New York’s Most Fascinating Park, Floating Above the City

In a town where 500 square foot apartments can fetch $4,000 a month, the installation of a small slice of lawn calls for a mayoral press conference. And Mayor Bloomberg was there on June 8 for the opening of the second phase of the High Line, New York’s most innovative park, built on an abandoned elevated rail line on the far West Side.

Years in the making, the new section includes a stretch of brilliant green grass, bird houses, adolescent trees and a new perspective on a newly resurgent Manhattan neighborhood that’s getting more alluring (and affluent) by the moment.

Traveling the American Road – New York’s High Line

As someone who calls New York home, I explored the first section a few years back when I worked in Chelsea Market, the bougie shopping center that’s home to Food Network, Google, and other wanna-be-big start-ups. The park, newly opened at the time, was just out the door-and a wonderful place for a mental health break.

With the new section, now pushing all the way north to 30th Street, the park should draw more people, which drives more business along the corridor. Real estate signs are sprouting up, and a pop-up beer garden has appeared, along with food trucks and a temporary art installation. (It happens to be sponsored by AOL, but I only found out about that when I visited.) Also along the new portion of park? The first U.S. property from Grupo Habita, a super-trendy Mexican boutique hotel group that’s a favorite of the Chelsea and Mexico City art sets.

It’s quite the resume for a disused rail trundle, left to rot in a forgotten corner of the city. No wonder the mayor-and tourists by the tens of thousands-are showing up to see what’s happening.

Bronx Zoo cobra on the loose takes Manhattan…and Twitter

On Friday, an adolescent Egyptian cobra escaped from New York’s Bronx Zoo.

The reptile house closed immediately after her escape, and zookeepers are saying she could take weeks to come out of hiding. While we can’t vouch for the authenticity of the snake taking Manhattan, you can follow her adventures on Twitter, where @bronxzooscobra has been chronicling the travels of the errant snake with over 25,000 followers and counting. So where does a young snakess on the town go?

She first mused over a Broadway show, then taunted followers with her location in front of “the original” Ray’s Pizza (good luck checking all 46 locations claiming to be the first). After taking in the other wildlife at American Museum of Natural His(s)tory, she went downtown for a workout at Equinox Gym and a slither atop the High Line park. The Bronx Zoo cobra then tweeted about getting tickets for Jimmy Fallon before spotting Tina Fey at Rockefeller Center and heading back downtown to Wall Street. Despite asking for a vegan restaurant near Union Square, she ended up way uptown at Tom’s Restaurant from Seinfeld, where she may have found a hiding spot for the night in an unsuspecting apartment. Where will she go today?

Any New York travel tips for the cobress? Have you spotted any snakes, tweeting or just taking in the sights? While she is just 20 inches long, she is venomous, so watch your ankles!

Cheap Vacation Ideas for New York City

New York can be crazy expensive. $8 for a bottle of beer. $300/night for a hotel room. $400 for dinner at famed Japanese restaurant Masa. As someone who spent most of 2008-09 writing about the Big Apple for Gadling and who’s lived here over 7 years, it’s a sad fact I’ve come to know all too well. But here’s another shocking fact I’ve discovered about my adopted hometown: if you know the right places to eat, where to stay and what to do, New York City budget travel can also be a surprisingly rewarding experience.

Best of all, budget travel in New York doesn’t mean you have to give up on all the good stuff. Still want to eat like a king? Stay in a trendy new hotel? Experience New York’s legendary activities and nightlife? It’s all yours for the taking. It simply requires an adjustment in your approach.

We’ve scoured New York high and low and come up with the following ten budget travel suggestions. Want to learn how to visit New York on the cheap? Keep reading below!Three Tips on Where to Stay
Tracking down reasonably-priced accommodations is arguably the most daunting part of any New York budget travel experience. Visitors who so much as sneeze near popular hotel spots like Times Square can expect to pay upwards of $300/night for lodging. Budget travelers, fear not: if you want to avoid the sky-high prices (and the crowds) check out some of these wallet-friendly options:

  • The Jane (doubles from $99/night)The Jane, a hotel that effortlessly blends old and new inside a beautifully renovated building from 1908, oozes New York cool. Best of all, you’re just steps away from free attractions like the High Line.
  • The Harlem Flophouse (doubles from $125/night) – don’t let the name fool you; this “flophouse” is part of an emerging crop of intriguing Harlem lodgings that are easy on the wallet. Part B&B, part art gallery, guests can immerse themselves in the home’s one-of-a-kind decorations. All rooms have shared bathrooms.
  • The Gershwin Hotel (doubles from $109/night) – you can’t miss The Gershwin hotel from outside. This distinctive hotel is adorned with a one-of-a-kind facade of curvy glass lanterns. The intriguing interior decoration (and the prices) don’t disappoint either. Especially thrifty travelers should check out the Gershwin’s $40/night hostel-style “Bunker.”

Three Tips on Where to Eat
You probably already know New York is one of the best places in the world for eating. Did you also know it’s one of the best for cheap eats too? Thankfully, eating well and eating cheap in New York are not mutually exclusive. Here’s three of our favorites:

  • Xi’an Famous FoodsXi’an Famous Foods, which first found fame on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, recently opened an outlet of its famous Flushing noodle shop in New York’s East Village. Spice-lovers can grab a plate of the shop’s hand-pulled Cumin Lamb Noodles for under $10 bucks.
  • Super Tacos Sobre Ruedas – this unassuming taco truck, parked on Manhattan’s 96th Street, doesn’t look like much. Yet it’s one of an increasing number of under-the-radar New York spots to get outstandingly good (and cheap) Mexican food. Grab a cup of milky Horchata rice milk with cinammon and a couple Carnitas Tacos for just a few bucks.
  • Pies ‘N’ Thighs – think New York is all “fusion” cooking and snooty French cuisine? The down-home Southern cooking at Brooklyn’s Pies ‘N’ Thighs will prove you wrong. Enjoy Fried Chicken, biscuits, and apple pie at (nearly) Southern-level prices.

Three Tips on What to Do
Having fun and free are not opposites in New York. In fact, the city is filled with surprisingly fun activities and freebies for budget travelers looking to save a couple bucks:

  • Free Friday museums – even the city’s most famous cultural centers aren’t always expensive, particularly on “Free Fridays.” Venerable institutions like the Museum of Modern Art (Free Fridays from 4-8pm) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (pay-what-you-wish, Fridays 6-9pm) help art lovers enjoy these great institutions at low or no cost.
  • Wander Grand Central Station – It’s free to enter this gorgeously restored New York landmark. Gaze in awe at the vaulted ceilings in the Main Concourse, stop by the great food court and share a secret with friends in the Whisper Gallery. Here’s a few more Gadling Grand Central tips to help you out.
  • The High Line – New York’s High Line, the city’s newest and greatest park is built atop the ruins of an old elevated railway line. In its place is a beautifully designed park, complete with wild grasses, art exhibits and plenty of great people-watching.

One Wild Card
One of the most intriguing and cheap ways to spend a Saturday or Sunday in New York is at the Brooklyn Flea. This one-of-a-kind swap meet meets artisanal food tasting meets art show is one Brooklyn’s more intriguing weekend activities. Pick up inexpensive jewelry and handcrafted clothing and art from Brooklyn artists while enjoying cheap eats from local food vendors.

Just another surprising example of New York’s refreshing range of cheap accommodations, inexpensive eats and budget-friendly activities.

[Photos courtesy of Flickr users b0r0da, DanDeChiaro and albany_tim]

Views at NYC’s new High Line Park

The High Line has been open for a couple of months now, but in case you haven’t made it to NYC (or the west side) yet, we took some photos of the truly beautiful new park in the sky.

As we noted in “New York’s High Line Park stories,” the first section to be opened (and the one we photographed) was/is the section from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, stretching through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea. From scenic views to creative and eye-catching architecture, you’ll definitely want to see the new city park in person.

Our stroll from the bottom to the top of the park included astonishing views of the city and the Hudson River, walking by cute couples, cute children, people relaxing on built-in lounging chairs, people having a picnic, gelato stands, and lots and lots of greenery — it’s like they’ve built a meadow up there on the old railroad tracks. We did our darndest to sort out the best of the photos, but High Line Park is long and hard to capture; you’d best come see it for yourself.

For information about free events and guided tours, click here.

New York’s High Line Park stories

In case you haven’t heard the hype, New York City had an abandoned, above-ground train track running from the Meatpacking District to Hell’s Kitchen. The historical track (authroized back in 1847) was going to be torn down, until some smart folks figured out how to save it: Make it a park.

The last train ran the track in the 1980s. A Chelsea resident and railroad enthusiast Peter Obletz worked hard to get the trains up and running again (in vain, but he was in part responsible for keeping the tracks from being torn down), but it was a group called Friends of the High Line, started by Joshua David and Robert Hammond in 1999, which finally found a way to save the High Line tracks for good. All they had to do was convince the city to make it into a protected park. They conducted a study in 2002 which proved that “New tax revenues created by the public space will be greater than the costs of construction.” Bingo!

One thing led to another, and then in 2003, a big Designing the High Line competition was held to figure out how to make the best use of the tracks. The winning design came from by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Their orginal designs were displayed at MoMa in 2005, and you can view the final designs here.

Completion is finally underway, and the first section, running from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened last month to the public! What’s it like? Well, it’s certainly unlike any park I’ve ever visited. But why listen to me yammer on about it when you can listen to Kevin Bacon, Diane Von Furstenberg and Ethan Hawke?

The Sundance Channel, as part of their “Online Only Orignal Content” series, has a collection of videos of public figures talking about the High Line called High Line Stories. You can watch Kevin’s commentary above, and click here to see the rest.