NYC tops U.S. list of most expensive cities

It’s not exactly shocking to see that New York City is the most expensive city in the United States. Groceries, gasoline and other items tend to run a tad more than twice the national average. Whether you rent or buy, you’ll spend a fortune in this city, where the average price for a home is $1.1 million and an apartment, on average, will cost $3,400 a month.

So, how can so many bloggers live here? Remember: these are averages. That means someone has to be on the underside of them.

Housing prices were also among the reasons why San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. worked their way into top spots on the list. Average home prices shot past $600,000 in all four of these cities. In Austin, the average home price is a much more modest $226,998, and it’s even more comfortable in Nashville, at $201,020.

The measure used to determine the cost of leaving in each of the cities is based on expenses in six categories: groceries, housing (rent/mortgage), healthcare, utilities, transportation and miscellaneous items. The prices of 57 goods in these categories were used.Six of the most expensive cities in the country are in California, with four of them among the top 10. Texas has four – Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Most of the costliest cities are on the two coasts, though Chicago (14), Las Vegas (18), Phoenix (25) and St. Louis (35) made the top 40.

The most surprising appearance on the list of most expensive places to live is Detroit. Even though it’s plagued by unemployment of 16.7 percent, utilities are expensive. Electricity costs an average of $243.56 a month, compared to a mere $141.64 in Atlanta.

The ten most expensive cities on the list are:

  1. New York City
  2. San Francisco
  3. San Jose
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Washington DC
  6. San Diego
  7. Boston
  8. Philadeplhia
  9. Seattle
  10. Baltimore

Check out the full list here.



[Photo via MigrantBlogger]

Cyber Monday: not just for retailers any more

After four days off, the world will slide behind its desks again on Monday morning. They’ll try to get back into the swing of work life, but it won’t be immediate. So, as they ease back into productivity, many will push into the shopping world they dodged three days earlier on Black Friday. The hotels will be waiting for them, with more than 60 of them pushing deals to try to get in on the holiday shopping action.

Around 69 million people are expected to jump into the Cyber Monday fray, with workers aged 18 to 24 seen as the most likely to shop at work. Overall, 54 percent of people with internet access at work will start to take care of their holiday season obligations on Monday.

According to a survey, 87 percent of the retailers surveyed plan to get deals out in front of online consumers this holiday season, up a tad from last year’s 83 percent. So, it’ll be tough for the hotels to stand out, but this won’t keep them from trying.

Fifty of Starwood‘s resorts will be offering deals during a three-day sale that starts on Monday, with discounts of up to 45 percent. But, you’ll need to travel between the beginning of January and the end of April. Seven Affinia Hotels properties are offering 15% off a 2010 stay at properties in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The James Hotel in Chicago is offering a 100% bonus on gift cards purchased.

Rockefeller Christmas tree chosen and en route

For a tree-grower, there’s no honor greater than to have yours chosen to sit at the center of the Christmas universe: Rockefeller Center. This year, the winner is Maria Corti. A 10-ton, 76-foot Norway spruce was cut down in her Easton, Connecticut backyard on Wednesday and is being carted down to Manhattan. She called Rockefeller Plaza more than nine months ago to make the offer. This was one of dozens of trees pitched for the big event this year.

Corti is not a tree farmer. Rather, she’s a fifth grade teacher who happened to have tree seven decades old in her yard. And, as she told the New York Post, “I’d like to share this tree with the people of the world.” The tree is expected to hit midtown today and will be lit on December 2, 2009. Corti’s spruce helped Connecticut recapture the Rock Center honor. Last year’s tree came from Hamilton, New Jersey.

[Photo by cchen via Flickr]

Six steps to a Broadway night you’ll always remember

There are so many choices available, it can be almost impossible to construct a perfect dinner-and-a-show night. Whether you live in Manhattan or are in town for the first time, it’s too easy to make a wrong turn, pick an unsatisfying restaurant or wind up chasing from one venue to the next. A single wrong turn can send you into a scramble, putting what should be the evening of your life at risk.

Plan ahead, even a little, and your theater getaway can be nothing short of amazing. There’s no reason it should go wrong, especially when you can think through the perfect night and put a few pieces in place before you step out the door. Keep in mind, a great evening, with no worries, may cost you a little more money, but predictability has value, so you shouldn’t expect it to be free.

1. Buy your tickets in advance
This seems obvious, but it’s not unusual to see a long line at the TKTS kiosk in Times Square or people shoving into the theater looking for discounted standing room only tickets. I did SRO once; my wife almost killed me. I didn’t want to admit it at the time, since I made the decision, but I wasn’t too happy either. If you order in advance, you’ll probably score better seats, and you won’t have any headache. In addition to convenience, you’re also buying some of your time back (no need to wait in line).


2. Consider something other than “Big Broadway”
New World Stages on W. 50th St. and Eight Ave. is like the theater equivalent of a major cinema. There are several stages, each of which home to a different production. The ticket prices are absolutely reasonable, and the productions are fantastic. I’ve seen several plays there and have never had anything other than a great experience. Unlike some of the really small stuff, you’ll still be in the Times Square area, so you’ll be near where you expected.

3. Start with a snack
Instead of showing up absurdly early for dinner or rushing through a meal to get to the theater in time, grab a drink and some appetizers before the show. The ideal spot varies with the show you’re planning to see and how much walking you don’t mind doing. I’ve always enjoyed raw bar offering at Thalia. It’s a great spot and understands the quirks of serving theater-goers.

4. Show up early
Don’t be so early that you’re standing on an empty sidewalk, but do give yourself 30 minutes or so before the show starts. If the extra time you’ll be in your seat will bore you to tears, bring a book. This is much better than having to shove your way through the crowd and risk not being able to hit the bathroom before the curtain goes up.

5. Nearby dinner afterward
Getting a taxi when a show lets out is like trying to get a stripper to buy you a drink. Don’t bother. Instead, have a later dinner (reservations should be easy). If you’re having trouble choosing a place, forget the coupons in the playbill. Before you go out, hit OpenTable and make reservations. You’ll probably find a kickass restaurant that wouldn’t have occurred to you otherwise. When in doubt, hit The Palm (W. 50th St. and Eighth Ave.); it’s convenient and the menu is fantastic.

6. Enjoy a last drink
Don’t finish the evening from your table at the restaurant. Rather, find a relaxing bar with comfortable chairs. If you’re a cigar smoker, you might want to try the Carnegie Club (on W. 56th St. between Sixth Ave. and Seventh Ave.). If you like your bars smoke-free, head up to the bar at the Hudson Hotel (W. 58th St. and Ninth Ave.).

Hotdogs: the Montreal and New York taste test

It was fun to bring Montreal food insider Katerine Rollet into the world of hotdogs. Her refined palate is more accustomed to the culinary masterpieces she unearths in her home town, and she has the impeccable judgment that a food-illiterate like me can only admire. But, for a moment in New York and a moment farther north, she decided to come down to my level and explore the world of hotdogs.

Katerine and I formulated a fun plan. When she was in New York last month, we met for a hotdog at Chelsea Papaya, on West 23rd Street and Seventh Ave. This is one of many hotdog-and-papaya joints in the city, and I chose it because of the contrast with the surrounding neighborhood. Who would think to grab a dog in one of the trendiest parts of Manhattan? The restaurants in Chelsea are beyond impressive, which made a great backdrop for our experiment. Two days later, in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood (a French Canadian cousin to Chelsea), we’d meet again for a local dog – this time at Mont-Royal Hot Dog. In the end, we’d compare notes on our respective blogs.

The major difference between New York and Montreal – or, specifically, their hotdoggeries – is style. In Manhattan, the dogs are grilled, and the roll may be warmed on the grill briefly before preparation, but the dog itself is the main event. Montreal boils its hotdogs, but what it does with everything else is most impressive. This is something I’ve noticed elsewhere outside the United States, especially in Scandinavia – the dogs are passable, but the surroundings are winners.


The fare at Chelsea Papaya snapped when bitten. It was crisp, with a burst of distinct grilled hotdog flavor unleashed on your taste buds from the instant consumption begins. While some prefer onions or slaw on their dogs, I tend to go with just a little ketchup and mustard at Chelsea Papaya – to enhance the hotdog without concealing its flavor.

Mont-Royal’s dogs were at a slight disadvantage, being steamed instead of grilled. Steamed dogs do come across a tad on the bland side, making the ketchup and mustard more important to the experience. Yet, if you adopt the local style for “dressing” a hotdog, the entire experience changes.

Yes, “dressing.”

Order a hotdog “all dressed,” and you’ll receive it with coleslaw, chopped onion and mustard, with the fresh slaw providing the feeling of crispness missing in plain boiled hotdogs. A complexity of flavor results that uses the hotdog as the canvas rather than the masterpiece. The other aspect of the Montreal hotdog that shouldn’t be missed is the toasted roll. Again, you get the crispy feel, but the warmth is also important. There’s nothing worse than cold soggy bread (which happens, sometimes, with hotdog rolls) – this will never happen when you order your hotdog “toasted.”

The dog shops in Manhattan would be wise to offer a toasted roll, though it’s probably impossible to do so, given the number of people places like Chelsea Papaya serve every day.

As we navigated the hotdog world, I have to admit that I let Katerine go down a road that couldn’t end well. While at Chelsea Papaya, she decided to mix in her mouth a bite of hotdog and a sip of the papaya drink for which these establishments are known. Sometimes two good things aren’t good together, as you’ll see in the video. (Sorry about that, Katerine!)

So, who wins?

Well, in the interest of maintaining friendly Canadian-American foodie relations, I won’t say which is better. But, I will tell you that when I head up to Montreal, I’ll definitely end every hotdog order with, “toasted and dressed” – there’s no other way to put a few back up there.Disclosure: Tourisme-Montreal picked up the tab for this trip, but my views are my own.