A cold, January morning in New York City. A mother and daughter awake early and rush out of their midtown hotel towards their pre-agreed destination; the Stardust Diner in Times Square. The mother, less sure of their whereabouts, often nearly walks in completely the wrong direction but they both make it in the end.
Judging by the startled looks on their faces, they were unaware that The Stardust Diner waiters are actually singing waiters and that they were about to be subjected to this while they ate. There’s not much time to go until their appointment so they stay nonetheless and get a large American breakfast of eggs and pancakes.
Time is pressing, so they happily pay the bill – they very much enjoyed the food and are pleased with themselves for managing to cope with the singing. With that, they head outside and onto the waiting bus where their destinations are unknown because they just boarded ‘The New York City TV and Movie Tour’.
And that’s where our day began. Yes, we went to the Stardust Diner and the waiters sung and it was confusing but it was right next to where the bus was meeting us so it made sense to go there.
The bus tour was absolutely fantastic. I could not recommend it higher. I won’t give away all the places that we went to because then what’s the point in the tour but I will give my highlights.
The tour guide pointed out so many things on route that I honestly can’t remember them all. She talked through them alongside clips on a screen on the bus which really made the whole thing because sometimes you can almost place the scene she’s talking about in your head but not quite. It can be anything from Seinfeld to Home Alone, so my mind struggled a bit jumping between them.
We made 3 stops on the tour, one at Washington Square Park, one at the Ghostbusters fire station and one at the Friends apartment. The fire station was my least favourite because its covered in scaffolding at the moment, so there isn’t much to look at except for the murals on the ground. And somehow the murals don’t quitteee do it justice.
Washington Square Park was the location of a bunch of different films, including August Rush and Step Up 3D. Its a lovely place to be, especially in early January because it smells like mulch. The guide was super knowledgeable about everything she was talking about and really welcomed questions. She had been a tour guide for 20 years, I believe and was an actor/stand up part time, so loved being able to spout her facts. It was also obvious that she genuinely enjoyed the job.
I imagine a lot of people come to New York because of Friends, so its a fairly big part of the tour. Even though, as she pointed out, Friends wasn’t even filmed in New York. It was filmed on a backlot in Burbank, California. Supposedly there are loads of fountains around New York that people take pictures with, thinking they’re the one from the title sequence. But the fountain used isn’t actually in New York, they built that on the backlot too.
The apartment is there but its so different to how it seems on screen – its nowhere near Central Park, it doesn’t have a balcony and is only on the fourth floor. I’m not sure what level I thought it was on, in fairness, but I definitely thought it was higher.
She also pointed out that in New York you don’t need a licence to film buildings, so the owner of that building has never seen a penny from all the Friends tourism he gets, which believe me is A LOT. Obviously we were a fairly large tour group but a steady stream of people came and went to take pictures while we were there too.
I thought knowing these things might make a difference to how I now watch Friends but I can’t say it has. If anything its just made me a bit annoying because I know things and tell people I’m watching it with and they don’t care. Sorry if you also don’t care but I found it all very interesting.
The tour ended around midday and dropped us off near Times Square. Afterwards, we walked to Grand Central Terminal and grabbed some lunch from the food court. It was quite the experience. Of course, seeing the station is lovely and that was a big part of it but we also saw about 10 police officers arresting someone while we were eating our (terrible) meal, which was quite the sight to see.
Once the commotion was over, we walked back to Times Square to go to the TKTS counter. It opens at 5pm for discount ticket sales of broadway shows every day but the queue is quite long, so we got there at about 445pm and got orchestra (stalls) tickets for Chicago. I’d never seen it live and had always wanted to so jumped at the chance. They don’t have every single show at the TKTS booths, so you have to have a look at the board outside every day to see what they have because they change them up based on availability. We were lucky in that they had what we wanted so it was quite simple.
Happy with our tickets, we then ran to 30 rock to go up to the Top of the Rock. We still had our NY passes, so didn’t have to pay any extra for them. It was a bit of a faff rushing around the lobby to get them because you have to go to a completely separate place to get them but we managed in the end and made it up to the top just in time to catch the sunset. I must say, if you’re choosing between the Empire State and Top of the Rock, I would go with the latter; there are big glass windows rather than the sort of cages they have at the top of the Empire State Building. Plus, from Top of the Rock you can actually see the Empire State, which is pretty cool. It also wasn’t that busy up there but then again, nothing seems that busy in NY in January. Unless we were just lucky.
With a show to go to and rumbling stomachs, we didn’t waste too much time up there – we had a reservation at District Social, a restaurant/bar in the theatre district. It had a good atmosphere in there considering it was a Thursday. Apparently this was because everyone in there was heading off to Billy Joel afterwards.
The food was honestly some of the best I’ve ever had and the beer wasn’t too bad either. When we’d had our fill, we then walked the short journey to Chicago. Almost as soon as we had sat down, my Mum and I realised just how jetlagged we were. Turns out a warm, dark room isn’t the best way of keeping awake. I mean, we managed it but it wasn’t easy.
The musical was ok, not the best I’ve seen – I adore the music, dancing, costumes and sets for the film of Chicago and had no idea that the only thing they would keep for the show would be the music and dancing. The actors were brilliant but personally all the other stuff let me down. They were the same outfits throughout, even if they changed characters – they didn’t even attempt to put a police hat or anything on which felt a bit low budget. It was still great to watch but really not what I expected. Of course, nearly falling asleep probably didn’t help my final review of it so if you want to go and see it, you might enjoy it more than I did!
According to my phone we walked 6.6 miles that day, so we were pretty knackered and went straight to bed after Chicago. Judging by the length of this post, I think you can probably tell that day was quite busy!
I’ll stop there and continue with our third day in another post.