The Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Tour Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Join the Electric Railroaders’ Association on the afternoon of Saturday April 5, 2014 for their 32nd annual guided tour of Grand Central Terminal.

Grand Central Terminal is one of New York City’s most iconic landmarks, and it turns 101 years old this year.

 This majestic terminal, officially dedicated on February 2, 1913 at the pinnacle of American long-distance rail travel, originally served as the crown jewel for New York Central Railroad. Today, it services Metro-North Railroad passengers and over 20 million visitors annually. After extensive renovations in recent years leading up to its recent 100th anniversary, Grand Central Terminal is better than ever.

The tour will cover architectural and structural features of the station, including  a plethora of platforms, corridors, concourses, rooms and secret passages, as well as various types of locomotives and car equipment.

Participants will learn about upcoming plans for the terminal, such the major ongoing East Side Access Project connecting it to the Long Island Rail Road.

The tour is led by Dan Brucker, Metro-North’s official Grand Central historian.  Check out some You Tube videos of Brucker.  This guy is colorful and demonstrative! 

Tickets for the Tour of Grand Central Terminal

Tickets are $25 per person, and entries must be mailed in by March 1, 2014.

Click here for the Ticket Order Form.

Busting the Myths: New York City at Holiday Time

2013 Thanksgiving Day Parade
2013 Thanksgiving Day Parade

The holidays are the best time of the year to visit New York.  There’s extra energy in the city, and the holiday lights and decorations can be magical.  Not to mention the shopping!

We visited our family in New York over Thanksgiving — and took in the best of the holiday season.

Over the course of our visit, we managed to bust several pervasive myths about holiday time in New York City.

1.  You have to arrive at 6 a.m. to see the Thanksgiving Day parade

Everyone warned us that the parade route would be packed and if we wanted to get a spot we’d have to arrive very early.  We sauntered over to 6th avenue at 50th Street at 10 a.m. and had a great vantage point with Radio City Music Hall in the background.  We weren’t in the front row, but back where there was space to move around.

2.  The best shopping deals are on Black Friday

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Whimisical and Nostalgic 2014 Travel Calendars

This is New York 2014 Wall Calendar When we were in New York City over Thanksgiving, we visited Rockefeller Center and went up to the “Top of the Rock” for a glimpse of the illuminated city.  What really caught my eye, however, was a classic children’s book in the gift shop.  This is New York, the iconic children’s illustrated travel guide, first published in 1960, has been reissued in book and calendar form!

When I was seven, I travelled to Edinburgh, in my mind.  Friends of my parents gave me a copy of This is Edinburgh by Miroslav Sasek as a souvenir from their trip overseas.Miroslav Slovic  The beautifully illustrated book told me everything I needed to know to get to Edinburgh, and what to see when I got there.  Even though I never have been to Scotland, the images of Edinburgh from that book are still etched in my mind.

Along the way, I also acquired This is London.  But I never realized that this was a whole series of children’s books covering over two dozen great cities of the world.

When we got home, I looked for the New York book on Amazon.com, and was pleased to discover that dozens of Miroslav Sasek’s whimsical books have been reissued in the last couple of years.  This is London 2014 CalendarThese books make great gifts for kids pre- or post trip.

What’s more, several of the books have been published in wall calendar form.  The wall calendars are only $9.99.

I immediately ordered a 2014 wall calendar for myself and one for a friend!

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Priceless Cities: MasterCard’s World of Discounts

Priceless Africa from MasterCard

If you currently hold a MasterCard you may have heard about the Priceless Cities program, which offers cardholders unique opportunities and discounts in several U.S. cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.  

Registering for the program gives you access to exclusive offers.

For instance, in researching our upcoming trip to New York, I found special offers for early entry or evening tickets to the fabulous holiday train show at the New York Botanical Gardens, as well as discounted tickets for standard admissions.

There were also some club, hotel, entertainment and restaurant discounts, and a special venue for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

But did you know that Priceless Cities is actually an international program?

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Funky Map App for New York City, San Francisco, & London

Recce Map of Lower Manhattan
Recce Map of Lower Manhattan

I found this way cool mapping app in iTunes for our upcoming trip to New York City.

Recce provides an animated 3-D view of New York City that allows you to zoom in and out of neighborhoods, and locate places of interest.

The app enables you to visualize very realistic representations of the city.

The developers call it “immersive 3D cities on the fly.”

Recce includes functions that allow you to locate the usual services such as restaurants and hotels.

It also pulls in information on location specific shopping and dining deals from Yelp.

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The Priceline Queen Strikes Again!

Sheraton Times SquareAs usual I’ve waited until the last minute to make reservations for our trip to New York City for Thanksgiving.

Hotel rooms are scarcer than hen’s teeth and the prices are sky high.

Every time I search online, the prices are even higher than they were just hours before.

There’s hardly any availability on Hotwire, unless you want to stay out at Laguardia or in Hoboken.  I’ve given up on finding a room that will accomodate all three of us — our daughter will have to stay with her Aunt on the pull-out sofa.

Finding reasonably priced room in Chelsea, our preferred neighborhood, seems impossible.  Modest properties like Four Points by Sheraton are charging nearly $300 a night — before taxes.

But wait, what’s this?  A listing on Priceline’s Express Deals for a four star hotel in Midtown Manhattan for $135 a night.  This wasn’t there yesterday!  I wonder if I can snag this property for less by bidding on Priceline’s Name Your Own Price site?

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Consumer Survey: Priceline Consistently Offers Lowest Rates

A multi-city survey by Washington Consumers’ Checkbook finds that hotel rates on Priceline are 40 percent lower than on other online booking services.

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The nonprofit organization compared prices for a specific 4 or 5 star hotel in seven cities, and the Priceline rate was consistently the lowest.

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