A few times a year, I travel from Philly to New York to remind myself why I don’t live there. Just kidding, I like New York fine, and lived there for a few years, but going there does remind me of why I love Philadelphia so much.
I’ve found that, the slight risk for major blizzards and freezing temperatures aside, January is really the ideal time for a solo trip to New York. The hotels are relatively inexpensive, the crowds have thinned, and the sales are still going on. Here’s a quick round-up of what I did, where I stayed, and what I recommend when you’ve got 48 hours to spend in the city on your own.
Where to Stay
If you’re traveling on your own and are looking for something that’s pretty much just a crash pad, I can’t recommend the Pod 39 hotel enough. In January, I’ve found that their per night prices tend to fall to less than $100, while the rest of the year they are pushing $300 per night. Although the price is affordable, it’s not a budget hotel. It’s clean, it’s somewhat trendy, and it has plenty of modern amenities, such as a flat screen TV, free WiFi, and a nice, rainfall shower.
The downside is that it’s tiny. This year, I got a double room, which pretty much had room for a double bed and a small desk. (I’ve previously stayed in a queen-sized room, which has a bit more space.) There was an attached bathroom with a small sink, shower and a ledge for your stuff. The room I stayed in also featured what might be the least useful mirror I’ve ever seen. As you can see in the photo, there’s no real closet, so the hangers (which were attached to coat hooks) blocked the mirror, which also happened to be right in the corner by the door. Another drawback: there’s no kettle or coffee maker in the room, and they don’t have free coffee in the lobby. There is a restaurant, Salvation Taco, that will sell you breakfast and coffee, if you wish.
Some might also argue that the location of Pod 39, Murray Hill, is a downside. OK, it is a little douchey there, but you can say the same about a lot of New York. It’s just a few blocks from the Grand Centeral 4/5/6 stop, so you can leave in a hurry if you want. There are also lots of places nearby to get a quick bite to eat or a drink if need be. Plus, you’re within walking distance to pretty much everything in Manhattan.
What to Do
Typically, I plan on seeing a few shows when in New York. This year, I saw The Glory of the World at BAM and Masters at Work at the NYC Ballet. The NYC Ballet can be pricey, but I managed to get a seat on the far side of the orchestra, in the second row, for just $30.
I had thought about going to the Met Museum, since I’ve actually never been to it, but got lazy and didn’t want to walk up to 86th street, so I went to the Museum of Modern Art instead. That turned out to be a good decision, since MoMA had an exhibition looking back on the works of Jackson Pollock and an exhibition of sculptures by Picasso.
Usually, when I visit MoMA, it’s insanely crowded and it takes like an hour to check your coat (which is free and they recommend doing.) This time, there was no line and the museum was relatively uncrowded, which made looking at the exhibitions a lot more enjoyable. I don’t know if it was the time of day or the month that kept the crowds away.
I almost dropped into the Paris Movie Theater on my last night, just because I happened to walk by it, but decided against it, because it was just a bit too late (the movie would have started at 10, and I wouldn’t have gotten back to the hotel until after midnight. God, I’m old).
I also just enjoy wandering around the city. Manhattan is pretty small and you can easily walk it, especially if you avoid the crowded areas, like Times Square and the area around Penn Station/Herald Square. I ended up walking from the hotel over to Lincoln Center over the course of the day, and then back again at night.Walking back to the Pod 39 after the ballet, 5th Avenue was pretty much deserted. It was great.
I did stop into J.Crew on my trip (I actually went to two stores, one on Madison Ave, and the one in the Time Warner Center), and have some reviews of the most recent arrivals. I also went to Saks Fifth Avenue, just to see. It was so pretty (especially this Marc Jacobs skirt and this amazing military jacket from Polo Ralph Lauren), but I felt very out of place there. Like, I felt like everyone could tell my scarf was from Gap and that maybe they were a bit disdainful of it and clearly, I wasn’t going to buy anything, so why was I there? It was the tail end of sale season, though, so they did have a few racks of items marked down 60 to 70%. Nothing that caught my eye or was in my size, though.
I’m self-employed, which means that most of my trips are working vacations. The best place to work in New York, in my opinion? The public library. I tend to go to the Midtown Branch, at 40th and 5th, but any branch will do. There’s plenty of seating and tables, the WiFi is free (you don’t need a library card or password), and you can sit and work all day. The downside: the bathrooms are a nightmare. Just don’t even go in them.
When I travel alone, I don’t really get very adventurous when it comes to eating. I guess I don’t really get adventurous when it comes to eating in general, as I don’t really care about the latest place to eat or what have you. So, I don’t really have much to offer when it comes to where to eat in the city. I like Pret a Manger, embarrassingly enough, and will pretty much just go there the entire time I’m in NY. The fact that there’s one pretty much every block doesn’t help matters. Yeah. Let’s all just pretend I didn’t admit that.