Each Passover, masses of New Yorkers experience their annual exodus from the city for warmer climes. But countless others pour into town to spend sedarim with friends and relatives. Whether your visit comes during Pesach, before or after, with its perennial offerings–Broadway shows, gourmet kosher dining, day spa escapes and sight-seeing–the city that never sleeps, never fails to deliver.
At any time, Manhattan is a feast of the senses. For Jewish visitors seeking to experience the city’s highlights over a long weekend or a quick mid-week visit, we offer these recommendations. And like any great vacation, it’s a combination of entertainment, fine dining, touring and more that gives newcomers or old returnees a most authentic taste of what may be the world’s greatest city.
Even before you arrive, if you’ve got your eye on kid-friendly Broadway shows, it’s smart to book tickets as far in advance as possible. With everything from orchestra to mezzanine seats for evenings or matinees, prices vary greatly. Remaining performances of Disney’s fabulous show, “Beauty and the Beast,” run through July 28th. Prices range from $52 to $111 plus service charges each by phone through the Disney On Broadway Hotline, (212) 307-4747 or Ticketmaster at (800) 755-4000. Beauty’s magic pours from its fabulous score, amazing costumes, special effects and comic performances that leave both kids and adults laughing.
Another popular Disney hit is “Tarzan,” with a riveting score by Grammy Award-winner Phil Collins in his Broadway debut. Set in the midst of an African jungle in a creative forest-like set, the cast of primates gives new meaning to monkey-ing around. For Beauty, Tarzan and all other Disney shows on Broadway, visit www.disney.go.com/theatre for tickets, performance times, story lines, music and video samples and more.
The site www.theatermania.com offers complete listings of Broadway shows and ticketing information. You can also visit NYCVisit.com/theatertickets or stop by the Official Visitor Information Center at 810 Seventh Avenue at 53rd St., (212) 484-1222 for discount coupons, maps, brochures and other information. There are also nearly always same-day bargains, 25% to 50% off, available for select performances at TKTS Discount Booths in Times Square. Learn more at www.tdf.org.
Central Park itself offers some of the city’s most affordable quality entertainment and a myriad of sports. A wide assortment of free walking tours with trained volunteer guides take place year-round, rain or shine throughout the park, including the stunning Conservatory Garden. Each tour is approximately an hour to an hour and a half. No reservations are required. Custom tours are also available at $12 per person by reservation for individuals and groups. For more information, visit CentralParkNYC.org, (212) 360-2726. Through October, you can rent or bring your own model sail boat to the Conservatory Water, the model boat pond’s official title, on the east side between 72nd and 75th Streets. Author E.B. White set a boat race at the Conservatory Water in his much-loved children’s book Stuart Little.
Horse-drawn carriage rides are another excellent way to cruise the city at night or to view the Park in its emerging spring glory. Carriages are found along Central Park South (59th Street) between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, at the southern end of the park across from the Plaza Hotel or along Broadway in the heart of Times Square. Rides cost $34 for the first 20 minutes and $10 for each additional 15 minutes. For more information, call (212) 736-0680.
When it comes to gastronomy, New York is filled with fabulous options for fine kosher dining. We indulged at a classic French bistro in the heart of the theater district, Le Marais, just minutes on foot from the Disney performances. Comparing the menu before and during Passover on alternate nights, the food was consistent and delicious. The house recommendation, “La Surprise” butcher’s cut with a sweet sherry dipping sauce and sides ($32), left one diner exclaiming it was “the best steak of her life.” Although Le Marais is known for its red meat entrees, it also served up excellent chicken paillard ($22.50), pan seared salmon ($23) and even vegetarians options, including a rich French onion soup, a spinach-portobello salad and a side savory vegetable casserole packed with baby peppers, fennel, oyster mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes ($8 – $12 each). The classic warm chocolate cake ($11) stood out among the dessert offerings. The verdict? Definitely calorie-worthy.
The menu was naturally much more limited during the holiday. There were no french fries, just mashed potatoes. The only vegetable was spinach. The only sodas were Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. And the chocolate cake was, of course, not quite like the original. But that didn’t stop us from cleaning our plates. Le Marais is located at 150 W. 46th St. between 6th and 7th Avenue, (212) 869-0900, www.lemarais.net. It accommodates theater-goers with late hours, high quality cuts of meat and plenty of French charm and occasional celebrity-sightings. To wit: Dudu Fisher. More OU kosher restaurants in Manhattan are listed at www.oukosher.org.
For an excellent spa escape or to relax before or after a night out, visit Israeli-owned Dorit Baxter’s New York Day Spa at 47 West 57 Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, (212) 371-4542 and (800) 836-4542, www.newyorkdayspa.com. The extensive menu includes massages, facials, mani/pedis, mud wraps, Dead Sea salt scrubs and more.
As the band U2 sings about New York – “In the stillness of the evening/ When the sun has had its day/ I heard your voice whispering/ Come away now.”
LISA ALCALAY KLUG is a widely published freelance writer, photographer, editor and writing coach. A former staff writer for the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times, her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Jerusalem Post, Forbes.com, Shape, Self, Men’s Fitness and many other publications in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. To learn more visit www.lisaklug.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.