Escape to New York
Bored of Boston? Start Your New Year in the Big AppleBy Fred Choi
During that glorious time of freedom from classes known as IAP and with New York only four to five hours away from Boston, there’s little excuse for MIT students not to spend a weekend away, especially if you’ve never been. Below is a guide to a quick getaway to New York, with ideas of where to go without breaking the bank.
Although you could certainly get there by train or plane, the now legendary Chinatown bus service is ideal. In general it is more convenient, cheaper, and oftentimes cleaner and more well-kept than any other bus service. There are several different bus services, but most run from Chinatown to Chinatown on the hour, for as little as $10 one way. The clientele is predominately college-age kids or a little older, so you should feel right at home.
Of the bunch, the Fung Wah Bus is particularly noteworthy because it doesn’t play videos during the trip, unlike the other big bus line, Travel Pack. Also, it has recently added buses on the half hour on the way back from New York. Be forewarned, though, that the Chinatown bus service has become exponentially more popular than in “the old days” and that you should get to the stop at least half an hour early. Having a ticket in hand does not necessarily guarantee you a seat, so be sure to find the line and stake out a spot if you don’t want to have to wait for the next bus.
For more information, check out: http://www.chinatown-bus.com.
Where to stay
If you don’t have a friend’s couch to crash on in the Manhattan area, your best bet is to try a hostel. Hostels are for low-budget, oftentimes international, travelers and have rooms with bunk beds and community bathrooms. Hostels usually also have lockers, so bring a lock so that you don’t have to buy one there. The larger hostels will probably feel more established and make you feel more comfortable, although they tend to be farther away from the city. Be advised that some hostels require a passport.
For more information, check out: http://www.hostels.com.
The New York subway’s fare is $2 for a single trip. Fares can be purchased from the machines located in the terminals, and most take credit and ATM cards, as well as cash. Your best bet is to get a $7 unlimited ride day pass, although if you think you won’t be taking the subway that much, you may want to get a six-ride pass, which is $10 (thereby saving you $2).
The subway is always under construction. Pay attention to signs indicating different routes for evenings and weekends, and try to decipher the static-y intercom messages. Also, pay attention to which trains are running express. These only stop at stations marked with a white circle on the subway map, while local trains stop at all stops marked with that number or letter.
What to do
New York has more than its fair share of world-famous sights. Attractions include the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Empire State building, and Ground Zero. Museums include the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, and the Museum of Modern Arts (currently in Queens due to renovations). Friends will surely have suggestions of their favorite stores, clubs and bars, and restaurants (see Winnie Yang’s article), but here are a few lesser-known sights to get you started:
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street at 5th Ave
Although located just a short walk away from the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is much less known. Their current exhibit, “National Design Triennial: Inside Design Now,” runs until Jan. 25. It shows off the fascinating range of forms design can take, including furniture, fashion, Web sites, kitchen utensils, animated film, and scientific models. The contributions from the MIT Media Lab (which include Cynthia Brazeal’s supposedly responsive mechanical flowers and Tod Machover’s ridiculously over-hyped “Toy Symphony” project) are uniformly dull and trivial.
They are, however, outweighed by such triumphs as Target’s television and print advertisements, Isaac Mizrahi’s costume of a female frog for a Mark Morris-choreographed opera, and Yusuke Obuchi’s “Wave Garden,” an architectural model that will impress Course 4 and non-Course 4 students alike. Admission: General $10, Students with ID $7
175 Eighth Ave at 19th St
A theater devoted entirely to dance, the Joyce has a full schedule of local and visiting (national and international) dance companies. For the performances of the “Altogether Different 2004,” series running through Jan. 18, all tickets are only $20.
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
236 East 3rd Street between Aves. B and C
Located in the East Village, this is a hip cafe that hosts a poetry slam every Friday night at 10 p.m., but they suggest getting there early. Admission: $7
Broadway shows tend to be pricey, especially for the touristy and utterly commercial productions such as those by Disney. However, many shows that have been open for a while offer rush tickets (some only for students, so remember to bring your ID). Playbill (http://www.playbill.com) is a great source for information about not only Broadway shows, but Off-Broadway shows and other New York theater as well. Playbill has a comprehensive list of shows that have discounted tickets and their policies (e.g. rush or standing room), as well as a free section you can join for discount offers. You can also get discount offers on shows from sources such as the New York Times TicketWatch (check the right hand column of http://www.nytimes.com/arts).
Among the shows currently playing, my quick (less obvious) picks are:
Wonderful Town: A good old-fashioned musical with a score by Bernstein that tells the story of two girls from Ohio trying to make it in the Big Apple, this show is light and breezy and at the top of my list due entirely to the simply stunning Donna Murphy. You may be able to find discount codes online.
Anna and the Tropics: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama, it has received mixed reviews, but the fact that this is a serious drama with an all-Hispanic cast makes it worth checking out. It shouldn’t be hard to get a ticket to this.
Avenue Q: This is a quirky musical riffing on Sesame Street... but for adults. Although it includes puppets and those warm, fuzzy moral lessons we all remember from Sesame Street, it also focuses on “promiscuity, hangovers and unsavory uses of the Internet.”
Gypsy: A classic Sondheim/Styne musical, Gypsy features Bernadette Peters in the tour-de-force title role.
Naked Boys Singing!: The long-running Off-Broadway hit recently extended its run. It bills itself as a fun, family musical... with full-frontal male nudity.