The New York Red Bulls will visit San José, Costa Rica, to play Club Deportivo Olimpia in the 1st Leg of a Round of 16 match of the CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday, February 22. Why they are going to Costa Rica when Olimpia are in Honduras, and have a 35,000-seat stadium, I don't know. But the Red Bulls will host Olimpia for the 2nd Leg on Wednesday, March 1.
The winner will advance to a Quarterfinal, against the survivor of a Quarterfinal between another Honduran team, FC Motagua, and Mexican team Club Tijuana, a.k.a. Xolos (The Hounds). Those matches will be held on the weeks starting March 6 and 13. The Semifinals will be played on the weeks of April 3 and 10. The Final will be held over 2 legs, on April 17 and 24.
The Red Bulls' Major League Soccer regular season begins on Saturday, March 10, at home at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, against the Portland Timbers.
Before You Go. The weather in New York and New Jersey is pretty much the same as for the entire Northeastern U.S. It could be chilly for the March and April games, but in May, it will get warmer. By June, you'll wonder what the hell is wrong with the MLS establishment, playing a Summer schedule, where the wearing of that classic soccer accoutrement, the scarf, is insane. By October, the last full month of the regular season, it will start getting cooler.
If you're going for more than just the game, and also seeing New York City, the easier hotels to get into, both for cost and availability, may be in the Outer Boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island) or New Jersey.
New York and New Jersey are in the Eastern Time Zone, so if you also live there, if your team is NYCFC, Philadelphia, D.C., New England, Montreal, Toronto, Orlando, Columbus or Atlanta, the times will be the same; in the Central Time Zone, Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas City, Dallas or Houston, 1 hour ahead; Mountain Time, Colorado or Salt Lake, 2 ahead; Pacific Time, either of the Los Angeles teams, San Jose, Portland, Seattle or Vancouver, 3 ahead.
Tickets. The official seating capacity of Red Bull Arena is 25,000 seats even. In 2016, the Red Bulls averaged 21,175 fans per home game. Although that represented an increase of about 500 over 2016, and that was about 1,000 over 2015, and ranked 8th out of 22 MLS teams in average, that's just 84.7 percent of capacity.
"Derbies," games against NYCFC, Philly, DC and New England, will naturally have greater demand than for games against Midwestern, Western, or Canadian teams. And, seeing as how the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 is, technically, the season opener, and a tournament that isn't particularly well-advertised, you can probably get any seat for which you're willing to spend.
For MLS regular-season games: In the Lower Bowl, the 100 sections, midfield seats are $92. Corner flag seats are $45. Seats in the North Ward end zone are $45. Seats in Sections 101, 102 and 133 in the South Ward are supporters' sections, complete with standing, singing and foul language permitted, and are $25.
In the Upper Level, the 200 sections, midfield seats are $45, corner flag seats are $33, and end zone seats are $18. These end zone seats include Section 220, where the visiting team's fans are placed.
A word of warning: If you buy tickets online or over the phone, the Red Bulls' ticket department will, at many a later date, be very aggressive in trying to get you to buy more. They will e-mail you. They will call you on the phone. They will repeat this process. Over and over again. They are relentless. They are polite about it, but they will not give up.
Getting There. Most likely, you're flying. Most likely, you'll be flying into Newark Liberty International Airport. If your hotel is in New York City, a taxi will cost $52 -- each way. You're better off taking the monorail to New Jersey Transit's Northeast Corridor rail line. From there, it's 7 minutes and $8.50 to Newark's Penn(sylvania) Station; half an hour and $13 to New York's Penn Station.
If you want to drive:
* From Manhattan: Take the Lincoln Tunnel to N.J. Route 3 West, to the New Jersey Turnpike South to Exit 15W. Take Interstate 280 West, to I-280's Exit 16. Take the ramp to Harrison Avenue. Turn left, then right on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. South, going under the underpasses for I-280 and the railroad. Red Bull Arena will be on your left. This should take about half an hour.
Note: Do not take U.S. Routes 1 & 9, the Pulaski Skyway. The New Jersey Department of Transportation said that it would take until this Spring to finally finish the construction work on the Skyway that began 4 years earlier. Don't count on it.
* From The Bronx and points Upstate: Take the George Washington Bridge to Interstate 95 South, until it becomes the Turnpike, and then follow the directions from Manhattan.
* From Queens and northern Long Island: Take the Grand Central Parkway over the Triborough/Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, to the Harlem River Drive, to the George Washington Bridge, and then follow the directions from The Bronx.
* From Staten Island: Take any route that gets you to Interstate 278 West, the Staten Island Expressway, and across the Goethals Bridge. Take the Turnpike North to Exit 15E, to I-280 West, and then follow the directions from Manhattan.
* From Brooklyn and southern Long Island: Take the Belt Parkway to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and then follow the directions from Staten Island.
* From Bergen County, New Jersey: Take N.J. Route 17 South to the Turnpike, and then follow the directions from Manhattan.
* From anywhere else in North Jersey: Take any route that gets you to I-280 East, including the Garden State Parkway, whose Exit 145 will get you to it. Then take I-280's Exit 16, and then follow the directions from Manhattan.
* From Central Jersey: Same directions as from North Jersey, except you'll be reaching the Parkway and/or I-280 from the south instead of the north.
* From Philadelphia: Take the Betsy Ross Bridge to N.J. Route 90, to N.J. Route 73 South, to the New Jersey Turnpike North, to Exit 15E, to Interstate 280 West, and then follow the directions from Manhattan. This should take about 2 hours.
* From Washington, D.C.: Take Interstate 95 North to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, to the start of the New Jersey Turnpike, and then follow the directions from Philadelphia. About 4 hours.
* From New England: Take any road that gets you to I-95 South, cross the George Washington Bridge, and take the Turnpike South to Exit 15W, then follow the directions from I-280. Depending on where in New England you leave from, it should take anywhere from 2 hours (Western Connecticut) to 8 hours (the population centers of Maine). If from Boston, figure on around 5 hours.
* From Montreal: Take Autoroute 15 South over the border, where it becomes Interstate 87, first as the Adirondack Northway, then as the New York State Thruway. Take that to the Garden State Parkway, to Exit 145 to I-280. About 8 hours.
* From Toronto: Take the Queen Elizabeth Way to Niagara Falls, cross the border, take Interstate 190 to Interstate 90/New York State Thruway. At Syracuse, switch to Interstate 81 South. At Scranton, switch to Interstate 380 South, then Interstate 80 East. I-280 will split off from I-80. About 10 hours.
* From Columbus: Take Interstate 70 East until it merges with Interstate 76 as the Pennsylvania Turnpike. At Harrisburg, switch to Interstate 78 East, to the Garden State Parkway, to I-280. About 10 hours.
* From Atlanta: Take Interstate 85 North until it merges with I-95 at Petersburg, Virginia, and then follow the directions from Washington. About 14 hours.
* From Chicago: Take Interstate 90 East until it merges with I-80, then stick with I-80 until I-280. About 18 hours.
* From Kansas City: Take I-70 East across Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and then follow the directions from Columbus. About 22 hours.
* From Orlando: Take Interstate 4 East to I-95, and then follow the directions from D.C. About 24 hours.
* From Minnesota: Take Interstate 94 East until it merges with I-90, and then follow the directions from Chicago. About 24 hours.
* From Houston: Take Interstate 10 East to Mobile, Interstate 65 North to Montgomery, Interstate 85 North to merge with I-95 in Virginia, and then follow the directions from D.C. At least 36 hours.
* From Dallas: Take Interstate 30 to Little Rock, Interstate 40 across Arkansas and Tennessee to I-81, then take I-81 North to Harrisburg to I-78 East, and then follow the directions from Columbus. At least 36 hours.
From here on out, at least 2 full days
* From Colorado: Take I-70 to Kansas City, and then follow the directions from there.
* From Salt Lake City: Take I-80 all the way to I-280, and then follow the directions from there.
* From Los Angeles: Take I-10 East to Interstate 15 North to I-70 in Utah, and then follow the directions from Denver.
* From San Jose: Take Interstate 680 North to I-80, and then follow the directions from Salt Lake City.
* From Portland: Take Interstate 84 East into Utah to I-80, and then follow the directions from Salt Lake City.
* From Seattle: Take I-90 to Chicago, and follow the directions from there.
* From Vancouver: Take B.C. Route 99 over the border, where it becomes Interstate 5 South, to Seattle, and follow the directions from there.
Once In the City. The City of New York, which is within the State of New York, has an estimated population of 8.5 million -- making it roughly the same size as London. The entire Tri-State Area (New York, Northern and Central New Jersey, and the southwestern corner of Connecticut) has about 23.7 million. Only about 16,000 live in the Red Bulls's Town of Harrison, though.
New York City was founded by the Dutch in 1624, as New Amsterdam, in the colony of New Netherland. On September 8, 1664, the English took it from the Dutch without firing a shot. It was named after the brother of King Charles II, the Duke of York -- later King James II.
When the British occupied Manhattan after driving George Washington's Continental Army out in 1776, they burned it, and this is why there are very few remaining pre-19th Century buildings anywhere in the City (unlike such other Revolutionary-era cities as Boston and Philadelphia). After the British went home, the City's port, and location between two rivers, made it the richest in the Western Hemisphere, and was a big reason why America became a world power over the next 200 years.
New York City is divided into 5 Boroughs: Manhattan (the central island), The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The City is also part of "the New York Metropolitan Area" or "the New York Tri-State Area," which includes parts of New York State not in the City (such as Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk Counties; and the Lower Hudson Valley, such as Westchester County) and the States of New Jersey and Connecticut.
Aside from your time at the games, most of your time in the City will be spent in Manhattan. North of 14th Street, streets will be a bit easier to navigate, as they will follow the 1811 grid plan. South of 14th Street, you may end up as confused as a foreigner would be in London, as this oldest part of the City doesn't always pay attention to the grid. If you're a comic book fan, there's a running gag that Metropolis, hometown of the optimistic superhero Superman, is Manhattan north of 14th Street on a beautiful spring day; while Gotham City, hometown of the brooding crimefighter Batman, is Manhattan south of 14th street, a few minutes after midnight, on a cold rainy day in November.
In the grid, Manhattan has (almost exclusively) numbered streets running (more or less) east-west, and (mostly) numbered avenues running (more or less) north-south. The numbered streets go up to 264th Street in The Bronx. Brooklyn and Queens also have numbered streets and numbered avenues, but they're a lot more confusing; when someone in New York says, "34th Street" or "5th Avenue," 95 percent of the time, they'll mean the one in Manhattan.
"Lower Manhattan" or "Downtown" is pretty much everything south of 14th Street, including Houston Street (pronounced HOW-stin, not HYOO-stin like the Texas city), which is, effectively, Zero Street. "Uptown" is pretty much everything in Manhattan north of 59th Street, from the southern edge of Central Park upward. "Midtown" is between 14th and 59th, and is where, aside from the games, most of the touristy stuff is.
The delineator between the East Side and the West Side is Broadway from 8th Street on down, and 5th Avenue from 8th Street on up.
6th Avenue is also known as Avenue of the Americas, and 7th as Fashion Avenue due to its going through the Garment District. 6th and 7th Avenues stop at 59th Street, where Central Park begins, bordered by 5th and 8th Avenues, and 59th and 110th Streets. West of Central Park, 8th Avenue becomes Central Park West, 9th Avenue becomes Columbus Avenue, 10th Avenue becomes Amsterdam Avenue, and 11th Avenue becomes West End Avenue.
North of Central Park, in Harlem, America's most famous black neighborhood, 6th Avenue resumes as Lenox Avenue, but all 3 are also named for civil rights leaders: 6th/Lenox is Malcolm X Blvd., 7th is Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., and 8th is Frederick Douglass Blvd.
The Subway system is going to sound complicated. I won't go into the difference between the IRT, the BMT and the IND.
There are lettered lines, and there are numbered lines. The 1, 2 and 3 trains have red logos, and go under 7th Avenue until Times Square (42nd Street), then go under Broadway. The N, Q and R trains have yellow logos, and they're the reverse, going up Broadway until Times Square, and then under 7th Avenue, before curving and heading Crosstown to Queens. The A, C and E trains have blue logos, and go under 8th Avenue, although the E curves at 53rd Street and heads to Queens. The B, D and F trains have orange logos, and go under 6th Avenue, until the F curves at 53rd Street and joins the E.
The 4, 5 and 6 trains have green logos, and go under Lafayette Street, then Park Avenue, then Lexington Avenue. Until the much-discussed, finally under-construction first phase of the 2nd Avenue line opens (they say it will be at the end of 2016), this will be the only north-south line on the East Side. The 7 has a purple logo, and runs under 42nd Street to Queens, where, due to its going through several ethnic neighborhoods in that Borough, is known as the International Express (but only runs express trains during rush hours). And the L has a gray logo, and runs under 14th Street to Brooklyn.
Note that some trains are express (2, 3, 4, 5, A, D and Q, only making the most-used stops), while the others are local (making all stops). And don't worry about the G, J, M and S trains, because, most likely, you won't need them. (The G is the only line on the entire system that does not go through Manhattan at all.)
The Subway fare is $2.75. Free transfers can be made from train to bus, or vice versa. However, there's a $1.00 fee for every new MetroCard.
The sales tax in New York City is 8.875 percent. In New Jersey, it's 7 percent.
Since the Red Bulls play in New Jersey rather than in New York City: ZIP Codes in North Jersey tend to begin with the digits 07, including 071 for Newark and environs, 072 for Elizabeth, 073 for Jersey City, and 075 for Paterson. Central and South Jersey got ZIP Codes starting with the digits 08, including 084 for Atlantic City, 086 and 086 for Trenton, and 089 for New Brunswick and environs.
Interstates 278 and 287 serve as freeway "beltways" for New York, and for Newark.
New Jersey's original Area Code was 201. 609 was split off in 1958, 908 in 1991, 732 in 1997, and 856 in 1999. Now, they serve as follows: 201, with 551 overlaid in 2001, serves only Bergen and Hudson Counties (including the Meadowlands, and thus MetLife Stadium, and Harrison, and thus Red Bull Arena); 609 serves Mercer County (including the capital of Trenton and Princeton University) and the Southern Shore region (including Atlantic City); 732, with 848 overlaid, much of Central Jersey (including Rutgers University) and the Northern Shore region; 856, the Delaware River region that serves as suburbs of Philadelphia; 908, the Counties of Union, northern Somerset, Morris and Warren; and 973, with 862 overlaid, the Counties of Essex (including Newark, and thus the Prudential Center) and Passaic.
The easiest is to take any means of getting to Penn Station in Newark. From Penn Station in New York, the trip is scheduled (don't laugh) to take 18 minutes, and costs $10.50 round-trip.
A double-decker New Jersey Transit train
But it is old (opened in 1911), and a terrible bottleneck that was designed to serve a town whose population has remained around 14,000 for as long as I can remember, and not to serve a 25,000-seat sports stadium. It may take you longer to get from the platform to the street than from Newark to Harrison -- and even longer on the way back. A new station is under construction, but good luck on seeing it open anytime this season.
1911 station serving 2018 crowds
Another way is to take the New York Subway's A, C or E train to the World Trade Center, and then switch to the PATH system, at a new transit pavilion that opened in 2016. WTC to Harrison takes 20 minutes.
The last way is to take PATH directly from its 33rd Street terminal at Herald Square (33rd, 6th Avenue & Broadway), a block east of Penn Station, transfer at Journal Square in Jersey City, and take a 2nd train to Harrison. Because PATH reroutes all weekend trains (except the Newark-World Trade Center line) through Hoboken Terminal, doing it this way on a Saturday or a Sunday takes an hour. On a weekday, when you'd only have to change at Journal Square, it should take about 35 minutes.
The PATH fare is $2.75, just like the Subway's. If you're transferring from the Subway to PATH, the cards from one can be used on the other, but it will be separate fares, not a free transfer, so it's $5.50 each way.
There is another way, and if you prefer the English pubgoing experience, it may be more to your liking. Once you arrive at Newark's Penn Station, you can walk out the east entrance onto Market Street. This is the Ironbound section of Newark, so named because it's ringed by railroads and the Passaic River. It is mainly a Portuguese neighborhood, but also with Brazilians due to the common language. It's got a bit of an old-country touch (Iberia Restaurant was built to look like a castle), but if you're friendly, the people will gladly return that.
A number of bars (we usually don't call them "pubs") on Market Street cater to Red Bulls fans, including Bello's Pub (378), Titanic Bar (486) and Catas (538). (R.I.P. El Pastor, 570.) Lots of beer, lots of sangria, lots of glorious meat. (The Portuguese and the Brazilians are both big on barbecue.) The area also has lots of seafood restaurants and bakeries. It's a special place: It was these people that turned me on to the game after a youth of thinking soccer was "boring" and that people who said, "You don't understand the nuances" were full of shit. They showed me how wrong I was. They showed me just how exciting the game can be.
It's 9 blocks down Market Street from Penn Station to Jackson Street. The walk across the Jackson Street Bridge, over the Passaic River, is a Red Bull fans' sacrament. This shouldn't be a problem for you, unless you're really afraid of heights.
Red Bulls ultras marching over the bridge.
Flares are not allowed in the stadium.
Once over the Bridge, you will enter the city of Harrison, and the Arena will be on your right. Just follow the crowd. The entire walk from Penn Station down Market, over the Bridge, and into the Arena is a little over 1 mile. It should take about 20 minutes if you don't stop at any of the bars (ha ha).
Red Bull Arena, and its home team, are, like their namesakes in Salzburg, Austria and Leipzig, Germany, named for the Salzburg-based beverage company. From their founding in 1996 until 2005, the New York club was named the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, and the nickname "Metro" still holds, as many fans don't like the corporate takeover. (The Austrian club had been known as SV Austria Salzburg, while RB Leipzig was founded with the name in 2009.)
The official address of Red Bull Arena is 600 Cape May Street, about 12 miles from Midtown Manhattan, 1 mile from downtown Newark, and 150 miles from Cape May. (No, I don't know why the street has that name.) If you're driving in, parking is $10, and tailgating is not permitted.
There really isn't a bad seat in the house, although if you're in the lower level in the south end zone, the fans will set off smoke as the players are introduced, and again after every goal. I once got a nasty headache from this -- making me perhaps the only person ever to be unhappy that Thierry Henry had scored a hat trick for his team. (In fact, I only saw the first 2 goals. He scored the 3rd in stoppage time, while I was in the first aid station, drinking the water to swallow the Tylenol.)
The view from the South Ward
The Arena has hosted high school matches between nearby soccer powers Harrison and Kearny, and the Big East Conference Tournament.
It's hosted 4 matches by the U.S. men's national team: A 2011 loss to Ecuador, a 2014 win over Turkey, and losses to Costa Rica in 2015 and 2017, the latter a major reason why the U.S. did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
It's hosted 4 matches by the U.S. women's team, a 2011 win over Mexico, and a 2013 win and a 2015 draw vs. South Korea, and a 2017 loss to England in the She Believes Cup. The 2018 She Believes Cup will feature a doubleheader there: U.S. vs. France, and England vs. Germany.
UPDATE: It was held on March 4, and both games ended in draws: The U.S. and France 1-1, and England and Germany 2-2.
Other national teams to have played there include Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Peru, Serbia, and Trinidad & Tobago.
Club teams that have played there include Brazil's Santos (who played the Arena's opening game, losing 3-1 to the Red Bulls on March 20, 2010); English clubs Manchester United (who beat an MLS team in the 2011 MLS All-Star Game), Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur; Lisbon, Portugal clubs Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal (a.k.a. Sporting Lisbon); French clubs Paris Saint-Germain, Olympique Lyonnais and Montpellier; German club Bayern Munich; Italian clubs Juventus of Turin, Fiorentina of Florence, Internazionale of Milan and AS Roma of Rome; Mexican clubs America and Guadalajara (a.k.a. Chivas); Argentine club Estudiantes de La Plata; El Salvadoran clubs FAS and Alianza; Guatemalan club Antigua GFC; and Colombian club Atlético Nacional.
The Arena has also hosted rugby, including the Churchill Cup, shortly after it opened in 2010. A year ago, it hosted a rugby match between London clubs, in which Saracens defeated London Irish (who, despite their name, actually play in Reading, in Berkshire), 26-16. Only once has the Arena ever hosted a concert, by Dispatch on June 18, 2011.
Food. The Arena has concession stands on its north, east and south side concourses, with the west side taken up mostly by the Bullshop and club seating. They serve Nathan's food products, from the Coney Island-originating chain famous for its hot dogs. I'm not crazy about Nathan's hot dogs, but try the crinkle-cut French fries, they're fantastic. Most of the good stands, with the more varied items, such as those catering to local communities like the Portuguese and the Brazilians, are on the east side.
Team History Displays. When the team was founded, in the leadup to MLS' kickoff season of 1996, attempts were made to buy the rights to the name of the great franchise of the North American Soccer League, the New York Cosmos, but they failed. Had they succeeded, they could have laid a claim, as does the team founded in 2010 that actually does, to the 5 NASL titles that the old Cosmos won: 1972, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1982.
So, in honor of the New York Metropolitan Area, the team was named the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. And, as I said, in 2006, Austrian soft drink maker Red Bull bought the team, and changed the name, a decision which remains unpopular, even though they've now been the Red Bulls longer than they were the MetroStars: 12 seasons to 10.
Despite 22 seasons of history, the MetroStars/Red Bulls haven't won much. They've regularly won, and currently hold, the Atlantic Cup, reflective of the annual winner of their rivalry with D.C. United. The winner is decided by aggregate goals, and Metro won it last season, 7-4. DC leads in overall goals, 149-112; in overall wins, 43-32 with 15 draws; and in Cups won, 13-9.
Luis Robles and Michael Amir Murillo
with the 2017 Atlantic Cup
There is, as yet, no trophy for the overall winners between the Red Bulls and their other rivals, NYCFC, Philly U, DCU and the Revs.
The Red Bulls also won the Emirates Cup on a preseason visit to London to play Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 -- as close as Arsenal are likely to get to hosting a testimonial for the man who starred for both clubs, Thierry Henry.
Thierry Henry holding the 2011 Emirates Cup
with his teammates and Emirates Airways flight attendants
But the only trophies that really count in MLS are the MLS Cup, the league playoff championship; the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, America's answer to the FA Cup; and the Supporters' Shield, the regular-season championship. The Red Bulls have won the Supporters' Shield in 2013 and 2015. There are banners for them above the East Stand. But they've never won the MLS Cup, only making 1 Final, losing to Columbus in 2008. They've never won the Open Cup, reaching only 2 Finals, losing to Chicago in 2003 and to Kansas City last year.
An adjacent banner honors the Red Bulls' all-time starting XI, named following their 2010 move from Giants Stadium to Red Bull Arena. Goalkeeper: North Brunswick, New Jersey native Tim Howard. Defenders: Jeff Parke, Eddie Pope, and Petke, who was also the manager who won them the 2013 Supporters' Shield. Midfielders: Ramos, Youri Djorkaeff, Amado Guevara, and Dave van den Bergh. Forwards: Clint Mathis, Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel. Notably not on that list is German superstar Lothar Matthäus, who played the 2000 season for the MetroStars, was a tremendous flop due to injury and attitude, and retired as a player thereafter.
Stuff. The Bullshop can be accessed from the West Stand during the game, and the outside after the game and on non-game days. Various Red Bull-related items can be purchased there.
There are, as yet, no official team videos. The closest any film comes is the documentary Thierry Henry: 1 on 1, which tells of his 2010 and 2011 season with the Red Bulls. The closest we come to having a good book about the team is The Road to Reviving Professional Soccer in New York City, written by Ian Thomson and published just before the Arena opened. Obviously, it couldn't take into account Henry's impending arrival, the international teams and European clubs coming to the Arena, and the expansion to allow NYCFC into MLS.
Until then, you may have to settle for Phil West's fantastic 20th Anniversary piece The United States of Soccer: MLS and the Rise of American Soccer Fandom.
During the Game. With the dangers of European and Latin American soccer in mind, the Red Bulls organization and the local police will not put up with violence. You will not have to fear for your safety.
Opposing fan groups usually make arrangements to have police escorts into the Arena and into their assigned section in the northeast corner of the upper deck. Bottles, cans, fireworks, flares, smoke bombs and weapons are not permitted. Vuvuzelas, the bane of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, are also banned. Musical instruments are also banned, except for the supporters' sections.
The Red Bull ultras -- the Empire Supporters' Club, the Garden State Ultras, the Viking Army and others -- sit in the South stand, a.k.a. the South Ward. (Newark calls its political divisions "wards," and this carried over into the Arena, even though it's not in Newark.)
The Viking Army began in 2010, ignoring the truth that the actual Vikings did not wear horned helmets. (Why wear something that your opponents can easily grab?) I had previously presumed that they took up the name in honor of the manager that the Red Bulls had hired for that season, Sweden native Hans Backe. But after he was fired after the 2012 season, they kept it going, so, clearly, it was not about him.
These groups are ultras, not hooligans: They will wear costumes, play instruments, chant, sing, and use a lot of profane and even sick humor -- but they will never initiate violence. If necessary, they will defend themselves, and many of them are large, solidly-built individuals, and New York and New Jersey does come with a tough reputation. But if you don't start anything, neither will they.
The Red Bulls do not have an official mascot, although a fan named John Russ wears a team jersey, paints his bald head red, wears plastic bull horns, and a bull-style nose ring. He calls himself Johnny Toro (Spanish for "bull"). He can be found in the South Ward.
Some fans refuse the corporatization of the club: They still wear MetroStars jerseys from the 1996-2005 period, and refer to the club by the original nickname "Metro." Some will go so far as to never drink Red Bull. (I won't drink it -- not because I'm against corporatization of sports, although I am, but because I just don't think the stuff tastes good.)
The Ultras open the game with a version of Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him":
We love ya, we love ya, we love ya
and where you go we follow, we follow, we follow
'cause we support the Red Bulls, the Red Bulls, the Red Bulls
and that's the way we like it, we like it, we like it
Oh whoa whoa, whoa...
Some of their songs do cross the line of appropriateness, however. The 2nd half, in which the opposing team defends the south goal, leads to songs about how the ultras think the goalie "sucks" and is a "pedophile." (The former may be true for some goalies; the latter is probably untrue for all of them.)
Even after the mass shootings of the last few years, they include this one, from British punk band Cock Sparrer:
Take 'em all!
Take 'em all!
Line 'em up against a wall and shoot 'em!
Short and tall!
Watch 'em fall!
Come on, boys, take them all!
Take them all!
Watch them fall!
Take them all!
Watch them fall!
The South Ward groups were also among the leading practitioners of what's come to be called "YSA." When the visiting team goalie was mere feet away from them, getting ready for a goal kick, the fans would yell, "Ahhhhhhhh... " and when the ball was finally kicked, yell, "You suck, asshole!"
Caring more about bringing families in than the hardcore support that made its existence even possible, the league cracked down, and Red Bulls management offered the groups a bribe: If they avoided it for 5 straight entire home games, they would get $4,000.
The Empire Supporters Club originally tried to get their members to insult Commissioner Don Garber by chanting, "You suck, Garber!" (which, as you may be aware, or could at least guess, he does), but not enough of them were willing to do that. So they accepted the bribe, and decided to just continue through the goal kicks with whatever song they were singing at the time, instead of stopping said song to do the YSA chant. So did the Viking Army.
The Garden State Ultras refused, even though they didn't participate in the chant in the first place, unfurling a banner reading, "NOT FOR SALE." One member said, "We don't do the chant, but we don't want money to be told not to do something." As a result, club management barred the GSU from taking banners to the game. They got the message, and dropped their protest. Red Bull Arena is now a YSA-free zone.
Most New York Tri-State Area teams have another Area team as their arch-rivals, as with the Islanders and the Devils vs. the Rangers. (Yankees vs. Mets, Giants vs. Jets and Knicks vs. Nets, these are not real rivalries.)
But New York City F.C. -- despite their foolhardy attempt to start a hooligan ruck outside Bello's in the Summer of 2015 -- is not yet there. Their fans hate the Red Bulls more than anyone else, but the RBNY fans think of them as a mere annoyance, inviting their Manchester City-inspired blue shirts to call them the Smurfs, and using the anti-Chelsea song "You Ain't Go No History."
Some Area teams have a Philadelphia team as their rivals: The Mets vs. the Phillies, the Giants vs. the Eagles, the Devils (at least secondarily) vs. the Flyers, and (to an extent) the Nets vs. the 76ers. But the Philadelphia Union are not the Red Bulls' rivals. Their fans hate the Red Bulls more than anyone else, but the Union are an afterthought in Harrison, with the brief exception of this chant: "New York's chillin'! Jersey's chillin'! What more can I say? Fuck Philly!"
And some Area teams have a Boston (or at least New England) team as their rivals: The Yankees vs. the Red Sox, the Jets vs. the Patriots, the Knicks vs. the Celtics, and (at least secondarily) Rutgers vs. UConn and the Rangers vs. the Bruins. But the New England Revolution are not the Red Bulls' rivals. Their fans hate the Red Bulls more than anyone else, but aside from a few Yankee Fans doing the "Boston sucks!" chant, the Revs are barely on Metro fans' radar.
No, the true rivalry is with D.C. United. While Mets vs. Nationals is only a recent rivalry, Giants vs. Redskins hasn't mattered since the early Nineties, St. John's vs. Georgetown hasn't mattered sine the mid-Eighties, Knicks vs. Wizards hasn't mattered since the Wizards were the Bullets in the late Seventies, and the Capitals don't really have a rivalry with any Area team, the "Atlantic Cup" rivalry was forged at the league's beginning, when DCU captured 3 of the 1st 4 MLS Cups, and have since won a 4th.
Metro fans call them "The D.C. Scum." D.C. fans call us "The Pink Cows," and always remind us that the MLS Cup count is still 4-0 in their favor - although their last one is fading into the distance: As with Arsenal, D.C. last won their league in 2004.
After the Game. Stadium security and the local police take no chances on allowing English-style, European-style or South American-style fan violence. The escort out given to opposing fans is equal to the one going in, and no tolerance for fan violence, in either direction, is given. You will be safe.
Some fans head back across the Jackson Street Bridge for the Ironbound bars, others in the other direction toward downtown Harrison and Kearny. Most, though, head out, either by car or the PATH train.
If your visit to New York will include a European soccer matchday, you are probably in luck: The City leads the nation in, among so many other things, available soccer pubs.
Alas, the place that set the standard is gone. Nevada Smith's (or just "Nevada's" to those of us who went there), at 74 3rd between 11th and 12th, was New York's 1st great soccer bar, until a dispute with management in 2011 led bartender Jack Keane to leave and found the Football Factory.
For a while, they hung on, until their building was condemned as unsafe. They moved around the corner to Webster Hall, a historic theater at 125 East 11th Street, which has since kept the bar open for Premiership matches. Nevada's then moved into a new building at 100 3rd Avenue, a block north of their original location, but had to move again. To any of these 3 locations, you would have taken the L Train to 3rd Avenue.
Finally, they rented space at Public House, in the former O'Casey's, at 140 East 41st Street, off Lexington Avenue, a block south of the Chrysler Building. Finally, they had to give up the ghost, although Public House (the term from which the word "pub" comes) still shows Premiership matches. 4, 5, 6 or 7 Train to Grand Central.
At any rate, you can almost certainly find your favorite team at one of these places:
* The Football Factory at Legends: 6 West 33rd Street at 5th Avenue, across from the Empire State Building. D Train to 34th Street-Herald Square. This place is home to more supporters' clubs than any other, and its reputation is such that regulars know that there is not to be any trouble.
Its clubs include: From England, Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle United, their North-East rivals Sunderland, both Birmingham clubs (Aston Villa and Birmingham City), both Sheffield clubs (United and Wednesday), Fulham, Southampton, Leicester City, Watford, AFC Bournemouth, Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Bristol City, Preston North End and Middlesbrough; Welsh clubs Cardiff City and Swansea City; French clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais; German clubs Hamburger SV, Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt; Italian clubs Juventus, AC Milan, Napoli and Bologna; Brazilian clubs Fluminense and São Paulo; and Argentine club River Plate.
* Smithfield Hall: Several clubs meet here, at 138 West 25th Street at 7th Avenue. 1 Train to 23rd. These clubs include London's West Ham United and Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest, Spanish biggies Barcelona and Valencia, German giants Bayern Munich, French club Olympique de Marseille, Italian club Internazionale, and Brazilian club Grêmio.
Bayern fans also pack Paulaner, 265 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave).
* Mulligan's On First: This is the premier soccer bar in New Jersey, at 159 1st Street, between Garden and Bloomfield Streets, in Hoboken, Hudson County. I know the owner, Paul Dawson, a Chelsea fan from Dublin, and he does whatever he can to make it as authentic as possible. He favors Chelsea, and their fans can load the place up. Knowing his local, largely Irish-American clientele, there's also lots of Celtic memorabilia. But fans of all clubs are welcome there, as long as they don't abuse fans of other clubs. PATH train to Hoboken, then 2 blocks north on River Street, then 4 blocks west on 1st Street.
Chelsea fans also congregate at The Central Bar, 109 East 9th Street at 3rd Avenue (6 Train to Astor Place).
* Manchester United: A club with universal appeal (read: "Bandwagon followers"), Man U fans are everywhere. Like rats, and about as welcome. In addition to The Football Factory, they are welcomed at Baker Street Pub at 1152 1st Avenue at 63rd Street (4, 5 or 6 Train to 59th), Maggie Reilly's at 340 West 29th at 9th (A Train to 34th-Penn Station), and Bar 43 & Grill at 43-06 43rd Street in Queens (7 Ttrain to 40th Street).
* Liverpool: The Mersey Reds may have more meeting places than anyone in the game. The 11th Street Bar, 510 East 11th Street at Avenue A was the original, but it's small and fills up quickly. L Train to 1st Avenue.
Carragher's Pub and Restaurant is owned by, yes, Liverpool legend Jamie. 228 West 39th Street at 7th Avenue. A Train to 42nd. The Irish American Pub, at 17 John Street at Nassau Street, recently opened its "Boot Room" to Kopites. 4 or 5 Train to Fulton Street. The Grafton (formerly Lunasa) is at 126 1st Avenue at 8th Street/St. Mark's Place. 6 Train to Astor Place. The East End Bar & Grill is on the Upper East Side at 1664 1st Avenue at 87th Street. Q Train (the new 2nd Avenue Subway) to 86th Street. Be warned: This is also an NYCFC "partner pub."
In Brooklyn, there's the Monro Pub in Park Slope. 481 5th Avenue. R Train to 9th Street. In Queens, there's the Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria, at 47-22 30th Avenue. R Train to 46th Street. The Starting Gate was a good Liverpool pub, but it's currently closed for renovations. 59-10 Woodside Avenue. 7 Train to 61st Street-Woodside.
* Arsenal: The new home of New York Gooners is Barleycorn, at 23 Park Place off Church Street, a block from City Hall. A or C Train to Chambers Street, or 2 or 3 Train to Park Place.
Previously, 14th Street, east of Union Square, was the place to be -- "Gooner Alley," I called it. Arsenal fans' 1st place was the Blind Pig at 233 East 14th, off 2nd Avenue, but it became a victim of its own success, filling up by 45 minutes before kickoff. Some fans went to O'Hanlon's, a block away at 349, off 1st. The Winslow, at 243, also took spillover. These bars will still show Arsenal matches. L Train to 3rd or 1st Avenue.
There are also 2 Arsenal bars in Brooklyn: Woodwork (also a Barcelona bar), at 583 Vanderbilt Avenue, C Train to Clinton-Washington Avenues; and the appropriately-named Highbury Pub, 1002 Cortelyou Road, Q Train to Cortelyou.
* Manchester City: Citizens meet at The Mad Hatter Pub, 360 3rd Avenue at 26th Street. 6 Train to 28th.
* Everton: The Blue side of Merseyside meets at Mr. Dennehy's, 63 Carmine Street in the West Village. 1 Train to Houston Street.
UPDATE: Due to rising rents, Mr. Dennehy's closed on March 31, 2018. The family that runs it hopes to open in a new space nearby. Until then, Evertonians meet at Turnmill, 119 E. 27th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues. 6 Train to 28th Street.
* Tottenham Hotspur: Flannery's, at 205 West 14th at 7th, is the latest in a series of Spurs bars, after they got kicked out of Floyd in Brooklyn and Kelly's on the Lower East Side, and O'Casey's in Midtown closed. 1 Train to 14th.
"Spuds" also meet at Perdition (perhaps appropriately named) at 692 10th Avenue at 49th Street, C Train to 50th Street; and in Brooklyn's Park Slope at the Black Horse Pub, 568 5th Avenue at 16th Street. R Train to Prospect Avenue.
* Stoke City: Potters fans meet at Fitzgerald's Pub, 336 3rd Avenue at 25th Street. 6 Train to 23rd.
* Norwich City: The New York Canaries meet at George Keeley, 485 Amsterdam (9th) Avenue at 83rd Street. 1, 2 or 3 Train to 86th.
* Real Madrid: Madridistas meet at The Playwright Irish Pub, 27 West 35th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues.
* Atlético Madrid: Atleti fans meet at The Long Hall, 58 East 34th Street, between Madison & Park Avenues, a short walk from Legends and their longtime tormentors at The Playwright. The Long Hall, named for the Long Room in the library at Trinity College in Dublin, and is also an Irish-themed restaurant and gift shop.
For both Madrid clubs: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R or W Train to 34th Street-Herald Square.
* Celtic: With the Glasgow club's ties to Ireland, there are lots of Irish-themed bars that show their games, but due to cable network demands, they are required to charge an admission fee, usually $5.00 but sometimes more.
I mentioned Mulligan's in Hoboken. Jack Demsey's (no P) is just a few doors down from the Football Factory, at 36 West 33rd. D Train to 34th-Herald Square. And The Parlour is at 250 West 86th at Broadway. This place fills up quickly, and has more old-country fans than possibly any of these bars, but the burgers and the fries are worth it. 1 Train to 86th Street.
* AS Roma: Fans of the team of the Eternal City, Italy's capital, meets at Grey Bar, 43 West 26th Street at 6th Avenue. R Train to 28th Street.
* Borussia Dortmund: The famously hipsterish Westphalia club that occasionally challenges Bayern for German supremacy has fans meeting at McHale's Bar & Grill, at 251 West 51st Street, off 8th Avenue. C Train to 50th Street.
* Sporting CP and Benfica: I have been unable to find out where Sportinguistas and Benfiquistas meet. Your best bet to see either of the Lisbon clubs is going to be either the Football Factory or one of the bars on Market Street in Newark's Portuguese-heavy Ironbound.
* Boca Juniors: The Buenos Aires giants meet in Queens, at the Boca Junior Steakhouse at 81-08 Queens Blvd. R Train to Grand Avenue-Newtown.
At many of these bars, you can pick up copies of First Touch, the area's free weekly newspaper dedicated to the sport.
Sidelights. Baseball season has not begun yet, but both New York baseball parks allow tours. Yankee Stadium: $25. Citi Field: $13. The former can be reached via the D train on the West Side, and the 4 train on the East Side, both to 161st Street-River Avenue; the latter, by the 7 train to Mets-Willets Point station.
The old Yankee Stadium was home to the Yankees from 1923 to 1973, and again from 1976 to 2008, and to the NFL's Giants from 1956 to 1973. It was on the other side of 161st Street from where the new one now stands. The old Cosmos played the 1971 and 1976 season at the old Yankee Stadium.
New York City FC now play at Yankee Stadium. Sometimes. Last season, due to scheduling conflicts with the Yankees, they had to play one game in Citi Field, and another at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, forever shattering their argument about the Red Bulls about who actually plays home games in New York City. Red Bull Arena is 15.7 road miles from Times Square; while Yankee Stadium is 5.9 miles, and at Citi Field, 8.2 miles, Harrison isn't that much farther than the South Bronx or Flushing Meadow, and you still have to use a bridge or a tunnel for each -- and East Hartford is 115 miles.
Citi Field replaced Shea Stadium, home of the Mets from 1964 to 2008, the Yankees in 1974 and '75 while the old Yankee Stadium was being renovated, the NFL's Jets from 1964 to 1983, and the Giants in 1975. (The Giants played some 1973 and all 1974 games in the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut, far from The City.)
Across Roosevelt Avenue from Citi Field is Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, where the U.S. Open tennis tournament is held every late August and early September, and where the 1939-40 and 1964-65 New York World's Fairs were held. If you saw the Men In Black movies, you'll recognize the Unisphere globe, which is one of the surviving structures from the 1964 Fair.
The name "Flushing" comes from the Dutch "Vlissingen," and, no matter how much the Mets stink, has nothing to do with plumbing, although Citi Field's predecessor, Shea Stadium, was often nicknamed the Flushing Toilet.
The Mets were founded in 1962, to take the place of a pair of teams that moved to California for the reason of greed after the 1957 season: The New York Giants (who played in upper Manhattan) and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Giants moved to San Francisco, the Dodgers to Los Angeles, and have maintained their nasty rivalry to this day, thought separated by 389 miles instead of 14.
The move of the Giants was upsetting to many, that of the Dodgers to many more, as they were the only team that Brooklyn could then claim as its own, and they moved to the untapped market of California, and took their rivals with them.
The analogy would not be to Wimbledon FC moving to Milton Keynes. Think, instead, of Brooklyn as New York's answer to the East End (complete with docklands and a distinctive accent), and imagine that, near the peak of their success, West Ham had moved to India -- and took Tottenham with them. (Not Millwall. Millwall would be considered "minor league" by U.S. standards.) Then imagine that Chelsea really did have "no history," and only started a few years after the Hammers and Spurs moved, and started as a joke, until they had a couple of titles, and their fans became obnoxious far beyond what their success had yet earned. That would be the Mets.
At any rate, both the Dodgers' and Giants' former homes were replaced by housing projects. Worth visiting in daylight, but not at night. Ebbets Field, home of the Dodgers from 1913 to 1957, was at 1700 Bedford Avenue at Sullivan Place. Q train to Prospect Park. The Polo Grounds was home of the baseball Giants from 1890 to 1957, the Yankees from 1913 to 1922, the football Giants from 1925 to 1955, the Jets from 1960 to 1963, and the Mets in 1962 and 1963. 2955 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (an extension of 8th Avenue). D train to 155th Street.
Madison Square Garden, home of the NBA's Knicks and the NHL's Rangers, and the site of some legendary prizefights and concerts, allows tours, for $27. This is the 4th in a series of buildings with the name, opening in 1968 (this past week was the 50th Anniversary), on top of Penn Station, after the original Roman-inspired Station, built in 1910, was demolished in 1963.
Between 31st and 33rd Streets, between 7th and 8th Avenues. 1, 2, 3, A, C or E train to 34th Street-Penn Station. Across 8th Avenue is the main post office, with its columns inspiring comparisons to the old Penn Station, and a move to make it the next Penn Station is in the planning stages.
(Because of lease issues, the Madison Square Garden Corporation may have to build a new arena in the next few years, despite already having seriously renovated the current Garden both in 1992 and again completing a 2-year renovation job in 2014. Location to be determined.)
On December 19, 2017, a deal was announced, to build a new arena for the Islanders at Belmont Park, in Elmont, in Nassau County, just over the City Line, thus returning the Isles to The Island. They plan to have it ready for the 2020-21 season.
The Prudential Center in Newark, home of the NHL's New Jersey Devils since it opened in 2007, is a 5-minute walk from Newark's Penn Station. It does not offer tours.
MetLife Stadium, the home of the NFL's Giants and Jets, does allow tours, but only on Saturdays, for $20. It's in the Meadowlands Sports Complex of East Rutherford, New Jersey, which also includes a horse racing track, and an arena that used to be home of the Devils and the Nets.
USA vs. Argentina, March 27, 2011.
I was one of 78,936 on hand for a 1-1 draw.
Lionel Messi did not score for Argentina.
Esteban Cambiasso did, as did Juan Agudelo for the U.S.
This stadium, which opened in 2010, has already hosted a number of matches, including the U.S. vs. Argentina in 2011 (I was there), Brazil vs. Argentina in 2012, and a 2014 Portugal vs. Ireland match. Its predecessor, Giants Stadium, hosted the NFL's Giants from 1976 to 2009, the NFL's Jets from 1984 to 2009, the original New York Cosmos from 1977 to 1985, and several games in the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup.
MetLife Stadium is the only domeless Northern stadium to host a Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVIII, on February 2, 2014. New Jersey Transit messed up the train service, but they lucked out with the weather: Kickoff temperature was a tolerable 49 degrees, and a snowstorm hit the next day. The Seattle Seahawks clobbered the Denver Broncos 43-8.
Even harder to get to is the Nassau Coliseum, where the Islanders played from 1972 to 2015, and the Nets from 1971 to 1977. 1255 Hempstead Turnpike, in Hempstead (mailing address Uniondale), Long Island. Across the Turnpike is James M. Shuart Stadium, home of Hofstra University athletics. This 11,929-seat stadium no longer hosts college football (Hofstra played there from 1963 until it dropped its program in 2009), but in 1972 and '73, the old Cosmos played there. The new, minor-league Cosmos played here from 2013 to 2016. Take the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station in New York to Hempstead Terminal, then switch to the N70, N71 or N72 bus.
The new Cosmos began playing at MCU Park, the 7,000-seat home of minor-league baseball's Brooklyn Cyclones since 2001, in 2017, and will play there again at least this season. 1904 Surf Avenue, in the Coney Island section. D, F, N or Q Train to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.
The 5,000-seat Icahn Stadium was built in 2005 on the site of Downing Stadium, a 22,000-seat horseshoe which stood from 1936 to 2002. It was home to the Cosmos in the 1974 and '75 seasons, the New York Stars of the NFL-challenging World Football League in 1974, and the Negro Leagues' New York Black Yankees in the 1938 season. It hosted the U.S. team against Scotland in 1949 and England in 1964, losing badly both times.
The new stadium hosts track & field events. On Randalls Island, in the East River. Number 4 train to 125th Street, then transfer to the M35 bus at 125th and Lexington Avenue.
The New York area has a team in the National Women's Soccer League, called Sky Blue FC. They won the title of the previous league, Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), in 2009.They play at Yurcak Field, which is the 5,000-seat soccer and lacrosse stadium of Rutgers University, a three-minute walk from its 52,000-seat football stadium, on its Busch Campus in Piscataway, New Jersey. You'd have to take New Jersey Transit rail from Penn Station to New Brunswick, then a campus bus from the station to the stadium.
In addition to the Meadowlands Racetrack, New Jersey has thoroughbred horse racing at Monmouth Park. Opening in 1946, it has been home since 1968 to the Haskell Invitational, named for the park's former president, Amory Haskell, and annually attracting winners of the Triple Crown races every July; and since 1988 to the Jersey Derby, formerly run at the since-demolished Garden State Park in Cherry Hill and the since-closed Atlantic City Race Course.
175 Oceanport Avenue in Oceanport, 55 miles by road from Midtown Manhattan (although a bit closer as the crow flies, across New York and Sandy Hook Bays). New Jersey Transit runs train service there during the Summer.
As for the City's main tourist attractions: If your secondary goal, beyond the primary goal of seeing your team play the Red Bulls, is to see a "Broadway play," I would advise against it, as you may well be very disappointed. Tickets are expensive and not easy to get, and may not be worth it. This is hardly a golden age for Broadway: Nearly every show is either a borrow from London's West End, a stage adaptation of a movie you may already have seen, or a revival of a classic musical featuring performers whose names are not especially well-known. (And are not likely to be, either: Although a few major actors got their start on Broadway, the days when The Ed Sullivan Show -- which helped the Beatles rise to superstardom -- could, thanks to Sullivan's status as a Broadway columnist, raise performers and songs from nearby theaters to iconic status are long gone.)
An NY CityPass will be expensive, but it will save you a large amount if your goal is to cram in as many tourist attractions as possible. You can tailor your pass to the sites you want to see. For example: The $109 version gets you the Empire State Building, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art, the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or a Circle Line Cruise around Manhattan Island, and the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center or the Guggenheim Museum. With CityPASS, you'll skip most ticket lines.
As for the museums: While London's are free, New York's are not. They have "donations" -- or "suggested general admissions" -- running form $15 to $22.
The two best-known New York Museums are opposite Central Park from one another, a mile apart. The American Museum of Natural History is at 79th Street and Central Park West (8th Avenue). C train to 81st Street. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- a.k.a. The Met, not to be confused with the opera house, the baseball team, or the London police -- is at 82nd Street and 5th Avenue. This stretch of 5th is known as Museum Mile, and also includes, among others, the egg-shaped, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street, 4 blocks down Lexington, and then 3 blocks west to 5th Avenue.
The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is New York's center for classical performances, with several venues, most notably the current edition of the Metropolitan Opera House. 63rd Street and Broadway. 1 train to 66th Street-Lincoln Center.
The other major classical venue is Carnegie Hall. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? "Practice, my boy, practice!" The old joke is wrong: Anyone who can afford to rent Carnegie Hall's main auditorium may do so, regardless of level of talent. It's at 881 7th Avenue at 57th Street. 1, A, B, C or D train to 59th Street-Columbus Circle, or F train to 57th Street.
Alas, the legendary delicatessens around the corner on 7th Avenue, the Carnegie Deli at 56th Street and the Stage Deli at 55th, are now closed, victims of excessive rents. The famous Italian restaurant Mama Leone's has been gone for many years.
The Russian Tea Room, a famous restaurant mere steps away from Carnegie Hall at 150 West 57, is to be avoided: The service is only passable, and the food would be mediocre at half the price. In fact, I would avoid the best-known restaurants altogether. It's been said that New York offers the best cheap meals and the worst expensive meals in the world. So if you have the bucks to blow, and you want to be able to say, "I ate at (fill in the blank: Smith & Wollensky's Gallagher's, Peter Luger's, or wherever else)," go ahead, but you have been warned.
The closest thing you may get to a true British pub experience is the Atlantic Chip Shop, at 129 Atlantic Avenue at Henry Street in Brooklyn. The place is decked out in British memorabilia, and when there's no football or rugby match on TV, they usually have a British film on. The last time I was there, they played Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
4 or 5 train to Borough Hall, then 4 blocks down Court Street, then turn right on Atlantic and walk 2 blocks. The owners also run the Park Slop Chip Shop, which is closer to a genuine chippy. 383 5th Avenue at 6th Street -- remember, that's Brooklyn's 5th Avenue, not Manhattan's. R train to 9th Street, walk up 4th Avenue to 6th Street, and 1 block over to 5th.
A Salt and Battery is also a good fish and chips place. The fish is top-notch, but they do have what we call French fries, rather than chips. Next-door is another English-themed place, Tea and Sympathy, owned by the same people. 112 Greenwich Avenue at 13th Street. 1, 2, 3, A, C or E train to 14th Street. If your taste runs more to the Scottish, Caledonia Scottish Pub is at 1609 2nd Avenue at 83rd Street. 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street.
The Freedom Tower at the new World Trade Center is now open, complete with observation deck, and certified as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It looks over the site of the original Twin Towers, at Liberty and Greenwich Streets, and expect long lines if you want to visit the 9/11 Memorial. E train to World Trade Center, or R train to Cortlandt Street.
Because of security concerns after the 9/11 attacks, it is no longer possible to tour the New York Stock Exchange building at Wall and Broad Streets. However, it doesn't cost anything to walk down Wall Street, the center of the financial world. 2, 3, 4 or 5 train to Wall Street.
The South Street Seaport area is one of the City's last remaining bastions of pre-Civil War (1861-65) architecture. In fact, one of the reasons John Lennon said he loved New York so much was that it reminded him of Liverpool, especially with the dock areas. However, the Pier 17 shopping center, which had lots of goodies, has been demolished to make way for a new one, supposedly to open in late 2016.
There have been 2 Presidents born in New York City. And the 1st would have slapped the 2nd. Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, a recreation of the townhouse where TR was born in 1858, is at 28 East 20th Street. N or R train to 23rd Street. Donald Trump was born at Jamaica Hospital, at 89-00 Van Wyck Expressway in Kew Gardens. E train to Jamaica-Van Wyck.
New York has relatively easy access to beaches: Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Rockaways in Queens, City Island in The Bronx; Long Island's Long Beach, Jones Beach, Fire Island and "The Hamptons," including Montauk, a.k.a. "The End"; and New Jersey's Shore, from Keansburg off Exit 117 of the Garden State Parkway all the way down to Cape May, Exit 0.
This is usually where I close the blog post by telling you what a terrific city you'll be visiting, and hoping that you'll have fun.
Well, whatever you might think of your hometown, there is no better city on Earth than New York. While it is very easy for things to go wrong there, if you follow these directions, you should be fine, and be able to enjoy yourself immensely. Good luck.