Tuesday, August 23, 2016

This Summer's Tips for New York City!

Ah New York in the summertime.  Is there any better place to get away to the city?  I say no.  So, my son and I took our summer trip to New York City, and we learned some things.  Now, I am passing it all on to you.  So, we went biking again.  This time, our target was Central Park.  We were going to bike the whole ring of 6.1 miles.  The question was how to do it?

Just outside the park at Columbus Circle you have some really great things.  Some of the best Gelato at Grom's.  You have a great high end mall, and you have all the stuff at the bottom of Trump Tower.  That is, when there isn't someone trying to climb Trump Tower.  Election years are getting interesting in this neighborhood.  What you also have is one of the busiest entrances to Central Park and in this tiny little neighborhood you have about thirty ways to rent modes of transportation to go through the park.  There's a lot to choose from.  There are pedicabs, there are horse and carriages, there are cars and taxis, there are mopeds(which you must have a special license for), there are roller blades available, and there are tons of places to rent a bicycle.

My son and I quickly got tired of the upscaleness of the area, with the Whole Foods in the mall and all these vendors trying to direct us away from the park to rent bicycles from their companies.  There are a ton of bicycle places.  It's hard to choose.  My son and I walked by all the vendors and headed straight for Citybike.  Now, in most cases I say this is the way to go.  But, we found out that you have to be careful if you want to pull off the ride through Central Park on Citybike.

There's so much to see in Central Park.  You can do so many things.  There's boating, the zoo, carousels, castles, Shakespeare, concerts, more.  There's a waterfall in the north woods.  There's an enormous pool, and manicured gardens.  The options are limitless.  So, no matter how you bike the park, take a lock.  You don't want to lose a rented bicycle.  But, there are other worries too, which me and my son soon found out.  At the time, (which things have changed now) there were not enough Citybike stations to allow us to stop every thirty minutes which is the rule.  So, we got charged a lot to rent a Citybike.  Not their fault.  It was our fault for not being prepared enough for our journey.  Just be aware that when Citybike says that they will charge you extra for riding over thirty minutes at a time; they mean it.  Since that time, which was just last month, there have been more stations opened.  They do this all the time, so check the map before you go anytime you go.  It can make a big difference.

So, if you aren't adept at Citybike, just take the tour.  There are a lot of them.  I would make sure that I take the tour that is associated with the Central Park Website.  And the only bike rental that I would use at Central Park besides Citybike is the rental agency run by the park.  It's right at the Columbus Circle Gate.  You can't miss it.  The one thing that you don't get from the side agencies is guarantees.  You don't know what the others might charge you for when you're done.  They are mostly fly by night pop up companies.  So, if you bike the park there are the things you need to know.  Rent from the park, take a tour, or if you're in the know take Citybike.  Make sure you bring a chain lock so you can enjoy the sights.  Bring money so you can buy water or other drinks and snacks.  You also may want to rent a boat or get ice cream at the patio of Tavern on the Green.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Natural History Museum, and the Guggenheim are all along the way as well.  Plan accordingly if you want to go to the zoo, ride the carousel, or go swimming.  It's all possible in the world's most famous park.

Now, the mall at the entrance is great.  However, be aware that it is a high end mall.  When those of us who come to the park for a ride go walking in there in our jeans and tshirts, we are not always what they picture as a customer.  Whole Foods is a grocery store for those of you who've never seen Top Chef.  They are great, but a little expensive.  We tried to stop for a drink at a bar that had a great view and we could not get acknowledged.  Be aware of this.  I say use the mall for the restrooms and a bottle of water from Whole Foods.  Leave the rest for the rich people who spend money like water.

So, after biking 6.1 miles through Central Park and a little browsing in the high end mall, what do you do?  Well, in our case we encountered some pop up storms, so our plan to check out another park before dinner did not happen.  I'll tell you all about that next time I go to the city.  Instead, we decided to get something to eat.  We decided to dine like the celebrities do and we went to a great little soul food spot in Harlem known as Amy Ruth's.  Presidents come here.  It's located on 116th street in Harlem, and if you look up soul food restaurants in New York City on Yelp; it's the first place that pops up.  Is it worth all the hype?  You bet it was.  The atmosphere was down home.  The smothered chicken was amazing, as was the mac and cheese burger.  We had rum cake and all kinds of truly great food.  Amy Ruth's is one of Harlem's institutions.  It's just a short subway ride from the park and it is one of the best places that I've ever eaten in New York City.  It's casual, moderately priced and very affordable.  The staff is friendly and the food is good.  I mean, what else do you need?  If the place is good enough for the Clintons, the Bushes, and the Obamas; well then it's good enough for me.

We had a little time to kill before our train, and our go to thing to do is to stop off in Times Square.  We haven't done it for a while.  Here's my tip.  What the hell happened down there?  That place was beautiful, but it looks like a demilitarized zone.  I appreciate that they are doing work down there, but that isn't the only problem.  It's difficult to get to the things you want to see, because there are barricades everywhere.  Toys R Us is gone.  That takes away a whole family element from the area.  I was disheartened.  I hope it gets better, but for the foreseeable future; check the web cams before you stop there.  It was a little depressing when we stopped by.

The long and the short of New York is that things are always changing.  You never know what you're going to see whether you're on the street or on the subway; whether you're at the park or in the train station.  It's always an adventure.  That's why when I go, I try to share my experiences to keep you up to date on what things are like when I visit the city.  So, take a ride, take a walk, eat great food, and maybe venture into Times Square.  It's all an Adventure for Anyone.  Enjoy!

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