No matter how you feel about N-Y-C, there’s no escaping the fact that options abound as soon as you cross its threshold—countless options for cultural and dining adventures. Options to get lost in a good way. And at just over three hours by train or by car from downtown Schenectady, there’s no excuse to stay home this summer. Here are a few must-sees and tips from a born-and-bred Schenectadian who now calls Manhattan home. Choose one or choose several, just be sure to build an adventure which excites you.
First up: Getting there.
Wade Tours and Yankee Trails
Both local companies offer reasonably-priced buses that make day trips a breeze, especially if you’ve got kids in tow or are grappling with arthritis. While Wade Tours’ buses originate in Schenectady and Yankee Trails’ buses start in Rensselaer, both offer pick-ups and drop-offs in the parking lot at Latham Farms, and land at Bryant Park in midtown.
Tip: Wade Tours offers occasional Saturday deals, with round-trip fares as low as $35—and bonus: reserved seating.
If you’re looking to leave the driving to someone else, jump on an Amtrak train at Schenectady or Albany-Rensselaer. Or, if you prefer to leave extra early or stay a bit later, drive to Poughkeepsie and take the just over 90-minute trip into the city as there are more daily options.
Tip: Through Labor Day, all Amtrak trains from our neck of the woods are being routed through Grand Central Station, so don’t forget to look up and see the stars… the famous constellation ceiling, that is.
Although the famed deli is known for its Reubens and club sandwiches, make sure you save room for dessert, as it’s the cheesecake — a dozen-plus flavors — which will leave you planning your next trip before you’re even out the door. With a convenient location on 45th Street in Times Square, it’s an easy go-to.
Tip: Don’t have time for a sit-down meal? Junior’s has a café space for grab-and-go beverages and desserts… especially if you’re looking for a snack to pass the time on the way back to Schenectady.
Jekyll & Hyde Club
Whether you’re with the kids or on a date, the curiosities inside the Jekyll & Hyde Club will keep your attention. Between the spooky entrance that feels like it’s straight out of Disney World, interactive surroundings (character actors roam from table to table) and live performances on a main stage, you’ll feel positively transported. Classic American fare for everyone, and festive themed adult beverages for the 21-plus set.
Tip: Don’t leave without stopping by the bathroom… and if you can, ask for a table facing the stage. Watch out for the elephant, too.
Tucked away on the western edge of the theater district, this longtime Italian eatery knows how to get theatergoers fed and out on time. It can get busy, especially on the weekends, so call ahead with reservations if you can.
Tip: Becco offers what they call the Sinfonia di Paste, an always-changing assortment of three housemade pastas served tableside, following a hearty helping of Caesar salad or antipasti. Their version of a buffet, you can stop the roving waiters as many times as you like and really eat your fill. And at roughly $20 a person for lunch and $25 for dinner, the Sinfonia is a real crowd-pleaser for more reasons than one.
FDNY Ladder 3's apparatus destroyed at Ground Zero at the 9/11 museum in Manhattan Friday, July 28, 2017. (Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer)
Not much needs to be said—If you haven’t been to the Ground Zero Memorial, you should try to get there. Tip: Go early or go late to miss the crowds.
Get in touch with your family’s history, and finally make the trek out to the island that welcomed them years and years ago by hopping a ferry and touring the museum. Book early and get a tour inside Lady Liberty’s pedestal, but if you’re hoping to visit her crown, consider booking months in advance.
Tip: Check out Ellis Island’s immigration records online before you go, to personalize your adventure.
(Photo by Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer: The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue in New York City Friday, December 29, 2017.)
Get close to some art.
If you’re looking for something educational for the teens and pre-teens in your life this summer, head to The MET, where you can see pieces from world history and some of the biggest names in art—like Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Caravaggio, Michelangelo and Da Vinci—all under one roof.
Tip: Flash that New York I.D. and save. Starting last winter, The MET began charging for out-of-towners, but licensed New York residents can still get in for an optional (suggested) donation. What that means is you can pay “what you wish,” or essentially, not at all, although the museum asks that you be as generous as you can.
The Morgan Library
Located in midtown east just a short walk from Grand Central Station, the Morgan Library is rarely packed, so you’ll get to stroll at your leisure, while viewing historical gems like a Gutenberg Bible, compositions by Mozart and Henry David Thoreau’s journal entries from his time at Walden Pond. Built at the turn of the century by American banker J.P. Morgan to house his extensive private library and art collection, there are countless first editions of important works and historical manuscripts—but the rooms are just as striking.
Tip: Admission is waived during select weekday hours and on Sundays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. for certain spaces, including Mr. Morgan’s Library, Study, Rotunda and Librarian’s Office.
With plenty of blockbusters to choose from—Frozen, Come From Away, SpongeBob SquarePants, Carousel and Hello Dolly (by the way, Better Midler is back through the show’s closing in August)—now’s the time to see the lights and stars on the Great White Way.
Tip: Head to playbill.com or lottery.broadwaydirect.com and enter the digital lotteries for several of Broadway’s biggest hits—who knows, you might score a seat at as much as 75 percent off retail! Or, if you’re flexible about what you’ll see but still looking for a deal, head to the TKTS booth in Times Square once you arrive, as they have same-day deals on select shows.
Spend an afternoon wandering in the namesake park for Schenectady’s Crown Jewel. Head to the zoo, take a boat ride, or simply sit on a bench and people watch. Or, if you’re looking for that Hallmark moment, take a horse and carriage ride. Prices range from roughly $75 for 25 minutes to $140 for 55 minutes, photo included.
Tip: Avoid the pedicabs—the fees can be astronomical.
Completed in 2014, the High Line is a walkable, elevated, mile-and-a-half-long corridor on the west side of Manhattan with vegetation and art displays, which has become a go-to for residents and tourists alike. Built atop a former freight rail line dating back to the ’30s, it was designed with both sustainability and public interest in mind.
Tip: Enter at W.16th Street and tour Chelsea Market, an urban food court and shopping mall, before heading above ground for a stroll.