Q. We're visiting New York City soon. What's the best way to get a quick overview of the city? Also, can you recommend a really good Chinese restaurant, something a bit upscale?
A. Try a hop-on/hop-off bus tour: Gray Line New York (800/669-0051). The "All Loops Tour" costs $44 per person and is valid for 48 hours. You'll ride in a narrated double decker bus that takes you to various destinations and you can hop-on/hop-off at any time at a stop of your choice. With this tour, you'll have four options: Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn Loops and Night Tour. They have various other tours, including the "3-Day Super Saver Combo" for $94 per person, which, in addition to the three-full days of the "All Loops Tour," also includes the "New York City Official Heritage Tour," a ride on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or a one-hour cruise, a ticket to the Empire State Building Observatory, entrance to the South Street Seaport Museum, and the Fort Tryon Park / Heather Garden / The Cloisters tour (seasonal). As for Chinese cuisine, a restaurant with the unlikely name of The Liberty View (because it has a view of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor) in the unlikely neighborhood of Battery Park City at the tip of Manhattan, is a well-kept secret with some of the best Chinese food in the city. Added plus: outdoor dining with that million-dollar view. 21 South End Avenue, 212-786-1888.
Q. A friend is giving me one round-trip ticket to Newark, New Jersey. Can you suggest a less expensive way than a taxi into Manhattan ? Is there a way to see Long Island via rail? Also, do you have suggestions for a mid-priced hotel near Times Square ? I do have a walking problem and will probably use the bus system for traveling about. The ticket has to be used before September.
A. To reach Manhattan from Newark Airport, first take the AirTrain to Newark Liberty International Airport Train Station, and from there you can take New Jersey Transit or Amtrak to New York Penn Station, where you can connect to subways or busses. The ticket costs $14 one-way, and it covers both the AirTrain and the NJ Transit or Amtrak portion of your ride, so hang on to your ticket until you arrive in Manhattan. The entire trip takes about 40-50 minutes, depending on time of day and your luck with connections.
The most direct route to Long Island from Manhattan is with the Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station, and prices vary depending on where on Long Island you're going. For example, if you're going to Montauk, the one-way peak (Monday to Friday, trains scheduled to arrive in NYC terminals between 6 and 10 AM or depart NYC between 4 and 8 PM) fare purchased online is $19 or $13.78 for off peak travel. Tickets purchased at the station are $20 or $14.50 respectively, and tickets purchased onboard the train are $25 or $20.
For relatively cheap but clean and well-located Manhattan hotels, I'd suggest looking at AppleCore which operates five hotels in Midtown (under the Comfort Inn, Super 8, La Quinta, Red Roof, and Ramada brands).
Q. We will be celebrating our 50th anniversary this August 5th and want to visit Niagara Falls and the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park NY. Problem is we do not drive much any more so a road trip is not an option. Do you know of any tours that would meet our needs and can you suggest a hotel in the area?
A. You're probably aware of this, but Hyde Park is quite distant from Niagara Falls, and if you were to take Amtrak (800-872-7245) between the two places it would take anywhere between seven and eight hours, with prices ranging from $46 to $75 one-way (but the scenery is worth the while). The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (845-486-7770) is located in Hyde Park, a few miles north of Poughkeepsie, NY.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a tour that would cover both Niagara Falls and the FDR Library and Museum, and your options of getting between places are slim. What I'd suggest doing is to fly into Stewart International Airport (to be known as New York Hudson Valley International Airport from May onwards), and spend one or two nights at Beekman Arms, (845-876-7077), billing itself as the oldest continually-run inn in the country, and then explore Hudson Valley (www.travelhudsonvalley.org, or more specifically - Dutchess County at 800-445-3131 or www.dutchesstourism.com) including a visit to the FDR Library, the Roosevelt National Historic Site, and the Vanderbilt Mansion, and also dine in one of the five restaurants at the Culinary Institute of America. You might also want to visit the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum (showcasing vintage airplanes). Your hotel can arrange for local tours and perhaps a car and driver.
You can then take Amtrak from Poughkeepsie to Niagara Falls for the rest of your vacation.
Q. My family and I (total of five) will be traveling to New York City this summer for a family vacation. We already have our flights and hotel booked for the trip and now we are planning our itinerary. To make the most of our time and see the most sites, we were wondering if there were any companies that we could contact to provide a guide for the first couple of days to help us get acclimated. All of the companies we have contacted have structured tours but do not have individual guides for hire. Any Suggestions?
A. Two places to check: Stepping Out Tours (212-661-8100) specializes in providing tours and concierge services, and offers customized tours to fit individual needs and interests; or Walk on By Tours, specializing in customized walking and bus tours.