Help me plan a birthday trip to NYC (in August)

There is a lot I love about the SDMB but close to the top of my list is getting travel ideas from you guys. I have yet to be pointed in a wrong direction, so, I’m coming to you again for ideas.

I’m August, for my 40th birthday, I’m going to New York to see Run The Jewels and Rage Against the Machine at MSG. I’ll be there Thursday the 11th to Saturday the 13th and have pretty much the whole of those three days to do whatever. The problem is I have too many choices. So, let’s assume money is no object (it isn’t but I’m willing to spend, I only turn 40 once) what are the things I must do, places I must eat, sights I must see?

I’m driving in so technically I’ll have a car, but would rather not use it so probably not leaving Manhattan (but I could be convinced). I want to go to at least one world class restaurant (La Berniden? Daniel? Again, how do you pick?) I also want to go to a great pizza place and a great breakfast place. Foody stuff is good. I like foody stuff.

I won’t be seeing a Broadway show (that’s for another time, I only live in Philadelphia so it’s not like I can’t pop up some time) and I have seen the obvious stuff (Empire state building, Circle Cruise, Statue of Liberty). I won’t have my kid (she is at camp) so it’s me and my wife. Some romantic ideas or fun bars are nice! Boring grown up stuff like museums are good! Interesting walks! I’m down for whatever, but normal online itineraries are all too first time in New York and I’ve done that. We will be staying in Midtown South.

This is obviously a long way away, but I’m looking more to compile a list of things to do so that we can then sort of bounce around for a few days. Looking forward to your suggestions!


The High Line

One of my favorite places in the city.

MOMA and the Met are both world-class museums, but if you go (to either or both) I’d recommend doing a little research, look at their websites and have a “shopping list” of things you really want to see, rather than just wander around.

If you’re bringing a car, look up parking garage rates, which can vary widely from 1 block to another:

One good breakfast/brunch place to eat these days to support Ukraine is the Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village, Veselka:

For a summer celebration lunch, a couple of places I’d pick are the Central Park Boathouse or Tavern on the Green
The River Cafe in Brooklyn is lovely too, right under the bridge with a great river view. I’m bridge-phobic myself, but some people say that a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge is a must-do.

Good suggestions by @gkster especially the food ones.

We always would take the 2/3 train to Clark Street stn in Brooklyn and then walk down Henry to Montague and then down to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Then work your way back to the Brooklyn Bridge and walk across it into Manhattan.

Beware, walking in New York City in August is not a pleasant experience, especially in the daytime.

Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity?
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

When I lived in the NYC area, one thing that I liked to do is the Brooklyn Bridge to Staten Island Ferry trip.
Take a subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn close to the Brooklyn Bridge. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Take a short hike to South Street Seaport. I usually timed it to hit South Street Seaport at lunch time.
Continue toward the Battery for the Staten Island Ferry. Get on the ferry, it is free. It has a good view of the Statue of Liberty. Get off of the ferry on Staten Island and immediately get back on the ferry to return to Manhattan (it is still free).
Visitors generally enjoyed this activity.

A couple of general things….

  1. Don’t drive to Manhattan and plan to find a parking space or lot by just driving around. Reserve a spot in a lot in advance. Frankly, if you’re staying in Midtown South, it might be quicker/cheaper to take Amtrak up from Philly.
  2. New York is usually hot and muggy in mid-August. It’s when a lot of residents try to get out of town to beat the heat. If you plan on doing a lot of walking, get out of the hotel earlier in the morning.

Drive to Hamilton & take NJT; prolly save > 50% over Amtrak & Philly city parking.

Empire State Building for sunrise (Sat morning’s only)

Have you been to Summit One yet? It’s much more than just the views.

As others have stated, NYC can be hot in the summer; not everyone is ho-poilloi with doormen & Central Park views; learn about how the other lived - Tenement museum

A block west of the Brooklyn Brewery is some good views of the Manhattan skyline if you want to head that way one evening.

I agree that taking a car is not the best idea. If you do, there is no reason to use it once you’re in the city. It’ll take less time to take the subway than to find a parking place. Get a MetroCard for 3 days. It’ll save you lots of time.

One place I enjoyed on my pre-Covid trip back was Roosevelt Island.. There is a nice tram to and from it, and also a subway stop. You can easily walk around the island, see the UN from the south side, and there is a free bus if you get tired.
As for museums, search for special exhibits that may be open when you are there. I went to a special show on Frankenstein at the Carnegie.
NY in August is not any worse than Philadelphia, so don’t worry about that.
Oh, and I agree with the suggestion of the Tenement Museum. We went and loved it, and I even became a member during Covid when they needed money, though I’m all the way across the country. We did a lot of virtual tours on Zoom. Great place, but then my father grew up down the street from it (and not in a mansion) so it resonated with me especially.

Over 20 years ago I found that the cheapest way to get from NYC to Philly (and back) was a combo of SEPTA and NJ transit but no idea if that’s still true?

And NYC weather in August can be wildly variable. In the high 90s or low 70s, but most frequently high 80s or low 90s with the 3 deadly Hs. Hot Hazy Humid.

As for Roosevelt Island it’s very nice (my husband works there and my brother lived there 5 years so have visited many times) but unless the OP has a compelling interest in FDR or Nellie Bly I would leave it on a 3 day trip.

If it were me I would go up to the Cloisters one morning and then the Met in the afternoon (1 admission fee pays for both)

And the next day you can read War and Peace in the morning and Ulysses in the afternoon. That’s quite a lot to see in one day.
There used to be another, smaller Met in midtown, which I went to, but it looks like it didn’t survive Covid.

I’m not planning on doing anything with the car other than parking it at the hotel. Is this the best use of money? No parking in NJ and taking the train across is probably better, but honestly with luggage
… Eh. It’s not THAT much less expensive. And I know what August is like. I sort of hate that it’s my birthday month because heat and I don’t mix, but you do what you gotta. Also, that’s when/where the concert it. I will deal. (I hope).

I love the Tenement museum idea. I have also not been to Summit One yet and I’ve done the Empire State building but not at sunrise which does sound super cool.

I am bookmarking all the restaurants @gkster suggested too! Thanks for the start! I’m open to any more ideas people have. Keep em coming!

Best pizza in the world. They open at 11:30 and you should be there by 11 if you don’t want to wait in line for hours. Location directly under the Brooklyn Bridge, so you could walk over from Manhattan to build up an appetite.

Also seconding the Tenement Museum idea.

That reminds me of what I hated most about living in NYC. I’m one of those people who (with rare exceptions) just won’t wait in line to for a meal.

To the OP, if you’re thinking about Circle Line (which I have done several times and enjoyed) consider this as a little upscale option

I chartered a boat for a private function, and it was spectacular. Next time I’m in the city, I’m going to try their architectural tour.

ETA: On a hot August day, I’d really prefer to be on the water.

Additional information. In discussing pizza with my wife she pointed out that I have never actually set foot in Brooklyn (she lived there in 2002 but it’s been 20 years since she has been back)

So if you have other Brooklyn suggestions I’m thinking we are going to spend most of Saturday there.

Trips to Wave Hill and the New York Botanical Garden (also in the Bronx) would provide a nice break from city noise and traffic.

Also, the Staten Island Zoo has been famed for its reptile collection.

“The visitor is led along an educational experience, through graphics on one side, and live venomous snakes on the other, winding them through the body of a snake and its relationship to humans and the environment.”

“Sunday in Brooklyn” is a trendy restaurant in a very gentrified part of Williamsburg with great food. It attracts a younger crowd (20s to 40s) It’s a few blocks from Domino Park right on the East River which has good views, and just a couple of subway stops from the Tenement Museum.

The Brooklyn Museum, Botanic Garden and Prospect Park are all nice. And another pizza place: the iconic Grimaldi’s, which some people don’t like because the pizza is well toasted (AKA almost burnt) The Best NY Pizza in Brooklyn, New York | The Original Grimaldi's at 1 Front Street

Parking at Manhattan hotels (if they have it) is usually an extra fee, which is one reason I included the parking link in my post above.

As for The Cloisters and the Met being a lot to do in one day, yes, if you’re trying to see everything in the Met, which is crazy. The best advice I ever heard for dealing with the Met was to look at it like a supermarket trip–you don’t look at every product on every shelf, you just focus on what you’re most interested in. A 3 hour visit seeing 5 or 6 galleries that are of interest is much better than a 6 hour visit that runs you ragged. I must have visited it 50 times and I haven’t seen everything yet, which is fine with me.

Here’s a new Manhattan attraction on the water right near the High Line: Little Island — Hudson River Park
Another attraction that comes up on touring lists of Manhattan is Hudson Yards, which I don’t like too much; it’s a great location but not much there apart from a high-end mall and The Vessel, from which several people have leapt to their deaths :frowning:

Juliana’s actually is the original original Grimaldi’s. My understanding is that Grimaldi sold the business and its name, then decided he wanted to stay in business after all. At some point the new owners of Grimaldi’s lost their lease and moved next door to the 1 Front St. location. Subsequently Grimaldi moved back into the original space and started doing business as Juliana’s. It’s a long story…

For me, the Tenement Museum was too much like school. The guide wanted to instill some learnings and forced some dialog out of the group of tourists. Maybe it has changed. Self-guided was not an option at the time.

The Met had offered a quick guided tour (one hour I believe) where the tour guide ran us around to about 10 exhibits. I was amazed at how interesting the guide made some exhibits, which in my ignorance I wouldn’t have given a second glance.

The Met does have great guided tours, but they’re relatively limited right now. Here’s what they have for a week in May:
There are several video highlight tours on Youtube that might give you ideas. Or if you have a favorite artist or period, focus on them? My kids love the Arms and Armor and musical instruments galleries, as well as the Temple of Dendur and the Native American gallery. Some of my own faves are the Impressionists, the American Wing courtyard with the Tiffany windows, the Japanese art gallery and the Chinese Scholar’s Garden.

And @Thing.Fish I knew there was a story with Juliana’s and “original” Grimaldi’s, didn’t know how complicated it was.

@K364 ugh on that Tenement Museum tour, I hate it when guides act like they’re teachers.

Several companies run reasonably priced or free walking tours of interesting neighborhoods like Greenwich Village or the Theater District or Brooklyn Heights which you might want to look into.