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New York City Trip Report Part 3

I’m back after a brief hiatus due to some other life events….  So as promised, here is the last installment of our NYC trip last month.  In this post I’ll focus on the shows and restaurants we visited in the evenings.

Our first night in the city, we had dinner at the Times Square staple Ruby Foos. A little hokey I know, but it was fun. The food wasn’t bad, but not what I had been hoping for based on past recollections of friends and family.  The menu seems to have taken a “pan-Asian” turn, which was good, but I had been hoping for some good old school Chinese food. Service was prompt, and I like that they brought chop sticks first and you had to ask for silverware if you wanted it.  Prices were about what I would have expected for the area (around $20-$30 2015-05-25 14.34.42for entrees), sadly though…. No fortune cookies!

After dinner we headed over to the Schoenfeld Theatre on 45th to see the incomparable Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience. The show centers on the Queen’s weekly meetings with each of the 12 prime ministers that have been in office during her 63 year reign.  The show was fantastic and showed both humorous and intimate vignettes of the Queen with her Prime Ministers. So far as I can tell there was no official collaboration with Royal Family so artistic liberties were likely taken as the “audiences” are private one-on-one meetings. If you have the chance to see this show I highly recommend it!

The following night we dined at Amarone, one of the plentiful Italian restaurants in the theatre district. Relatively small and unassuming it was quite good and the service was excellent. We were in and out in plenty of time to catch our show, but didn’t feel rushed.  Prices were similar to Ruby Foos with most entrees in the $20 to $30 range with a few higher end items closer to $40. To be honest it is difficult to get a bad meal in New York and almost any of the little restaurants in the theatre district will prove that point.

Following dinner we walked up to the O’Neill Theatre on 49th street for our second show of the weekend, The Book of Mormon. This show was quite a bit more irreverent than the previous night, but didn’t fail to please! The show follows a group of young Mormons on their faith mission to a remote corner of Africa, where (pardon the expression) hilarity ensues! The show was ridiculously funny, and had all the trappings of a South Park production which the writers are better known for. This was well worth the ticket price of admission!

Afterwards we went in search of a night cap in midtown since our first choice watering hole, the Oak Bar at the Plaza, was STILL closed. We thought about heading up to the King Cole bar at the St. Regis on East 55th, but felt like it was farther than we wanted to go at that point so we settled on the View Lounge at the Marriott Marquis. This was a mistake not to be repeated! While it had the kitsch factor of being 48 stories up and having a rotating view, it the service was slowwwwwwwww, and the drinks seriously overpriced! The Lounge closes at midnight (early for NYC) and they have the Gaul to change a cover for non-hotel guests!  The sole food option was a buffet that was similarly overpriced and looked a little dodgy to me (that said, I have an aversion to buffets to start with). In hindsight… the cab ride up to 55th would have been worth it!

Happy travels turtle herd!

The point of PackPoint: App review

As promised I tried out the PackPoint app on our last trip and it worked more or less as described by the developers. I picked the travels 2015-05-05 21.59.23dates and location along with the type of trip and general activity categories and it went about putting together my packing list. The application gave you the option to choose to repeat basic items, and decide if you will be doing laundry during the trip. (Although I think it could use a little fine tuning given that a few of the suggestions were a bit overkill for the weather) In addition to these options you can customize the template and add additional activity types if you but the premium version for $4.99.

Overall it worked well, and has some nice integrated features like the weather and the ability to link to your TripIit account.  That being said, I’m not sure it is worth the $4.99 for the upgraded version, and there are other packing list apps out there that allow a lot of customization that are cheaper or free.

 

 

 

 

New York City Trip Report Part 2

After we checked into our hotel we headed out to grab a bite to eat and hit a few attractions that have been on my bucket list for a while.  Our first stop was the Carnegie Deli, but we gave up on it after about 20 minutes of waiting in line since we had 6 PM dinner reservations and didn’t want to be eating again right on top of lunch.  We settled for the Stagecoach Tavern, just a block away where we grabbed a more manageably sized Reuben at a more manageably price…  We did however make it back on Sunday afternoon for lunch at Carnegie which features ridiculously oversized portions. The inside of Carnegie deli is about what you would expect, a little on the small side, dimly lit and looking as though it hadn’t been redecorated in 30 years save for the growing number of celebrity pictures crowding the walls.  I think our waitress had been working there since they opened in 1937 as well, she was really nice, but slower than molasses in winter and kept forgetting things. We split a Reuben because they were so big and what else are you going to order when you go to the Carnegie deli right?  The sandwich is served open faced and is more of a heaping pile of meat and cheese on top of a couple of pieces of soggy rye bread than it is a traditional sandwich. I don’t know that I need to go back, but that said, it was good, and I checked it off the bucket list!

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New York City Trip Report Part 1

TVOn our recent trip to New York my wife and I took in a couple of shows and crossed off a few things from our bucket list.  We took Amtrak from DC to Penn Station Friday morning and despite a short delay we still arrived roughly on schedule.  The ride wasn’t bad (it certainly beats driving), although the train was crowded and the free Wi-Fi onboard is rubbish. If you’re traveling the northeast corridor by train and want to get anything done online I recommend bringing your own hot spot or wireless enabled device.

Once we arrived in the city we cabbed over to our hotel (rather than trying to navigate the subway with luggage) close to Times Square. We

View from our room

View from our room

stayed at the relatively new (about 1 year old) Hyatt Times Square on West 45th between 7th and 8th.  The location is great if you’re going to take in any shows since it is smack in the middle of the theater district and is also a short walk from Bryant park, the public library  and many other midtown attractions.  We were able to book our stay with the free reward night certificates we got for signing up for the co-branded Chase Visa card. Which also comes with complementary platinum status as long as you keep the card.  Although I really wanted to stay at the new Park Hyatt on 57th street, it didn’t have any availability so this was the second best option and we were quite happy with the hotel.  The Hyatt Times Square has a very small footprint, but is quite tall at 54 stories. The lobby has a very clean and modern design with a few whimsical touches here and there.

room collage

Room features

Our room was on the 45th floor which provided some excellent views of the city through its floor to ceiling windows, and at 325 square feet it was also relatively large for a New York hotel room. The room keys were proximity cards so in addition to being kind of cool, there was no need to worry about the cards getting demagnetized! The room itself was also very smart with lights that were all connected so you could turn them all on or off from bed or on your way out the door.  The desk also had built in USB charging stations AV jacks, ample outlets, and cordless phones. The Bathroom also had a couple of my favorite features, a rainfall shower head, and heated bathroom floors! The heated bathroom floors made me happier than they should have, and I’ve been going through withdrawal ever since we left. Of course there were also the standard features like a mini fridge (sans mini-bar) that we stocked with sodas from a nearby bodega, a coffee maker with Starbucks coffee, complementary bottled water refreshed daily, and an in-room safe.

If you take the elevator up to the 54th floor there is a very trendy, albeit smallish Bar 54 (I feel like they were phoning it in a little on the name) If you can get in there is a vertigo inducing outdoor bar that has truly impressive views of Manhattan and was the perfect place to

view from Bar 54

view from Bar 54

have a couple of late afternoon cocktails on a warm spring day. The prices were a little steep, but still roughly what I would expect for a hotel bar like this in the center of New York. There was also a nice gym which we did not avail ourselves of, and a Marilyn Monroe themed spa that has very good yelp reviews!

Overall I give the Hyatt Times Square high marks and would definitely stay here again! I’ll follow-up later with additional posts on the restaurants, shows, and other places we visited.

All Thrones have been seized

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A couple of weeks ago I was in New York while Uber was running a co-branded promotion with HBO for the Game of Thrones season Premiere.  I was excited about the opportunity to take advantage of the promotion that combined two of my favorite brands. The promotion allowed you to request an Iron Throne pedicab or a photo-op with an actual Iron Throne. All you had to do was plug in the promo code “THRONERIDES” in the app and then request either a throne or a pedicab.  Sadly I never got the chance to try either, but I did glimpse one of the pedicabs going by…

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You can find some good photo’s of the promo here…. enjoy!

Weekly Travel News Roundup 4/18/2015

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This carry-on is Ingenious!

A little while back I wrote about a neat carry-on that was being developed as a Kickstarter campaign, now I’m back with another really awesome bag that I just stumbled on. While it isn’t as tech laden as the Trunkster, it is very chic and includes some brilliant design elements. The Garment Weekender bag by Hook & Albert is a stylish duffle available in waxed canvas or leather.

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Daily Getaways April 13-18

Much like last week, this week’s deals are somewhat of a mixed bag in my opinion. (That being said you may find better value depending on your travel style and preferences.) As always, plan ahead for which offers you want to target, logon a few minutes early and keep refreshing your page… these deals are a lot like the old Filenes Basement Running of the Brides sale…

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Monday brings discount packages for Universal studios Orlando. As an adult I have no interest in theme parks by and large, but as a kid admittedly I had fun visiting this park with one of my school groups. If you are lucky enough to score one of these deals, it can save a family of four a bit of coin on their summer vacation.

Tuesday we’re back to Vegas with the Caesars group, they are offering discounts at a wide range of their properties in the Las Vegas area and there are some bargains to be had there. This isn’t huge on my list, but again, you might find that it works for you.  Most of the deals are for 2 or 3 nights which is too short for me coming from the east coast, but if you’re willing and able to swing a weekend junket or Vegas will be part of a larger trip, then this is definitely worth your time.

Wednesday gives us some nice discounts on Hertz! In this case you are buying loyalty points at a deeply discounted rate so these offers will likely sell out fast as well. You can buy up to 3 sets of points across all offers available.

Thursday we’re back to the theme parks again… the Busch Gardens deal is a good bargain (a little better than 50% off) if that’s your thing… and as for Sea World, well I’m not even going to comment on that.

Friday rounds out the week with a pretty good deal as well if you stay at Marriott properties often, or have a trip planned. You can pick up a $100, $500, or $1000 Marriott gift card for 20% off. You can purchase up to 5 $100 cards, 2 $500 cards, and 1 $1000 card. The cards do not expire and are transferable.  I would recommend picking the one you want most and target that offer since these will likely sell out in a flash.

Weekly Travel News Roundup 4/10/2015

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  • Airbnb has added listings for Cuba

 

 

 

 

  • And of course your video for the week….  Watch Virgin America’s first 787 get put together in 2 minutes and 55 seconds!

Daily Getaways April 6-10

Screenshot 2015-04-02 17.53.41This week’s daily getaways have a few gems scattered about starting with today’s Avis offer.  The Chairman’s club membership is a littlesteep for my taste considering I don’t rent cars often enough for it to make sense, and I would wager the same is true for most other folks as well. However, the one day car rental certificates for $30 (limit 7) could be a great deal. The certificates will get you any car up to the premium class (think Chrysler 300 M or equivalent) and you can use all seven of them together, which could save you quite a bit of coin.  However there are some restrictions on the certificates that you should check before purchasing. Most notably there are some blackout dates and certain locations like the NYC metro area and Puerto Rico that are excluded. I also noticed a rather ambiguous statement that says, “A limited number of cars are made available for use in conjunction with this offer and the number varies depending on season and location.” I don’t think that it is a major concern, (probably just boiler plate language) but I would call ahead to check availability when booking just to make sure you are covered.

Tuesday and Wednesday bring Omni and Loews hotel deals respectively. Both of these deals come in the form of certificates that can be redeemed for 1 or two night at various properties. The two night Omni certificates look like a good deal for a weekend getaway given the average rack rates for Omni. The Lowes deals aren’t quite as good unless you’re in the $500 a night hotel bracket already. The exception being the two cheaper deals that could be a good weekend getaway.

Thursday brings us back to Vegas with a smattering of hotel deals, none of which really catch my eye unless you are within driving distance. Most of the deals are for 2 or 3 night stays which is fine for a weekend junket, but if you’re coming from any distance you would probably need to supplement with a few nights out of pocket. That being said if you were already planning on traveling to Sin City or were making it part of a larger trip, this could be a good deal. As always, consider all these deals in the context of your own travel plan.

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The Hyatt deal on Friday is also an intriguing offer since you are buying points that will be deposition into your Hyatt Gold Passport account as opposed to free night certificates. This fact along with the 20% point back promotion that Hyatt is running changes the math in your favor quite a bit. The offer is essentially letting you buy Hyatt points for about 1.8 cents apiece which is roughly what you can expect your average redemption value to be. However, if you have the cobranded Hyatt visa issued by Chase, and you registered for the promotion that gives a 20% refund on points redeemed for stays by July 31st you’re getting an excellent deal! That is of course if you will redeem the points before the end of July and you have already registered for the promotion since the registration period is now closed.

 

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