ALBANY- I have been to the city of Albany, New York (https://www.albany.org/) many times. In January 2020, I made my last visit there just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, which put a pause on travel. Returning again more recently, I was reminded of why I like the state capital so much. In particular, I was fortunate to have a great place to stay.
WHERE TO STAY: One of the bonuses of a visit to Albany is the ability to visit some American stores not available to us here in Canada. Therefore, it was convenient that the Residence Inn Albany Washington Avenue Extension was just adjacent to the Crossgates Mall. The Residence Inn is an extended-stay hotel that is also just minutes from the Albany International Airport, the Empire State Plaza, and more. It is also under 30 minutes by car from the Saratoga Racetrack and the Global Foundries.
Staying at the Residence Inn feels like being at home, while still enjoying some excellent hotel services. You can choose between studios, one-bedroom suites, and two-bedroom suites, with the suites providing enough space for a full kitchen and separate areas where one can relax, work, and sleep. My family and I enjoyed the two-bedroom and two-bathroom suite, which was incredibly spacious.
Hotel amenities include free WiFi, daily hot breakfast, coffee, and tea. There is also an indoor pool and hot tub, a fitness center, a small convenience shop, and a laundry room. The lobby is quite nice with a large amount of seating, including a nice outdoor space to relax when the weather is appropriate.
The hotel is completely accessible, with elevators, a self-operating lift, and a sloped entry into the swimming pool. Service animals are always welcome. Accessibility features available to guests upon request include adjustable height hand-held shower wands, alarm clock telephone ringers, bathtub grab rails, a bathtub seat, closed caption TV, flashing door knockers, hearing accessible rooms, and lowered electrical outlets and deadbolts. Some of the bathrooms also contain non-slip grab rails and roll-in showers.
The hotel is located at 124 Washington Avenue Extension. For more information, you can call 518-218-7240 or log onto the hotel website: http://www.marriott.com/albwa.
ATTRACTIONS: Albany truly is a great place to shop, with a wide array of stores for all to enjoy. While we stayed close to the Crossgates Mall, it was also a quick and easy drive to the nearby Colonie Center as well. The majority of entrances at both malls are ADA accessible with ample parking distributed throughout. Wheelchair rentals are also available.
Crossgates Mall (https://www.shopcrossgates.com/) has been labeled as the largest shopping, dining and entertainment destination in New York’s Capital Region. It offers over 10 different entertainment experiences, providing something for every age group. Younger children and families don’t have to shop – they can bowl their hearts out, play the newest video arcade games, see an IMAX movie, or go down some colourful indoor slides. Crossgates offers dining options to suit any taste, including 12 sit-down restaurants, 11 food court options, two fast-casual eateries, and 16 snack spots.
Colonie Center (https://shopatcoloniecenter.com/), a 1.3 million square-foot enclosed two-level, regional shopping center with over 100 specialty stores, is at the heart of New York’s Capital Region. The center is anchored by a three-level Macy’s, Boscov’s and Sears. Colonie Center features popular retailers such as The Gap, New York & Company, Bath and Body Works, Kay Jewelers, American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret, Sephora, and Barnes & Noble. The center boasts the only Cheesecake Factory Restaurant and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in the capital region and a state-of-the-art all-digital Regal Cinema with a newly renovated RPX theater. Additional sit-down eateries include Five Guys Burgers & Fries and Moe’s Southwest Grill, as well as the second-level food court. The center sits at the intersection of Wolf Road and Central Avenue, is just 5 minutes from the Albany International Airport, and is accessible from Interstates 87 and 90.
Albany lies at the foot of the Adirondacks and the Catskill Mountains and is at the tip of the historic Hudson Valley Region. Within a short ride are the neighboring towns of Cooperstown and Saratoga Springs. Albany is home to several museums, historic homes, and outdoor activities such as boating, skiing, biking, and snowshoeing. Sights to consider exploring include the Million Dollar Staircase, the “Egg” at the Empire State Plaza, and more. Albany is also less than three hours from New York and Boston, if you’re looking to add more stops to your trip.
Last spring I saw Motown the Musical in Montreal, the American dream story of the Motown founder’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more. I loved every minute of it. So when I visited New York City recently, I was naturally drawn to Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations (https://www.ainttooproudmusical.com). It won a 2019 Tony Award for Best Choreography and had 12 nominations.
Otis Williams is the last living member of The Temptations. His book about the group is the basis for the Broadway show. Williams in fact continues to perform, using the Temptations name.
Ain’t Too Proud, currently playing at the Imperial Theatre on West 45th Street until at least US Thanksgiving Weekend 2020, is the electrifying new musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With their signature dance moves and unmistakable harmonies, they rose to the top of the charts creating an amazing 42 Top 10 hits with 14 reaching number one. The rest is history — how they met, the groundbreaking heights they hit and how personal and political conflicts threatened to tear the group apart as the United States fell into civil unrest. This thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty and betrayal is a beautiful production.
Tony Award nominee Derrick Baskin portrays
Otis Williams and is the glue to the show. He narrates the entire history of
the Temptations from the opening number until the conclusion. Before walking
into the theatre I simply knew the songs which made the Temptations so
successful, but this is a true history lesson and it pulls no punches. There
have been 24 members of the Temptations since this group was first established.
Williams had to continually make the hard decisions and drop members who were
not comporting themselves properly. At one point two of the singers who were
let go returned for a reunion tour, but they could not turn over a new leaf.
Williams himself was an absentee father and husband, focused exclusively on the
business. I loved the show so much that the greatest hits of The Temptations
are now loaded on my iPhone.
After breaking house records at both Berkeley Rep and The Kennedy Center, this musical is written by three‑time Obie Award winner Dominique Morisseau, directed by two‑time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys), and featuring choreography by Tony nominee Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, On Your Feet).
Leading the current cast of Ain’t Too
Proud as The Temptations is Tony Award nominee Derrick Baskin as Otis Williams,
James Harkness as Paul Williams, Jawan M. Jackson as Melvin Franklin, Jelani
Remy as Eddie Kendricks, and Tony Award nominee Ephraim Sykes as David Ruffin.
Ain’t Too Proud also features Saint Aubyn, Shawn Bowers, E. Clayton Cornelious,
Taylor Symone Jackson, Jahi Kearse, Jarvis B. Manning, Jr., Joshua Morgan,
Rashidra Scott, Nasia Thomas, Christian Thompson, Candice Marie Woods, Esther
Antoine, Marcus Paul James, Correy West, Drew Wildman Foster, Curtis Wiley and
Jamari Johnson Williams.
Tickets for Ain’t Too Proud are available by visiting www.Telecharge.com, by calling 800-447-7400, or by visiting the Imperial Theatre Box Office (249 West 45th Street). For groups of 10 or more, visit www.BroadwayInbound.com or call 866-302-0995. The show runs for two and a half hours.
My family and I have always considered Albany (http://www.albanyny.org/Visitors.aspx) a great place to stay for a few days, be it a getaway on its own or a place to stop en route to or upon return from New York City. We recently spent three nights in the state capital and having discovered an outstanding place to stay, our trip could not have been more enjoyable and relaxing.
WHERE TO STAY: When seeking a place to stay our search stopped at what appeared to be the top-ranked hotel in town: the Staybridge Suites Albany New York, Wolf Road Colonie Center. Opened in 2014, this spot still looks spanking new and I would strongly recommend it. Not only is it exceptionally affordable, but it really does have all of the comforts of home.
I sought out General Manager David Heckman to find out more about this extended-stay hotel, located near the crossroads of Interstate 87 and Interstate 90, at Exit 2 of I-87, the Adirondack Northway. It was built just at the rear of the Colonie Center Mall, which is extremely convenient. Heckman told me that some visitors come to stay there just to be close to Macy’s. In fact, with that in mind, the Staybridge Suites recently completed a special promotion whereby for $20 more on your booking guests received a $25 gift card to Macy’s, two free movie passes and a snack pack. Heckman plans to make this an annual October 1 to January 1 special. From January 1 to June 1, for $10 more you will receive two movie passes (valued at $27) and a snack pack.
Only 1.5 miles from Albany International Airport, four miles from Downtown Albany and indeed within walking distance to the Mall and popular Trader Joe’s, this location offers free parking and a complimentary shuttle service. The Mall is also home to two of my favorite restaurants: The Cheesecake Factory and PF Changs.
This is an all-suite hotel, featuring 112 rooms over six floors. Each suite includes a full kitchen with all the supporting utensils to prepare food, complimentary high-speed internet, in-room safes, flat-screen televisions with a variety of programming options and daily housekeeping. There is a stove, microwave oven, toaster, full refrigerator, dishwasher, pots and pans, serving dishes, plates and glassware, silverware and a dining table. I appreciated the flexible workspace: a work desk with a lamp, a desk-level electrical outlet and a spare electrical outlet on the desk. We had a spacious suite, featuring a king bed and a very comfortable sitting chair in the main bedroom with a door that closes towards the pullout couch and kitchen. It could not have worked out better for our family. If I could find a place like this in every city I visit I would be very happy!
The on-site business
center is open 24/7. There is also a laundry room and a fitness facility with three
treadmills, 2 two ellipticals and one stationary bike. All of the equipment is
equipped with personal viewing screens. Free weights, stretch equipment and floor mats
are also included. I loved the indoor pool, open from 7 am to 10 pm and spent
some time each day of my stay in the whirlpool.
There are handicapped lifts on-site. In the summer, the doors open up to
a beautiful patio featuring picnic tables, barbeque grills and comfortable
places to sit.
I took advantage of the complimentary hot and cold breakfast every morning, including, a selection of both traditional breakfast foods, as well as a variety of fresh fruits, yogurts and healthy cereals. There are complimentary dinner receptions as well on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (5 pm to 7:30 pm), including several choices of wines.
CHEESECAKE FACTORY: When the Cheesecake Factory is literally across the parking lot of your hotel, it is pretty tempting to dine there on more than one occasion. Such was precisely the case for us. The Albany location opened on August 29, 2006, at the Colonie Centre. This 10,800-square-foot locale seats 300 diners and you can always expect a lineup at the door. You will be handed a beeper and an estimated wait time.
In Albany, General Manager David Albert runs a well-oiled machine. The service here is always impeccable and the food is superb.
The Cheesecake Factory (www.thecheesecakefactory.com) is known for its extensive menu, generous portions and legendary desserts. In fact, there are more than 250 menu selections and this includes more than 50 lower calories of “SkinnyLicious®” selections- all handmade, in-house with fresh ingredients – and more than 50 signature cheesecakes and desserts. Favorite choices include appetizers, pizza, seafood, steaks, chicken, burgers, pasta, specialty items, salads, sandwiches, omelets and desserts.
This is the closest Cheesecake Factory to Montreal and I know many people who stop here on purpose just to enjoy the experience. Toronto has one too now and while we keep hearing rumours that Montreal might not be too far behind, I can get no confirmation of that.
We had lunch and supper at this spot on the same day. Frankly, I could eat here several times a week as the menu has so much variety. For the lunch stop, there was not a long wait for our table and we ate light, enjoying some breakfast items. At supper, we started off with some quenching red raspberry cocktails. I ordered a small Caesar salad, which was more than enough for the two of us to share.
While the Southern Fried Chicken Sliders are listed as
an “appetizer,” they more than serve as a hearty meal. This is actually my absolute favorite on the
entire menu. For only $11.50 you get four sliders with toppings and some
vegetables. I love the mashed potatoes at Cheesecake, my preferred side. Then
there are the SkinnyLicious offerings, notably
the turkey burgers which we can report are out of this world. There are
multiple fish, pasta and beef options, meal-sized salads and a whole lot more.
Give the menu a look online.
As for dessert, well this place is called The Cheesecake Factory. The windows display of pies kind of knocks your socks off when you enter the premises. After dinner, you can review the menu one more time, which includes a calorie count. We settled on the Italian Tiramisu Cheesecake split three ways and it was beyond decadent.
This Cheesecake Factory remains a real winner in our books and I highly recommend you stop by. You can call them directly at 518-453-2500. There is a large Barnes & Noble bookstore in the mall, a great pre or post-dining stop and movie theatres.
FUN AND GAMES: Besides some great shopping opportunities at Colonie and the Crossgates Mall, Dave & Buster’s (www.daveandbusters.com) remains a must-stop for us. Recognized as America’s leading venue, combining dining and entertainment, the 33,000 square-foot restaurants and the game room opened on August 24, 2013, at the Crossgates Mall and it has served as a magnet for visitors ever since. My family has also enjoyed visiting the Toronto locale
The company itself was founded in 1982 to provide a
high-quality, high-energy venue where families and adults can “Eat Drink Play®”
all in one location. Currently, Dave & Buster’s is the largest national
chain offering a full casual dining menu and a wide selection of non-alcoholic
and alcoholic beverages together with an extensive assortment of entertainment
attractions, including skill- and sports-oriented games, video games,
interactive simulators and other traditional games.
The restaurant, game and special event areas are open
seven days a week Sunday to Thursday: 11 a.m. to midnight and Friday and
Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
We did not dine there on this night, but it is good to know that there is a special eat-and-play option. When choosing selected items you can add $10 or $20 power cards to your order, which represents an immediate saving when you hit the games area.
Guests can play to win tickets in the arcade for a
variety of prizes, including iPods, Nintendo games, grills, sports items,
stuffed animals and even an electric guitar. Traditional games like bowling,
shuffleboard, skeet ball, air hockey and billiards are combined with others
such as zombie snatcher, Dance Revolution and Big Bass Wheel. We favor Deal or
No Deal, the basketball and football tosses and the different slot machine-like
games which give you a bit of a Las Vegas feeling. I was impressed with the gigantic Rock ‘Em
Sock ‘EM robots. We spent over two hours there and enjoyed every second of it.
The power card is rechargeable and keeps track of the number of points you have
earned instead of the old format of printed tickets.
More than two dozen large-screen, high-definition televisions provide the perfect backdrop for everyone’s favorite college sporting events and professional games. The Albany location is also available for private parties, birthdays and corporate functions. Structured team-building activities, company challenges and the ultimate quest are popular programs to help build corporate camaraderie. We had a great time. The locale is fully wheelchair accessible. You can call them directly at 518-313-4500 or log on to https://www.daveandbusters.com/locations/albany.
ATTRACTIONS: While we appreciated being within close walking distance to the Colonie Center, we took the easy 10-minute drive to the much larger Crossgates Mall. The vast majority of entrances are ADA accessible with ample parking distributed throughout the site. You can rent a wheelchair at the information desk near Macy’s entrance.
Albany has attracted visitors for 400 years with historic sites, fabulous attractions, family-friendly amenities, and entertaining events. World-class museums, unique galleries, stunning architecture, those enticing restaurants, and welcoming accommodations can indeed keep you busy for days. Enjoy everything from boating to skiing and biking to snowshoeing. Albany lies at the foot of the Adirondacks and the Catskill Mountains and is at the tip of the historic Hudson Valley Region. Within a short ride are neighboring Cooperstown and Saratoga Springs.
Be sure to check out the Million Dollar Staircase, the awe-inspiring “Egg” at the Empire State Plaza and many diverse examples of historic house sites and public spaces such as the Pruyn House and the first Shaker Meeting House. You can visit the magnificent Gothic structure, now the Administrative Center of the State University of New York, the Delaware and Hudson, and the Albany Evening Journal Buildings, located at the base of State Street.
There is an abundance of professional theatre, music,
dance, sports, and a backyard full of recreational splendors. As the crossroads
of the northeast, Albany is easily accessible by car, train, and plane and is
located less than three hours from New York and Boston.
When traveling to New York City, our family has become fond in recent years of stopping over in the Town of Poughkeepsie for the night in order to make the most of our first day in the Big Apple. It is just over 90 minutes from Manhattan.
Poughkeepsie, nestled in the majestic Hudson Valley, is home to 45,000 residents. The town is rich with culture and steeped in history and is the home of such prestigious institutions as Vassar and Marist Colleges as well as Dutchess Community College. Along with these institutes of higher learning, they also have Locust Grove, the former home of Samuel F.B. Morse (the founder of Morse Code). The 180-acre estate of Samuel F. B. Morse includes an Italianate villa designed by Alexander Jackson Davis containing extensive collections of American and European decorative and fine arts. Three miles of carriage roads wind through landscaped grounds, romantic gardens and a shady grove.
The 22 parks in the area offer recreational activities such as hiking and walking trails in Peach Hill Park. Fine dining is abundant, while art exhibits, festivals, fairs and farmer markets are bountiful.
Covering 800 square miles, there’s an abundance of natural scenic beauty, outdoor recreation, historic landmarks, restaurants, festivals and more. Activities range from strolls across the Walkway Over the Hudson, treks through the Appalachian Trail, and sips along the Dutchess Wine Trail. Tours of the FDR National Historic Site spins on the Dutchess County Fair Ferris Wheel, and tastes of the Culinary Institute of America restaurants are also highly popular as are cruises down the Hudson River, bushels of pick-your-own apples, and contemporary art from modern masters.
WHERE TO STAY: There is a fantastic new hotel in Poughkeepsie that opened in May 2019, Homewood Suites by Hilton (Hwpoughkeepsie.homewoodsuitesbyhilton.com) made that decision a lot easier. This is a beautiful property. The suite we had was very spacious and comfortable.
Conveniently located off Route 9 and I-84 at 900 Thomas Watson Drive, the hotel is within walking distance of IBM and is minutes away from the Culinary Institute of America, Vassar, Bard and Marist Colleges. The hotel also places guests close to Poughkeepsie Galleria Mall, rich historical sites and a variety of great restaurants, breweries and wineries.
The property is owned and managed by Briad Lodging Group,
LLC, the hotel division of Livingston, New Jersey-based The Briad Group.
“Situated in the
heart of the Hudson River Valley, Homewood Suites by Hilton Poughkeepsie is the
perfect location for our newest property,” said Hans Kleinganz, general
manager. “Our spacious suites offer all of the comforts of home, and we look
forward to welcoming guests and ensuring they enjoy their stay with us.”
This hotel offers a combination of spacious studio and one-bedroom suites, featuring fully-equipped kitchens and separate living and sleeping areas. Guests are also provided all the essentials needed for a smart, reliable and convenient stay including complimentary hot breakfast seven days a week, evening social with complimentary beer and wine* served Monday to Thursday, complimentary shuttle service within a five-mile radius and complimentary advanced Wi-Fi.
The hotel makes it easy for travelers to unwind with an outdoor patio area, featuring multiple fire pits, an outdoor kitchen under a large pergola and a putting green. The property boasts a 750-square-foot fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, including a Peloton bike, an indoor saline swimming pool and an outdoor sports court. The property also offers more than 1,000 square feet of flexible space that is ideal for meetings and social events.
Homewood Suites by Hilton Poughkeepsie is part of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 14 distinct hotel brands. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels save time and money and gain instant access to the benefits they care about most, such as an exclusive member discount and a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of Points and money to book a stay. Members can also redeem their points for free nights, to gain access to unique events through the Hilton Honors auction platform, or to make purchases at Amazon.com with Amazon Shop with Points. For more information or to make reservations, visit Hwpoughkeepsie.homewoodsuitesbyhilton.com or call 845-462-0030.
Briad Lodging Group was formed in 1997 when Briad became a Marriott franchisee. Five years later, the company added Hilton to its portfolio. Since obtaining these franchise rights, Briad has developed more than $600 million in real estate, concentrating on focused-service and extended-stay hotels, including the Courtyard, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites, TownePlace Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites brands. During the past decade, Briad has developed, operated and managed 34 properties and has built more than 3,800 hotel rooms in the tri-state area.
WHAT TO DO: With an assist from Wikipedia here are some details of what Poughkeepsie has to offer in terms of a number of notable institutions for arts and entertainment. The Bardavon 1869 Opera House, located on Market Street just below Main Street, is a theater that has an array of music, drama, dance and film events and is the home of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. The Mid-Hudson Civic Center, located down the street from the Bardavon 1869 Opera House, hosts concerts, professional wrestling, and trade shows and has an ice rink next door for hockey events. From July 1984 to August 5, 1986, the Civic Center was the location for filming WWF Championship Wrestling, the World Wrestling Federation’s nationally and internationally broadcast weekly television program of the time
The Chance, located at 6 Crannell Street in downtown Poughkeepsie, hosts live rock concerts with local as well as major artists. The collections of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 15,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. The Barrett Art Center at 55 Noxon Street offers exhibits, classes, lectures, and demonstrations focused on the visual arts. Twice yearly it presents nationally acclaimed shows, juried by curators of notable museums. It also operated Barrett Clay Works at 485 Main Street, with studio spaces for individual artists, and a street-level space devoted to instruction in various methods of “working clay” for children through seniors.
For shopping and movie theater entertainment, the Poughkeepsie Galleria is located in the town of Poughkeepsie. The mall, which opened in 1987, consists of two floors with 250 shops and restaurants to enjoy. The Regal Cinemas theater has 16 screens. Current anchor stores within the mall include Macy’s, J. C. Penney, Target, Best Buy, H&M, and Sears. The Galleria is owned and managed by The Pyramid Companies, a group that manages and owns other sister mall complexes. We love dining at the Ruby Tuesday restaurant there, home to a great salad bar.
The Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, located at 75 North Water Street, serves the city and region as an educational resource center, family destination, and tourist attraction. The Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center at 9 and 12 Vassar Street provides venues for both professional and amateur artists to showcase their talent in music, dance, and the visual arts. Bananas Comedy Club is a comedy club that presents comedians such as Jim Norton, Rich Vos, Patrice O’Neal, and Nick DiPaolo. Jimmy Fallon started his career performing at the club Joseph Bertolozzi’s Bridge Music is a sound-art installation on the Mid-Hudson Bridge, allowing listeners to hear it played like a musical instrument. A recording of the results, the 2009 CD Bridge Music (on the Delos label DE1045), entered the Billboard Classical Crossover Music Chart at #18 and has been released globally. The Bridge Music Listening Stations (which play selections from the CD) are located on the pedestrian sidewalk of the Mid-Hudson Bridge, at each of the bridge’s towers. They are open from dawn to dusk from April 1 through October 31. Additionally, Park Radios on 95.3FM play the same music year-round, in Waryas Park, Poughkeepsie and Johnson-Iorio Park, Highland.
In 2011 Empire Cruise Lines began the operation of the first dinner and tour boat to call Poughkeepsie homeport in nearly two generations. The M/V Mystère is a 60-foot (18 m) double-decked tour boat that departs from Waryas Park, 29 North Water Street.
Sprout Creek Farm is an educational
farm that rents out a cottage for weekend trips.
I absolutely love the historic Algonquin Hotel (www.alogonquinhotel.com). It is always our first choice when visiting New York City. Located on 44th Street near 6th Avenue, walk out the front door and you are a block and a half away from Times Square.
The Algonquin first opened its doors in 1902. Today,
it is part of the Marriott chain’s Autograph Collection, an evolving ensemble
of strikingly independent hotels. Each destination has been selected for its
quality, bold originality, rich character, and uncommon details. The result is
an array of properties that is nothing less than unique. The Algonquin Hotel
was the first New York City property to become a part of the
For well more than 100
years, the Algonquin has been greeting and lodging the country’s most prominent
writers and literary personalities, as well as the leading figures of the
American stage. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for the members of the Round
Table, a group of luminaries who had in common both the ability to fire blazing
witticisms and to withstand being on the receiving end of them.
After World War I, Vanity
Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert
E. Sherwood began lunching at the Algonquin. Though society columns referred to
them as the Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle.
“By force of character,” observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson,
“they changed the nature of American comedy and established the tastes of
a new period in the arts and theatre.”
This year marks the
centennial of the Round Table and as a result special programming took place
all summer long. We were there to take in some of the festivities
Each of the 181 rooms and 25 suites features a
comfortable well-lit work desk, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi. We stayed in a
very comfortable one bedroom Heywood Broun Suite, named for the noted American
journalist, sportswriter and newspaper columnist in New York City who founded
the American Newspaper Guild.
The layout was ideally suited for us. There is a nice
sized entrance, with the master bedroom to the left featuring a nice-sized bathroom.
The spacious living room has a pullout couch, a large desk which was perfect
for me to write my stories and good drawer and cupboard space. You can get a
fridge and a microwave, depending upon availability and on request.
When you enter the hotel, you come face to face with
the casual Lobby Lounge, along with The Round Table Restaurant. Just to the
left is the hotel’s trendy and aptly named Blue Bar.
The Algonquin Cat
As a cat lover, I was of
course excited to see Hamlet VIII, the three year-old orange cat who calls The
Algonquin his home. According to hotel executive assistant Alice De Almeida, he
was originally a feral cat found in Long Island and brought to the
Bide-a-wee shelter (the oldest shelter in the Big Apple), where the Algonquin then
adopted him as their own. He came to the hotel in July 2017 after their former cat,
Matilda III, retired. “He is so friendly and loveable that people who never liked cats love
him.” Alice says proudly. “He has great purrsonality!”
Joanna Szepietowska is the recently
appointed rooms operations manager at the hotel. She admitted to me that she
was not much of a cat lover before coming to work here, but Hamlet has changed
that in a big way. She is looking into adopting her own cat now.
Hamlet has his own Twitter and Instagram accounts, as well as an
email account. “I take care of all his
needs, front and back, vet visits and more,” says Alice.
Alice has three cats of
her own at home and feeds several ferals in her area. She came to work at this
hotel in 2005 and quickly became the natural guardian of the resident cats. “I
have become a real Jewish mother to our cats,” she laughs.
Based on the timeline of a book written by the hotel’s first
general manager, the hotel is now proud to say that the lineage of The
Algonquin Cat dates back to the early 1920s. Two days after this first cat, Billy,
passed, another stray cat wandered into the hotel and The Algonquin welcomed
Rusty. The famous classical actor, John Barrymore, best known for playing
Hamlet on stage, was a resident at the time in the early 1930s, and Rusty was
renamed Hamlet in his honor. The lineage thus far now includes eight Hamlets
and three Matildas. Each cat that has reigned at The Algonquin has been a
The hotel’s executive chef cooks Hamlet special meals on
holidays. He receives fan mail and gifts constantly from around the world. He
has recently been the subject of a painting that hangs above the Front Desk, by
New York artist Marcus Pierno. Hamlet can often be found at the front desk, in
one of his two tree houses or prancing through the lobby. He has been trained
to never go outside and is wonderful with everyone who wants to pet him.
Cat Fashion Show
Every August The Algonquin hosts an annual Cat Fashion Show to raise money for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. The event
brings together the city’s most fashionable felines to strut their stuff
in one-of-a-kind outfits that coincide with different themes – the 2019 edition being
“It’s a Small World.” Hamlet VIII is
naturally the star.
The spectacle begins with cocktails, hors
d’oeuvres and desserts; a silent auction featuring a variety of kitty-centric
items; an on-site mobile adoption unit in front of the hotel that day and of
course NYC cats hitting the catwalk in opulent threads designed by legendary
pet fashion designer Ada Nieves. Human guests are encouraged to wear their most
eccentric, feline-inspired outfit and share photos from the un-fur-gettable
night on social media using the hashtag #AlgonquinCat.
A total of 100 percent of proceeds benefits the Mayor’s Alliance for
NYC’s Animals, a non-profit charity that works with more than 150 partner
rescue groups and shelters to offer important programs and services that save
the lives of NYC’s homeless animals. A raffle raises additional funds
throughout the evening, with prizes including a variety of pet products curated
by the event’s co-chair, pet lifestyle expert and author Sandy Robins.
BEACH AT DREAM DOWNTOWN: Have you ever heard about New York City’s most unique hotel pool — The Beach at Dream Downtown? The famed 4,800-square-foot beach boasts private cabanas, fresh sand imported from the Hamptons, flat-screen TVs, lounge chairs and a glass-bottom swimming pool looking into the hotel lobby. One side of this upscale 300 room hotel closely resembles that of a cruise ship.
the glamour of the Côte d’Azur in the heart of New York City’s Chelsea
neighborhood, my family and I were most fortunate to be invited to spend the
day there. We have been to New York in the summer a number of times in recent
years and frankly always sought a day at a pool on a hot and steamy day. Well
we hit the jackpot for our chosen date. Community and Social Media Manager
Lauren Saxe gave me a tour of the gorgeous facility and then set my family up
with some chairs in a perfectly shaded area. Tabitha, a lifeguard who was busy
managing the steady stream of sunbathers, was kind enough to get us an
umbrella. There is a restaurant right
next to the pool and servers will bring food and drinks right to your chair.
The water was warm and exceptionally comfortable. Any of our troubles seemed a
million miles away for that afternoon. There was complimentary Wi-Fi with a
good signal as well.
passes are available to the public Monday to Friday from 11 am to 8 pm. They
cost $65 a day per person, and guests can purchase them
on site from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Hotel
guests can access the facility from 8 am to 8 pm daily.
is another Dream Hotel in Midtown Manhattan as well as locations in Miami,
Hollywood, Nashville, Thailand and many more to come. Dream Hotel Group is a hotel brand and management company
with a rich, 30-year history of managing properties in some of the world’s most
highly competitive hotel environments. Home to its Dream Hotels, Time
Hotels, The Chatwal and Unscripted Hotels brands, Dream Hotel Group encompasses
three business lines: proprietary brands, hotel management and dining &
downtown location opened in June 2011 with a celebrity VIP party which included
the likes of actor Leonardo Di Caprio on hand.
RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT: I have previously visited Ripley’s Believe It or Not! In Niagara Falls and London, England. Despite walking by the place every time I was in the Big Apple, I never ventured inside what is recognized as a historic Times Square museum. This one-of-a-kind attraction welcomes visitors to immerse themselves in the unusual, the unexpected and the unbelievable. It features a collection of over 500 unusual artifacts from all over the world, as well as amazing interactive exhibits that are sure to make you say “WOW!”
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Times Square (https://ripleysnewyork.com) showcases some of the most incredible
exhibits found in New York City, many of them discovered and owned by Robert
Ripley himself! This family friendly
attraction is the largest Ripley’s in North America!
L. Ripley was a cartoonist, explorer, reporter, adventurer, and collector who
traveled to 201 countries in 35 years seeking the odd, the unusual, and the
unexplained. He led a life of adventure and excitement, and he will forever be
remembered for coining the phrase “believe It or not.”
his search for incredible stories to draw in his popular newspaper cartoons, he
acquired hundreds of exotic artifacts from around the world. Collections of his
newspaper cartoon drawings were released in book form. The success of his first
book led to a live radio show, and then to a weekly television program. He
shared his unique artifacts at World Fairs in exhibits called odditoriums,
which were the precursor to the museums that bear his name and famous phrase. but none are more unique or more interesting than Ripley’s
Believe It or Not! Times Square!
Believe It or Not! Times Square is the largest Ripley’s attraction in the
world. From shrunken heads, Megaldon jaws, a Tibeton skull, the world’s tallest
man and a real meteor the amazement never ceases in this place.
children must be accompanied by an adult. Most guests spend between an hour and
a half to two hours exploring the strange and unique artifacts, exhibits and
interactive experiences at Ripley’s Times Square. As with any attraction or
museum, your personal tastes will determine how long it takes. If you plan to
dive into every item and read each caption, you’ll be here a bit longer. If you
plan to focus on featured galleries, you will find that two hours is
sufficient. I found the visit both educational and entertaining,
personal treasures can be seen in Believe It or Not! attractions around the
world. Each museum is unique in its collection of oddities and in their
presentation. No Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum would be complete without
the “old favorites” however – the incredible people whose stories Ripley
gathered on his journeys around the globe. These strange people are brought
back to life in detailed wax figures.
Times Square is handicapped
NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL: Through commemoration, exhibitions and educational programs, The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, a nonprofit in New York City, remembers and honors the 2,983 people killed in the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, as well as those who risked their lives to save others and all who demonstrated extraordinary compassion in the aftermath of the attacks. I visited Ground Zero on my most recent trip and it is absolutely chilling to stand in that very spot where terrorists committed a most unspeakable atrocity. Info: https://www.911memorial.org/national-september-11-memorial-museum
RUPERT JEE: For 22 years Rupert Jee was a regular on Late Night with David Letterman on CBS – all because he operated a deli (The Hello Deli) right next to the Ed Sullivan Theatre. These days Rupert remains busy running his deli and meeting with his fans, so when you’re in New York, don’t forget to stop in for lunch at 213 West 53rd Street! He’ll even sell you a t-shirt or mug to remember him by. I dropped in and got to meet Rupert in person. What a friendly guy. Naturally the Letterman appearances were great for business. Now that Dave has retired, Rupert still benefits from the recognition. Log on to https://www.hello-deli.com.
YORK YANKEES: I checked off
a major item on my Bucket List with an afternoon in the Yankee Stadium press
box as New York hosted the Toronto Blue Jays.
Only a year after they changed
Baseball forever with the purchase of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox, the
Yankees made another buy that would forever change the way the game was
watched. On February 6, 1921, the
Yankees issued a press release to announce the purchase of 10 acres of property
in the west Bronx. Yankee Stadium was
built from 1922 to 1923 for $2.4 million ($33.9 million in 2016
The stadium went through many
alterations and playing surface configurations over the years. The condition of
the facility worsened in the 1960s and 1970s, prompting its closing for
renovation from 1974 to 1975. In 2006, the Yankees began building a new
$2.3 billion stadium. It opened in 2009.
Yankee Stadium is located at One East 161st Street in the Bronx. The No. 4 train (East Side) and the B and D trains (West Side) make stops at 161st Street/Yankee Stadium. A trip from Midtown Manhattan takes approximately 25 minutes. I would strongly recommend it.
NEW YORK BROADWAY UPDATE:There are many reasons to travel to New York City, but one most unique to the city’s soul is the extensive list of amazing Broadway musicals found at the heart of Times Square. Let me recommend, in particular, the 10-time Tony Award winning Best Musical, The Band’s Visit. (www.thebandsvisitmusical.com).
Playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (243 West 47th Street), the production recently welcomed award-winning Israeli actor Sasson Gabay to the company in his Broadway debut. He is reprising the character he created in the 2007 film on which the musical is based.
Following the Tony Awards on June 10th, The Band’s Visit is now tied as the third most Tony Award-winning show in history and is one of only three shows in Broadway history to have won the “Big Six” awards (Best Musical, Best Actor—Tony Shalhoub, Best Actress—Katrina Lenk, Direction, Book, and Score). Thus far, due to popular demand, the show has been extended through June 2019, with the potential to extend even more.
The Band’s Visit opened on November 9 after being developed by a multi-award-winning team: music and lyrics by David Yazbek, whose previous credits include Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty, book by Itamar Moses, and direction by David Cromer.
As the musical begins, a series of well-intentioned mistakes land an Egyptian Police Band in a sleepy and remote village in the middle of the Israeli desert, which its inhabitants label as “boring” and “bland”. One of the central characters, Dina (played with great magnetism by Tony Award-winner Katrina Lenk), describes the mood of her town best in the opening number, as “looking out into the distance even though you know the view is never going to change”
With no bus until morning and no hotel in sight, the band are taken in by the locals for one night that will in some way or another, change all of their lives. The Band’s Visit celebrates the deeply human ways in which music, longing and laughter can connect us all.
Although I must say that I expected this show to be quite serious in nature, I was pleasantly surprised by the simultaneous comic undertones. Although the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra are meant to perform at the Arabic cultural center in Petah Tikvah, Israel, a member of the band with poor English skills accidentally sends them to the similarly pronounced destination of Bet Hatikvah “with a B”, eliciting many laughs from the audience.
Yes, quite often it is the creative and witty lyrics that allow for laughter, including a particular line of song in which the words “awful” and “falafel” were used in a rhyme. However, as the connections between the Israeli locals and Egyptian visitors are forged, the story becomes unexpectedly moving. Although they are different, as shown in certain moments by the characters speaking their respective languages rather than English, they are also in many ways the same, and if that is not a universal message that this world needs, then I do not know what is.
It is rare to see a story like this on the Broadway stage. When reading through the Playbill prior to the show, I noticed many proud Israeli actors in the cast, one of which is actor Ari’el Stachel, who plays Haled and won a Tony Award for his portrayal this year.
At the telecast, when presented with his award, he had a few words to say. “For so many years of my life I pretended I was not a Middle Eastern person,” he said. He thanked the creators of the show “for being courageous for telling a small story about Arabs and Israelis getting along at a time that we need that more than ever”.
He continued on to say: “I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they’d be able to portray their own races, and we’re doing that.”
The Original Broadway Cast Recording is now available from Ghostlight Records, which you can download online.
The North American Tour of The Band’s Visit will launch in Providence, Rhode Island in June 2019. Exact dates and additional cities will be announced at a later date. As for international plans, producer Oren Wolf has said in interviews that there have naturally been some conversations about Israel. “I’m very interested in looking at some of the Middle Eastern markets,” he noted. ” It’s such a delicate show. I’ve described it like a piece of Kleenex that gets wet, so one pebble too many and it breaks. I just have to figure out the most delicate way to go into those other markets and if there’s a compelling reason to do it. If there is, I’ll be eager to roll up my sleeves and make it happen.”
Tickets ($49 – $169, including the $2 facility fee) are available at telecharge.com, 212.239.6200, or at the Barrymore Theatre box office (243 West 47th Street). For groups of 10 or more, please contact Broadway Inbound at broadwayinbound.com or 866.302.0995.
The performance schedule for THE BAND’S VISIT is: Tuesday – Thursday at 7pm; Friday & Saturday at 8pm; with matinees at 2pm on Wednesday & Saturday; Sunday at 3pm.
WHERE TO STAY: I absolutely love the historic Algonquin Hotel (www.algonquinhotel.com). There was simply no other option when I booked this trip many months ago.
Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, this jewel of historic New York hotels commands 44th Street near 6th Avenue, just a short walk of a block and a half away from Times Square.
The Algonquin first opened its doors in 1902. Today, it is part of the Marriott chain’s Autograph Collection, an evolving ensemble of strikingly independent hotels. Each destination has been selected for its quality, bold originality, rich character, and uncommon details. The result is an array of properties that is nothing less than unique. The Algonquin Hotel was the first New York City property to become a part of the collection.
For 100 years, the Algonquin has been greeting and lodging the country’s most prominent writers and literary personalities, as well as the leading figures of the American stage. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for the members of the Round Table, a group of luminaries who had in common both the ability to fire blazing witticisms and to withstand being on the receiving end of them.
After World War I, Vanity Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood began lunching at the Algonquin. Though society columns referred to them as the Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle. “By force of character,” observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson, “they changed the nature of American comedy and established the tastes of a new period in the arts and theatre.”
Each of the 181 rooms and 25 suites features a comfortable well-lit work desk, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi.
When you enter the hotel, you come face to face with the casual Lobby Lounge, along with The Round Table Restaurant. Just to the left is the hotel’s trendy bar, aptly named The Blue Bar.
As a cat lover, I was of course excited to see Hamlet VIII, the two-year-old orange cat who calls The Algonquin his home. According to hotel executive assistant Alice De Almeida, he was originally a feral cat found in Long Island and brought to the Bide-a-wee shelter (the oldest shelter in the Big Apple), where the Alonquin then adopted him as their own. He came to the hotel in July 2017 after their former cat, Matilda III, retired. “He is so friendly and loveable that people who never liked cats love him.,” Alice says proudly. “He has great purrsonality!”
Hamlet has his own Twitter and Instagram accounts, as well as an email account. “I take care of all his needs, front and back, vet visits and more,” says Alice.
Recently a group of feline fashion “mewdels” took to the runway (held safely in the arms of their owners) in one-of-a-kind outfits designed by certified animal fashion designer Ada Nieves, in celebration of Hamlet VIII . The annual Celebration & Cat Fashion Show had as is theme “The Purring 20’s”, the time of the great authors and celebrities who frequented the hotel’s famous Round Table. It also marked the official party debut of Hamlet, the young American shorthair ginger cat who reigns over the front desk and observes from his own private treehouse, endearing himself to hotel guests and visitors alike, with warm greetings.
Highlights of the evening included: cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts; the cat fashion show; a silent auction, and an on-site mobile adoption unit that was in front of the hotel that day. Additional funds were raised throughout the evening with raffle prizes, including a variety of pet products curated by the event’s co-chair, Pet Lifestyle Expert and author, Sandy Robins. All proceeds benefited the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. Guests also got a look at advance copies of the new illustrated book, Hamlet – The Algonquin Cat, by Lesley Martini, with illustrations by Massimo Mongiardo, scheduled for release in September.
Based on the timeline of a book written by the hotel’s first general manager, the hotel is now proud to say that the lineage of The Algonquin Cat dates back to the early 1920s. Two days after this first cat, Billy, passed, another stray cat wandered into the hotel and The Algonquin welcomed Rusty. The famous classical actor, John Barrymore, best known for playing Hamlet on stage, was a resident at the time in the early 1930s, and Rusty was renamed Hamlet in his honor. The lineage thus far now includes eight Hamlets and three Matildas. Each cat that has reigned at The Algonquin has been a rescue.
The hotel’s executive chef cooks Hamlet special meals on holidays. He receives fan mail and gifts constantly from around the world. He has recently been the subject of a painting that hangs above the Front Desk, by New York artist Marcus Pierno. Hamlet can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He can also be reached via email: email@example.com.
WHERE TO DINE: Over the past year, I have been fortunate to experience the extraordinary cuisine of master chef Geoffrey Zakarian at two of his restaurants: Georgie at the Montage Beverly Hills, and Point Royal at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida. When looking for a place to dine near Times Square, I was pleasantly surprised to find another one of his restaurants, The Lambs Club, only a block away from our hotel.
Located at 132 West 44th Street, The Lambs Club offers Zakarian’s modern approach to American cuisine with distinct ingredients, highly seasonal menus, and a signature approach to hospitality.
Zakarian and his talented culinary team marry their passion for food with their classical training to deliver exceptional dining experiences, whether it is a casual burger in The Bar or the sought-after Delmonico Steak in the main dining room. A team of skilled chefs put forth daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering guests dishes composed with the most seasonal and highest quality ingredients. Wine Director A.J. Ojeda-Pons oversees a wine list that has secured Wine Spectator’s coveted “Two Glasses” distinction in their Restaurant Awards, where the restaurant is highlighted as one of the nation’s best. The World of Fine Wine quickly followed suit, presenting the restaurant with “Two Stars” in their World’s Best Wine List. On the cocktail list, guests will find both classic and innovative cocktails, created with fresh ingredients and house-made infusions – a true revival of the craft of cocktailing.
Inside The Lambs Club, guests are transported from the hustle and bustle of Broadway to the welcoming oases of the restaurant’s many one-of-a-kind spaces. The distinguished history that connects the landmark building to the Great White Way is prominently displayed in the main dining room, which boasts an enormous 18th century fireplace, a gift from Architect Stanford White.
We very much enjoyed our meal at the the 90-seat restaurant. From a house-smoked pastrami sandwich for lunch and a Creekstone 28-day, dry-aged Delmonico steak at supper, the menus here touch all of the bases. Situated just a block from Times Square, the Lambs Club provides the perfect setting for a pre- or post-theater bite, or even just an escape form the hustle and bustle.
Throughout a career spanning 30 years, Zakarian has made his mark as a chef restaurateur known for his sophisticated taste and signature style. An accomplished chef, host and culinary consultant, Zakarian has presided over some of the country’s top kitchens, traveling the world for new inspiration in a lifelong effort to deliver paramount hospitality experiences. He opened The Lambs Club in 2010 with his wife Margaret and partner David Rabin.
NEW YORK BROADWAY UPDATE:There are many reasons to travel to New York City, with Broadway musicals heading the list. Let us recommend two shows, Groundhog Day and Come From Away,
Groundhog Day, the Olivier Award-winning new musical based on the iconic film by the same name, continues to delight crowds at the August Wilson Theatre in New York City. Groundhog Day was re-imagined by the award-winning creators of the international hit Matilda The Musical—including director Matthew Warchus and songwriter Tim Minchin—with a book by original screenwriter Danny Rubin.
Phil Connors, played by three-time Tony nominee Andy Karl, is an arrogant big-city weatherman forced to relive the same day over and over again in a small town that he loathes. It seems that he can do whatever he pleases with no consequences, but as he gets to know associate TV producer Rita Hanson (played by Barrett Doss), he falls for her as she teaches him to live each day to the fullest.
Before opening on Broadway, the show opened on the West End to critical acclaim, picking up Olivier awards for Best Musical and Best Lead Actor (Karl), amongst others. Andy Karl, to put it simply, is absolutely brilliant in this production. He sells the show from beginning to end, preventing the repetitive nature of the show from becoming boring for even a second with his fresh acting choices.
Karl made the news by tearing his ACL on stage when the show was still in previews. Exemplifying the expression “the show must go on”, despite having to crawl offstage in tears, he returned just over ten minutes later to sing the final number. Karl officially returned to the show only 72 hours later with a brace on his leg, just in time for opening night, earning glowing reviews and eventually a Drama Desk Award and Tony nomination.
In addition to Karl, his romantic opposite, Barrett Doss, also impresses. Doss made her Broadway debut in 2014 as an understudy but has shown that she belongs firmly in the spotlight with her strong voice and magnetic stage presence.
Groundhog Day, the perfect mixture of uproariously funny and incredibly moving, is sure to see audience members leaving with smiles on their faces. One of such audience members recently was none other than Bill Murray, who played Phil Connors in the film. “It’s really something. It’s very powerful”, he said. Murray reportedly was seen sobbing in the audience by the end of the show, and in fact, loved it so much that he returned again the next night for a repeat viewing.
Hurry up and try to catch this wonderful production before it closes on September 17, 2017. If not, you can still catch it on the road, as an 18-month national tour is planned for next year.
COME FROM AWAY: Come From Away, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, features an outstanding ensemble of actors who work together to tell this deeply moving story. Each performer plays multiple roles, and they transition seamlessly from Newfoundlanders to the people on the planes under the expert direction of Tony Award-winner Christopher Ashley.
Come From Away (www.comefromaway.com), the new Broadway musical by Canadian husband and wife duo Irene Sankoff and David Hein, tells the often-forgotten story of the 38 planes that were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001. While the tragedy of 9/11 does not sound like the most uplifting premise for a musical, the show’s creators refer to it instead as a story about 9/12 and the days that followed. Come From Away, to put it simply, is a 100-minute musical celebrating human empathy and kindness.
The small town of Gander nearly doubled its population, turning itself upside down to accommodate the visitors, many of whom spoke different languages and came from different cultural backgrounds.
Of particular note in the cast is Tony-nominee Jenn Colella, who amongst other roles, plays Captain Beverly Bass. Bass was, as sung by Colella, “the first female American captain in history”, and her plane flying from Paris to Dallas was one of the 38 diverted to Gander. She has been to see Come From Away a whopping 61 times thus far. “I never get tired of it,” Bass told the New York Times, also adding “I can’t believe I’ve seen it that many times – but I’m ready to go back”.
Leaving the theatre following the show, I couldn’t help but feel exceptionally proud to be Canadian. Come From Away is laced with inside jokes meant just for us, like references to Tim Hortons and Molson beer, along with stereotypical jokes like a moose standing in the middle of the road and the communal disappointment felt when hockey is cancelled.
While history largely forgot about the incredible people of Gander, that cannot be said anymore. In June, it was announced that for their hospitality and kindness, the town of Gander will be honored as the first municipality to win an international humanitarian award from the Values-In-Action Foundation.
Run, don’t walk, to see this incredible Broadway production. Come From Away will also launch a North American tour across the United States and Canada at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in October 2018, and a third production has been announced to play Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre beginning on Tuesday, February 13, 2018.
MOMA : When in New York City, we strongly recommend a visit to the fabulous Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), dedicated to being the foremost museum of modern art in the world.
Central to MoMA’s mission is the encouragement of an ever-deeper understanding and enjoyment of modern and contemporary art by the diverse local, national, and international audiences that it serves. It opened in 1929 in the Heckscher Building located at 730 Fifth Avenue. Over the course of the next 10 years, the Museum moved three times into progressively larger temporary quarters, and in 1939 finally opened the doors of the building it still occupies in midtown Manhattan. Subsequent expansions took place during the 1950s and 1960s planned by the architect Philip Johnson, who also designed The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. In 1984, a major renovation designed by Cesar Pelli doubled the Museum’s gallery space and enhanced visitor facilities.
In 2001, the Museum began a major renovation and expansion of its midtown location designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. MoMA closed its doors in midtown in May 2002 and opened in its temporary quarters MoMA QNS in Long Island City, Queens, in June 2002. Design by Michael Maltzan and Cooper, Robertson & Partners, MoMA QNS functioned as the Museum’s temporary exhibition space until September 2004.
MoMA reopened its midtown location on November 20, 2004, to coincide with the Museum’s 75th anniversary. The 630,000-square-foot Museum is nearly twice the size of the former facility, offering dramatically expanded and redesigned spaces for exhibitions, public programming, educational outreach, and scholarly research. The Museum now features 125,000 square feet in gallery space. Kohn Pederson Fox served as executive architect on the project. The total cost of construction was $425 million.
Completed in November 2006, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building marked the culmination of the Taniguchi project, providing significantly increased space for MoMA’s wide-ranging educational and research activities.
The six-storey David and Peggy Rockefeller Building Gallery Building houses galleries for the collection and temporary exhibitions. Architecturally distinctive galleries designed specifically for the type and scale of works displayed provide an ideal showcase for MoMA’s unparalleled collection of modern and contemporary art. Spacious galleries for contemporary art are located on the second floor, demonstrating the Museum’s commitment to the art of our time. There are galleries for Media (second floor), Prints and Illustrated Books (second floor,) Architecture and Design (third floor), Drawings (third floor), and Painting and Sculpture (fourth and fifth floors). Expansive, sky lit galleries for temporary exhibitions are located on the sixth floor, and additional galleries for temporary exhibitions are also located on the second and third floors. The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, which soars 110 feet above street level, also functions as a gallery for various departments
One of the stars of the museum’s collection is Vincent Van Gogh’s – The Starry Night. It depicts a turbulent sky over Saint Remy, where Van Gogh was confined to a mental asylum during his final days. The roiling energy of the sky, intense color and exploding stars are thought to evoke Van Gogh’s emotional state. He once said, “Looking at the stars always make me dream.”
Make sure to check out the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, restored to Philip Johnson’s original 1953 design by Yoshio Taniguchi in 2004. Taniguchi enlarged the garden to 21,400 square feet and re-established the southern terrace, which is now an elegant outdoor patio for The Modern Restaurant. Yearly exhibitions are presented in the garden, and it has been the home of Summergarden since 1971. Views of the Garden are available from numerous vantage points throughout the Museum.
Across the Sculpture Garden and opposite The David and Peggy Rockefeller Building is MoMA’s eight-story Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, a 63,000 square foot space for educational and research activities, as well as offices. The Library and Archives occupy the top floors of the building and include a light-filled reading room and outdoor terrace. The building also features an entrance for school groups, a 125-seat auditorium, and an orientation center, workshop space for teacher training programs, classrooms, study centers, and a large lobby with double-height views into the Sculpture Garden. Exhibitions drawn from the Museum’s Library and Archives are displayed for the public throughout the year on the mezzanine level of the building.
MoMA is open seven days a week at 11 West 53 Street. For more details and to find out about present and upcoming exhibitions log on to www.moma.org.
WHERE TO STAY: Is there really any better place to stay in New York City than the historic Algonquin Hotel (www.algonquinhotel.com). On our most recent trip, we were fortunate enough to secure reservations again. Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, this jewel of historic New York hotels commands the center of 44th Street, just a block and a half away from Times Square. The Algonquin first opened its doors in 1902. Today it is part of the Marriott chain’s Autograph Collection, an evolving ensemble of strikingly independent hotels. Each destination has been selected for its quality, bold originality, rich character and uncommon details. From near to far, iconic to historic, the result is an array of properties that is nothing less than unique. The Algonquin Hotel was the first New York City property to become a part of the collection.
For 100 years, the Algonquin has been greeting and lodging the country’s most prominent writers and literary personalities, as well as the leading figures of the American stage. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for the members of the Round Table, a group of luminaries who had in common both the ability to fire blazing witticisms and to withstand being on the receiving end of them. The tone they set during their daily meetings set the literary style of the 1920s. After World War I, Vanity Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood began lunching at the Algonquin. Though society columns referred to them as the Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle. “By force of character,” observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson, “they changed the nature of American comedy and established the tastes of a new period in the arts and theatre.”
Each of the 181 rooms and 25 suites features a comfortable well-lit work desk, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi. Always one step ahead of everyone else, the hotel was the first to offer accommodations to actors and single women travellers. You can download the special Folio app, which will provide access to a wide variety of ebooks you can read as long as you remain on the premises.
Delighting thirsty revelers when it opened at the demise of the Prohibition in 1933, The Blue Bar has moved – both physically and eruditely – through decades of Times Square hotel bar trends. There is also The Round Table Restaurant and the casual Lobby Lounge.
As a cat lover we are always excite to see the house cat, Hamlet. For many years the history of The Algonquin Cat was believed to have its origins in the 1930’s, when a stray cat came wandering into the hotel for food and water.
NEW YORK CITY: There is one thing about travelling to New York City. It becomes pretty addictive. My family and I recently wound up there for a rare summer trip, stopping off for five days en route to Wildwood, New Jersey.
For this trip, we definitely had Broadway on our minds. We were fortunate to find accommodations right in the Times Square area at the historic Algonquin Hotel. As well, our two chosen restaurants –Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and Patsy’s were right in the same area.
BROADWAY: There are many reasons to go to New York City, but the extraordinary selection of Broadway productions heads the list. On our most recent trip, we got to see four spectacular musicals: Hamilton, Waitress, The School of Rock and The Color Purple.
Hamilton is without a doubt the biggest theatrical juggernaut to hit Broadway. It was recently nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony Awards, winning 11 including Best Musical at the award ceremony in June. The cast album, which includes an amalgamation of many current musical styles, hit number one on iTunes and was ranked the second best album of 2015 by Billboard.com. Tickets are already sold out until May 2017 at the Richard Rogers Theatre at 226 West 46th Street, with an open-ended run beginning in Chicago in the fall. The national tour is set to begin in San Francisco next March.
So what is this show that has every celebrity and talk show host buzzing? Inspired by the biography “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, with book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and direction by Thomas Kail, Hamilton tells the story of the man on America’s ten-dollar bill, “the ten-dollar founding father without a father.” An orphan immigrant with a talent for writing, Hamilton lived a full and dramatic life, playing a major role in the American Revolution and acting as the first Treasury Secretary of the United States. In hindsight, a hip-hop musical seems like the perfect way to tell his story.
The show opens with the song “Alexander Hamilton,” which tells of Hamilton’s upbringing in the Caribbean and his arrival in New York City, summarizing the first 100 pages or so of Chernow’s biography. It quickly becomes clear that hip-hop truly is the only style that can adequately showcase Hamilton’s genius and gift with words.
Hamilton’s genius is reflected in the musical’s creator, who also played the role of Hamilton until recently, Lin-Manuel Miranda. For his work on Hamilton, Miranda was awarded a Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation as well as the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama along with many other accolades. First Lady Michelle Obama has seen the show twice, calling it “the best piece of art in any form I have ever seen in my life,” an opinion I have to agree with myself.
As the show has been running for over a year at this point, many cast-members have decided to move forward, leaving room for a new cast of talented actors to take their places. While the original cast is incredibly talented, as evidenced by their multiple Tony Award wins, the show is special enough that it stands on its own and doesn’t rely on any one actor to carry it forward.
Javier Muñoz, our new Hamilton, is not really a rookie to the role. In fact, he was Miranda’s alternate; performing the role two shows a week for the past year. He has already performed for President Barak Obama, as well as for Beyoncé and Jay Z. After having seen him live, I understand why he is right for the role. His performance takes inspiration from Miranda while simultaneously making every word his own.
The show breaks boundaries and poses questions relevant both to Hamilton’s story and to modern day. At a time when Hollywood’s diversity has been under fire, Hamilton features people of color as America’s founding mothers and fathers. At a time when the debate on gender equality is escalating, Miranda features and empowers the women often forgotten by history. Do we place enough value on immigrants and their potential to shape our countries? Do our history books always give us the full, unbiased story? What does it mean to leave behind a meaningful legacy? Now used as a teaching tool in schools, Hamilton’s central questions engage students in a whole new way. History has never been so much fun.
When will the show be coming closer to home? Reports are that David Mirvish is in discussions to create an all-Canadian cast edition of Hamilton and park it in one of his Toronto theatres, but no timeline has been discussed at the present moment. To quote lyrics commonly sung throughout the show, “look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now”.
Waitress is a musical based on the 2007 cult Indie movie starring Keri Russell, showing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (256 West 47th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue).
The storyline revolves around Jenna (Mueller), a waitress and expert pie maker stuck in a small town and a loveless marriage. Faced with an unexpected pregnancy, she fears she may have to abandon the dream of opening her own pie shop forever… until a baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s handsome new doctor offer her a tempting recipe for happiness. Supported by her quirky crew of fellow waitresses and loyal customers, she summons the secret ingredient she’s been missing all along – courage.
Even before seeing this show, I knew that it was full of promising ingredients. The catchy music and lyrics were written by five-time Grammy Award-nominated singer songwriter Sara Bareilles and the direction was done by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus. Waitress is also the first Broadway musical with an all-female creative team.
Yes, the show will make you hungry for pie. The delicious-looking pies on both sides of the stage, featured in tall glass freezers, along with the ones integrated into the story, will make you hungry enough to buy some pie from the vendors. Each pie is sold in a small jar at $10 each with the phrase “it only takes a taste,”also the title of a song from the show, written on top.
While pie is prominently featured, the real star is Jessie Mueller, winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Mueller elevates an already excellent show with the quality of her performance, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award this year.
Mueller is nothing short than fabulous to watch. She made her Broadway debut opposite Harry Connick Jr. in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, for which she received Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations. She was also seen on Broadway in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Drama Desk nomination) and Nice Work If You Can Get It. In her native Chicago, Mueller has won acclaim for starring roles in She Loves Me (Joseph Jefferson Award), Guys and Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof, Curtains and Carousel (Joseph Jefferson Award), among other musicals.
When I saw the movie Waitress, it reminded me of the movie Alice Doesn`t Live Here Anymore and the TV show Alice. This is likely because at the diner where she works, Jenna, like Alice, has two interesting co-workers. Becky (Keala Settle) is strong and full of funny quips. An exchange with her boss, Cal, goes as follows:
“Lady, you are really pushing my buttons today,” says Cal.
“Which one is mute?” Becky responds, to many laughs.
Dawn (Kimiko Glenn from the popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black) is an awkward girl who unexpectedly finds love with an odd man named Ogie, played hilariously by Christopher Fitzgerald. He won a Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony for his performance, including his show stopping number “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me.”
Another standout is Drew Gehling, who plays Dr. Pomatter. His affair with Jenna is scandalous and hilarious to watch, in part due to his superb comedic timing.
Despite some over-the-top moments, the characters are all relatable in some way or another, particularly our main character, Jenna. Director Paulus says, “What’s riveting to me is this is the story of a waitress struggling with these issues, and yet when I saw the film I thought of all kinds of people I know — girlfriends of mine — who have struggled with the same kinds of issues that this character struggles with.”
From the moment the curtain rises, when Mueller belts out the fabulous and catchy song “Opening Up,” you are immediately hooked. Having seen the movie, I wondered how they would adjust the storyline to include music. Well, songwriter Bareilles did a magnificent job. The show is two and a half hours, with intermission, and it rolls by quickly.
Producers have announced a national tour of the show will kick off at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square in October 2017. No word on whether any of the stops will be in Canada. Info: wwww.waitressthemusical.com
SCHOOL OF ROCK: I did know quite what to expect from School of Rock – The Musical at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre (1634 Broadway). Based on the smash hit 2003 film of the same title, it features an original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater, a book by Julian Fellowes and direction by Laurence Connor. Alex Brightman and Sierra Boggess lead the cast as “Dewey Finn” and uptight principal, “Rosalie Mullins.”
Let me just say right from the start that I loved every moment of this production. In fact, it is better than I could have possibly imagined. Had tickets been available, I would have gone back to see it again the following day. Most of the performers in this show are young kids and as the voice of Andrew Lloyd Webber himself tells us before the curtains go up, they really are playing their own music live.
The show opened to rave reviews last December. It was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Brightman). The storyline involves Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. There he turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. While teaching these pintsized prodigies what it means to truly rock, Dewey falls for the school’s beautiful, but uptight headmistress, helping her rediscover the wild child within.
Alex Brightman more than earned his Tony nomination. He truly did leave everything on that stage, giving what must be an absolutely exhausting performance. While watching, I couldn’t imagine him doing this very performance eight shows a week, which is the standard Broadway schedule.
Even after his tiring performance, Brightman exited via the stage door after the show. He was personable and interactive with his fans, posing for selfies and signing autographs. He told me: “I have lost 55 pounds in this role since last November”. After having seen him perform live, I can’t say that this number is surprising.
I loved the movie, actually watching it several times, so seeing the musical was a treat. Brightman had a big challenge as everyone who has seen the movie remembers Jack Black’s iconic performance. Brightman stays true to the original while still making the role entirely his own. Leaving the theatre, Jack Black was the last thing on my mind.
“I can’t, for the life of me, do a Jack Black impression. Gun to my head, it’s not something in my wheelhouse,” Brightman told The Village Voice. “When I came in to audition for it, I was like, ‘I can’t do an impression, so I’m just going to do my thing.’ I put myself in the same situation of a burnout who is then saddled with thirteen kids in a school that he has no business being in — how would I, Alex Brightman, react to that?”
While he gives an outstanding performance, the true stars of the show really are the children. Many of them were cast in a large open call in New York City. Children lined up all day for the chance to audition, and I noticed in the playbill that many cast members were making their Broadway debuts.
They are not only amazing instrumentalists for their age. They play their instruments just as well as a Broadway house band would play the songs, and their energy is infectious through the show’s most popular tunes, including “Stick it to the Man” and “Teacher’s Pet”.
Aside from the upbeat numbers, a highlight of the show is a song called “If Only You Would Listen” in which the children lament to the audience about their parents who do not understand. Many sniffles could be heard from the crowd around me following the powerful and emotional performance.
This is such a crowd pleaser that by intermission everyone in my row was saying “wow!” repeatedly. The closing number really sends everyone home on a high. It is more like the conclusion of a live rock concert as the traditional curtain call is replaced with Brightman introducing the cast as they take their bows.
Tickets for School of Rock – The Musical are $59 – $155 and are available by visiting the Winter Garden Theatre box office Monday to Saturdays between 10 am and 8 pm and Sundays from Noon to 6 pm, online at Telecharge.com, or by calling 212-239-6200. Performances are Mondays and Tuesdays at 7 pm, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and 1 pm and 6 pm on Sundays. Info: www.schoolofrockthemusical.com
Accessible seating is available for Hamilton, Waitress and School of Rock. Wheelchair locations are available in the orchestra section of the theatres (pending availability). You may purchase one wheelchair and three companion seats per order if available. For guests with limited mobility, there are seats available with movable/folding armrests. The mezzanine requires stairs, as this theatre does not have an elevator or an escalator. All seats in the orchestra section are accessible without using any stairs. For guests with sight or hearing impairments, accessible seats are available in orchestra sections. For more details on accessible seating policies you can contact the box office directly by calling 212-719-4099.The Brooks Atkinson is equipped with one wheelchair accessible restroom on the orchestra level. There are designated wheelchair and companion seats in the rear of the orchestra section. Although animals are not permitted in the theatre, an exception is made for guide dogs and service animals. Headsets for sound augmentation are available at the theatre, free of charge. Photo identification is required as a deposit.
THE COLOR PURPLE: It is hard for me to believe that I saw the motion picture The Color Purple more than 30 years ago, starring Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg. When I heard that it had been revived, following a successful run almost a decade ago as a Broadway musical, I knew I just had to add it to my list. You can see it at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre at 242 West 45th Avenue.
The original production opened on Broadway in 2005 and played 910 performances. This reimagined production opened in London during the summer of 2013 at the Menier Chocolate Factory before transferring to Broadway. The musical is based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the 1985 Hollywood film it spawned.
At the 2016 Tony Awards, The Color Purple won for Best Revival of a Musical while Cynthia Erivo, took home Best Actress in a Musical honours for playing the iconic role of Celie. I cannot possibly start this article with anything other than the magnificent performance given by Erivo, unbelievably in her Broadway debut. With this performance, she has solidified what is sure to be a long career for her.
Celie’s journey is not an easy one and is surely challenging to perform eight shows weekly. Celie endures decades of abuse of all kinds: sexual, physical, and emotional. Despite many losses and obstacles, she somehow finds her way to independence and self-acceptance.
By the show’s end, when Erivo sings the show’s most famous number “I’m Here”, telling us that “I believe I have inside of me everything that I need to live a bountiful life”, audience members can’t help but tear up with joy. It is impossible for the crowd to not cheer when she looks directly at us and finally declares: “I’m beautiful”. Deservedly so, the crowd rose to its feet mid-show for a lengthy standing ovation when she completed the song, the first time that I’ve ever seen this occur.
While Erivo is incredible in this production, the entire company of performers showcased their outstanding talents. The show features powerhouse Danielle Brooks from “Orange is the New Black”), who was unfortunately not there when I attended (her understudy, however, was spectacular as well). In the role of Shug Avery, originated in this production by Jennifer Hudson, Tony Award-winner Heather Headley now takes the reigns, giving a brilliant performance.
Directed by Tony Award-winner John Doyle and with a memorable score of jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues, this musical handles heavy material beautifully.
Thinking back to the movie, I struggled to remember the meaning behind the title. After watching the titular song “The Color Purple” performed live, I can’t imagine ever forgetting that it serves as a reminder that we can always find beauty in the world around us. It is impossible to leave the theatre without feeling uplifted and empowered.
The Bernard Jacobs Theater is not completely wheelchair accessible. There is some accessible seating in the Orchestra section. There are no steps to the designate wheelchair seating locations.
Once on the Mezzanine or Balcony level, there are approximately two steps per row. For information on performances for the Hearing Impaired and Deaf call: (212) 221-0013. Performances for the Partially Sighted and Blind call HAI (Hospital Audiences Inc.) at (212) 575-7663, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm (EST). For Assistive Listening System, call: (212) 582-7678 to reserve in advance. A Drivers license or ID with a printed address is required as a deposit. There is a wheelchair accessible (unisex) restroom located on the orchestra level. Additional restrooms (not wheelchair accessible) are also located down one flight of stairs. Info: www.colorpurple.com.
WHERE TO STAY: There is no greater gift when it comes to accommodations in New York City than finding a place near Times Square. Last year we discovered the historic Algonquin Hotel (www.algonquinhotel.com). On our most recent trip, a rare summer visit for our family, we were fortunate enough to secure reservations again. Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, this jewel of historic New York hotels commands the center of 44th Street, just a block and a half away from Times Square. The Algonquin first opened its doors in 1902. Today it is part of the Marriott chain’s Autograph Collection, an evolving ensemble of strikingly independent hotels. Each destination has been selected for its quality, bold originality, rich character and uncommon details. From near to far, iconic to historic, the result is an array of properties that is nothing less than unique. The Algonquin Hotel was the first New York City property to become a part of the collection.
For 100 years, the Algonquin has been greeting and lodging the country’s most prominent writers and literary personalities, as well as the leading figures of the American stage. The hotel is best known, perhaps, for the members of the Round Table, a group of luminaries who had in common both the ability to fire blazing witticisms and to withstand being on the receiving end of them. The tone they set during their daily meetings set the literary style of the 1920s. After World War I, Vanity Fair writers and Algonquin regulars Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood began lunching at the Algonquin. Though society columns referred to them as the Algonquin Round Table, they called themselves the Vicious Circle. “By force of character,” observed drama critic Brooks Atkinson, “they changed the nature of American comedy and established the tastes of a new period in the arts and theatre.”
Each of the 181 rooms and 25 suites features a comfortable well-lit work desk, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi. Always one step ahead of everyone else, the hotel was the first to offer accommodations to actors and single women travellers. We stayed in a very comfortable one bedroom Noel Coward Suite, named for the legendary playwright, composer, actor, singer and director. There are framed Playbill covers from Coward’s productions in the room.
The layout was ideally suited for us. There is a nice sized entrance, with the master bedroom to the right, a large bathroom straight ahead and the living room with a pullout couch to the left. But that is not all. The latter is also somewhat of library, with shelves of books to choose from. You can also download the special Folio app, which will provide access to a wide variety of ebooks you can read as long as you remain on the premises.
The Algonquin was recently the site of a large pre-Tony Award party for the creative team and cast of Waitress. Delighting thirsty revelers when it opened at the demise of the Prohibition in 1933, The Blue Bar has moved – both physically and eruditely – through decades of Times Square hotel bar trends. There is also The Round Table Restaurant and the casual Lobby Lounge.
As a cat lover we are always excite to see Matilda, the house cat. She is a real beauty and can be found sleeping in atop her cat house at the front desk or making her way through the different cat doors on the main floor. Matilda is a large ragdoll cat, soft as velvet.
For many years the history of The Algonquin Cat was believed to have its origins in the 1930’s, when a stray cat came wandering into the hotel for food and water. After the hotel acquired an out-of-print book written by the hotel’s first general manager, Frank Case, a chapter was discovered about a cat named Billy. Based on the timeline of the book, the hotel is now proud to say the lineage of The Algonquin Cat dates back to the early 1920’s. Two days after Billy passed, a stray cat wandered into the hotel and The Algonquin welcomed Rusty. The famous classical actor, John Barrymore, was a resident at the time in the early 1930’s and Rusty was renamed Hamlet in his honor. Hamlet is said to have been Barrymore’s greatest stage role. The hotel has had a total of 11 cats, including Billy. The lineage includes seven Hamlets and three Matildas. Each cat that has reigned at The Algonquin has been a rescue. In 1980, author Hilary Knight immortalized The Algonquin Cat with his cartoons for a children’s book on which he collaborated with Val Schaffner. The current Matilda began her residence in December 2010.
Today, Matilda is looked after by the hotel’s Chief Cat Officer, Alice De Almeida. The hotel’s executive chef cooks her special meals on holidays. She receives fan mail and gifts constantly, from around the world, including Japan, Australia and Russia. Matilda can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She can also be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The hotel hosts an annual cat fashion show where the cat models— “mewdels” – were mostly stationary, arranged on a circle of tables in the Oak Room, just off the main hotel lobby. The traditional sold-out show benefits charities such as the animal-welfare non-profit the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, in addition to paying tribute to New York City’s first responders.
It should come as no surprise that with the return of the musical Cats on Broadway, a special partnership has been developed with the Algonquin. A variety of promotional activities will be lined up, including the wrapping of elevators and the introduction of a “Cats” suite.
In the book the Algonquin Kid: Adventures Growing Up In New York’s Legendary Hotel, author Michael Colby tells the story about his grandparents Mary and Ben Bodne built this legendary landmark. Southern Jews, they owned the hotel from 1946 to 1987. As a kid, Colby and siblings visited their grandparents every weekend. Colby took up permanent residence in the hotel at the age of 18 and made his way into the theater world as a librettist, composer and lyricist. His musical, Charlotte Sweet, an all-sung, all-rhymed original musical with libretto by Colby and music by Gerald Jay Markoe, received three Drama Desk Award nominations and was critically lauded as “adorable, strange and delectable” by the New York Times, ”
The Algonquin, its bar and restaurant, have easy access for wheelchairs from the street. There is valet parking. The hotel has six ADA rooms and one ADA suite. There are two elevators. Staff are very helpful and friendly.
DINING OUT: New York City is indeed the place to dine, with an endless array of choices to please your palate.
For dinner one night we made our first visit to the fabulous Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House (www.delfriscos.com). This is an energetic, luxurious three-story restaurant, located at 1221 Avenue of the Americas. To say we were impressed is an understatement. General Manager Orlando Santana sat us at a beautifully placed top floor table of this seasoned dining establishment, which can accommodate more than 500 people at a time.
Del Frisco’s was established more than 20 years ago. The cornerstone of the menu is aged USDA Prime Beef. They serve only the best hand-cut steaks, chops and freshest seafood, including Australian cold water lobster tails while using the freshest ingredients to create mouthwatering appetizers, flavorful side dishes and irresistible desserts. The sommeliers are on hand to guide you through their very extensive wine list while the bartenders will lift your spirits with hand-shaken martinis and handcrafted cocktails. We lucked out, with sommelier Kristin Beckler and our waiter Tim. Kristin mixed and matched our selections of wine impeccably with the items Tim recommended. Did we really need to read the menu? Perhaps not, for we put our trust in Tim and the experience exceeded our wildest expectations.
We started off with their signature VIP cocktail, Svedka Clementine Vodka infused with fresh Hawaiian pineapple. Then came the appetizers. We shared another one of the house specialties, the crab cake with Cajun lobster sauce, shrimp cocktail and a Caprese salad – a simple Italian salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and green basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil. It closely resembles the colours of the Italian flag: red, white and green.
When it came to main appetizers, we also decided to share. Since Del Frisco’s is known for its fantastic steaks, that is what we wanted to sample. Tim recommended the bone in filet and the bone in prime rib eye. As sides, he suggested we try the Cauliflower and Brie au gratin and the Lobster Mac and cheese. We trusted him implicitly and he did not steer us wrong. Tim was accompanied to the table by three other servers who cut the meat and apportioned the sides. First class all the way around!
As for Kristin our sommelier, this lady clearly loves her job. She is, of course, a walking encyclopedia on their huge selection of wines. We started off with the Corra “Tail Feathers” 2015 from Rogue Valley, Oregon – a Viogner/Muscat Blanc/Riesling. Kristin soon came back with another bottle, this time the Pierre Bouree Fils 1er Cru “Les Morgeots” 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet. When dessert came she concluded our evening with a sweet Royal Tokaji “5 Puttunyos” 2008 from Hungary. Oh yes, the dessert. We left just enough room to enjoy their fabulous lemon cake split in three and a serving of their equally spectacular chocolate mousse.
Out of the 12 Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House locations across the country, this one is an iconic staple and flagship. The 18,000 square foot restaurant boasts floor-to-ceiling windows with breathtaking views of Sixth Avenue, truly bringing midtown Manhattan to life for every diner as Radio City Music Hall’s lights shine brightly in the distance. Our table faced the Fox News building. As a new junkie it was unique to see the latest headlines flash across the screen on the facility’s façade.
The restaurant is often packed with the city’s broadcast, business and sports elite and is an ideal locale for visitors looking for a top-notch dining experience before or after a Broadway show.
Del Frisco’s Steak House also recently unveiled new menu updates to appeal to guests’ modernized palates and now offer a refreshed take on the restaurant’s classic steakhouse fare. In addition to staples such as rare cuts of wet-aged steaks and fresh seafood, the menu now includes a variety of elevated classics including Wagyu Beef French Dip, Lobster Roll and Sautéed Chicken Picatta, along with eclectic appetizers and sides like Seared Rare Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, Crab Fried Rice and Thick Cut Bacon Au Poivre. It has a wine list of over 1,200 selections.
Del Frisco’s offers specials tailored to holidays like Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving, as well as prix fixe menus to make things a little simpler for everyone. If you’re planning a bigger gathering for holiday celebrations, their private rooms can accommodate anything from a couple of tables to 75 or 100 people, with amenities like a separate bar, dedicated service, flat-screen TVs and other niceties. All it takes is a phone call to one of their coordinators, and they’ll be happy to set you up with whatever your holiday plans might entail.
The restaurant is owned by Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, which is based in Southlake, Texas. It owns and operates three contemporary, high-end, complementary restaurant concepts: Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, and Del Frisco’s Grille. Each of our three concepts offers steaks and other menu selections, such as chops and fresh seafood, complemented by an extensive wine selection.
The main entrance and floor is handicapped accessible. You can call 212-575-5129 for reservations. One dining establishment that had never been on my radar screen before was Patsy`s Italian Restaurant (http://www.patsys.com). Well it sure is now! Located at 235 West 56th Street, just a few short blocks from Times Square, this legendary Midtown Manhattan spot had been known for years as Frank Sinatra’s restaurant of choice and has become a favorite with countless stars including Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, George and Amal Clooney, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few.
Founded in 1944 by Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo, Patsy’s has been in its current and only theater district location (in the building next to the original site) since 1954. In almost 70 years of existence, Patsy’s Italian Restaurant has had only three chefs; the late Patsy himself, his son Joe Scognamillo, who has been at the establishment since the tender age of seven, and Joe’s son Sal Scognamillo, who has been manning the kitchen for the past 29 years. I had an opportunity to meet Sal, an incredibly friendly and personable gentlemen. He greeted me with signed copies of his two cookbooks, one with a foreword by Ben Stiller and the other by Nancy Sinatra. Not only are the recipes and accompanied photos superb, but so are the stories about the celebrities who have dined there. Sal even sent me away with a jar of one of their homemade pasta sauces. These famous sauces, made from the freshest ingredients, are available in supermarkets and specialty food stores throughout the U.S. The tomato-based sauces, 100 percent natural, with no preservatives or added sugar, are available in six varieties, including marinara, tomato basil, Fra Diavolo, puttanesca, vodka and pizzaiola.
Sal is a proud owner. While his 84 year old dad still comes in regularly, he is preparing for the next generation. His eldest son Joe, 20, is completing university and working at the restaurant when class is not in session. Sal and his wife, who gave up her law practice to join the team at Patsy’s, live on Long Island. Sal comes in almost every day, working a 10 am to 11 pm shift, and loves every minute of it. He spends the early hours in the kitchen and during the evening works the two floors and mixes with the customers. The restaurant can seat 180 people and with its lunch and pre-theater specials, is busy all of the time.
Patsy’s attracts a varied clientele, including an extremely loyal following of regular patrons, Italian food aficionados, tourists, and celebrities. They enjoy the restaurant’s remarkable signature dishes, including succulent veal chops Siciliano, spicy lobster Fra Diavolo, tender chicken contadina, and savory calamari stuffed with seafood. Spectacular seafood such as striped bass marechiare, lobster oreganata, and shrimp scampi are always requested, as are meat favorites like sirloin steak pizzaiola with peppers and mushrooms, stuffed veal chop marsala, and chicken livers cacciatora.
I was dining alone on this evening, as other members of the family enjoyed a show nearby. My server Tony gave me time to review the appetizing menu and then helped with some recommendations. I started off with orders of fried calamari and fried zucchini. The former was served with yummy marinara sauce on the side while the latter was prepared in the form of French Fries – crispy and delicious. I followed that off with a magnificent chopped salad, one of the best I can remember having in years. For the main course there were so many options. Tony assured me I could not go wrong with the spaghetti and meatballs and he was correct. The meatballs cut like butter and melted in my mouth. By this time I literally had to take a break in order to regain enough of an appetite to sample some of the mouthwatering homemade desserts that passed by my table on a large cart. When I had a hard time choosing, Tony made it easy. He provided me with the equivalent of one piece of cake in three different variations: chocolate mousse, cannoli and Napoleon (custard, whipped cream and puff pastry). I was glad that I had a nine block walk to meet up with my family, for I needed some exercise after this very special dining experience.
For more information call (212) 247-3491, e-mail email@example.com or log on to www.patsys.com where you can view the entire menu. Sal wanted me to share with readers the fact this is “the only” Patsy’s Italian Restaurant in the world that his family runs. The temptation to franchise might be there, but why mix with perfection?
CITY PASS: Before your departure look into purchasing the New York CityPASS (www.citypass.com). You will save 42 percent on the city’s six best attractions -plus skip lines. New York CityPASS includes admission to the Empire State Building Experience, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock Observation Deck or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The cost is $114 for adults (a $195 value) and $89 for youth (aged six to 17, an $89 value. It is valid for nine days. You can purchase the booklets or printable vouchers at citypass.com or at participating attractions for the same low price.
-With files from Alexandra Cohen
Mike Cohen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. See his travel advice column at www.sandboxworld.com/travel.
POUGHKEEPSIE: When travelling to New York City, our family always likes to stop over somewhere on the way in order to make the most of our first day in the Big Apple and avoid getting stuck at the border. For our most recent trip we decided to go a little bit further than Saratoga or Albany and targeted the Town of Poughkeepsie (http://dutchesstourism.com), a mere 90 minutes from New York.
Poughkeepsie, nestled in the majestic Hudson Valley, is home to 45,000 residents. The town is rich with culture and steeped in history and the home of such prestigious institutions as Vassar and Marist Colleges as well as Dutchess Community College. Along with these institutes of higher learning, they also have Locust Grove, the former home of Samuel F.B. Morse (as in the founder of Morse code). The 180-acre estate of Samuel F. B. Morse includes an Italianate villa designed by Alexander Jackson Davis containing extensive collections of American and European decorative and fine arts. Three miles of carriage roads wind through landscaped grounds, romantic gardens and a shady grove.
WHERE TO STAY: For the two trips we made as a family to Cape Cod, we stayed at a Sheraton Four Points managed by the Linchris Hotel Corporation. I was most impressed with the operation. My main contact is Robb Moskowitz, Senior Vice-President of Operations. When we decided to stop over in Poughkeepsie, I remembered that Linchris had a property there so we promptly booked a room at their Holiday Inn Express at 2750 South Road. General Manager Rachel Kuhn and her team are in the midst of a $3 million redecoration plan in 2016. Linchris has owned this hotel since 1995 and likes to promote its ideal location. As Kuhn notes, if take the train you can be at Grand Central Station in New York City in 90 minutes. Kuhn has been with Linchris for 15 years, having previously worked for them in Boston and New Hampshire. She has found a home in Poughkeepsie, which is where she wants to stay.
We stayed in a one bedroom suite, which included a sleeper sofa and a Jacuzzi tub. There was a coffee maker, microwave oven, mini refrigerator, plates/glassware and silverware. I really liked the layout. In the main bedroom there was an extremely comfortable lounge chair. The bathroom was gigantic, with two access doors. This is very convenient for the person on the sleeper sofa, who does not have to worry about waking anyone up.
The hotel has 121 rooms and attracts both leisure and corporate travelers. A free hot buffet breakfast, as well as one of the continental variety, is offered daily. The lobby is very welcoming to someone like me who likes to work on his laptop late into the night and not disturb others in the room. I set up shop at one of the comfortable tables, helped myself to some coffee and a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie from the front desk and got to work. It was a most comfortable work environment.
The 24 hour fitness room features everything you’ll need to stay on track with your routine: a treadmill, lifecycle, stair master, recumbent bicycle, free weights, and a two-stage universal gym. There is also a 24 hour business center and a seasonal outdoor pool.
The hotel provides accessible parking and self-parking, van accessible self-parking., portable tub seats, communication kits with visual alarms and notification devices, TTY for guest use and closed caption televisions.
WHAT TO DO: The 22 parks in the area offer recreational activities such as hiking and walking trails in Peach Hill Park. Fine dining is abundant, while art exhibits, festivals, fairs and farmer markets are bountiful.
Poughkeepsie is situated in Dutchess County! Covering 800 square miles, there’s an abundance of natural scenic beauty, outdoor recreation, historic landmarks, restaurants, festivals and more. Activities range from strolls across the Walkway over the Hudson, treks through the Appalachian Trail, and sips along the Dutchess Wine Trail. Tours of the FDR National Historic Site, spins on the Dutchess County Fair Ferris Wheel, and tastes of the Culinary Institute of America restaurants are also highly popular as are cruises down the Hudson River, bushels of pick-your-own apples, and contemporary art from modern masters.
Some places you might want to check out include The Bardavon 1869 Opera House (home of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic), The Mid-Hudson Civic Center (the one-time filming location for WWF Championship Wrestling), The Chance (home of live rock concerts), the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, The Barrett Art Center, The Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, The Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center, Bananas Comedy Club and Joseph Bertolozzi’s Bridge Music. In 2011 Empire Cruise Lines began the operation of the first dinner and tour boat to call Poughkeepsie homeport in nearly two generations. The M/V Mystère is a 60-foot (18 m) double-decked tour boat which departs from Waryas Park at 29 North Water Street.
For shopping and movie theater entertainment, the Poughkeepsie Galleria is located in the town of Poughkeepsie. The mall, which opened in 1987, consists of two floors with 250 shops and restaurants to enjoy. The Regal Cinemas theater has 16 screens. Current anchor stores within the mall include Macy’s, J. C. Penney, Target, Best Buy, H&M, and Sears. I was really impressed with this mall. We were thrilled to find one of our favorite restaurants, Ruby Tuesday, home to a great salad bar and a fun menu. It is truly one of the chains I wish we had in Canada (12 other countries do). Services was fantastic. When I ordered something which I envisioned being cooked differently I told the server Daniel. Even though this was my mistake, she took it back and did not even charge me for the item. A classy move.
For our recent summer family holiday to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina we decided that a 16 hour drive from Montreal was not on our wish list. There is a viable alternative in Spirit Airlines (www.spirit.com) and we happily took advantage of it, flying directly to our destination via Plattsburgh, New York. This has long been a favorite stop for Montrealers, given its close proximity. The city beaches and camp grounds are packed all summer long and it is also a spectacular place for boating, wind surfing, or fishing.
We left a day early and checked in at the Comfort Inn (www.plattsburghcomfortinn.com), spent a few hours at the Champlain Mall and enjoyed a nice dinner at the Butcher Block Restaurant (www.butcherblockrestaurant.com). It was the right decision for we did not have to worry about being held up at customs and got to sleep in a little before our 2 p.m. flight. We landed at 1 p.m. on the return home and following a stop for groceries we were home for supper.
Spirit is known as the ultra-low cost airline of the Americas and home of the Bare Fare. What this means is that fares are unbundled, reflecting the cost of taking customers to their destination without any extras. Every customer gets frill control: the ability to choose what perks and options you’d like to add, independent of the choices of other passengers. Officials at the airline maintain that by structuring fares this way, every passenger has a chance to fly for less than any other airline. Spirit currently operates more than 380 daily flights to 57 destinations within the U.S., Latin America, Caribbean and Canada.
We were very happy with our Spirit experience. The flight to Myrtle Beach was just over two hours. Spirit charges you separately for checked bags and carry on items. In actuality, all airlines charge for these items, but they bundle them in the price. One small personal item that fits under your seat is permitted for free. The planes have wider seats in two by two seating configuration with extra-large leg room, Spirit calls them the Big Front Seats, which are about the size of a first-class seat, but available for around $25. Make sure to check in online 24 hours before the flight print your boarding pass at home. If you wait until getting to the airport, that will result in an extra $10 charge per booking.
Spirit, recognized as the fastest growing airline in the Americas, recently received a respected, independent endorsement that being different makes them one of the best. Air Transport World named Spirit as the Value Airline of the Year at its 41st annual Industry Achievement Awards ceremony. This marked the first time Spirit had received the award. The air carrier known for its bright yellow planes and humorous emails, has only been operating in the low-cost space since 2007.
“At Spirit we are focused on providing the lowest possible fares to our customers, and that means we do things a little differently,” said Ben Baldanza president and CEO. “We’re honoured that ATW recognizes our differences and that you can run a successful airline and not charge high fares.”
According to the Department of Transportation statistics, Spirit fares are, on average, 40 percent lower than other airlines. Even after adding additional items like seat assignments, bags, and refreshments, Spirit’s total price is 35 percent lower.
“We invest heavily in safety and people,” added Baldanza. “But what we don’t invest in are things that raise ticket prices like multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, multiple-class cabins, and heavy satellite and Wi-Fi equipment which adds a lot more weight to the plane causing inefficient use of fuel. We also don’t force our customers to pay for items they may not want in the form of higher priced all-inclusive fares.”
“Spirit is changing the way leisure flyers approach air travel,” according to an article written in Air Transport World Magazine to announce Spirit’s achievement. “For some families, Spirit has provided the first-ever opportunity for them to fly to a vacation destination or to visit relatives rather than spending hours and days on the road.”
“Winning this award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our Spirit Team Members to save our customers money and run a good airline,” added Baldanza. “This may be our first time to receive this recognition but we want to win it each and every year.”
Spirit recently introduced five international and four new domestic routes to its ever expanding network. “Spirit’s growth continues to be focused on places our customers want to fly to for less” said Mark Kopczak,vice-president of Network Planning. “Our bare fares™ plus frill control™ allow our customers to customize their travel experience while saving money, whether it’s for a trip to Latin America from Houston, to visit friends and family in one of the new cities that Spirit will add from Atlanta this summer or for an excursion from Latrobe/Pittsburgh to see the sights in Chicago. Cost-conscious customers can save on travel to more places than ever with Spirit.”
Spirit Airlines suggests that any travellers with special needs identify where they may needs assistance at the time of booking. Customer service personnel have been specially trained and are aware of applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) disability regulations. Spirit offers a special TTY/TDD reservations service in conjunction with AT&T Relay Service. Customers may take wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, or assist devices, in addition to one carry-on item. Devices can be stowed in an overhead bin, underneath the seat or in the forward cargo bin. Spirit works closely with the airports they serve to ensure that all facilities are accessible to everyone. Personnel are available to assist customers with disabilities in boarding deplaning and connecting with their flights. They will provide assistance in getting customers to and from gates. However, they are not equipped to provide full monitoring while waiting at the gate. Theo will provide transfer service on and off the aircraft using boarding or aisle chairs that are designed for aircraft aisles. If you are making a connection, they will provide assistance between flights using our wheelchair service. If requested and needed, they will make available your own wheelchair from the aircraft cargo compartment for your use during your layover. The airline will do its best to offer specific requests in seating for customers with disabilities. Although they offer assigned seating, it is on a first come first serve basis, and it is suggested you check in at least one hour prior to departure to better serve your request. Service animals trained to assist customers with mobility, visual and hearing disabilities, in the aircraft cabin are permitted. A service animal must occupy the floor space where the customer sits and cannot obstruct an aisle or areas that must remain clear in the case of an emergency evacuation.
PLATTSBURGH AIRPORT: Myrtle Beach is a year-round tourist destination and as such the direct route from Plattsburgh International Airport (www.flyplattsburgh.com) is a successful one. “We have had Myrtle Beach service since 2008, first with Direct Air and then with Spirit Airlines,” says airport manager Chris Kreig. “Myrtle Beach is a popular destination for travelers using the airport.”
Created from the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base, the airport it is quickly establishing itself as a multi-purpose aviation and aerospace complex serving the entire Plattsburgh/Montreal/Lake Placid region, including northern New York State, southern Quebec and Vermont. A massive, multi-modal facility, the airport has an established record of success as a fully operating industrial airport and aerospace park, handling large and small aircraft daily for its tenants and others. We left our car at the airport. Republic Parking charges only $8 a night and it is free if you are there for six hours or less). Just steps from the terminal, a free shuttle service is available to and from the lots.
Amber Parliament, a spokesperson for the Adirondack Visitors Bureau, a division of the North County Chamber of Commerce (Northcountychamber.com), notes that the airport is currently in the middle of a $55 million expansion with an expected two year construction project. The airport is proud to have bilingual signage, aimed at making it easier for Quebec travellers.
Kreig says he anticipates the terminal expansion project, with the exception of the Customs facility, to be complete by late summer/early fall 2016. “Once completed, the expanded terminal will resolve capacity issues that currently exist and will accommodate future air service growth,” he says. “Completion of the Customs facility will allow for international air service from the airport.”
Kreig says he does not have exact data on Montreal-specific traffic, but in the broader spectrum, approximately 70 percent passenger traffic comes from Canada, with passengers traveling from as far north as Quebec City and as far west as Ottawa. The catchment area for the airport is quite large due in part to the combination of the destinations served, ease of access, and pricing.
The official title of the Airport is the Plattsburgh International Airport. The Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce, which is contracted by the airport to provide marketing support, uses the term “Montreal’s U.S. Airport” as part of their marketing efforts, but Montreal is not part of the official title of the Airport.
The airport has handicapped accessible parking, washrooms, and an elevator and there are wheelchairs available. In addition, there are boarding ramps that accommodate wheelchairs for those aircraft which conduct ground boarding.
ACCOMODATIONS: The Comfort Inn and Suites (plattsburghcomfortinn.com) at 411 Route 3 has tended to be our “go to” spot in Plattsburgh over the years. They have one bedroom suites, which includes a fairly large bedroom, work desk and television and a separate living room containing a pullout couch, a TV, sink and a microwave and fridge.
There is a free hot and cold breakfast. If you sleep in, a new Perkin’s Restaurant is attached to the facility. There is also a Boulangerie Café, a lobby coffee shop featuring Starbucks™ Coffee and fresh baked pastries. Legends Sports Bar is the place to catch the latest game on the tube. The hotel is now in the midst of doubling Champy’s Fun Zone, their family entertainment center, to 12,000 square feet. They will add a two story lazer tag arena, an elaborate two storey soft play full of the latest innovations, Lazer Maze, indoor bumper cars and a Build a Bear area. This is in addition to their current 18 hole indoor mini golf, miniature bowling alleys, redemption games and video games. Outdoor batting cages and mini golf are planned for some time in 2016.
You might want to find time to check out the hotel’s health club and fitness center, entertainment room, indoor heated pool complete with a waterslide and other features young children will particularly enjoy. Of their 114 rooms, 28 are suites. They come complete with fridges, microwaves and a kitchenette sink. A gigantic Wal-Mart Super Store is literally in the parking lot while the Champlain Mall and Price Chopper supermarket are a short walk away.
Owner Jim Murray and his partner Terry Meron opened the locale in 1988. Murray was a teacher by profession. Meron owned an Italian restaurant. He wanted to get into the hotel business and asked Murray to come aboard. Before you could say “reservation” they had a Comfort Inn franchise, which they have expanded substantially over the years. It has a games room, party room and banquet facilities. They secured the Perkin’s franchise in 2006 to give customers another reason not to have to leave the facility. Canadian clients come to Plattsburgh for the great merchandising deals.
The hotel has several handicapped parking spots in front of the main entrance. Large-sized elevators will bring you to the second floor. Make sure to advise them of any special needs when making a reservation for there are some suites on the top floor which you can only access by stairs.
If you forgot to bring along any necessities, the front desk has a magic drawer complete with toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream and razors.
For more information you can log on to their website at www.plattsburghcomfortinn.com, e-mail email@example.com or call (518) 562-2730.
DINING OUT: One of the perks of staying overnight in Plattsburgh is a chance to dine at the Butcher Block, which has been around for decades at 15 Booth Drive. While the menu includes scrumptious chicken, pasta, and other quality delights, seafood and beef still grab most of the headlines. They have a nice kids menu as well. On the night we were there you could hear the French language emanating from many tables.
Since opening in 1975, the Butcher Block has become a mainstay of the restaurant trade. The menu is eclectic and unpretentious, but done with flair. Daily featured entrees are written on a board in the lobby and repeated at the table by the wait staff. This place has an excellent soup, salad and bread bar. It comes with all main entrees or can be ordered as a meal. I highly recommend the prime rib. For fish lovers, the maple Dijon salmon is top-notch. As a side, the loaded mashed potatoes are a good option. If you have room for dessert, consider a hot fudge sundae.
The entrance to the restaurant is handicapped accessible and so are most of the sections.
For reservations call 518-563-0920. It is open for lunch seven days a week, (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.); dinner Monday to Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Sunday dinner, 4 p.m. To 9 p.m. You can access the entire menu at www.butcherblockrestaurant.com.
My family and I recently returned from a busy four day stop in New York City (www.nycgo.com), where we saw two spectacular Broadway musicals (Pippin and Kinky Boots), stayed at a sensational luxury hotel (The Sofitel) and enjoyed a restaurant experience (TAO) we won’t soon forget.
Of course, New York is also one pretty terrific place to shop, from the boutiques of Madison Avenue, the iconic department stores on Fifth Avenue, the world’s largest Macy’s, the two bargain-packed Century 21 locales and the fashion-forward shops in SoHo and the Village. There are many great museums to choose from, but on this trip there just was not any time for that.
Among the most popular tourists stops in the Big Apple are the 9-1-1 Memorial, the Empire State Building, the Museum of Civilization, Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, Central Park/the Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo
BROADWAY: Unquestionably “the draw” in New York City remains its extraordinary Broadway productions. Be prepared to pay big dollars, even for a seat that is the second to last spot in the house at the top. Here is a tip though. Go online via Ticketmaster or Telecharge, check out the precise availability and call the toll free number so that you can get a more accurate route of what is available. While they offer to mail the tickets at least 48 hours before the show, we recommend that you either print them out online or ask to pick them up at will call. In some cases you can even buy cancellation insurance.
Kinky Boots and Pippin represent two “can’t miss” choices. These Tony Award winning musicals were so good you can count me in to see them again if the opportunity presents itself.
In Kinky Boots (www.kinkybootsthemusical.com), Charlie Price has reluctantly inherited his father’s shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Trying to live up to his father’s legacy and save his family business, Charlie finds inspiration in the form of drag queen Lola. A fabulous entertainer some sturdy stilettos, Lola turns out to be the one person who can help Charlie become the man he’s meant to be. As they work to turn the factory around, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible and discover that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world. Inspired by a true story and based on the Miramax motion picture written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth, Kinky Boots features a warm and witty book by Harvey Fierstein and a richly diverse musical score from pop icon Cyndi Lauper, in her stunning theatrical debut.
Kinky Boots won six 2013 Tony® Awards, the most of any show this season, including Best Musical, Best Score (Cyndi Lauper), Best Choreography (Jerry Mitchell), Best Actor (Billy Porter), Best Orchestrations (Stephen Oremus), and Best Sound Design (John Shivers). The show also received the Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, and Broadway.com Awards for Best Musical, along with many other accolades
Tickets for Kinky Boots ($87 – $157) are available for purchase in person at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre box office (Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 8 pm; Sunday, 12 pm to 6 pm), online at www.telecharge.com, or by calling Telecharge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For information on group sales, contact Group Sales Box Office/Broadway.com at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-BROADWAY, ext 2.
The standard performance schedule for Kinky Boots is as follows: Tuesday at 7 pm, Wednesday at 2 pm and 8pm, Thursday at 7 pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm. There is a general ticket lottery each day; lottery entries will be accepted outside the Al Hirschfeld Theatre box office (302 West 45th Street) beginning two and a half hours prior to each performance, and names will be drawn at random, for a limited number of $37 tickets, two hours before curtain time.
Pippin, meanwhile, is back on Broadway for the first time since it thrilled audiences 40 years ago, having won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. With a score by Tony nominee Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked), Pippin tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. Will he choose a happy, but simple life? Or will he risk everything for a singular flash of glory? It arrived on Broadway direct from an acclaimed run at Boston’s American Repertory Theater. This captivating new production is directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus (Hair and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess). It features sizzling choreography in the style of Bob Fosse and breathtaking acrobatics by Les 7 doigts de la main of Montreal.
Gypsy Snider, from Les 7 doigts, notes that the musical was originally about a travelling theatre troupe. “We made it into a travelling circus,” she said. “I got to sit down with Stephen Schwartz several times. He was incredible. Pippin has a tremendous history. This was the first musical to have TV commercials. It launched the career of actor Ben Vereen and it marked legendary choreographer Bob Fosse’s first Tony Award. It is really about the existential crisis about a young man wanting to be extraordinary.”
Snider’s first meeting with Paulus been at a sushi restaurant in Montreal. “I had never seen Pippin before,” she recalls. “But after reading the script and doing some research, I realized I was familiar with certain pieces. I think the fact that I never saw the full package was vital in creating this reimagined revival. I saw Pippin with pure eyes. I knew that Diane wanted the company to become a circus troupe, and so that was my only vision of the story.”
Pippin is playing at the Music Box Theatre (239 W 45th Street). Tickets are available via Telecharge: 212-239-6200, 800-432-7250 or online at www.pippinthemusical.com. Shows are Tuesdays through Sundays, with two presentations Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets are priced at $59 to $277 each. Pippin runs two hours and 35 minutes, including 15 minute intermission.
WHERE TO STAY: My family and I have indeed experienced heaven. That is because we spent four nights in a gorgeous luxury suite at the Sofitel New York (www.sofitel.com), located at 45 West 44th Street, a very short walk from Times Square and Broadway theatres. For us, the location could not have been better.
This elegant 30-storey midtown Manhattan hotel is just a stone’s throw from Fifth Avenue. There are 398 spacious rooms on 30 floors, including 52 suites and one presidential suite all featuring Sofitel’s luxurious feathertop and duvet sleep system – SoBed. The executive suites encompass a bedroom with a separate seating/work area, which can be closed off from each other for in-suite meetings. Most suites have southern exposure, s offering a downtown view. Five terrace suites have outdoor terraces with commanding views of Manhattan. While the bed in our main bedroom was as comfortable as can be, the sofa bed also got very high marks. Seldom have I seen a hide a bed mattress as perfect as this one. There is excellent cupboard space, bathrobes and slippers to use during your stay and an in-room safe with plenty of room to place your valuables.
Elegantly decorated with Paris-meets-New York motifs, all guestrooms have a spacious marble bathroom, three telephone lines, broadband Internet access and fully stocked mini-bars. Room service is available 24 hours along with international newspapers; nightly turn-down service with Evian water; and imported French bath products. There is a fully equipped fitness centre on the basement floor.
The Sofitel New York first opened on July 14, 2000. It caters to upscale business and leisure travelers seeking a classic, yet contemporary, “home away from home” while travelling. From the moment you check in, via a series of “Bonjour,” you are treated like royalty. The lobby is large, warm and welcoming, with the concierge ready to guide you. Staff here speaks 52 different languages and there is a French-speaking ambassador in each hotel department. Upon check-in, the hotel will valet park your car at the Hippodrome facility across the street and have it ready for when checking out.
The hotel boasts seven meeting rooms perfect for small to mid-sized meetings, with rooms ranging from 365 to 760 square feet. Rooms are designed to meet specific meeting needs, from video-conferencing to breakout work sessions and computer access for company training sessions. The Grand Ballroom offers 2,500 square feet of space to seat up to 180 people.
There are handicapped rooms available while all rooms can accommodate wheelchairs as well as the visually and hearing impaired. All kosher meals are out sourced . The hotel is used for kosher functions.
For reservations, call 1-800-Sofitel (763-4835).
HOTEL DINING: On the evening we arrived we decided to dine at Gaby, a traditional French brasserie and bar named for a Parisian model who made a name and career for herself in New York in the 1920s. Just off the lobby of the hotel, the restaurant seats 128 people. There is easy interior access for hotel guests and an entrance on 45th Street. There is a special lift at the Gaby entrance for those in wheelchairs.
Executive Chef Sylvain Harribey has been in New York for five years, having previously worked for the Sofitel in Philadelphia and Bordeaux, France. His culinary achievements include winning first place on the hit Food Network show called Chopped. This is a classy restaurant, popular not only with hotel guests but those going to a Broadway show. Pre-theatre menus do exist here. The restaurant is open all day, beginning at breakfast and for lunch as well. Among its special menus is 30-minute business lunches served in bento boxes for executives on the go.
“I cook with my heart, and my French heritage,” said Harribey. “I look for new ways to refine classic French recipes and techniques, trying new combinations of ingredients, experimenting with culinary traditions, and procuring only the fresh ingredients from local farms.”
We enjoyed an absolutely outstanding dinner at Gaby, having the great advantage of meeting Harribey in person. He first prepared a marvellous and tasty butternut squash cappuccino, with truffle oil and fleur de sel. This was followed by a unique spring lobster salad, featuring some sumptuous lobster, fruits, avocados and greens. There were two main courses: oven roasted lamb loin, crusted with Dijon mustard, white bean puree with pumpkin seed oil, vegetable tian gratine and Harribey’s own creation called the Franburger. This was served on a crispy baguette with melted brie cheese, caramelized onion and piment d’Espelette pepper aioli and French Fries on the side. We shared some extraordinary desserts: a crème brulee, a chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate chip and raisin pudding with cinnamon ice cream. Harribey is also proud to promote De-Light by Sofitel, a gastronomic adventure in healthy eating. Developed by Thalassa Sea & Spa, the recognized nutrition and wellness experts in France for over 40 years, the menu features an innovative array of well-balanced, low calorie meals to help individuals meet their health and weight goals in delicious style.
DINING OUT: New York City is indeed the place to dine, with an endless array of choices to please your palate. Needless to say, there is no shortage of kosher restaurants here either.
The one restaurant we had heard a lot about was TAO (www.taogroup.com), the pioneers of the Pan-Asian trend that swept New York City over a decade ago. We dined at TAO Uptown; the chain recently unveiled TAO Downtown and they are in Las Vegas as well.
Since its inception in 2000, TAO Uptown at 42 East 58th Street, has become well-known for spurring the trend of “vibe-dining,” has been a national and international hotspot. TAO Downtown is located beneath the Maritime Hotel.
Upon entering the restaurant, one is immediately struck by a 16-foot Buddha floating above a reflecting pool filled with Japanese carp .The Pan Asian restaurant specializes in authentic Hong Kong Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines. There are three levels of dining, including the prized “Skybox” which offers views of what once was a movie theatre. Tao has 300 seats, a sushi bar, lounge and two bars at which to enjoy the food and the show. Be sure to make reservations. As GM Keith Dorrow told us, “we are always busy.”
There is a wonderful ambiance here, with trendy music and a charismatic serving staff. The menu here is truly designed for sharing. Our waiter, Hutch, made life so much easier for our group by recommending a series of courses. It is as if he read our minds. We started off with some appetizers: hot edame and roasted shishito peppers. That was followed by spicy tuna tartar on crispy rice, six pieces we split among us happily. The Peking duck spring rolls, with hoisin sauce, were deliciously crispy but the outstanding item of the night which I strongly recommend was the satay of Chilean sea bass with wok roasted asparagus. I cannot remember tasting any kind of fish this good. The lobster and shrimp spring roll with shiitake mushrooms and spicy pineapple sauce was a treat, a bit spicy but nothing too difficult to handle.
TAO has a magnificent sushi menu. You can study the options via their menu. Hutch selected some fantastic pieces for us.
There was still more to come. The wok-seared New York sirloin with shiitake mushrooms cut like butter and was served with some crispy roasted potato wedges. An order of crispy orange chicken, beautifully prepared scallops and some white rice rounded out the main course.
Did we have room for dessert? First came the sugar dusted doughnuts with a trio of dipping sauces – caramel, chocolate and vanilla. This was delicious beyond description. The banana pudding with fortune cookie crust and the lemongrass crème brulee were dandy as well.
There is easy street-level access by wheelchair. When making your reservation, ask for table at the main level where there are no stairs.
There are a number of Jewish partners at TAO, including Rich Wolf, Noah Tepperberg, Jason Strauss, as well as managing partners Paul Goldstein and Andrew Goldberg. “We’ve spent over 10 years perfecting what TAO represents,” said Wolf, who talks excitingly about their newest downtown New York location.
“This isn’t just a ‘second location’ of TAO in New York City; it is the next iteration of our brand,” Wolf continues. “Devoted fans will still feel at home, but there are many elements that distinguish the restaurant from its sister locations. This is what guests can expect from us moving forward.”
While continuing to celebrate the flavors of Cantonese, Japanese and Thai cuisines that are deeply rooted in the brand’s origins, TAO Downtown’s menu spans a larger breadth of Asian influences, ranging from Hunan and Szechuan-style cooking to the flavors of Singapore and Malaysia, inspired by the group’s research abroad. Dishes like Singapore Shrimp and Kueh Pie Ti, traditional Malaysian crispy shells served with various fillings, only begin to showcase the chefs’ mastery of age-old techniques and understanding of classic Asian flavor pairings. New signature dishes include offerings from sea, sky, and land, such as Crispy Snapper in the Sand, Roasted Chicken Chow Mein, served with hand-pulled noodles made fresh daily in-house, and Wagyu Sukiyaki. Guests can also anticipate an updated selection of sharable plates, ranging from house-made Dim Sum and traditional Yakitori skewers to an assortment of Barbeque, Tempura and small plates, such as Ju Ju Chicken, a spin on Japanese fried chicken served in a hot clay pot. New noodle and rice dishes feature items like Shanghai Fried Rice, which is served inside a thin egg crepe, MaPo Tofu Noodles and Pork Belly Black Fried Rice. Furthering TAO’s commitment to quality, a three-level fish tank was installed in the restaurant’s kitchen, where live catch are delivered daily. A small selection of dishes from TAO Uptown’s menu has been re-imagined at TAO Downtown to satiate all cravings.
Turning the traditional-style sushi bar experience on its head, the sushi bar has been reinvented at TAO Downtown to encourage group dining and easy sharing for parties larger than two via an amoeba-like shape. The sushi menu features new specialty rolls like Glazed Tuna and Wild Mushroom, which will be offered along with the freshest sushi and sashimi, available by the piece or platter. Paying homage to small sushi counters in Japan that offer hot and cold plates in addition to fresh fish, TAO Downtown’s sushi bar includes a separate kitchen where expert sushi chefs create items like Tuna Hamachi Tataki and Tuna Sashimi with Parmesan, served with tomato wasabi salsa and a crispy sesame stick. Unique to TAO Downtown, those who select Omakase at the sushi bar are also able to enjoy off-the-menu hot and cold items created at the dedicated sushi kitchen and solely available in this area of the restaurant.
TAO Downtown seats up to 400 throughout the restaurant, with approximately 300 in the main dining room alone. TAO Downtown is located at 92 Ninth Avenue (between 16th and 17th Streets). You can check out www.taodowntown.com. I guess I will have to put this location on my list for the next trip to New York. I am still very happily digesting my Uptown experience.
My family and I recently spent some time in Buffalo, New York to visit friends. Buffalo (www.visitbuffaloniagara.com) is the commercial, political and entertainment hub of an eight-county region of western New York State consisting of nearly 1.6 million people. Located at the easternmost end of Lake Erie, overlooking the Niagara River, Buffalo is just across the Peace Bridge from Ontario.
Buffalo is only a 20-minute drive to and from Niagara Falls and its array of world class tourist attractions, including the Maid of the Mist sightseeing boat and the Cave of the Winds, a web of wooden catwalks and staircases accessed through a tunnel in the rock behind the American Falls that provide spectacular up-close views of the cataract.
WHAT TO DO: Retail destinations include malls like the Walden Galleria, Boulevard Mall, Eastern Hills Mall, Fashion Outlets of Niagara and the McKinley Mall, as well as eclectic and charming shopping districts such as Buffalo’s Elmwood Village, Hertel Avenue, Williamsville, Clarence Center and the village of East Aurora. If you want to check out a quaint little town, take a drive to Hamburg with its neat downtown area of shops and one big movie house.
How much time do you have? The Buffalo area has outstanding theatre, a world-class orchestra, architecture tours, nightlife along the resurgent Chippewa Street and one of the world’s top collections of modern art at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Sports lovers will find Buffalo Bills football, Buffalo Sabres hockey and Buffalo Bisons baseball, as well as major college football, basketball and hockey. For people with an appetite, there are a wealth of charming bistros and restaurants serving local specialties such as “Buffalo” chicken wings, as well as truly affordable fine cuisine.
Nearby attractions include Darien Lake, New York State’s largest amusement park; the “Grand Canyon of the East” at Letchworth State Park; the internationally-renowned Victorian village at the Chautauqua Institution; the Erie Canal; the oldest buildings on the Great Lakes at Old Fort Niagara; the Seneca Niagara Casino and the Genesee Country Village and Museum, the country’s third-largest living history museum.
Among some of the family attractions to look out for are the Buffalo Zoo, the Buffalo Museum of Science, Explore ‘n’ More Children’s Museum, the Amherst Museum, Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, Martin’s Fantasy Island Amusement Park, the Aquarium of Niagara, Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, Old Fort Niagara and the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.
We saw a movie at the Regal Transit Center Stadium 18 & IMAX at 6707 Transit Road in Williamsville, a mere 10 minutes from our hotel. I always enjoy seeing a movie at the Regal chain (www.regmovies.com). As the name of the complex says, this is stadium seating. There is a large parking lot and very friendly staff.
For special needs patrons, most of the movies shown offer closed captioned equipment upon request. There are listening devices for the hearing impaired and wheelchair access. Go to their website and at the bottom of the homepage under Theatres, click on the Captioning and Descriptive Video link. This page will provide you with a list of theatres, sorted by state. Click on the state in which your theatre is located. This page will provide a list of what movies are being shown that offer the captioning and descriptive audio, as well as their show times. If you go online to Fandango.com and locate the theatre, movie and showtime the website will list if closed captioning is available for that performance. Upon arriving at the theatre location, printed materials are available that explain how to use the closed captioning system. Staff members and managers are knowledgeable on the closed captioning system and can assist with any specific questions you may have.
Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) operates the largest and most geographically diverse theatre circuit in the United States, consisting of 7,342 screens in 576 theatres in 42 states along with Guam, Saipan, American Samoa and the District of Columbia.
WHERE TO STAY: In terms of accommodations, we were very fortunate to come across the brand new Staybridge Suites Buffalo Amherst, at 1290 Sweet Home Road, adjacent to the University at Buffalo –SUNY North Campus. Resting on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, the suburb of Amherst provides great access to entertainment, restaurants and attractions. Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) is eight miles away. It turned out to be an excellent location. Having only opened on November 11, 2013, general manager Shannon Ruth, assistant GM Sarah Esposito and their team really provide a welcoming atmosphere.
This is an extended stay pet friendly hotel, which offers studios, one bedroom and two bedroom/ two bathroom suites, as well as an indoor saltwater pool, a fitness room, an in-season BBQ Pavillion with grills and complimentary guest laundry. You also get a full hot breakfast each morning, along with evening social receptions Tuesday through Thursdays. We chose the two bedroom option and for three of us it offered the kind of personal space one is not normally accustomed to during a family stay in a hotel. With a king size bed (and one amazingly comfortable reading chair) in the master bedroom, two double beds in the other and a pullout couch in the living room two families could happily share the premises. We also appreciated the 24 hour free coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milk, juices and soft drinks, the “Great Room” where you can hang out with business associates and the “Den,” filled with books, games and lots of comfy little nooks.
Each hotel room is furnished with a 42 inch flat screen HD TV, DVD players, IPod docking stations, alarm clocks and fully equipped kitchens, complete with pots, pans and utensils. There is good workspace and wireless internet. This property even has additional storage units available on each floor.
The Staybridge Suites is well equipped for guests with special needs. This includes the public entrance, guest rooms, the registration desk, the dining area, the exercise facility, the pool and the business center. In fact, both the pool and whirlpool are furnished with lifts for the handicapped.
The hotel provides accessible self parking, van accessible self parking, communications kits with visual alarms and notification devices, TTY for guest use and closed caption televisions
DINING OUT: There are no shortages of places to dine in the area. Busy Maple Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard are minutes away and features a slew of restaurants, from Denny’s and IHOP to Red Robin to one of the USA’s great seafood chains the Bonefish Grill (www.bonefishgrill.com), That was on our “to do” list for this trip, but we were not able to squeeze it into the schedule so I will wait until we visit another town where one of their 300 plus locations exists. For kosher restaurants, log on to http://yibuffalo.org/food.html. At the Tops grocery store on Maple there is a full kosher section, including food you can take back to the hotel and enjoy.
SPECIAL NEEDS: Here is something I did not know. Buffalo is home to the only “bricks and mortar” museum in the U.S. dedicated to the history of people with disabilities called The Museum of disABILITY History. It is located at 3826 Main Street. Visitors and those who see its travelling exhibits, enjoy wide-ranging topics like disability and pop culture, the wide world of disability and sports, and the evolution of adaptive equipment, among many others, illustrated by photos, rare books and historic artifacts – truly a unique experience. Group tours are available. To schedule a tour, call 716-629-3626, 716-629-3626 or log on to http://museumofdisability.org.
Shopping in Albany, the capital of the State of New York, has always been a joy for my family. Crossgates Mall and the smaller, but equally impressive Colonie Center, can keep you busy for a couple of days.
We recently spent four days in Albany. With a great place to stay, excellent restaurants to choose from and, of course, the endless shopping experience, it proved to be the perfect getaway.
Albany has attracted visitors for 400 years with historic sites, fabulous attractions, family-friendly amenities, and entertaining events. World-class museums, unique galleries, stunning architecture, those enticing restaurants, and welcoming accommodations can indeed keep you busy for days. Enjoy everything from boating to skiing and biking to snow-shoeing. Albany lies at the foot of the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains and is at the tip of the historic Hudson Valley Region. Within a short ride are neighboring Cooperstown and Saratoga Springs.
Be sure to check out the Million Dollar Staircase, the awe inspiring “Egg” at the Empire State Plaza and many diverse examples of historic house sites and public spaces such as the Pruyn House and the first Shaker Meeting House. You can visit the magnificent Gothic structure, now the Administrative Center of the State University of New York, the Delaware and Hudson, and the Albany Evening Journal Buildings, located at the base of State Street.
There is an abundance of professional theatre, music, dance, sports, and a backyard full of recreational splendors. As the crossroads of the northeast, Albany is easily accessible by car, train, and plane and is located less than three hours from New York and Boston. I have also heard very good things about the Albany Aqua Ducks & Trolleys (www.albanyaquaducks.com), an amphibious tour and trolley tour company featuring historic tours of Albany. The Ducks offer unique, educational and fun-filled tours. You can see the historic sites and then Splash into the Hudson River for a mariner’s view of the city’s skyline and others who call the Hudson “home” including the USS Slater and Dutch Apple Cruises. The Trolleys operate a seasonal Trolley loop tour and are available year round for charters and events. The Ducks and Trolleys are available for parades, festivals, family reunions, bar/bat mitzvahs, corporate events or any special occasion that needs to be “Just Ducky!” Info: Bob Wolfgang at 518-858-9690
The Crossgates Mall is home to 250 stores, restaurants and kiosks, including big box tenants Macys, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods and JC Penny (now called JCP).
The vast majority of entrances are ADA accessible with ample parking distributed throughout the site. You can rent a wheelchair at the information desk near the Macys entrance.
The Dave and Buster’s restaurant and games and arcade chain will open its first Albany location at the Mall soon. We spent nearly seven straight hours there on a first day and went back for another three the following afternoon.
ACCOMMODATIONS: When in Albany we enjoy staying at the Cresthill Suites (www.cresthillsuites.com), an extended stay hotel located at 1415 Washington Avenue. It turned out to be most convenient for us. There were large Hannaford’s and Price Chopper grocery stores nearby, as well as plenty of restaurants, the Crossgates Mall, the Colonie Center and two movie theatre complexes. Cresthill is in fact part of a small chain, with other locales in Syracuse, NY and Wichita, Kansas.
I would strongly recommend this place for families. Our spacious two bedroom suite had all of the comforts of home, including a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge and appliances and free wireless internet. We had a comfortable living room, with a couch, chair, table and chairs, three flat screen TVs and plenty of cupboard space. Whether you’re staying for a night or a month in any one of these suites, the hotel offers an array of services to accommodate your travel needs. In the morning, you can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, and in the evening, a light fare reception and social hour is available every Monday through Thursday. There is daily housekeeping, same-day valet service, a grocery shopping service, free guest laundry, a fully equipped fitness center and a seasonal courtyard with a pool, patio and grills. General Manager Lisa Druckreier notes that the 10 year old property has a regular clientele who stay there for long periods of time, be it people working on big projects in town and in construction, those relocating, fire victims and of course vacationers who want to enjoy all of the comforts of home. The hotel has a number of handicapped accessible rooms and handicapped parking spots at the front door. There is elevator access to each floor and level crossings in the hallways.
The hotel is currently replacing sofas, chairs, ottomans and carpets in all rooms.
I found the staff at the front desk exceptionally helpful. While the room was very comfy, I also enjoyed spending time in the large lobby area and sinking into the big sofa in front of a TV. A self service coffee, tea and hot chocolate is available 24 hours a day. For more information call 1.888.723.1655 or email email@example.com. You can also register online.
WHERE TO DINE: We had a marvelous meal at Simpson’s Grille, where five chefs have shared 83 years of experience to create menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner to tantalize even the most discriminating taste buds. This is the type of place where sole Françoise and grilled Atlantic salmon meet New York sirloin and filet mignon. The restaurant is located at The Desmond Hotel & Conference Center, a magnificent facility at 660 Albany Shaker Road. The Desmond is also home to the AAA four diamond-rated Scrimshaw Restaurant and The Tavern, an English style pub. There is free parking.
I started off with a warm bowl of New England clam chowder. For the main course, we selected three different items: the seafood penne alfredo, a combination of Alaskan crabmeat, jumbo gulf shrimp and Georges Bank sea scallops tossed in a garlic cream sauce; pesto herb sea scallops, coated with basil pesto and fresh herbs, broiled and finished with tomato vinaigrette; and a char grilled ribeye, 14 ounces, well marbled and full of flavor. All main courses come with a signature house or Caesar salad, choice of potato or rice pilaf and the chef’s fresh vegetable of the day.
The menu also includes chicken, different fish entrees, prime rib of beef, filet mignon and veal piccata.
The hotel entrance is perfectly wheelchair accessible and so is the entire restaurant, located right by the front desk. This is a pretty venue, featuring booths and tables, and popular with tourists and locales.
After dinner I took the opportunity to explore the property. One section of rooms are located in an area that was once outdoors and makes for a pretty interesting view.
Not only can you log on to the restaurant’s website (http://www.desmondhotelsalbany.com/wine-and-dine/simpsons-restaurant.html) to download the menu, but you can also book your table here, which is very convenient. Simpson’s Grille is open Monday to Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.to 10 p.m. On weekends they are open from 6:30 a.m. straight through 10 p.m.
Take the time to walk around the facility before or after dinner. It includes 323 guest rooms and suites, complimentary Wi-Fi internet access, free parking and airport shuttle service, a newly renovated fitness center, indoor pool with Jacuzzi, 24 hour business center and two beautifully landscaped all-season atria. The conference center offers 22 unique meeting spaces and over 24,000-square-feet of flexible function space and an amphitheatre.
The Tavern is cozy, warm, inviting and considered “a place to relax and unwind.” Here folks tend to sink into one of the leather sofas by the fireplace or root for their favorite team while watching the big screen televisions. Cocktails, cordials and an endless line of beer taps accompany a lite fare menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers.
Scrimshaw at The Desmond is the only AAA Four Diamond Award winning restaurant for three consecutive years in the Capital Region. It recently introduced a newly renovated fine dining room and exquisite new menu. New Chef de Cuisine Stephen Fratianni and Director of Restaurants Frank Rivera have teamed up to combine classic favorites with unique new menu offerings, including market fresh seafood options which change monthly and select table-side preparation to create a truly memorable and one of a kind fine dining experience.
The P.F Chang’s at Colonie Center in Albany is top notch. We strongly recommend it to anyone passing through.
Each dish on the P.F. Chang’s (www.pfchangs.com) menu is prepared to order using the freshest and highest quality ingredients. The environment at each location combines influences of Chinese and American cultures. A panoramic, hand-painted mural depicting 12th century China, is visible from the main dining room and commands attention as the restaurant’s centerpiece, while several terra-cotta warriors stand guard. The majestic 11 foot tall horses grace the entrance to many of the restaurants. This horse symbolizes the original Forbidden City in China, which was built for China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.
The Albany location has been in operation for five years. This was our second time there and we remembered the excellent and quick service. The menu is tantalizing and features a much appreciated calorie count next to each item. So what can Montrealers look forward to? Well, first of all the prices are very reasonable and it is highly recommended you share a few dishes. On this night my two dinner partners and I started off with some won ton and egg drop soups. The former includes pork wontons, mushrooms, fresh spinach, water chestnuts, chicken and shrimp in a savory chicken broth; the latter is the P.F. Chang’s version of the traditional soup, with egg, julienne carrots and green onion.
You really must start off with the P.F. Chang’s signature chicken lettuce wraps: wok seared minced chicken, mushrooms, green onions and water chestnuts served over crispy rice sticks with cool, crisp lettuce cups.
Select your sharing dishes wisely. My recommendation is the Mongolian beef (tender flank steak wok-cooked then quickly tossed with scallions and garlic), crispy honey shrimp (lightly battered and tossed in a sweet and tangy honey sauce with green onions), double pan-fried noodles (crisp egg noodles stir-fried with mushrooms, bok choy, carrots, celery and onions and comes with a choice of beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or vegetable) and a bowl of steamed rice.
You can check the full menu out online, including a full selection of gluten free items, lunch specials and kids choices. There is also a delicious array of signature desserts.
The sidewalk leading to the restaurant, the entrance and the entire restaurant is handicapped accessible.
AT THE MOVIES: The Albany area has some wonderful movie theatre complexes, each operated by the Regal Entertainment Group (www.regmovies.com). We have a particular fondness towards the Regal Colonie Center Stadium 13. This four year old movie complex encompasses around 64,000 square feet, with more than 2,800 seats in a total of 13 auditoriums. It is right next to two of my favorite restaurants, PF Chang`s China Bistro and the Cheesecake Factory and a huge Barnes & Noble, great to know when you are planning an outing. The seats at this theatre are very comfortable as they swivel. We actually stopped by the evening before our show to pick up tickets in advance. You can also purchase them online at fandango.com.
Once in the theatre we were entertained by a feature called First Look, which included previews of upcoming film and DVD releases and a series of very amusing commercials. You can also log on to www.fandango.com and purchase your tickets online.
Hearing impaired devices are available upon request and the complex is very wheelchair friendly, with elevators at every level, ramps in each theatre and handicapped seating.
Over the course of many years my family and I passed the exit for Lake Placid, New York on Highway 87 and wondered when we would actually visit the former Olympic Village. Well, over the recent holidays that day finally arrived – several days in fact.
On our way back from New York City, Lake Placid was added to our itinerary and I can now strongly recommend others do the same. This is a four season destination. We got a taste of the winter experience and now we are tempted to go back in the heat of the summer. I cannot say enough about the personnel at the Lake Placid Convention and Visitor’s Bureau/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (www.lakeplacid.com), who really helped point me in the right direction.
In Lake Placid, winter brings the sparkle of snowflakes, the twinkle of lights reflecting on Mirror Lake and the soothing glow of crackling fireplaces in Lake Placid. The area boasts a world-class array of trails for skiing and riding Of course things were a bit different this year. Not much snow had fallen up until early January, when we departed. Therefore the lake was not frozen and automatic snowmaking machines had to work overtime.
For those readers already looking for good March Break options, pencil in Lake Placid. By then you should be able to slide down the toboggan chute on frozen Mirror Lake, go ice skating, take an invigorating dog sled ride, and revel in the beauty of the Adirondack wilderness by snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or ice climbing. There is also the option of exploring the endless Adirondack snowshoeing trails to see the forest from a whole new perspective.
Whether you’re an expert, or it’s your first time trying a new winter sport, Lake Placid is the perfect place to enjoy a winter getaway.
ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed at the 92 room Northwoods Inn (www.northwoodsinn.com), situated right on Main Street, a short walk to the Olympic Arena and Oval, a public beach, numerous restaurants, a movie theatre and quaint shops of Lake Placid. The hotel offers a sidewalk café, two restaurants and “The Cabin,” a warm and cozy fireplace bar overlooking Main Street. Their rooftop bar presents a majestic view of the entire town plus the High Peaks and Whiteface Mountain. The breakfasts and gourmet burgers here have been voted “The best in Lake Placid.”
This is an all suite hotel and includes extended stay spots with kitchenettes and affordable rates. The lakeside rooms offer great views of Mirror Lake and the Adirondack mountains while others include balconies where guests can sit outside and enjoy the fresh mountain air. All of the rooms feature air conditioning, cable TV and separate sitting areas. There is complimentary onsite parking for overnight hotel guests only. Parking is limited, and in high demand periods, overflow spots are available, for a nominal fee, in the Lake Placid Municipal Parking Lot, one block from the hotel.
The Inn features the Tempur-Pedic “Weightless Sleep” mattresses, coddling you as no other mattress can. The revolutionary pressure-relieving material conforms to every point on your body, with relaxing molecular memory that gives you the best night of sleep you’ll ever have.
The Northwoods Inn is a hotel with lots of character and an interesting history. Since the 1800s, Lake Placid has been a destination to tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. By 1900 the village was recognized as a resort destination with seven major hotels and several smaller inns and cottages. A hotelier named Frank Swift had the dream to build a modern, fireproof hotel, where he could host high profile guests with all of the luxuries and comforts of a city hotel. In 1926 he achieved this goal with the construction of the Hotel Marcy. It was named for Mount Marcy, the grandest mountain in New York. In addition to the new building, the Hotel Marcy included several former summer homes to be rented as cottages and the old Northwoods Inn, which was used for housing staff, storage and kitchen facilities. In total, the hotel included 160 guest rooms, 125 bathrooms, a dining room and meeting space.
The Marcy was unlike anything else in Lake Placid and it immediately became popular with both local residents and visitors. It was a choice location for weddings, parties and community events. The hotel also attracted many tourists, including celebrities George Burns and Gracie Allen, Kate Smith, and others from that bygone era.
The Northwoods Inn was purchased by the Smith family five years ago. Gary Smith has handed the day-to-day operations to his son Garrett, who has innkeeper spends a lot of time mixing with guests and getting their feedback. He is working hard at building the property Free WiFi was recently added to all guestrooms and public areas. The renovation of guest rooms is next. For more information you can call 518-523-1818 for special packages, group rates or to make a reservation.
The hotel is well suited for guests in wheelchairs. The parking lot leads to the back entrance of the hotel, where there is a ramp bringing you to either the lobby or the elevator to your room. Door entrances are large and the suites themselves have a nice passageway when you first enter. The elevator will also take you to the street level, where both sides of the street offer some lovely shops and restaurants to explore.
MEALS: From traditional American cuisine in a family-friendly atmosphere to a delicious buffet dinner, such as we were treated to on New Year’s Eve at the Northwoods Inn, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your craving. We discovered Milano North (www.milanonorth.com). Modeled on its Albany cousin, this 110 seat, Northern Italian bistro features a dynamic open kitchen design, wood-fired oven pizzas, freshly-prepared homemade pastas and entrees using only the finest of ingredients. Located one block from the Northwoods Inn, Milano North offers a warm and contemporary Adirondack ambience. We absolutely loved our meals: a piping hot and delicious tomato soup, delicious salads and beautifully prepared entrees of grilled scallops, the best veal parmesan I can remember having (with some linguini on the side) and a grilled shrimp dish with fettuccini.
The restaurant offers a nice second floor view of the charming downtown. You can also catch your favorite game at the bar in its relaxed and inviting atmosphere. Head Chef Ryan Preston oversees a very impressive menu and general manager David McKenty greets everyone with a smile and some Lake Placid trivia.
Milano North is fully handicapped accessible from the upper tier of the municipal parking lot. There are a number of handicapped parking spaces located just outside the front entrance to the restaurant and everything inside is all on one level.
WHAT TO DO: Visit Lake Placid and invent your own perfect day. Sheltered among the Adirondack Park’s six million acres, the alpine village offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, unique attractions, shopping, dining and a variety of fun. There are mountains to climb, rivers to fish, serene lakes to kayak and vast evergreen forests to explore. Bring your bike and cruise through the region’s dramatic landscape, from quiet country roads to scenic mountain passes. Or pack your clubs and play a round on some of the beautiful Lake Placid golf courses—the region boasts 13 including five signature championship layouts. You can also attend one of the many enriching events at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts or catch a movie at the old-fashioned theater on Main Street.
OLYMPIC PASSPORT: Lake Placid was the proud host of the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympic Games. In all of the four seasons, this celebrated history can be experienced with a full range of activities from ORDA – the Olympic Regional Development Authority (http://www.orda.org/corporate). Make sure to purchase the Olympic Sites Passport, which gives you access to every one of the Olympic venues—from Whiteface to the Olympic Sports Complex and everything in between. Sold for $29 at the ORDA Store and all of their ticket offices, the passport saves you time, money, and gets you into the venues at a good value.
ORDA was originally created by the State of New York to manage the facilities used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. ORDA operates the Whiteface Mountain ski area located in the Town of Wilmington, just 15 minutes outside the Village of Lake Placid; the Olympic Center; the Olympic Jumping Complex and Olympic Sports Complex; and Gore Mountain ski area located in North Creek, New York — 80 miles south of Lake Placid.
Whiteface’s Adaptive Snowsports Program is for adults and children with disabilities who want to learn how to ski and snowboard. First-timers needn’t worry; lessons range from “Never-Ever” to the advanced skier/snowboarder. Lift ticket, lesson and rental adaptive equipment are included. The duration of the lesson is usually two hours, depending on the student. Payment is required at the time of reservation.
ACTIVITIES: Fun in the Adirondacks takes on a whole new meaning when shared with the family. With Lake Placid’s storybook setting, it’s no surprise that this quaint alpine village offers unrivaled thrills, unforgettable adventures and historical exploration for all who visit. From museums and theater performances to classic family amusements such as bowling and miniature golf, the Adirondacks have an array of activities and attractions for moms, dads and kids of any age.
For sports fans, be sure to check out the Olympic facilities including the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and the various sports venues such as the hockey arena, home to the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, take a ride on the bobsled run or ski or ride down the highest vertical drop in the East at Whiteface Mountain. For some history and culture, visit the nearby Wild Center Museum or plan on catching one of the family friendly shows at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.
SKIING: As America’s very first winter resort, Lake Placid has skiing and riding covered. Whiteface, the only ski area in the East to have hosted the Olympic Games, boasts the highest vertical drop east of the Rockies with terrain for any skill level. The mountain’s 86 trails are serviced by high speed lifts and the Cloudsplitter Gondola—and with terrain parks, slides, glades and miles of groomed runs, you’re sure to find something that suits you. Whiteface is open generally from the very end of November until the middle of April
TOBOGGAN CHUTE: The Lake Placid Toboggan Chute (www.northelba.org/html/toboggan_chute_.html), located on Parkside Drive, adjacent to the Post Office, has been in operation since the 1960’s. The North Elba Park District currently operates the slide. A 30 foot high converted ski jump trestle sends toboggans down ice covered chutes onto frozen Mirror Lake. Depending on weather conditions, toboggans can travel over 1,000 feet once they reach the frozen lake surface. To insure the safety of riders, only one sled is sent down at a time. Families have always said that their visit to the Toboggan Chute was a highlight of their winter vacation.
Since the actual outrun of the slide is the frozen lake surface, the official opening day for operation varies from year to year. They have been open as early as December 26 and one year it wasn’t until February before they were in operation. A good 10 to 12 inches of good solid ice is necessary to insure the safety of the guests.
Admission prices allow guests to slide as much as they can during the scheduled time. Toboggans are rented and can hold two to four people. During Christmas and President’s week lines are often long and the wait can be 15 to 20 minutes between rides. Info 518-523-2591
OLYMPIC JUMPING: See firsthand the ramp that ski jumpers launch from before flying over the length of a football field. Take the chairlift alongside the jumping hills to the glass enclosed elevator to the observation deck of the 120K jump. At the top you will find a panoramic view of the Adirondack High Peaks as you stroll through the ski jumpers preparation room. Then get a bird’s eye view of what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp. Nearby, aerialists will spring off steep kickers on the freestyle hill in a flurry of twists & turns.
Please log on to http://www.whiteface.com/activities/index.php.
You can also ride the 26-storey elevator to the top of the tower and view the world from a ski jumper’s perspective while you take in the panoramic view of the beautiful Adirondack High Peaks and other Olympic Venues.
TUBING: The newest attraction at the Olympic Jumping Complex goes downhill fast. Ride a tube down their newly constructed chute for over 700 feet of fun under the lights. With every tubing ticket purchased, funds go to support USA Ski Jumping. This is opened December 26 through March 20 (or as weather permits). The rate is $9 per hour. Log on to http://www.whiteface.com/activities/tube.php
OLYMPIC SPORTS COMPLEX: Home to the combined bobsled, luge and skeleton track – the only one east of the Rockies – as well as 50 km of groomed cross country ski trails and a biathlon shooting range, the Olympic Sports Complex is a study in extremes. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be a comet, this is the place to start. Bobsled rides, with a professional driver and brakeman, begin at the half-mile point on the track (the same one used by Olympic racers) and wind through Shady, Labyrinth and The Heart–turns known by racers the world over.
You’ll feel the rumble of the sled’s blades passing over the track’s iced surface, slide through one turn, bank high on the next one and pick up speed on the straightaway. You’ll go faster than you’re allowed to drive a car through town. Then you’ll get to the bottom and want to do it again. That is the way the one daring member of our family described the experience. For your bravery, they give you a bobsled lapel pin, a four by six commemorative team photo, t-shirt, a Lake Placid Bobsled Experience sticker and membership in the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton
SKELETON: At the Olympic Sports Complex, you’ll have the chance to try the sport of Skeleton. This is your childhood sled on overdrive. Thirty miles per hour never seemed as fast as when you are lying on your stomach rocketing down an icy chute. Your experience includes: sliding from Start five, a four by six photo of you and your sled, a team t-shirt, a one year membership to the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
OLYMPIC CENTRE AND MUSEUM: The site of the historic 1932 and 1980 Olympic Games, including the legendary “Miracle on Ice” hockey game in 1980, the Centre houses three ice surfaces, the Convention Center at Lake Placid and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. This unique venue is active year round. The Olympic Center hosts numerous international and national events, youth and adult hockey tournaments, and Figure Skating Championships throughout the year. Log on to http://www.whiteface.com/activities/museum.php.
ARTS: It’s no surprise that the Adirondacks have such a thriving arts community—the region’s vast forests, peaceful waterways and scenic mountains have long served as a muse for the creative. The region’s striking landscape offers an inspirational backdrop more beautiful and more vivid than one can imagine—and it changes with each new season. Today, artists and musicians of all genres are inspired by the natural setting and sheltered solitude of the mountains. Lake Placid boasts several venues for the arts and hosts a variety of performances — from classical music, to family-friendly shows, to rock concerts and community plays and musicals.
The Adirondacks are home to professional and community theaters, studios and renowned music schools. Likewise, museums and historical societies dot the region, preserving Lake Placid history and displaying artifacts of the Adirondacks’ storied past.
The Lake Placid Center for the Arts offers programs in the areas of music, theater, dance, art and film in addition to galleries, exhibitions and workshops. Similarly, the Lake Placid Institute works to enhance and celebrate cultural life throughout the Adirondacks. Working with other regional art organizations, the Institute develops and presents programs including chamber music seminars, roundtable discussions, and poetry and photo contests, among others.
SHOP: Saunter down Lake Placid’s Main Street and prepare yourself for a singular shopping experience. At first glance, it may seem like Main Street, USA– from the local bakery to the old fashioned movie theatre to the public library. But if you look closer there is a discernible cosmopolitan flair as Lake Placid’s Main Street fuses the special character of the region with the goods, sundries and cuisines of the rest of the world.As you wander in and out of this retail menagerie you may notice that many of the shops’ owners can be found behind the counters. Strike up a conversation—and be sure to take a piece of the Adirondacks and your perfect day in Lake Placid home with you. Whether you’re looking for a fun souvenir, rustic Adirondack furniture, handmade keepsakes, high-tech gear or designer clothes, shopping in Lake Placid offers the full spectrum of unique gifts, necessities and must-have mementos. There are a number of excellent outlet stores , Gap and Van Heusen to name a couple.