Spring-breakers should look to NYC underground for a surprisingly electrifying, charming vacation

By Monica Reida 2009

Spring break is quickly approaching, and many students will probably be wanting to hurry off to the sun-drenched beaches of the Mexico and Texas.

But some, like myself, might want to get away to a bustling urban area with vibrancy and temperatures only a bit warmer than the ones here.

I am speaking of none other than New York City. But when I speak of this city, I am not speaking of staying in Times Square, seeing some splashy, bad musical and eating at Hard Rock Café before going on a double decker bus tour.

The New York I speak of is the one that is romanticized and is real. I’m talking about the non-touristy version. But how does one that is a tourist have a non-tourist experience in New York City?

I highly recommend staying in a hotel outside of Times Square, for starters. Hotels in that area tend to be more expensive. While there are some budget hotels in that area, you can find several hotels for less in other sections of Manhattan.

One hotel I’ve stayed at, The New Yorker in Chelsea, is moderately priced and now part of the Ramada chain. The hotel recently finished renovations and has a very friendly staff. But you might be wondering about hotel locations in reference to your activities.

The fare for a taxi is not that expensive, nor is taking the subway or bus. There are some times when it will be nearly impossible to find a taxi (around 7 until 8 p.m. and 10 until 11:30 p.m. due to Broadway) and neighborhoods where it’s hard to find a taxi, like Alphabet City in Manhattan. Subways extend pretty much all over the city, and the concierge at a hotel will probably have a map of the subway system.

One guide that you might want to have with you is a book called the Not for Tourists Guide to New York City. The book features full-color maps of each of the neighborhoods in Manhattan with bagel shops, restaurant listings and maps of museums. The book, intended for those residing in New York City, can also be used as a guide for those who want a real experience in the city and don’t want a guidebook that screams “I’m a tourist!”

Something you’ll also want to do is not make it obvious that you’re a tourist. Don’t make eye contact with panhandlers, be wary of street vendors, but be adventurous.

While it would be very easy to just walk in to places we have here in the area—McDonalds, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, IHOP—it would be a waste of the opportunities the city gives you. Go to different restaurants and try different cuisines. Never had a roast beef sandwich at a Kosher deli? Try it and you’ll see if you like it.

I would also like to define this even further. When I say that you should eat at places we don’t have here in Eastern Iowa, I don’t mean that you should go and eat at Bubba Gump or Hard Rock Café. There are restaurants like that all over the nation, just not here. Believe me, you won’t be missing out on much by not eating there.

And then there is the matter of culture. New York City has several museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art.
But New York City is also seen as the theater capital of the United States, which gives you a wide variety of plays to see.

Before you pay $125 to see some show on Broadway, there is a way to keep yourself from paying an outrageous price to see a show that’s not that great. Try going to a show off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway. The venues are smaller, tickets are less expensive and the shows tend to be edgier. A top price for an off-Broadway nowadays is $75, as opposed to the $200 one might pay for a Broadway show.

The theater for an off-Broadway and an off-off-Broadway show tend to be more intimate than that of a mammoth Broadway house. If you’re curious about the off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway shows, a visit to the blog Critic-O-Meter, which aggregates the theater reviews may aid in your decision.

Your best bet for inexpensive Broadway tickets is the TKTS booth in Times Square, which has half price tickets for shows the day of their performance and is run by the Theatre Development Fund. Many of the better productions of shows on Broadway have tickets available there and a listing of shows with available tickets can be found on the Theatre Development Fund’s website, www.tdf.org.

Maybe even try to get outside of Manhattan. Visit Brooklyn or Queens—by visiting Queens, I don’t mean fly in to LaGuardia or JFK and count that as a visit. Those boroughs have things that are just as good and perhaps even rival the things you can find in Manhattan. Again, you can take a taxi or the subway to that area, and it’s not even going to be that expensive.

I urge you to be adventurous with a trip to New York City. Do not stay in the brightly lit confines of Times Square but go out and see the actual city. It might just change your life, and you might find that you’ll love New York, not just heart it.

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