NYC Dopers, help me plan

So far:
I’m going to be in the city for 3-4 days over Thanksgiving, probably staying in the upper west side 40’s to 60’s, it’s my nephews birthday and his call is the natural history museum, but I’ve gotten us tix for spamalot, and I WILL be going to see as many Van Goghs as I can.

So then:
I’m looking for idea’s for food and music, jazz/blues, doper-type must see’s and some practical advice. Getting around town, airport transport (JFK), and how not to look like a rube, thanks all.


Highly recommended reading:

Advice for Surviving: The New York Subway System

Transport from JFK to the Upper West Side is tremendously easy. Take the Air Train ($5 metrocard) to the A train subway stop, and it zips you - if you can call 60+ minutes ‘zipping’ - through Brooklyn and straight up the West Side. Total = $7. A taxi would be about $50.

So pack light. If you can’t carry all of your belongings up and down several flights of stairs comfortably, then walk six blocks in the rain, you’ve packed too much.

Wear comfortable shoes. You could end up walking several miles over the course of a day. If it is a question of comfort or fashion, choose comfort.

Buy a Metrocard the first chance you get. For a 3-4 day trip, I’d suggest getting a $20 metrocard in the Air Train station. Use $5 for the air train, and use the rest for the subway until the card runs out. You can refill the card for pretty much any amount you want. And if you buy or refill your metrocard at the ATM-like kiosk rather than from the surly attendant, you get a bonus ride for every $10 increment. Remember that you need to have $5 left on your metrocard for your return trip on the air train.

But if you think that you will be using the subways and busses a LOT, you might consider buying a weekly unlimited pass for $24. That gives you unlimited rides on the bus/subways for the entirety of your trip, which means you won’t get stuck with “insufficient fare” messages as your train pulls away. However, you cannot use the unlimited pass on the air train, so you would need to buy a separate $10 metrocard if you’re planning to use the air train both ways. And you have to be careful not to get them mixed up, since the cards will look identical.

How old is your nephew? My son is 8 and I get him to the Met all the time - he loves to look at the Mummies (Egyptian wing) and Knights (arms and armory) and also the “Butt Gallery” - the glassed-in, airy atrium of the American wing with all the statues. While there, we get to check out the Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, so I get my share of Cezanne and Van Gogh…

In terms of food - what are you in the mood for and how much are you willing to spend? I would strongly recommend that you try some street food - IMHO, you should have at least one Dirty Water Dog™ from a street vendor and if you can find a Middle Eastern vendor (tons in Midtown) and get some chicken and lamb over rice - wow, cheap eats perfection.

Finally - how much time do you have on your own vs. with your nephew/family? And what are your interests? There is a ton of great music - get a New Yorker and read up on events - they don’t list a lot in advance but you can get a sense of who typically plays in town. I love Blue Smoke as a restaurant (BBQ) and the Jazz club below it - the Jazz Standard? (I never remember - sorry). You can book for dinner then go below for a great show…

well, my nephews 13 and he wants to go to the natural history museum. They have less time than me and we’ve pretty much accounted for it, with the possible exception of hitting some late night music with my bil after spamalot. I made a list of clubs not too far from where we’re at, but little is posted this far out. I don’t mind spending money on great food or music, but hate it when the service and ambience are great and the food is so so

Hmm, so from the sound of it, you’ll be in the Times Square area for the time you are looking to get a decent meal and/or music?

For music - jazz - Iridium is close by (I think 51st and B’way) but as you say it is hard to tell who is playing there this far in advance.

As for restaurants - just stay away from anything you can find in your neck of the woods - Times Square has a TGI Fridays, an ESPN Zone and crap like that. There are some pretty good and probably even some great restaurants in that area. Try citysearch or Zagat’s online to do a little research…

Ninth Avenue (Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton) is the best-kept secret of midtown eating. From 42nd Street well into the 50’s there are tons of chain-free casual places with an astonishing variety of cuisines: Thai, Greek, Italian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Sushi, plain-old diners, fancier diners, modern ‘fusion’ places with hip waiters and pop decor, hot dogs & burgers, just to begin with. Check a guidebook or wander up and down the Avenue until something strikes your fancy.

Some to try:
Zen Palate - all-vegetarian chinese (this is a chain, but a local one)
Island Burgers - a little hole in the wall with great burgers and milkshakes
Film Center Cafe - an elegant but not pretentious restaurant/bar with an affordable menu that has yet to disappoint me

It is a pleasant walk and a welcome relief from the touristy crush of the Broadway/Times Square Theatre District madness.

All true - I love Island Burger. There is a GREAT spot in that neighborhood - or at least there was: Jezebel. Soul/Southern cooking with fine jazz on certain nights.

**DVLP ** - you know the Film Center - the one on 45th and 9th? My buddy’s studio is in that building…