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Take Amtrak for an easy New York City getaway

The great thing about New York City is you can experience it in so many fresh ways – the city always has something new, fun, and cutting-edge that makes repeat trips not only a novelty, but a necessity. This is what you would expect from what arguably has to be one of the greatest cities of the world today. Nowadays, New York City is more affordable than ever with a myriad of options that include food, theater and fun around a 24-hour clock.

Statue of Liberty
Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images

I arrive at Penn Station in New York City after a relaxing ride on Amtrak from Union Station in Washington, D.C. Even with a broken right arm (and yes, I am right-handed) the train ride is both manageable and smooth. No white-knuckled traffic jams and impossible parking for me as I am embellishing the rare opportunity to leave my car behind. I will rendezvous with my girlfriend from Virginia for a weekend of food, theater and fun at The New Yorker Hotel. She too is riding Amtrak.

Location, Location, Location: The New Yorker Hotel

I see my home base diagonally across the street from the train station – The New Yorker Hotel – one of the largest art deco buildings in New York City. (Characterized by an opulence and fascination with mathematical geometrical shapes, Art Deco peaked in the 1920’s and early 30’s and was thought to be a reaction to WWI austerity.) The New Yorker will be my home for the next three nights as I meet my girlfriend and together we explore the city by taxi, subway and by foot.

Just three blocks from the Jacob Javits Convention Center and across from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, the convenient Manhattan location allows us to explore the city without worrying about driving, parking, or having to feed parking meters. Macy’s is down the street, the Empire State Building is to the east, and Times Square is a 15-minute walk. And with the iconic six-story “New Yorker” sign, the largest of its kind in North America and seen as far away as New Jersey, even a directionally-challenged tourist like me can find their way back home to The New Yorker.

When The New Yorker Hotel first opened in 1930, it was heralded as the largest hotel in Manhattan. With 43 stories, 2,500 rooms, and one million square feet, it became a magnet for the “Big Bands” of the classic era, drawing elite crowds from all over. Over the years, an assortment of notable people have checked out the charm of this icon, including Fidel Castro, Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford, President John Kennedy who was Senator at the time, and Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. More recently, Academy award-winner and ex-idol Jennifer Hudson stayed at The New Yorker Hotel.

Today, the hotel features 912 guest rooms that are defined by Art Deco luxury with modern-day conveniences, including toiletry kits brimming over with an assortment of amenities. Since all rooms boast sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, it more than compensates for the compact size of some of the value-priced rooms. (From my room I have a birds-eye vista of the Empire State Building.)

The hotel offers several convenient dining choices which include the 24-hour Tick Tock Diner (be sure to check out the wall art inside the Diner) and upscale casual dining at Cooper’s Tavern. My girlfriend and I meet at Cooper’s Tavern that evening to toast the start of our gal pal weekend getaway. Then, over wine and succulent entrees of scallops and steak, we plot the remaining details of our metropolitan immersion madness.

City with a View

We rise early the next day to walk to the imposing yet nearby Empire State Building. It is best to plan on going first thing in the morning or the early evening hours to avoid peak crowds during the day. This is a “Must See” as attested to by millions of visitors from around the world. (The best way to economically see the sights of New York City is by purchasing the New York City Pass. With recently renovated 86th and 102nd floor observatories, the fish-eye views of the NYC skyline are unparalleled. Other attractions on the City Pass include the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the American Museum of Natural History, Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Chicago by way of Greece

After a day of sight-seeing, we head to Molyvos for a pre-theater dinner. The handsome and debonair Jim Botsacos is both chef and partner at Molyvos, where he playfully combines his multinational background with traditional Greek cuisine to create what he calls the “New Greek Classics.” Try the “Mezedes” or little bites for a hearty Greek sampling. My favorite appetizer is Kavourokeftes: lump meat crab cake, taramosalata, celery and lemon-micro herb salad with horseradish yogurt sauce.

After we daintily down a scrumptious array of Greek-inspired desserts, we are off to the Ambassador Theatre, where we take in an evening performance of Chicago. Winner of six Tony Awards, the record-breaking musical is set amidst the glitz, glam and greed of 1920’s Chicago. See the show for the choreography and then see it again for the music and costume. Then see Chicago one last time for its timeless plot of intrigue, sensationalism, and femme fatale – the archetypal character of the desirable but deadly woman in literature and art. It is that good!

Rock of Ages

The next day, we save the morning for sight-seeing and shopping; the afternoon is for another Broadway show where we revel in the Rock of Ages. Already generating a high buzz factor, this is an 80’s rock musical of boy rocker meets small town girl. Set on the infamous Sunset strip, Rock of Ages is an energetic flashback to the monster rock sounds and eccentric dress of the 80’s. The rocker is played by former “American Idol” contestant Constantine Maroulis who is simply oozing with audience-appeal. Playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, it’s just a block from Times Square.

The Spirit of New York

We cap off a value-laden weekend with a dinner cruise on The Spirit of New York that includes an evening of dining, music, dance, and song. The highlight is the night viewing of Ms. Liberty in all her torch-lit glory. For a full ten minutes, we circle the Lady as I prop my camera and try to capture the spirit of our democratic nation with one good arm. Admittedly, there are a few telltale moments when, eyes swelling with tears and patriotic pride, I reach for my tissue. “Allergies,” I proclaim as I point out the red “New Yorker” sign we pass on our way back to Chelsea Pier.

After a jam-packed weekend of theater, cuisine and cruising, my girlfriend and I reluctantly leave this wondrous city of the world – plotting the details of our next “economic stimulus.” We both agree that we will return to The New Yorker and it will be by Amtrak.

Travel doesn’t get any easier than this.

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