So what's New York like these days?

In a couple of weeks my wife, son and I will be spending seven nights in Manhattan. It’s a Bar Mitzvah trip for my son - I wanted him to see the Old Country. Now, I come from a long line of New Yorkers myself, and I lived there both as a small child and again from 2000 to 2002. The last time we visited was 2005; the last time I was in the United States at all was 2008, for my grandmother’s funeral in Florida. We plan show the kid our old haunts, and take him to all of the usual tourist stuff, as well as have him blow all of his Bar Mitzvah money on shopping.

So how’s the city doing? What’s changed? What’s stayed the same?

  1. Is the subway still in decent shape?

  2. Are there still taxis, or do I have to use that Uber thing?

  3. What’s the current tip %?

  4. How much is a street hot dog? What’s the street food situation in general? Is Gray’s Papaya still around?

  5. A few years back, everyone was talking about this park they built on an old elevated track down in the Meatpacking District. Is that still a thing? Worth going to?

  6. That new building they have instead of the Twin Towers - does it have an observation deck? Or should I just take my kid to the top of the ESB?

  7. Brooklyn - what’s going on there? I heard it turned into the East Village. Worth it?

Any other suggestions, recommendations and warnings would be welcome. Thanks.

That’s about the city, New York is great and beautiful, mountains, history, heritage, life. The Hudson valley is really coming on strong with a resurgence of growing small towns with lots of local flavor - though traffic on the thruway is getting ridiculous, The Adirondacks are simply magnificent and has much charm, The Catskills is also coming back a bit but there is a strong hint that outsiders are not welcome, Finger lakes, besides their famed wines, also offer beautiful gorges, I have not been to the western end in years, hope they are still OK. We like to stay out of that hell hole down below and consider it part of jersey and drive around it when we can to get to the better places down south.

Answers inline in italics

I suppose. It still works. Most of the time. There may be some new lines since your last visit (i.e. the Q under 2nd Ave up to 96th st. in Manhattan)

Either one. Or Lyft or Via or whatever. They all coexist.

Same as always.

two or three bucks. Gray’s Papaya is still around. There was an explosion of food trucks a few years ago so you might find something interesting. The regular old hot dog/Halal carts are still around.

The Highline. It’s kind of neat. It’s good for walking after chowing down at Chelsea Market. The Whitney is down there now.

Yes there’s an observatory at One WTC.

Brooklyn has a rather large skyline now. The only reason I go there is to take my daughters to stuff, but I like it for the change of scenery.

The only warning I have is that your ‘old haunts’ may not be there any longer. Lots of businesses have moved or closed altogether due to skyrocketing rents. Empty storefronts even in nice neighborhoods are an ongoing beef. You might not recognize the place.

There is also more bicycling infrastructure - Citibike (bike share) stands, protected bike lines, etc. Also some intersections have had pedestrian areas built up - Times square, Flatiron building, Herald Square, etc.

You poor, sweet summer child.

Do one of each just to be safe.

Same as it’s always been.

I dunno. Get halal street meat instead. Gray’s Papaya is still there and still as mediocre as it’s ever been.

Yes, and yes. Be prepared to dodge tourists. Entrance is on Gansevoort and 10th.

Yes, and it’s a huge rip-off. Go to the ESB or Top of the Rock instead.

Avoid Williamsburg at all costs.

Last I checked, the Grey’s Papaya special is $5.95 for a drink and 2 dogs. That’s the only factual information I can add that hasn’t already been listed.

Also, although overpriced, the elevators to get up to the 1 WTC observatory are pretty cool, they look like you are flying out into the sky as the city grows up around you.

New York will be the greatest city in the world…once it’s finished.


You don’t “have to” use Uber, but if you are familiar with New York taxis, you will “want to”.

There are also “green cabs” that allow the outer boroughs to enjoy the feeling of an angry foreigner recklessly careening towards their destination in a car that smells like Pine air freshener.

Controversial. Same as it always was.

The price for your colon? Steep.

I actually don’t see a lot of street dogs these days. A lot more falafal carts and hipster food trucks.

The “High Line”. Yes, they managed to capture the feeling of a disused El-train overgrown with tall grass.

As a New Yorker, you should do neither.

No, Long Island City is the new East Village. Brooklyn is the new SoHo. SoHo is the new Tribeca. Tribeca is the new Battery. Spanish Harlem is the new Irish Harlem. Chinatown is the new Korea Town. Hells Kitchen is the old Times Square. Queens is the new Alphabet City and Alphabet City is the new W 57th St between Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

You may initially be puzzled by references to DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass].

1. Is the subway still in decent shape?
Well, define “Decent”. They look run down and ancient. Some of the stations have been prettied up with tile murals and the like. They still go pretty much everywhere you might want to go. They are NOT for the mobility-impaired: you will walk a lot to get to your train, and you will climb up and down stairs a lot (escalators / elevators are almost unheard-of).

2. Are there still taxis, or do I have to use that Uber thing?
There are plenty of taxis, as long as you don’t urgently need one :D. If you’re in a last-travelled area they might be scarcer. You cannot phone for a taxi, unless they’ve changed a LOT, but there are car services, and of course Uber / Lyft.

3. What’s the current tip %?
15-20%, same as elsewhere in the US

4. How much is a street hot dog? What’s the street food situation in general? Is Gray’s Papaya still around?
Not sure. You’ll find plenty of carts in the busier areas. There are food trucks as well though I’ve only rarely done that; we tend to be in the touristy areas and they aren’t common there.
5. A few years back, everyone was talking about this park they built on an old elevated track down in the Meatpacking District. Is that still a thing? Worth going to?*
The High Line. It’s well worth a visit at least once. You have to climb up a couple flights of stairs to get to it (there are one or two locations with elevators). It runs 20ish blocks, from around the Javits center (I think) to just north of the West Village. On a nice weekend afternoon you’ll see lots of families etc. There are art installations in various places. It can get crowded if the weather is particularly nice. The walk itself is quite easy, as it’s pretty level and of course being 2 stories above the streets, you don’t have to dodge cars and trucks.

6. That new building they have instead of the Twin Towers - does it have an observation deck? Or should I just take my kid to the top of the ESB?
It does though I have not been up it (I have seen the fountains on the old WTC footprints). I would imagine it’s expensive and has long lines, as the WTC did (and ESB does). If it’s cloudy, don’t bother - you won’t see anything.
7. Brooklyn - what’s going on there? I heard it turned into the East Village. Worth it?*
I met a colleague who lives in NYC, a month or two ago, and asked what I should do on my next visit, as I’ve done most of the touristy things. He suggested going to the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn and spending a few days. Sadly, on my next trip, I’ll be acting as a semi-local tour guide for a girls’ weekend out, and we’ll be staying in Manhattan.

Any other suggestions, recommendations and warnings would be welcome. Thanks.

Hotels: Depending on your requirements, you can sometimes get away with Priceline’s Name Your Own Price tool and get a room at a surprisingly good rate. We got the Marriott Marquis (Times Square) once for about 180 a night. Usually you can extend that a night or two at the same rate. But if you have specific requirements (really NEED to stay two+ nights, have a need for 2 beds in the room, or whatever) I don’t recommend it.

If you want to see a Broadway show, other than the really hot ones like Mormon, WIcked, Hamilton, Lion King, you can usually get same-day tickets, heavily discounted, at the TKTS booth in Times Square (there are other locations as well). You must go in person, and it truly is same day - e.g. they open late morning to sell matinee tickets, and mid-afternoon for evening tickets.

Dining: Bring a smartphone with Yelp or similar. You will find any kind of restaurant you could imagine, and rather a lot of ones you never dreamed of. There is a huge Olive Garden in Times Square (as well as several other major chain restaurants). I am fond of saying “Anyone who goes to New York, and eats at the Olive Garden, deserves it”. Hell’s Kitchen is 1 crosstown block west of there (well, 1-2, as 8th and 8th Avenues both count) and has an incredible variety of good places.

Do not take a car into the city. Driving in NYC is an exercise in torture. You will get places faster walking than by car, often, and parking is a horror story. If you absolutely must use a car to get there, park it at your hotel and do not expect to use it again until you’re ready to leave - it simply isn’t worth it.

Missed edit window.

Transit: don’t rule out buses. Sometimes they go places you can’t get to easily via subway (e.g. the Cloisters museum, some crosstown routes), and they’re more accessible than the subway.

Different places to see:

West Village has lots of funky places including such establishments as the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and a Jekyll and Hyde Dinner Theater.

The Tenement Museum is near Little Italy / Chinatown and is worth it, though you must book in advance as they only do guided tours and the numbers are limited (our guide was so-so).

The Staten Island Ferry is a good way to get a reasonably close look at the Statue of Liberty, and it’s free (hint: leaving Manhattan, get on an upper level on the right hand side).

Circle Line tours are fun and low-key but get boring after a bit - one of our students was getting pretty antsy after a while.

Cloisters Museum: at extreme northwest Manhattan. You’ll hardly believe you’re in the same city as the skyscrapers. There is a beautiful park between the last subway stop and the museum itself, or you can catch a bus the last few blocks. The day we went, unfortunately, we could not see any signs for the bus so we decided to walk… it’s not well-signed and it was POURING. We got drenched. But we still thought it was pretty.

Does your son like candy? Dylan’s Candy Bar (Dylan is Ralph Lauren’s daughter) has at least 2 locations. The one on the Upper East Side is the most impressive - 3 stories.

The various parks (Central is best known but others include Union Square and many others) are all well worth a jaunt for people-watching on a nice day. Central Park has the most touristy stuff but the others are where real New Yorkers go to live their lives and hang out (well, they go to CP as well but that’s huge).

Shows: I’ve seen Lion King, Book of Mormon, Wicked (twice now), Kinky Boots, Avenue Q, and I forget what all else. Don’t bother with Avenue Q, a lot of it will go right over your son’s head and it’s a bit dated. Mormon, well, um, it’s filthy but hysterical. Maybe not for a 13 year old. Lion King (and I assume Aladdin, have not seen that) is fine. Kinky Boots is as well, believe it or not, as long as you don’t freak out at the cross-dressing which is central to the plot: it actually has a wonderful message about accepting people for what they are.

save yourself the time and money spent in the Freedom tower and watch the video of the elevator trip. it’s pretty cool.

It’s funny that everyone says that, but what they really mean is driving in Manhattan is torture. Although IMHO it’s actually not that bad outside of rush hour (I mean…compared to say…Boston).

People often forget how BIG New York is when you include all five boroughs. If I’m going to the NY Botanical Gardens in The Bronx (which I recommend) or my friend’s house in Bay Ridge Brooklyn (which I don’t recommend unless you call first), I usually drive. And it still takes 30-45 minutes with no traffic.

Sorry I don’t have any answers … but I just have to add my observation from 38 years ago during my first visit to New York

My boss had just sold his company (Travel Network) to ABC television and he and to go up and close the deal. He says stay here in front of the building till I get back. One man was playing a guitar and street vendors were selling what looked like hamburger/potato goulash and out of the corner of my eye I see a wave of yellow cabs with their horns honking. Seems there was taxi cab strike and they were all protesting. Thousands of taxi’s streaming by me before my boss came back to find me all wide eyed and wondering about this crazy city called New York. New York has a spirit that no other city has … the poverty and the rich are more pronounced than any other city that I have been to. Although I must admit I have not been to Chicago since a small child … New York will always be with me with too many other experiences to recall.

Have a nice trip

I found the the HighLine to be overrated.
When I went there with my wife I told her that this it would have be pretty good place to stroll on a date.*
It’s a park path, but without a park. Though you are up in the air 3 stories high, so the view is a bit different; and for residents of Manhattan it’s probably useful just to for being a place that is not surrounded by traffic.But there’s nothing of interest for a 13 yr old.

  • (There’s not really much to see, so you can just hold hands and stare into each others eyes) :slight_smile:


It’s certainly better than when you were last here. Yes, there are still many stations and cars that are old, but there are many newer cars and upgraded stations have electronic signs which tells you how close the next train is, electronic signs in the cars with the time and the next several stations, and also, wi-fi access.

Taxis still exist.

15-18, depending on how fancy the restaurant.

Can’t answer that one, sorry.

It’s just a landscaped park.

It does have an observation deck, though I’ve yet to go there. The ESB is iconic, but the new 1 World Trade Center is the tallest building in the USA, so it has that going for it. (And as an Israeli, I’m guessing you’re unlikely to ever ascend the Burj Khalifa)

There are some trendy areas, but I don’t think they have anything you can’t find in Mahnattan.

OK, I gotta step in and defend the High Line Park.

I first heard of it while chatting with another patron in line at the TKTS booth. We didn’t have time to check it out that trip but the next time we went, my daughter and I went a few blocks on it just to see (wound up having lunch at the Chelsea Marketplace and going on our way to wherever else we were going). On a later trip, my husband and I got on about 30th, walked up to the northern end, then the entire length down to the Village.

Would we make it the focus of our trip? Nah. Would we walk it again? Only if it was convenient to wherever we planned to be. Is it worth seeing once? Sure, though it’s not a “can’t miss” thing.

I’m a bit of a sucker for rails-to-trails parks (like the W&OD here in the DC area, and there are several others in Virginia that I’d like to spend time on), though, so that may skew my opinion. It’s just kind of neat to see one in the densest city in America.

The High Line Park is not one of those things everyone, whatever they are interested in, will remember the rest of their lives as so incredibly cool. But few attractions anywhere are. If you like and are interested in that part of Manhattan, and experiencing that cityscape in a different way, then it’s very cool. Anyway I find it so, I’ve gone back a number of times. I’m from NY and find some of the notable tourist attractions interesting and others not. A few I’ve never been to.

High Line is legitimately fantastic. It’s beautiful and a unique experience. But it’s crowded and slow tourists (about 98% of people there) will get in your way.

For a while I actually used the High Line to commute from my gym at Chelsea Piers to my office in MPD. Great views of the Hudson Yards at rush hour.

Answers in bold.

We really need to decide what is meant by the Subway being in decent shape…