Living in Boston, weekend trips to New York City are too easy to not take advantage of every few months. Because my wife, Annalisa, and I take a weekend trip to New York City 3-4x/year, we have made it a point to do non-touristy things that visitors normally don’t do. And we want to help guide you to activities in New York City that are unique! So forget about MoMA or the Statue of Liberty (though they’re both great!) – let’s see what else there is to do in the city that never sleeps!
This time, we started our weekend in New York City with a trip to Broadway. We chose to drive from Boston into New York City this time, rather than taking one of the many bus options that we have taken before (e.g., Megabus, BoltBus etc.). We made this decision because it allowed us the freedom and flexibility to come and go as we pleased, and the buses often do not run on schedule, which can make a long travel day even longer. We have been asked on a number of occasions how we can afford to park in the city, and the truth of the matter is, we don’t pay!
New York City street parking sign
Tip: If you pay attention, street parking is readily available all around New York City – from Queens to Brooklyn to Manhattan, it’s free! Just be sure to pay attention to street signs as they will let you know when you can/cannot park. There are no special parking permits required in most parts of the city. On this trip, we managed to snag a parking spot on West 77th / Central Park West, adjacent to the American Museum of Natural History, where we left the car for the weekend.
For this trip, we stayed at the Comfort Inn Central Park West on a Best Rate Guarantee night. This property is as far north in Manhattan as we have ever stayed. The location was in a quiet residential neighborhood on the Upper West Side, and a stone’s throw away from the Lincoln Center and the 1, 2, 3, B and C lines. All in all, it served its purpose as a convenient and quiet launch point for the main events of this trip: celebrities on Broadway!
Annalisa goes ga-ga for Bradley Cooper (like this interesting woman… OK, maybe not that much!). When she found out that he was performing a revival of The Elephant Man at the Booth Theatre, it was a foregone conclusion that we would be making the trip. However, with an average ticket cost of $163, we had to get creative in order to meet Bradley, and to watch him live. To make tickets more affordable to theater-goers on a budget, many Broadway shows have implemented rush, lottery, and standing-room-only (SRO) policies. Anyone willing to wake up and get to the box office early, spend some time in a line, or stand during the show, can get greatly discounted tickets to the majority of shows on Broadway.
A Broadway rush ticket lineup
Tip: One terrific resource that we have used on multiple occasions has been the Broadway Rush Report. This superb resource provides an up to the week update of the lineups for theatergoers looking to save money. If this is unfamiliar to you, it is a highly recommended alternative to the more popular (but often not that cheap) TKTS Booths located in Times Square and around NYC.
The Elephant Man was selling SRO seats for $40 per ticket, which was a substantial savings. We arrived in line at 9:15AM, knowing that the box office opened at 10:00AM that day. All box office locations will publish their opening hours, and depending on how popular you anticipate that particular musical/play to be, you may want to gauge how early you want to arrive. Since we knew that The Elephant Man was closing its run, we expected a good sized lineup and boy were we right! Despite arriving 45 minutes early, we were number 14 and 15 in line. After waiting our turn, we fortunately made the cut and were able to snag our SRO seats for that evening’s performance! I won’t say much more about the play, other than to let you know that Bradley Cooper was fantastic.
Playbill from The Elephant Man on Broadway
During the day (before the play), we walked around Central Park, grabbing dinner at the world’s busiest food cart (I swear they add crack to their white sauce), and doing one of my favorite things in New York: just standing in Times Square and people watching.
Chicken with rice at the Halal Guys on 53 St / 6 Ave
After the show, Annalisa had really wanted to meet Bradley Cooper by stage dooring the show. If you’re not familiar with this, it is simply the act of waiting by the theater’s stage door after a show and waiting for the actors/actresses to exit, often allowing you the opportunity to get up close and personal. We had been chatting with an usher, and found out that Bradley Cooper’s mom (Gloria Campano) was in town and so he might take a few extra minutes to come out after the show. By the time we made our way outside, a crowd had already gathered to stage door Bradley Cooper, and so we joined the crowd.
The crowd waiting for Bradley Cooper by the stage door
Tip: Most theaters have multiple entrances/exits, and famous actors/actresses may sometimes take the ‘back way’ in order to avoid the crowds. The staff at the theater can be your best source of information as to whether to wait, and where to wait!
Having waited what seemed to be an eternity (for me) and a millisecond (for Annalisa), the crowd roared when we all realized that the star of the show (and recent Academy Award winner) had just walked outside. Autographs were signed, pictures taken, and many many happy women went home that night with Mr. Cooper on their minds. It was a splendid way to end a great NYC day, and truly shows just how unique and special any visit to the city can be.
The man everyone was waiting for
Tip: We have seen some actors/actresses only sign autographs or take photographs with fans who have a copy of the Playbill from the show. That way, they avoid autograph resellers etc. who are only there to profit from that interaction. So remember to save your Playbill!
About the author: My wife and I live in Boston, MA and are explorers at heart. We are both young professionals who want to balance work/life responsibilities with a desire to travel as much as our jobs (and bank accounts) would allow. To make this balance work, we have taken a number of weekend trips to domestic and international destinations.
As our interest in traveling on a budget developed, we noticed that many of the trip reports and travel guides were written for those who wanted to splurge on First Class airline redemptions, were staying at top-end aspirational hotel properties, and required travel to the far reaches of the globe. Not much was being written for the 99%, if you will… those who want to travel more frequently, for shorter durations, and in economy class.
It is my hope that you can share in these travels and use my posts highlighting the best tourist attractions and local favorites of a destination while maximizing your $/points, to see just how much you can pack into A Weekend In…