Photo of the Day – Empire State Building

For New Yorkers, there’s something strangely comforting about the Empire State Building. Maybe it’s simply the fact this solidly standing skyscraper has anchored citizens’ views for 80 years. Or maybe it’s because it’s become an iconic landmark of this famous city, an image burned into the subconscious of locals and visitors alike. Or maybe, as Flickr user Em_photos2010 demonstrates with today’s shot, it’s simply because the Empire State Building is a beautiful building – this Depression-era skyscraper’s angular lines, Art Deco design and tiered layer-cake structure are on display with this interesting close-up shot.

Taken any great travel photos recently? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Free Empire State Building admission for Fleet Week sailors

Ah, Fleet Week — the annual event when hundreds of uniformed sailors descend on New York City, much to the delight of locals and photo-happy tourists alike.

As New York Harbor welcomes U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships this year from May 26 to June 2, so too will all the local restaurants, stores, and bars. During this week, the Empire State Building is offering free Observatory admission to any uniform-clad military personnel.

For everyone else, free ship tours are available to the general public in Manhattan at Pier 88 and in Staten Island. Based on my experience in past years, the lines are long so plan accordingly. I also don’t recommend wearing a skirt or heels. You’d think that is common sense, but on a summery day, it’s easy to forget that looking cute isn’t very practical when exploring a ship.

In addition to the Empire State Building, many of the city’s finest institutions will be waiving admission fees for active duty service personnel and veterans over Memorial Day weekend. Participating attractions include the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Ellis Island Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Whitney Museum.

Details: Here’s a list of participating attractions for “New York Museums Salute Memorial Day: A Weekend of Appreciation.” Proper military ID is required for free admission.

Even if you don’t qualify for the free admission, these special promotions pretty much guarantee some excellent people-watching. And if you can’t make it to NYC in time, you can always content yourself with this Sex and the City episode.

Memorable in Manhattan: Package for first-timers

You’ll never forget your first time. It may have been thrilling or awkward, but it was memorable. Many are still waiting for their first … their first trip to New York City. If you’re only exposure to this city is what you’ve seen on television or the big screen, this is your chance to experience it for yourself. The Crowne Plaza Times Square‘s First Time in New York Package will make it easy to give up your city virginity.

I don’t remember my first time in the city (let’s just say I was young), but I do remember my first stay at the Crowne Plaza Times Square. It was only a few weeks after Y2K – and the world didn’t end, in case you were wondering. I remember the feeling that came with stepping onto the sidewalk: the rush of energy was incredible. And then, I got sick – probably a combination of weekly travel, 80-hour work weeks and a diet that looked strangely like a menu at a baseball stadium. So, I really saw little more than the inside of my room, from which I stumbled when I was finally able to handle travel again, and grabbed the 1/9 train down to Penn Station for the ride back to Boston.Hopefully, your first time will be more pleasant! Doubtless, it will be. While the Crowne Plaza can’t immunize you from the nagging diseases that could screw up your trip, it can be all the protection you need when it comes to boredom. As part of the First Time in New York package, you’ll receive two 48-hour passes for the Classic New York Double Decker Bus Tour; tickets to the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck, ferry to the Statue of Liberty and the Natural history Museum; a detailed New York City sightseeing map; a New York City’s Official Visitor Guide; and a commemorative picture frame. At $598 for two nights, this is an absolute steal.

Your first time should be a memory to cherish and a story to tell. Treat yourself to two nights in Manhattan, and you won’t be stuck wondering what it feels like when you watch it on TV.

Take a stroll down Lover’s Lane at the Strand

Warning: if you surprise your lover with a trip to the Strand this Valentine’s Day, you’ll have a hell of a time coming up with a gift next year.

Manhattan‘s newest midtown hotel, the Strand is offering a fantastic deal for the romantically inclined. Stay any weekend in February, and you can take advantage of the “Lover’s Lane at the Strand” package. For $498, you’ll get two nights in a deluxe room with overlooking the Empire State Building, a daily European continental breakfast, a dinner at the Black Duck Bistro (by candlelight, of course) and limo travel to and from the airport. As if it couldn’t get any better, you’ll also enjoy champagne and truffles at the hotel’s rooftop bar, Top of the Strand. The retractable room will protect you from the elements.

The Strand has only 177 guestrooms and junior suites, so you won’t need to worry about running into too many other guests, and two-storey waterfall is sure to grab your attention.

Lifelong New Yorkers are unreliable for directions

Don’t ask New Yorkers for directions. Don’t get me wrong, we’re more than willing to help. But, you could wind up with some bad information. A recent poll of lifelong New Yorkers conducted by New York Pass, an attraction discount card, shows that most of us don’t have the city’s basics nailed down.

[Photo by James Trosh via Flickr]