Last week, I was in New York City for the annual BlogHer conference, and even though I was pretty busy at the conference, I managed to squeeze in a little sightseeing.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Originally, I planned to take the train first thing on Thursday morning to attend an event the day before the conference started on Friday (more on that later), but a last minute change had me travelling down on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, I spent most of the day out in Brooklyn taping a roundtable conversation for Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, but the shoot wrapped up in time for me to connect up with my BlogHer roommate Joanne Bamberger (PunditMom) and go to the Matisse exhibit (Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917) at the Museum of Modern Art.
Joanne is a MoMA member so she didn’t need a timed ticket to see Matisse, and as her guest I could purchase a pass for $5.00. If you aren’t a member or guest of one, you will need a timed ticket for Matisse. Is it worth it? If you like Matisse, yes. The exhibit, which runs through mid October, gives you a good perspective on the evolution of his art. However, as we wandered through the exhibit a recurring theme of my commentary was how disconcerted I might have been had I been one of his subjects. There’s a series of sculptures of a female neighbor that progresses from fairly realistic to very stylized (and not very attractive), and some of the renditions of his children are downright disturbing.
One of the neatest parts of the exhibit though is his version of of deHeem’s La Desserte because the original is shown along with Matisse’s version. It’s surprisingly faithful in its own way.
Timed tickets to Matisse are $20 and include all the MoMA galleries. Children 16 and under are free, and there are senior and student discounts. The Museum of Modern Art is located at 11 West 53rd Street.
On Thursday, I went to Ellis Island on a trip sponsored by Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project. We took the Ellis Island Ferry from Battery Park ($12 adults, senior and child discounts available), had a lovely lunch at Ellis Island, and enjoyed a guided tour by Ellis Island expert Tom Bernardin. We were a private group, but Bernardin offers his guided tour for $30 per person 3-4 times per week at 9:45 am (not including the ferry ticket). Note that waiting for the ferry on the Manhattan side will give you a true appreciation for the concept of “huddled masses yearning to be free.”
We did not disembark at Liberty Island, but circling the Statue of Liberty gives you some of the most spectacular views of this landmark. Ellis Island itself is fascinating, and Tom created a good picture of what it must have been like for immigrants from the late 1800s through the early part of the 20th century.
Some of my photos from the day. More on Flickr.
Central Park Zoo
On Sunday, the conference was over, and good friend Celeste Lindell and I walked over to the Central Park Zoo and spent an hour enjoying the animals in this compact zoo before we departed for our respective homes later that afternoon. If you like zoos, Central Park is a great way to pass an hour, and it is the perfect size for small children who were out in force (with their parents of course). Be warned: once you’ve been, you’ll never view the Madagascar cartoons in quite the same way. There are no lions, hippos or giraffes, but there are plenty of lemurs and penguins. Selected pictures from the visit are on Snapshot Chronicles and the full set is on Flickr.
The zoo opens at 10am year round, and closes at 5 weekdays, 5:30 weekends in summer, 4:30 daily in winter. Adult admission $12. Senior and child discounts available.
The Shower Curtain
I have never wanted an item in a hotel room, with the exception of the executive apartment that Mir and I had at Mom 2.0 in Houston last February, and in that case, we wanted the entire apartment. Or, you know, to never go home. But last week at the New York Hilton, I fell in love with the shower curtain.
This one. (affiliate link)
There was a waterproof liner attached to the curtain on the inside below the mesh panel, and the outer curtain was cloth in a white herringbone pattern. The mesh panel let in light while the opaque curtain protected privacy. It would be the perfect shower curtain for a shared bathroom when both occupants are on tight schedules and truly need to share.
Right now, none of our bathrooms would accommodate this type of shower curtain; the one with the tub is the bathroom Doug uses, and I am not so crazy to put a WHITE shower curtain in a room used by a 10-year old boy. Someday though.
Important: If you think you’d like this shower curtain, the one sold in Hilton’s online shop is NOT the right one. The one in my link is the correct one, and there are also similar less expensive options on Amazon.
On this trip I stayed at the Wellington Hotel for the first two nights. I went to New York earlier than originally planned for a taping of a roundtable panel for Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project and this was all they could get for a hotel. The Wellington’s rack rate ranges between $175-230 except during Fashion Week when it skyrockets to the $300-400 range. These rates aren’t that different than the advertised rates at much better hotels in New York. The rooms are very small, not unusual for New York, and very rudimentary. The ice machine is in the lobby. You get the idea. Unless you’ve got no other choice, and absolutely need the 7th Ave/Carnegie Hall location, you can do better with a little hunting. Start by checking Quikbook online. If you’re totally stuck? You can survive anything for a night or two.
I moved over to the Hilton on 6th Ave. for Blogher, which had a special conference rate of $199 per night. Hilton’s regular rates range from $329-400 per night, putting it WAY out of my budget for a personal trip. However, if you are a member of Hilton’s frequent stay program and you need to be in this area of Manhattan, look into using your points.
On my previous trip to NYC for the TBEX travel blogging conference, I stayed at the Hotel Indigo in Chelsea, also with a special rate of $199. Normal rack rate is $250-275, but the hotel, like many in Manhattan, offers packages that can save on the rack rate if you want the add-on (breakfast, sightseeing, sometimes theater tickets and restaurant vouchers.) An advantage of Hotel Indigo is that it’s owned by InterContinental Hotels. Join the Priority Pass frequent stay program and you can earn your points staying at budget friendly Holiday Inns and use ’em in Manhttan. Hotel Indigo in New York also has a nice little rooftop bar and free wi-fi. Very convenient to Penn Station, which is usually how I travel to the city.
Other hotels to consider in NYC, but note that I haven’t stayed at them recently (or in the case of one, at all): Affinia Hotel Manhattan, right across the street from Penn Station. I think the Affiinia used to be a residence hotel, which is why all the rooms have a kitchenette. This makes it very appealing for trips to NYC with my son, as I can save a pretty penny on breakfast by “cooking in” before we go off on our day of sightseeing. Room size is variable. Rack rate starts around $239 but there are discounts for AARP and AAA members.
The Paramount in Times Square. The rooms in this hotel are teeny tiny, but the Times Square location cannot be beat, and you can usually get a good rate. Rack rates for a one-night stay in mid-August ranged from $180-209. Definitely check Quikbook online before booking directly.
A hotel I have not stayed at but that gets raves from colleagues is the Roger Smith Hotel. Typical rates range from $189-249, although there are a few outlier inexpensive rates ($139 and $159), and like most Midtown hotels, rates skyrocket during Fashion Week in September. Free wi-fi.
Unless you are getting a conference rate (and even then) check the rate on Quikbook online before booking directly with a hotel. Sometimes you can get a better rate, sometimes you cannot, but it is always worth checking.
Meals are never a big part of a conference-based trip to New York. Especially with BlogHer. I find Iam so busy that I often forget about dinner altogether. Nonetheless, I had a few nice meals on this trip that merit a call-out.
Insieme, the Italian restaurant inside the Michelangelo Hotel on W. 51st. You can make a very nice meal out of a salad and an appetizer portion of pasta. Plus some bread and a glass of wine or two. We weren’t familiar with the wines on the wine list so to help us choose, they gave us a tasting of a few choices. We also were offered an amuse-bouche of a cold tomato soup that was quite tasty.
My publisher took me to dinner at sushi/dim sum restaurant Ruby Foo’s in Times Square. The food was good, but the best part was the company and being served (versus the conference buffet line.) Sister Times Square restaurant (also part of B.R. Guest Restaurants) Blue Fin is also quite good.
On Sunday after our trip to the zoo, we had lunch at the Brooklyn Diner on West 57th. I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and Celeste had a baked macaroni and cheese dish that looked absolutely decadent. You also might want to check out a classic in the area, the Carnegie Deli, but be warned, the portions are large (and pricey) and the service short.
Disclosure: The trip to Ellis Island was sponsored by Liberty Mutual. The trip to the zoo was the first (hopefully annual) self-sponsored BlogHer zoo trip. I wasn’t even tempted to liberate the shower curtain from the Hilton bathroom. My hotel room at the Wellington was paid for by the film production company and presumably was part of the budget for the filming. The shower curtain link above is an affiliate link to Amazon.