New York City – Things to do with your Team
New York City is known as the city that never sleeps. It is a wonderful place to visit, and a daunting city to try to figure out if you are not from there. When visitors talk about New York City, they are generally referring to Manhattan, one of the five boroughs that make up the city. Visiting Manhattan with a group or team will require some great organizing and planning. You likely already have your list of the most well-known attractions, like the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and the 9/11 Museum. While these are certainly all worthy of a visit, there are some things to know that will make those visits easier. So here are some suggestions for some of the bigger at attractions and a few other ones, as well as restaurants you might consider for your itinerary. All are close to the Times Square District, or a straight shot to get to from there.
Things to Do
View the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry
Want to see the Statue of Liberty with less wait and hassle? Then take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. Don’t let anyone kid you – unless you want to walk to the top of the Statue (I have – it’s exhausting), then the best view of the statue is from the water. Yes, you can stand in line to buy tickets for the statue cruise, or you can take this Ferry for free. The Ferry is run by the City of New York to transport Staten Islanders to and from Manhattan. Yet, the 5 mile, 25 minute ride also provides great views of New York Harbor as well the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the skyscrapers and bridges of Lower Manhattan. The Ferry schedule has boats leaving every 30 minutes (every 15 minutes during weekday rush hour times), so you can return to Manhattan without having to make a long wait. 4 South Street; New York, NY 10004; United States
Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Rockefeller Center is a large open complex consisting of 19 high-rise commercial buildings covering 22 acres between 48th and 51st Streets, between 5th and 6th Avenues. It consist of well-known structures like Radio City Music Hall and 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home to NBC and the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Everything is centered around the spacious Rockefeller Plaza, where the Christmas Tree lighting takes place each holiday season. About 200 flags surround the recessed Lower Plaza, and are normally those of the United Nations member countries except when they are rotated out during the Christmas season and for certain holidays. 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111While here, you can visit the NBC Experience Store, take an NBC Studio Tour, visit the top of the Rock Observation Deck (more about that below), or catch a taping of the Today Show.Just 2 blocks away from Rockefeller Center is the incredibly beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which completed a $177 million renovation in late 2015. St. Patrick's Cathedral is the largest decorated Neo-Gothic-style Catholic cathedral in North America. The cathedral, which can accommodate 3,000 people, takes up a whole city block, between 50th and 51st streets, Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue. The magnificent stained glass windows were created by artists from Boston and European artists from Chartres, France and Birmingham, England. The Pietà, sculpted by William Ordway Partridge, is three times larger than Michelangelo's Pietà. This is a must-see stop! 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock?
There is only one Empire State Building, so if that is on your team’s Bucket List, please don’t let me deter you from going. The view is great, and at 1,050 ft. for the 86th floor observation deck and 1,250 ft. for the 102nd floor observation deck, it offers the highest vantage points you will find in NYC. But the building it is a little out of the way, sitting on 5th Avenue at 34th Street - and that’s really all that’s there, unless you are planning to visit Macy’s flagship store a block away. As for Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, well it not as high as the Empire State Building, rising only to 850 feet, but Rockefeller Center has a lot more going on: it is closer to Times Square, and in my opinion, has the better view of the city. From the Top of the Rock, you get a fantastic view of Central Park, and among other points of interest, the best view of the Empire State Building. Ticket costs are virtually the same - $34 for adults and $27-$28 for kids. So, I recommend the Rock – you won’t be disappointed. 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118
Intrepid (Pier 86)
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum sits in the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid and boasts the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets and a guided missile submarine. Also on display are 28 authentically restored aircraft, including the Lockheed A-12, the world’s fastest military jet and spy plane, and the British Airways Concorde, the fastest commercial aircraft to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean. Rounding out the Museum are the submarine Growler, the only American diesel-powered strategic missile submarine open to the public and an 18,000 sq. ft. education center. The ticket prices are $24 for ages 5-12 and $33 for ages 13 and over. But when are you ever going to get a chance to walk the decks of an aircraft carrier AND see a Space Shuttle up close? Also, try this 20% off discount coupon. Pier 86, W 46th St & 12th Ave, New York, NY 10036
American Museum of National History / Rose Center for Earth & Space
The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in the world and very likely the coolest museum you will ever visit. Located in park-like grounds on the west side of Central Park at Central Park West and 79th Street, the 2 million sq. ft. museum complex is made up of 28 interconnected buildings housing 45 permanent exhibition halls, a planetarium and a library. The Hayden Planetarium, connected to the museum, is now part of the Rose Center for Earth and Space, housed in a glass cube containing the spherical Space Theater. The Heilbrun Cosmic Pathway here is one of the most popular exhibits in the Rose Center. General Admission to the Museum and the Rise Center are $22 for Adults, $17 for students and $12.50 for ages 2-12) $12.50. Extra exhibits cost a bit more. Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024To find hotel rooms closest to where your team is playing in New York City or any city, visit hotels4teams.com. Hotels4Teams - The Best Hotels at the Best Prices, Closest to the Action!
Let’s start by me venting. Madame Tussaud’s is full of impressive wax figures of anybody that’s anybody in the world of “famous.” Now, I cannot claim to know what every one of the people from past history looked like in real life. But it seems like some of these figures look exactly like the real person, and then other figures do not look like that person at all. So what gives? Thank you. I feel better.All that being said, Madame Tussaud’s is a blast to walk through, as the number of personalities on display is huge and the settings and costumes are all very well done. One of the most impressive things to me is to see the height and body-type of many of the figures. Some are much taller, or shorter than you would ever imagine. One note - Madame Tussaud’s often has people out front on 42nd street passing out discount coupons, sometime as good as “Buy 1, Get 1 Free.” So look for any of those folks before you go in and pay full price. 234 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036
This museum is incredibly done, and some visitors have described their time there as the most moving experience of their lives. The emotion is immense – the sadness for the victims and first responders that lost their lives, and the exuberation for the survivors and stories with happy endings. Everybody should see this once. You will just need to decide if a team trip is the time, or the kids are old enough, to appreciate it without going away shaken. If you do go, give yourself plenty of time, as lower Manhattan where this is located always has high traffic, and the lines to get in the museum are often long. 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007
The Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex is a 28-acre waterfront sports village located between 17th and 23rd Streets along Manhattan's Hudson River (via the West Side Highway). Situated on Piers 59, 60 and 61 and in the head house that connects them, the Complex features the following sports and entertainment venues: the New York Golf Club’s Golf Driving Range, Sky Rink with twin ice-skating rinks, Bowlmor Chelsea Piers, which is a very cool bowling complex, and a Maritime center with cruises through Spirit Cruises and the very fancy, all-glass boat, the Bateaux. 62 Chelsea Piers, New York, NY 10011
M&M’s World / Hershey Chocolate World
There is no argument here - the sweetest spot in New York City is at the north end of Times Square at the corner of 48th Street and Broadway. Right across the street from each other is the very impressive 3-story M&M’s World store, and the less impressive (at 1-story) but not any less tasty, Hershey Chocolate World. Both are NYC gift bonanzas, and I challenge you and your families to walk through either and try not to buy something. 1600 Broadway, New York, NY 10019; 1593 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
Let’s start with two things – a Broadway Show in person is like nothing you will ever see. Secondly, they have become incredibly and unreasonably expensive. It is impossible to get a Broadway Show seat much under $125 unless you find a discount somewhere online, or are willing to take whatever seats are still available on the day of at one of the TKTS discount ticket locations. Also, the shows these days (as the airlines do) keep the best seats to sell as “premium priced” seats – often $200 and up. So if you are planning to go to a show, you should join a very affordable online discount site like Entertainment-Link, or learn the ropes of the TKTS office (read the bottom of the page at this link).In terms of the shows, the best show on Broadway since 2003 is Wicked (but best for anyone about 10 and older – younger ones only if they are fearless), and the more recent Aladdin (a romance, so again, 10 and older). Lion King is still playing, better suited to the younger kids, and School of Rock follows the movie closely, so that is a great choice for families. Lastly, a show you might consider that every kid I have ever seen there loved – is the Off-Broadway show Stomp, at the Orpheum Theatre in East Village on 2nd Avenue between 7th & 8th Street. It’s a hike from the Times Square District, but the ticket prices are less and the show is a riot that everyone without a headache will love.
Visiting Central Park sounds simple, until you realize that the park consists of 843 acres and spans 51 blocks from north to south (59th St./Central Park South to 110th St./Central Park North) and three long blocks wide (5th Ave. to Central Park West). You definitely should visit the Park, which receives about 40 million visitors a year, is the most visited park in the U.S. and is one of the most filmed locations in the world. But you should have a plan of what to do when you get there. Here are my suggestions for the park starting at 59th St./Central Park South and moving north.
Rent a Bike, not a Carriage or Pedi-Cab
If you are looking for a romantic ride through the Park, a horse drawn carriage is the way to go. If you have lots of people and kids in your group, that’s not going to work. Carriage rides start at $75 for 20 minutes and hold a max of 4 people. The Pedi-Cabs are even worse, selling you the ride for two, by the minute, making it actually more expensive than the carriage ride. The best option to see Central Park (unless you want to hike it) is a bike ride around the parameter of the Park. The ride is about 6 miles long and the terrain is mostly flat, and you will have an almost unlimited number of photo ops and stops on your self-guided tour. You can rent a bike for as little as $7.00 an hour (here is one of the rental places, on 58th Street, and there are lots of sign holders on the streets adjacent to the Park advertising bike rentals as well.) 117 W 58th St, New York, NY 10019
Visit the Zoo
The Central Park Zoo on 6.5 acres in the Southeast corner of the Park is small as zoo’s go (for comparison, the Philadelphia Zoo takes up 42 acres). But it is a quiet sanctuary in a busy city with some nice exhibits between their main zoo and the Tisch Children’s Zoo. There is also a 4-D Theatre worth seeing. If you are walking through the Park looking for it, you may miss it, as the main entrance to the Zoo is off of 5th Avenue at 64th Street. Tickets for ages 3-12 are $13, and ages 13 and over are $18. E 64th St & 5th Ave, New York, NY 10021
The Central Park Carousel, with its captivating calliope music and 57 impressive horses is one of the Park's most popular attractions. The story goes that a live mule or a horse, hidden beneath the Carousel platform, powered the original amusement ride from 1873 until 1924. The animals were taught to start and stop when the operator tapped on the floor. The current vintage carousel, built in 1908 was found abandoned in an old trolley terminal on Coney Island. It remains one of the largest carousels in the United States and finest examples of American folk art. The carousel is located in the center of the Park at 65th Street. 1802 65th St Transverse, New York, NY 10065
The Mall and Literary Walk
The Mall is a quadruple row of American elms and is Central Park's most photographed feature. The elms form a cathedral-like canopy above the Park's widest pedestrian pathway and is a walkway leading to the beautiful Bethesda Terrace. The Central Park Mall runs through the middle of the Park from 66th to 72nd Street. The southern end of the Mall is known as Literary Walk, where in addition to a statue of Christopher Columbus, stand tributes to four prominent writers. The Mall, New York, NY 10022
Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
Offering great views of the Central Park Lake and Loeb’s Central Park Boathouse, the Bethesda Terrace, located at 72nd Street Cross Drive, is an architectural marvel. The terrace was one of the very first structures to have been built in Central Park, completed in 1863. The Bethesda Fountainsits in front of the lake with the famous Angel of the Waters statue atop as the centerpiece. The Bethesda Terrace Arcade is the arched, underground walkway in the center of the park that links the Mall to the Bethesda Fountain and the Central Park Lake. Created in the 1860s, the Arcade features a stunning Ming Tile Ceiling! 72 Terrace Drive, New York, NY 10021
Belvidere Castle, Vista Rock & Turtle Pond
Belvidere Castle and Vista Rock where it is located, provide the highest point and the best views of the Park. The Castle is one of Central Park’s five visitor centers and home of the official Central Park weather station. Calvert Vaux, co-designer of the Park, created the miniature castle in 1869 as a whimsical structure looking out on the reservoir to the north (now the Great Lawn) and the Ramble to the south. Both overlook Turtle Pond, a year-round home to 5 species of turtles. You will find this area in the middle of the Park just north of the 79th Street Transverse and remember, the Park is huge, so there are a lot more things to see and photo-op opportunities than these. Some of the other great sights you may want to visit in Central Park can be found here. 79th St, New York, NY 10021
Places to Eat
Best Hamburgers – 5 Napkin Burger - 9th Avenue bet. 44th & 45th Street
If you take 10oz of fresh Ground Chuck, put lots of awesome ingredients on it, then tell your customers that you better have 5 napkins available when you are eating this or there will be problems – you end up with 5 Napkin Burger. They have seven locations throughout the city.
Best Family Italian - Tony’s Dinapoli – 43rd Street near Broadway
Hands down, this is not only my favorite Italian restaurant in NYC, it’s my favorite restaurant. Carmines is another popular family-style Italian restaurant, but I think Tony’s is better. The food is very good (with huge portions), the service is great, and the atmosphere is outstanding. There is not a busier restaurant in the city, so make reservations in advance. Also, ask for seating on the first floor, as the basement dining room atmosphere is not as fun. Before you leave, try the family-style Strawberry Shortcake or Chocolate Cake – your life will be better for it.
Best BBQ - Virgil’s BBQ – 44th Street near Broadway
Virgil’s was one of the first BBQ restaurants in NYC, and though there are many there now, it is still at the top of my list. I have eaten BBQ in every southern and western state there is, and there is not better BBQ out there, especially when talking about their Ribs or Pulled Pork. Be sure to order their hushpuppies that come with Honey Butter. Like Tony’s, their two floors have different atmospheres. Definitely ask to sit upstairs here.
Best Broadway Singing Servers – Ellen’s Star Dust Café – at Broadway and 51st Street
The Star Dust would be just a fine diner with good breakfasts and lunch sandwiches if it wasn’t for their servers who are all Broadway Show actors and actresses waiting for their next part. It adds a delightful and fun touch when your server pours you more coffee, and immediately turns around and starts singing a show tune for the crowd. Expect a wait – but it’s worth it.
Best Kid-Friendly Menu – Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. – 7th Avenue bet. 43rd and 44th Street
Ok, yes, it’s a chain. But if you have not been to a Bubba Gumps, then let me tell you this: it is kid-friendly, reasonably priced, has a fun atmosphere and serves large portions - pretty much everything a team would want. The menu is a bit heavy on Shrimp dishes. But this chain is very popular with youth sports teams that I deal with across the country, so try it, and I think you’ll like it. And it’s smack in the middle of Times Square at that!
Best Bakery – Bouchon Bakery at Rockefeller Center – Rockefeller Plaza at 49th Street
Bouchon Bakery has been famed Chef Thomas Keller’s unique take on a French boulangerie, (a fancy word for a bakery that specializes in baking and selling bread), offering sandwiches, quiches, soups, and salads, as well as a wide range of artisanal viennoiseries, confections, pastries, tarts, and cookies both French and American in influence. I haven’t been to this one, but have been to their bakery in Napa, and the items we had were mouth wateringly delicious.
Best View of Times Square – the R Lounge
Located at the Renaissance Times Square, this 2nd floor Lounge overlooks Times Square with breathtaking views of a zillion marque and billboard lightbulbs. The drink and food prices are surprisingly reasonable given the location, and kids are welcome as long as they understand their surroundings. You can make reservations on Open Table for this place, and I recommend it.Honestly, many cities across the states have fun team building activities. New York City, just has more! So, no matter where your team goes and what you eat, I promise your trip to the Big Apple will remain as one of the most memorable trips that you and your families will ever experience.