LGBT Travel Trends Resources and Safety

LGBT Travel: Trends, Resources and Safety

As a lesbian with wanderlust, there are special considerations I must make when choosing destinations and accommodations. In some cities/countries LGBT folks might be okay while walking with a partner hand-in-hand; in other locales, you might get stares or funny looks; in other destinations you might face blatant discrimination when, as a same-sex couple, you book one bed in a hotel room. These embarrassing – and potentially dangerous – situations can make or break a vacation.

Holidays are for relaxing and we all want to travel as easily and safely as possible. But, for LGBT travelers, the world is often a dangerous place.

Urban Desitinations

Ultimate Urban Destination Guides

According to UCityGuides, the 10 gayest cities in the world are New York City, San Francisco, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, London, Paris, Los Angeles and Miami. These cities are welcoming to LGBT people and locations LGBT travelers can find things to do and go not only in gay-exclusive bars and lodgings, but everywhere.

Travel Iceland

Are you ready for something new?

Many private travel businesses like Pink Iceland, New Zealand Awaits and Argentina’s BAGay offer LGBT-specific tourism assistance worldwide. Additionally, London’s official city tourism organization, Visit London has LGBT-specific offerings, as does Las Vegas and so many other cities’ tourism boards around the globe. Even Virginia, long considered a “battleground” state for LGBT rights, recently launched a state-wide LGBT tourism campaign. For those wanting LGBT-specific travel guidance, Damron Company publishes guides geared to LGBT travelers.

Purple Roofs Travel

We Are Gay Travel

Meanwhile, the independent Purple Roofs site provides information about small, ‘family owned’ and gay friendly accommodations. Many of these listings are places you’d have difficulty finding out about anywhere else.

International Gay Lesbian Travel

International Resource

Mainstream travel businesses such as American Airlines, Travelocity and Orbitz have longstanding services catering to LGBT travelers. And, dedicated to connecting and educating LGBT travelers and the businesses that welcome and support us, the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association acts as the world’s leading global travel network.

Community Markets & Insights’ 20th Annual LGBT Travel Survey results reveal some interesting statistics about LGBT travel:

According to the report, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports “the travel and tourism industry in the United States generated more than U.S. $1.5 trillion in economic output in 2014. Based on this data and CMI sample demographics, we estimate that the annual economic impact of LGBT travelers is over US $75 billion per year in the U.S. alone, not including the value of international inbound LGBT travel.”

Not surprisingly, New York is, once again, the most popular LGBT destination across all categories, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Chicago, which are tightly grouped in 2nd place. This year’s ranking saw increases for Los Angeles as well as increases in Florida travel, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando; all being top-10 destinations. For the first time Rehoboth Beach, DE and Nashville, TN entered the survey’s top-20 destinations, which reflects an overall trend for a greater number and diversity of destinations involved in LGBT outreach.

Including LGBT-specific activities while on vacation is not diminishing among LGBT Millennials. 60% of LGBT Millennials indicated having visited a gay bar while on vacation in the past year, and 56% visited an LGBT neighborhood while on vacation. These percentages were equal to or better than Generation X and Baby Boomer LGBTs. Attending an LGBT Pride event while on vacation was especially popular among Millennials, particularly when compared to Baby Boomers.

For the first time, the survey tested questions on shared economy accommodations. The report indicated that lesbians (21%) were more likely than gay men (17%) to have actually booked via a rental-by-owner or shared economy website in the past year such as Airbnb or HomeAway. LGBTs primarily book shared economy accommodations for cheaper rates (59%) and to be in a specific neighborhood (56%). 20% of LGBTs who booked shared economy rooms in the past year did it just because they were curious. Looking to the future, only 9% of lesbians and 4% of gay men said that rental-by-owner or shared economy websites were their preferred way of booking accommodations. Additionally, Millennials are far more likely to use public transportation and Uber than Baby Boomers while traveling. Baby Boomers are more likely to rent cars. Traditional taxi use was fairly even across all generations.

Something I didn’t find in the 2015 survey that was in CMI’s 2014 survey, were results about Destination Safety and LGBT Discrimination. The 2014 survey concluded that LGBT travelers strongly prefer to travel to destinations they consider safe and do not have laws that discriminate against LGBT residents and travelers. In 2014, merely 11% of respondent indicated a willingness to travel to a country that has laws against LGBT people.

Additionally, the 2014 survey had results for regional reputation: “Following general travel safety, respondents were asked about perceived safety in specific countries. Many of these countries have significant general population tourism initiatives, but are located in parts of the world that are not always perceived as LGBT-friendly. Russia scored the lowest among all counties tested. Other counties, while not explicitly anti-LGBT, suffer from negative perceptions about their regions.”

In 2015, OutTraveler published “The 10 Places LGBT Travelers Should Never Visit,” which included Nigeria, where same-sex couples can face many years in prison, Zimbabwe, where an LGBT individual can be beheaded for the offense of homosexuality, and Russia, where Pride parades are banned, LGBT “propaganda” is illegal, transgender individuals are not allowed to drive, and LGBT people are often physically assaulted in in the streets. This type of intelligence is invaluable, exactly the type of vacation planning information heterosexual folks never have to think about.

And this month, October 2016, a new report has revealed that more than one in three (37%) LGBT travelers have experienced some form of discrimination whilst on holiday, with 6% experiencing a threat of physical violence due to their sexuality.

PinkNews summed up the findings: “The report also highlighted that sexuality had a major influence on where LGBT Brits traveled, with two thirds (63%) refusing to travel somewhere that had an unwelcoming attitude towards the LGBT community. A quarter (23%) of LGBT travelers admitted changing the way they act and try to camouflage their sexuality when on holiday. Most alarmingly, an overwhelming 80% said that the travel industry don’t do enough to inform the LGBT community about local laws prior to departure. The research was carried out for Virgin Holidays, which has launched a campaign with Stonewall on the issue.”

As LGBT people we must consider that our very existence is illegal in some places and our love is punishable by death in others. This greatly influences our movement – and lack thereof – in and around the world.

LGBT travel needs to be safe, but please remember to have fun!

Free and Affordable Classic Music

Free and Affordable Classical Music in New York City!

If the answer is yes, check out our tips to catch the free and amazingly low cost opportunities that every lover, student and fan of chamber music should know about.

The New York Philharmonic

World Renowned!

The New York Philharmonic recently announced it’s 2016-2017 season of Off the Grid, a pop-up concert series put on by NY PHIL Off the Grid in secret and unexpected places. You can enter a lottery for either one or two tickets that are free, but limited and, if chosen, you will be notified of the time and location 24-hours prior to the event.

And though it’s not free, the Philharmonic has open rehearsals for $20 a ticket. The rehearsals start at 9:45 a.m. and end at approximately 12:30 p.m. It’s a great alternative time to see the Philharmonic and watch the conductor and musicians work together to shape and polish their performance.

Grace Church's Bach at Noon

Bach is Better at Noon

Another free event is Bach at Noon hosted by Grace Church located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. During their regular season, which runs September-May you can hear the keyboard works of Johann Sebastian Bach Tuesday through Friday
from 12:20 to 12:50. And, during the summer you can catch their weekly performances each Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. The concerts are free, but Grace Church asks attendees to bring a dry good donation to help feed the hungry in NYC.

Piano on stage at the Merkin Concert Hall

Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center

If you have a little cash to spare, the Tuesday Matinees at the Merkin Concert Hall cost $60-$90 for a 4-6 series concert subscription. The Tuesday Matinees series presents rising stars from all over the world, many who have won prestigious international prizes and wowed audiences on the stages of major concert halls around the globe. Tuesday Matinees are often sold out in advance and so are recorded for broadcast on WWFM.  

Musicians at Groupmuse Event

Groupmuse = Chamber Music House Concerts with your Friends!

Last, but not least, our new favorite classical music experience is Groupmuse! Founded to present chamber music as it was written to be heard, in a small setting by a group of friends/family rather than in a 1000+ seat concert hall, the organization send quartets, quintets and other groups of classical musicians to people’s home or private venues where individuals host a Groupmuse Meetup. The host can invite only their friends, or they can open the party list to others. Generally it’s spilt down the middle, but either way is okay by the musicians, who are paid by everyone chipping in a minimum of 10 bucks. When RSVPing to a Groupmuse, either hosted friends or a total rando, you are charged $3 on your credit card to ensure the musicians earn SOMETHING even if you flake on the event. Groupmuse is an ingenious way to both employ musicians and to help expose chamber music to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a classical music event. Even if you aren’t visiting or living in NYC, Groupmuse is something you can bring to your own city! Check out this ingenius concept.

See you on the piano side of the concert hall.

~ By Local Expeditions Team Member Stephanie Schroeder

Oh My Bach!

Best Comedy in NYC

BEST COMEDY IN NYC: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE

If you take a walk through Times Square, you’re likely to be approached by one of those in-your-face guys (and a few gals) asking you, “Do you like to laugh?” Well, who doesn’t? But watch out! These guys/gals are going to offer you “free” tickets to a famous name comedy club. But what they don’t tell you is there is a 2-drink minimum, per person. And what if you don’t drink alcohol? Even if you order seltzer water the price tag on that starts at $10. You will end up paying for that comedy show in spades as well as dropping on an average $75 for a two people and a lot more for a group.

I want to tell you about some alternative comedy venues where the tickets are $5, $10, $15 (maximum) or -for real- free! The quality is just as good as at the “famous” venues, and, just like all comedy shows, there’s some hit and miss moments, but almost always an overall good time filled with lots of laughs. And on any particular night there’s a potential surprise bonus lurking of big deal comedians making an appearance to try out new material in these underground’ish venues! You might witness the best show you’ve even seen, or you might have just an okay time. But in either case, you will not not bust the bank. Plus,  you will have an authentic New York experience.

Here are some of my favorite venues:

Underground in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Elsa Waithe at The Experiment Comedy Gallery

[NB: The Experiment Comedy Gallery was shut down in December 2016 and we mourn its loss.] 

 The Experiment Comedy Gallery, or The Ex as locals affectionately refer it to, was founded in 2013 by Mo Fathelbab, Derek Smith, and Ben Trandem as a comedy collective. They continue to produce the best in live standup, improv and sketch shows in New York City. Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at 272 Grand Street, Basement Level, The Ex is a cozy venue with a casual vibe. You can often find comedian and local favorite Elsa Waithe behind the makeshift bar serving beer, water and soda along with zingers that have you laughing before the show even starts!

UCB Improv

Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre

The Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre, founded by Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, is a staple of the NYC (and LA) improv scene. With shows several times every night, most of which run for only an hour and generally cost $5-$10, the UCB is a bargain on many levels. Many graduates of the UCB Training Center have gone on to write for or appear on Saturday Night Live, Inside Amy Schumer, The Jon Stewart Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and many other comedy shows. Follow UCBNY on Twitter for the most up-to-date performance info. They have two locations to choose from: UCB East is located at 153 E 3rd Street in the East Village and UCB West is at 307 W 26th Street.

Improv Sketch Standup

The Magnet Theater

The Magnet Theater, founded in 2005 by Del Close, Armando Diaz, Ed Herbstman, Shannon Manning and Alex Marino, is an improv comedy theatre and school. The Magnet has shows seven nights a week and prices range from free to $7 for special single shows to $10 for an entire evening of performance. Its school has spawned talent working on Broad City, 30 Rock, The Colbert Report, The Onion, and more. The Magnet is located at 254 West 29th Street 8th Avenue in Manhattan.

LIC Restaurant, Bar and Comedy Club

The Creek and the Cave in Long Island City

The Creek and the Cave is a combination restaurant, bar and comedy club in Long Island City. With a broad array of comedy and other performance, the offerings are a mixed bag that is often a very fun surprise. They host regular shows and comedians traveling through NYC often have a chance to perform to a new audience. The Creek and Cave is located at 10-93 Jackson Avenue near the 7, G, E & M trains. Many of the Creek and Cave’s comedy shows are free and the venue provides a free PBR to each attendee for supporting the space! And, if you sit in the front row you get a free shot!

Best Standup in NYC

Runnin’ on Empty with Yotam & Lisa

And one of the VERY best comedy shows in town is Runnin’ on Empty, a monthly stand-up show stealthily curated by Lisa Franklin and Yotam Tubul and performed at (le) poisson rouge. They host headliner comedians as well as writers and comics from Elite Daily, The Nightly Show, Broad City, Comedy Central and many more of the best comedy shows on TV and online. And get this – the show is FREE! Keep your eyes peeled on (le) poisson rouges’ events calendar or search “Runnin’ on Empty with Yotam and Lisa” on Facebook for their latest show.

You can buy drinks at all these alt venues, sure, but you won’t be bullied into purchasing overpriced and watered down booze. So if you like to laugh, take a risk and see a free show or even spend a five- or ten-spot to see emerging and established talent doing the best comedy in NYC.

~ By Local Expeditions Team Member Stephanie Schroeder

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Ha! Ha! Ha!

The Best Iced Coffee in NYC

The dog days of summer are upon us and you need to know where you can get the best iced coffee in NYC. In fact, you could make a whole day of it going from one amazing iced coffee to the next, drinking it in an air-conditioned café in honor in of the heat that’s too hot to be out in. And I would love to suggest some of my favorite places in Manhattan and Brooklyn to you.

Straight up, cold-brewed.

The Beast of Coffee

Get it Cold-Brewed and Black

Really strong, just like the beast it is named after, Gorilla Coffee is amazing hot, and is a kick in the pants cold brewed. You gotta go to Park Slope, Brooklyn to enjoy Gorilla Coffee in one of their two locations. This is my all time favorite iced coffee.

One Lumb or Two

For Your Sweet Tooth

One lump or two? Even if you don’t like sugar in your coffee, below are some sweet iced coffees that are delicious!

New Orleans

Blue Bottle’s New Orleans Iced Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee has cafes in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They cold-brew their iced coffee for 12 hours with chicory and add organic sugar and milk. I’m a person who generally doesn’t put sugar in my coffee, but this concoction is an unequivocal exception.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

It’s got sweet, condensed milk in it!

Think about giving yourself the special treat of a Vietnamese iced coffee at AP in Bushwick, Brooklyn. (It’s too easy to get to! Take the L train to the Jefferson stop in Brooklyn and when you hit street level, it’s a 3-minute walk away.) AP’s VIC is sweet, thick and has an “orange’ish” bouquet that lingers in your olfactory region. (Their Vietnamese iced tea is amazing as well.) And sitting in the AP café itself is a lovely, aesthetic treat. They also have a beautiful menu of foods for breakfast, brunch and lunch.

Continuing on with sweet iced coffee beverages…

Supercrown's Milkshake

Van Leeuwen Inspired

I’ve mentioned this café before, and I can’t help mentioning it again in this heat. Supercrown Coffee Roasters, located in Bushwick, offers a Coffee Milkshake made with Van Leeuwen Sweet Cream, espresso and espresso grinds. They also have a Mocha Milkshake made with Van Leeuwen vegan dark chocolate, iced coffee, espresso and espresso grinds.

El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette

The Most Talked About Iced Coffee Drink – Summer of 2016, NYC

Though I haven’t had a chance to try it, I still want to let you know that on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, El Ray Coffee Bar & Luncheonette’s Iced Mexican Mocha is the talk of the town. It’s gotten a lot of press and made it into Zagat’s 10 Must Try Iced Coffees in NYC. “Crowned with mint leaves, the Counter Culture iced mocha at this LES hot spot sports a generous kick thanks to a sprinkling of chile flakes and cinnamon,” is Zaget’s mouth watering description of El Ray’s Iced Mexican Mocha

Best Iced Coffee in NYC

Nancy Blaine’s Favorite Iced Coffee

And, Local Expeditions founder Nancy Blaine names Gregorys Coffee iced coffee her favorite. She says, “For my money, the best iced coffee in New York will be had at any Gregory’s Coffee.  I go to the one on 33rd between Park and Madison and the staff is incredibly efficient and friendly, but–any time I find a Gregory’s I find the coffee and the service to be the same–excellent!  The iced coffee is a cold brew, but it’s a solid medium roast–not the over-roasted cold brew you get from Starbuck’s.  Local Expeditions endorses Gregorys Coffee–with by far the cutest logo on the block.”

NYC is filled with unique cafes–so check back here again for more tips about the best coffee experiences to be had in NYC.

~By Local Expeditions team member Lisa “I heart iced coffee” Haas

DECAF IS FOR SISSIES

DECAF IS FOR SISSIES

 

Talking About Coffee in Brooklyn

Talking about coffee in Brooklyn? That is one of our favorite things to do at Local Expeditions because we love our coffee as much as our best friend. Everyone’s life journey to the caffeine buzz is different. It started for me when I was a kid staring at my parents enjoying their after-dinner cup of coffee at my aunt’s house. They made the coffee look SO good. After years watching this post-dinner ritual, some adult asked me if I wanted a taste—with the warning I probably wouldn’t like it. They were right.

The next time I tried coffee was out of sheer and utter desperation. I was in Missoula, Montana, in graduate school and found the only way to keep up with the coursework was to literally stay up all night working, several nights a week, all semester long.

It never occurred to me to buy a coffee maker, but rather I thought my only option was to pour hot water over instant coffee, drink it quickly, and hold it down till the wave of nausea passed from the nasty taste.

This was in the late 1980’s and I thought, “That’s as good as it gets.” What I didn’t know was coffee/café culture had been underway for years and was currently alive and well in Seattle. Consequently, Italian made espresso machines had started making their way east, through the Pacific Northwest and into this Montana college town.

My very first latte was served to me in Missoula at Butterfly Herbs. My friend Kathleen who worked there suggested this beverage to me. This was radically different from the instant coffee—and though is still had a “coffee taste” it somehow tasted good! And the tentative sipping dragged out the consumption of the latte, which slowly revealed the mood-elevating effects of the caffeine. A coffee addict was born.

Its a drug

Fast forward to my move to New York City in the early-90’s. I didn’t think of myself as a coffee addict, but it was apparently quite obvious to all my friends who had already transplanted to NYC. I received repeated warnings from multiple people that NYC wasn’t like Missoula—you couldn’t just grab a latte anywhere, anytime. Unless you were in a fancy Italian restaurant, or deep in Brooklyn in an Italian neighborhood, I was going to be SOL. Except for ONE place in Manhattan, the Big Cup, located in Chelsea.

Big Cup Coffeehouse

R.I.P. BIG CUP

By 1995 the mainstream “latte” had hit NYC. Independent cafes flourished, particularly in the East Village. Then Starbucks began opening stores in Manhattan. The Big Cup closed. Other independent cafes opened, and closed, and opened. A few of those have managed to survive even to this day.

Then shortly after the turn of the century the artisanal coffee movement was founded. A handful of young enthusiastic coffee entrepreneurs began to open small, independent coffee houses, predominantly in Brooklyn. Local roasting companies began popping up and now you can find a roasting plant right in the back room of many local cafes!

So whether you already live in one of the five boroughs, or are visiting NYC, I would love to share my top three favorite North Brooklyn cafes with you!

Supercrown Coffee

SUPERCROWN COFFEE ROASTERS

Supercrown has the strongest, richest, yet smoothest coffee I’ve ever tasted. And their roasting plant is in-house so you can enjoy the amped up aroma of coffee while you are having a coffee. The drink everyone has been talking about is their coffee milkshake made with Van Leeuwen Sweet Cream, espresso and espresso grinds. You can also have tea, lemonade, individual pour-overs, light snacks and pastries. A beautiful atmosphere to enjoy a beverage in, you can find Supercrown in Bushwick at 8 Wilson Avenue. (Closest train is the L to Morgan Avenue.)

Cafe Grumpy Roasters

CAFE GRUMPY

Café Grumpy. First of all, their grumpy faced logo says it all—all about how I feel before my first cup of coffee. Though Café Grumpy has several locations throughout NYC, my favorite is the original location in Greenpoint at 193 Meserole Avenue. (Closest trains are the G to Nassau Avenue or the G to Greenpoint Avenue.) Their coffee is outstanding, their roasting plant is next door, and the best part for me is sitting in their cozy café slightly off-the-beaten Brooklyn neighborhood path.

Strangeways cafe

STRANGEWAYS COFFEE

I must admit I like borderline freakishly small café spaces with a slightly punky/beatnik atmosphere. So if you like to sit elbow-to-elbow writing angry thoughts in your journal or reading a hard copy of “The New York Times” (it’s delivered daily) then Strangeways is your place. Located on the boarder of Bushwick and Ridgewood at 87 St. Nicholas Avenue, they serve up some lovely latte art and use Fourbarrel coffee from San Francisco and Lofted Coffee (roasted in Brooklyn). And the cheese scallion scones they sell are the perfect morning snack with your first cup of joe. (Closest trains to Strangeways is the L to Jefferson Street or the L to DeKalb Street.)

Tune in again for more tips about the best coffee experiences to be had in Brooklyn!

~By Local Expeditions team member Lisa Haas

DECAF IS FOR SISSIES

DECAF IS FOR SISSIES

Anatomy of a Citibike DUMBO Tour

This Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016, we had a small group of folks on our CitiBike DUMBO tour. The description of the tour on our website gives the basics, but I want to share what happens from the POV of someone who has done the tour from beginning till end! Here are some of the highlights from this recent expedition.

While I was headed to our meet-up spot, I was surprised to find Marge Simpson hanging out in Chinatown:

Maggie Simpson sitting on Marge's lap in Chinatown

Marge with Maggie Simpson on her lap in Chinatown

I joined the others at our meet-up spot, the Confucius Square CitiBike dock and kiosk where we were greeted by our guide and founder of Local Expeditions, Nancy Blaine.

Statue of Confucius

Statue of Confucius in Confucius Plaza, Chinatown, NYC

It’s $10 for a CitiBike Day Pass. This cost is not included in our tour price, but it is a real bargain especially because a day pass lasts 24-hours and you can ride around NYC long after the tour ends! All you need to get the pass is a VISA/Mastercard credit or debit card. (And if you love bike riding, I suggest you go ahead and get a 3-day pass for $24, which gets you unlimited 30-minute rides in a 72-hour period. It’s a great alternative to taking the subway.)

Citibike Dock and Kiosk

Fleet of Citibikes in Confucius Square

Nancy walked us through the process securing our day pass at the Kiosk and we un-docked our bikes and headed over to the Manhattan Bridge. If you’re from out of town, you may be asking yourself “What about the cars?” Both the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges have bike and pedestrian paths separated from the traffic. And, Nancy escorted us the entire way onto and over the bridge.

Resting spot on Manhattan Bridge

Resting spot on Manhattan Bridge

Riding over the bridge, we saw some infamous NYC graffiti!

Graffiti on Manhattan Bridge

Manhattan Bridge Graffiti

When we arrived in DUMBO, we docked our bikes at the Citibike kiosk (they are everywhere) and went on a walking tour, which led us by the most Instagrammed spot in NYC on Washington Street; many cool stores; and the Brooklyn Flea, an outdoor market offering unique food, clothes, art, furniture and more!

Flea Market in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Flea in DUMBO

We sat down for coffee and pastries at the excellent Almondine Bakery to have a rest, regroup and trade tourism stories. We all agreed Almondine serves, without a question, the best croissants in NYC.

Croissants at Almondine Bakery

There they are!

Later, Nancy told us about the major engineering feats of the amazing Brooklyn Bridge along with other history about DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and how it has become one of the hottest neighborhoods in all of NYC.

History of DUMBO BK

Urban history of DUMBO

We toured more of the neighborhood and went to St. Ann’s Warehouse. St. Ann’s Warehouse is one of the most unique live performance theatre spaces, on the East Coast. (They are currently showing the BIANCO no-fit state circus and “A Streetcar Named Desire” starring Gillian Anderson.)

Tennessee Williams

“…After all, a woman’s charm is fifty percent illusion…”

Here’s our intrepid guide in front of the NY Ferry landing:

NY Ferry landing

Nancy Blaine

To end the tour, we picked up another CitiBike and rode back to Manhattan via the glorious Brooklyn Bridge.

NYC Bridges

See the Manhattan Bridge behind us from the Brooklyn Bridge!

I had such a great day on this exciting tour. And, getting to meet the other tour participants was fun, especially with our instant camaraderie!

By Local Expeditions team member Lisa Haas

 

NYC Walking Tour: Broadway to Brooklyn

If you’re coming to town and looking for a NYC walking tour, you might be humming that catchy song about 42nd Street from the musical of the same name:

Hear the beat of dancing feet
It’s the song I love the melody of
Forty-Second Street

Explore NYC

But there’s more to New York City than just Broadway and Times Square.

If you are not familiar with Local Expeditions, we take folks – locals and out-of-towners alike – to see lesser known, but enthralling local spots. The guide who leads your expedition specifically designs it. This makes us #trulylocal as well as ensures that your expedition leader is not only an expert about their locale and subject matter, but also passionate about what they are doing. We have small groups (10 people max in our largest group) and the camaraderie among all of us during the 2-3 hours we spend together makes a Local Expedition a memorable experience.

So, even though you might take a stroll through uber-crowded Times Square/42nd Street and/or attend a Broadway show during your visit to NYC, we suggest you also check out some interesting areas such as Prospect Park, Park Slope and DUMBO in Brooklyn on our Ferry to DUMBO, CitiBike DUMBO and Prospect Park and Park Slope Brownstones expedition. See our other expeditions here.

Learning about the architecture of Park Slope and the urban planning and design history of Prospect Park is enlightening and fascinating; riding over the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges on a Citibike is a sublime experience while walking through DUMBO is a sight in itself, especially on Washington Street, where you can find the most instagrammed view in the world while, from Front Street, you can view the close Manhattan Skyline, which looks just like a Hollywood movie set. Taking the NY Ferry is a fantastic experience with awesome photo opportunities as well as a unique adventure most visitors never experience.

Explore Brooklyn

So, put on your comfortable shoes, heed the Beastie Boys anthem, and visit NYC’s largest borough (Brooklyn) for a unique NYC walking tour experience, a Local Expedition!

‘Cause I’ll be rockin’ this party eight days a week!
No sleep till
No sleep till Brooklyn!

 

–Written by Stephanie Schroeder

NYC Subway Buskers

What would we do without our NYC Subway Buskers?

Yesterday I was on the Q Train at about Noon. My free entertainment began with a musical trio that blew my mind. A guitarist and 2 singers harmonized a song they wrote that gave me goosebumps.  They were busking to earn money for studio fees. Do I believe them? Well, actually I do, but whether I believe them or not, their music moved me so deeply that I gave them not one, but TWO dollars. So did most people on my car.

One stop later the infamous subway gymnast/magician/dancers came on board. I heard some audible groans. These guys are hated by many but, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. People say they’re dangerous–swinging around poles with their legs high in the air. Here is what I think. You know how major league baseball pitchers are so accurate that if a batter gets hit by a ball, it was probably intentional? That’s how accurate these guys are. They have perfect control over their bodies. Seriously, if anyone was to ever shoot an apple off of my head with an arrow, I would hope it would be one of these guys. They are flexible, strong, precise and supremely talented. Fortunately I still had a dollar left to give these guys but I don’t think my car coughed up as much cash as they deserved.

In my Q Train car were four out-of-towners from Israel. The women were blown away by the musicians and the men were blown away by the gymnasts. The four of them, like me, gave money to both. After the gymnast finished one of the tourists spoke loudly, “MAN this city has talent.” I could not have been more proud. Our talent is often underground and they are the stuff that makes our city great. The artists and all around creatives who make a buck by performing for us. I have always loved the combination of talent and guts and I think it is classically New York. Try not to disdain them. Try instead to enjoy what they have to offer. Pay them if you can. They are the stuff that makes this city great.

For the rest of the day I had the lyrics of one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs in my head:

“And I play if you have the money

or if you’re a friend to me

but the one man band

by the quick lunch stand

He was playing real good, for free.”

P.S. Though the MTA does not approve of musicians playing on the subway cars, they do support musicians who play in the underground subway stations and have an official program called Music Under New York.

Subway Musicians

Some Tips on Indian Food in New York

Most out-of-towners might not know that Manhattan has 2 Little India’s.  The most popular one is in the East Village–Sixth Street between Second Avenue and Avenue A.  But there is another Little India with excellent food and that is on Lexington between 27th and 29th.  My favorite vegetarian food option in New York is Indian, although we do have a number of excellent vegetarian restaurants too.  Indian food is great for a flexatarian crowd.

In the East Village, my personal favorite is *Haveli (100 Second Avenue)–but many are quite good.  Haveli has a few nice features.  The front window is broken glass–a distinctive visual.  Also, the kitchen has a large (unbroken) picture window where you can watch the bread being made.  In warm months there is outdoor seating on Second Avenue.  The prices are reasonable and I love the naan, the chana saag, the vegetable curry, and the aloo matter gobi.  I have had their chicken tikka masala as well and thought it was very good.

If you’re in the Lexington Avenue area there are some really good restaurants and great all you can eat lunch deals.  I don’t know these restaurants as well but Dhaba (108 Lexington Avenue) is very good with an $11.95 lunch buffet on weekdays ($13.95 on Sunday).  One of my favorite jaunts in this neighborhood is not Indian but has excellent Middle Eastern food and a grocery store where you could shop for hours.  Every spice, rice and dried fruit known to humankind is available there.  It is called Kalustyan’s (123 Lexington Avenue) and if you go, the prepared food is upstairs.  Don’t miss the Mujaddara.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Jackson Diner (37-47 74th Street) in Queens.  For years it was considered the number one Indian restaurant in the five boroughs.  I haven’t been in a long time but when I did go, it was excellent.  I have heard that it has become overcrowded and commercialized but such is the fate of local quality.

*Since this post was written Haveli has gone under new management and I cannot recommend it.  NB 12/14/16

Food Trucks

Ya gotta love a good food truck.  I remember once, when traveling to Oahu, I passed a Shrimp Scampi food truck with a huge line.  I was on my way to a business meeting and afterwards I asked a local whether I should go back and get the scampi out of the truck.  He insisted.  It was the best shrimp scampi I ever had in my life.  I still think about it.  Pretty regularly.  15 years later.

Are all food trucks that good?  No way.  I heard a harrowing story of a man who got food poisoning from a food truck in Europe and he ended up paralyzed.  No kidding.  No joke.

But…there has been a revolution in food truck cuisine and there are some places that you can find some amazing and really diverse food in the metropolitan area.

Smorgasburg is in a warehouse in Sunset Park for the Winter, and although I have never been to that location I plan to try it soon.  In Summer, Smorgasburg will come back to a location in Williamsburg on Saturday and a location in Prospect Park on Sundays.  For a list of vendors and an idea of the diversity and quality of the food, go to the site http://www.smorgasburg.com/vendors/

Mad Sq. Eats–right next to Madison Square Park on the Broadway side–has a great selection of food trucks.  I had one of the best pretzels I’ve ever had in my life there.  Last year they were there in April and August so look for them again this year.  Lots of delicious main courses and desserts can be had.  You’re right next to Eataly and the original Shake Shack, so if nothing strikes your fancy in the trucks, go there instead and get a panini at the former or a burger at the latter.  And make sure you check out the latest art exhibit in Madison Square Park.  They have some of the best public art exhibits I’ve seen in Manhattan.

As for the food vendors in mid-town, well, they are not for the light of heart or for the sensitive stomach.  Although I simply love having them there (Giuliani forbid them in the nineties and it left a hole in the streets and hearts and stomachs of mid-town workers) you have to be a little careful–especially with the meat.  Let me put it this way; these are not fair trade, free range, educated and psychologically nurtured meats.  But…if you’re tough, the street food is delicious.  I have to say that I have grown out of them.  I am pickier than I was in my twenties.

Every once in awhile, a selection of GREAT food trucks pulls into Grand Army Plaza near where I live.  They have delicious grilled cheese and a donut truck that will blow your mind.  There is an ice cream filled donut option that simply makes me wonder how I lived this long without thinking of that!  There are lots of other great options too.

So go forth and eat from trucks.  Be wary, but do not be a snob, lest you miss out on some of the best food NYC has to offer.