. And know that I’m envious of you!

The Rink at Brookfield Place, in the shadow of the World Trade Center, right by the water and surrounded by fabulous shopping and restaurants, is a great deal at $15 per 90 minute session and a $5 skate rental.  You can even pay a bit extra to take a skating lesson from former U.S. Olympic skaters. How cool is that?

4.  Statue of Liberty

Sure, Lady Liberty is a beaut’ and she celebrates her 125th anniversary this year. But, do you really want to get on a boat with a bunch of other tourists and be held captive, then corralled around the queue to get in, then wait some more, go Continue reading

Wölffer Estate Wine Stand (The Hamptons)

We found ourselves at the Wölffer Estate Wine Stand last spring on the way home from tasting some mediocre wines on eastern Long Island.  And yes, most of the wines on Long Island are just that – mediocre. Unless you like sweet white wines and the occasional sweet red. But, the Wölffer Estate actually had some quality bottles that made me second-guess my natural inclination to bash LI wines.

wolffer estate wine stand

Look out at the vines while you sip on some wine

Ahh, the Hamptons. New York’s well-heeled elite and the ones who want to be elite flock to the East End of Long Island the second Memorial Day Weekend strikes and the Great Eastern Migration happens beginning Thursday afternoon every summer weekend. While the North Fork’s “having a moment,” as they say, the southern fork – better known as the Hamptons, which is a collection of little towns sprawling for miles and miles – still enjoys a reputation of the place to be for the summer and to enjoy passable wines while people-watching to your heart’s content.

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Bae and I were enjoying the sunshine after a long, cold winter and spring.

Anyway, Wolffer Estate Wine Stand. Continue reading

Bierocracy – Queens’ Finest New Beer Joint

Bierocracy
Bierocracy
opened last month in Long Island City, one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in Queens, NY – the most diverse county in the United States. It’s no wonder, then, that the community welcomes the newest addition to the budding LIC food and beverage scene – this German/Bohemian-style beer hall has that “IT” factor that others attempt, but never quite attain. I’m a HUGE fan.

Bierocracy

Inside Bierocracy.

A stone’s throw from the first stop on the 7 Train outside of Manhattan (as in, one stop from Grand Central Terminal), this cozy but cavernous space channels a different continent. It’s hard to believe, when you look around, that it was just built. As a big fan of the bier halls in Munich and Prague, I have to say – it does a pretty good job of transporting you to the Old World, if not when you first walk in, then at your first sip.

Bierocracy

Our table at Bierocracy

Communal seating abounds -the cheerful waitstaff welcome you to sit wherever you like. Pull up a seat at a bench and picnic table in one of the rooms, whether you want to sit on either side of the bar or in the cozier section off to the right. I am not crazy about communal seating generally, but there’s something about a beer hall that just demands it. Ask anyone who’s been to the Hofbrauhaus. Beer is better when shared with strangers.

Bierocracy

It’s not all about the beer – or at least, there’s Something for Everyone at Bierocracy.

Before I get too far, I would be remiss to note that Bierocracy has a full bar, as well as a varied wine list. Although the offerings are mainly (appropriately) Old World vines, there’s the ever-present California cabernet sauvignon to please the crowd. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Stadiums: Catch A Baseball (or Soccer) Game in NYC

New York City has its fair share of professional sports teams and there’s something for everyone here as a tourist to this great city who wants to catch an iconic team play.  There are so many sports arenas in the NYC area: Madison Square Garden (just “the Garden”, to locals), Barclay’s Center, Giants Stadium (now MetLife Stadium), Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Red Bull Arena, Prudential Center… and a few more all call the NY Metropolitan area “home”.

Enjoying a New York Yankees or New York Mets baseball game is a great way to spend a spring, summer or fall afternoon in New York City.  For the soccer (football) enthusiast, maybe you want to catch a Red Bulls or NYCFC game instead.

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This post covers the two more iconic stadiums we have here in the City That Never Sleeps: Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.  These stadiums are home to the Yankees, Mets, and the newly inaugurated New York City Football Club.

However, going to a game can be a really expensive endeavor, and neither stadium is centrally located in Manhattan, so it’s a bit of a trek to go to each.  I’d guess that, unless you’re a die-hard sports fan, only one event like this will be part of your NYC trip.

Going to a baseball or soccer game in New York City is a true hometown experience and I would recommend even folks who do not like sports to go check out a game. The atmosphere, camaraderie, merriment and energy are contagious – you can’t help but have a good time.

Here’s a brief rundown of each stadium, how to get to each, what to expect once you’re there, and what it’s all about. Continue reading

Lobster Joint (Brooklyn, New York)

I have an unhealthy addiction to lobster rolls – especially the lobster rolls from the aptly-named Lobster Joint in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

I’ve tried other lobster rolls and they just haven’t delivered the same way that these do. (Sorry, Luke’s Lobster and Urban Lobster Shack – Lobster Joint has my heart here. Not that you’re not great in your own right, but… Lobster Joint). They’re fresh, not overly mayo’d if you opt for the New England version rather than the butter-based Connecticut iteration, full of quality meaty pieces of sweet, juicy lobster and not overdone. Sometimes, simple is best. And these….well, these are the best.

Lobster Joint - clam strips and lobster claw bloody mary

Fried clam strips and lobster claw Bloody Mary

The real delight , though, for me is the Continue reading

Casa Enrique (LIC, NY)

Among the recent recipients of the coveted Michelin star in New York, Casa Enrique is a deliciously unpretentious spot to get your interior Mexican fix in Long Island City without breaking the budget.  The average dinner for two here, with 2 or 3 drinks each, an appetizer, entrees and sides is under $100. That’s a steal by New York standards, and especially by Michelin star-winner standards.

Like a hipster, I’ll just go ahead and say it. We’ve been coming here long before it was a Michelin star winner. It’s just nice to know that other folks agree with me – it is seriously good. Also amazing is their sister restaurant, Café Henri, a French bistro just across the street from the 7 train stop on Vernon-Jackson.

A friendly host or hostess greets you as you walk in and, after you indicate whether you’d like a table inside or outside, you’re whisked to your table. The minimalist décor – white on white, concrete floors, votives and a small vase of understated flowers on each table, is refreshing.

The drinks at Casa Enrique are delicious. Try the Michelada or the Aguachile Margarita if you like spice. If not, there are a ton of fruit-flavored margs and mojitos to choose from.

Michelada with Pacifico Beer at Casa Enrique

Michelada with Pacifico Beer

 

Casa Enrique - Pork puffs

Delicious pork puffs greet you upon arrival. Cannot remember their name!

The service is excellent.

Service here has always been good, but I think maybe the receipt of the star has encouraged the staff to up their game. There just seem to be more servers in general now. That being said, the service is fantastic and friendly, not in-your-face and you’re not stuck craning your neck, looking for someone – anyone – to ask for what you need.

PRO-TIP #1: Eat at the Bar if there’s a long wait to be seated.

The actual restaurant space is pretty small, so if it’s crowded Continue reading