We hope you have had a wonderful 2018 so far! We at Nice Guy Tours have been having a blast, getting to know new people, and munching on the best food on the planet (like we always do).
Has it been cold? Of course! But the joy and smile I see on people’s faces have kept me warm all winter long. It sounds corny, but it’s true.
Anyway, here is our January Newsletter – I hope you like it. It features our regular columns: “Five Questions with…” a Store Owner, “Nice Guy Tourist (yes, I like to travel in and around the city, too), “Nice Guy or Gal of the Month,” “NYCE Tip” (learn something about NYC!), and “Dear Dante” (In which I answer common questions I’m asked on tour)
As loyal customers and friends, we want to keep you up-to-date with all that’s going on in Nice Guy Tours land. Each month, we’ll provide you with five “Nice” stories:
1. Five Questions With – Each month, we’ll chat with a different business owner or employee from one of our stops.
2. Nice Guy Tourist – When Dante gives tours, he gets to see NYC through the tourists’ eyes. Here, he becomes the tourist and describes what he sees.
3. Nice Guy or Gal of the Month – Each month, we’ll get to know one of our tour guests.
4. “NYCE” Tip – Stick with Dante, he knows these streets.
5. Dear Dante – Send your questions each month, and our CEO will answer them in a way Dear Abby couldn’t.
Read on, and be sure to walk, talk, and eat with us soon!
#1 – Five Questions with … Mitch Cohen of Economy Candy
Nice Guy Tour’s Dante Mercadante chats with Economy Candy’s Mitch Cohen on the history of the Lower East Side sweet shop, which has been around since 1937. Dante discusses Mitch’s favorites, the store, and more!
#2 – Nice Guy Tourist … Lower Manhattan’s Changing Skyline
I recently played New York City tourist-for-a-day in Lower Manhattan. My first stop was One World Trade Center, where the highlight, of course, was the unbeatable view from the observatory, but the whole experience was really something to see.
First, there’s a pre-show on the ground floor—a digital media exhibit that takes you through the background and construction of the building. Then you step onto the elevator, which zips up to the 102nd floor in no time at all. Actually, the 47-second ascent in the “Skypod” is a mini-history lesson in itself, as 500 years of history unfold in a floor-to-ceiling LED virtual technology display. Manhattan’s skyline rises with you on your way up.
At the top, there’s another short video and finally, the screen opens up to the most amazing views you’ll find in New York City.
At 1,776 feet, One World Trade is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The observatory has a 360-degree view so you can see the entire island of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, plus much more. If you’re lucky enough to go on a clear day, the view goes on for at least 50 miles and you can even see the curvature of the earth! With views like this, it’s no wonder the observatory sees as many as 12,000 people on their busiest days.
The three-story observation deck is operated by Legends Hospitality, the group that also runs sales and concessions at places like Yankee Stadium and Cowboys Stadium. On the 101st floor of One World Observatory, you’ll find refreshments. Grab a cup of coffee at One Café, a beer at One Bar, or stay for lunch or dinner at One Dine, which offers a seasonally-inspired menu and a full bar.
My second stop was less than a half-mile away at the surreal building known as the Oculus. This transit center, officially named World Trade Center Transportation Hub, connects New Jersey’s PATH train system to NYC’s subway system. It’s also a shopping mall with more than 100 retail stores inside.
The Oculus is unmissable for its bright, white, unique architecture—it was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to look like a dove in flight. In addition to the thousands of commuters that pass through the Oculus, tourists flock here for photos inside the stark white building. The white, ribbed columns that make up the interior infrastructure play with the light that streams in and create an optical illusion of sorts—which is to say, this is probably one of the most photogenic spots in the city, and there’s a perfect viewing platform to take those Instagram shots.
Like One World Trade, which has been called the most expensive office building in the world, the Oculus went way beyond its original budget. It was supposed to cost $2 billion and in the end, topped out at almost $4 billion—about the same price tag as One World Trade. But in the end, these buildings are now a permanent part of New York’s fast-changing skyline, as well as symbols of progress and sites of inspiration.
#3 – Nice Gal Of The Month … Dolores Hagen
Dolores Hagen of Aldie, VA is our “Nice Gal Of The Month,” and for good reason. The software test engineer (“I get to break software for a living,” she says with glee) has been on three of our tours.
Her favorite “eats” on the tours have been Molly’s Cupcakes, which she notes, she’s been to “tones of times” and “is the one that stuck with me.” But, on second thought, “Artichoke Pizza was awesome” Ok, so that’s the Greenwich Village Tour. What about the Lower East Side, you ask?
“If it was for the tour I just took, it would be a toss-up between the dumplings (at Vanessa’s) and Katz’s. The dumplings are fab and a bargain, Katz’s is not a bargain but is way yummy and a New York institution,” she said.
On each tour, I try to offer up a fun fact and a history. Dolores said her favorite tidbit was the history of Economy Candy and that one of the reasons that it is so affordable is that the owners of the shop actually own the building.
She said her biggest surprise on the tour was how “shocked” she was that she enjoyed the taste of the pickles from The Pickle Guys. Overall, her favorite thing about New York, and that she notes is a “really hard” question to answer, is how “nothing is ever the same, it’s always fun, there are always fun surprises, great people, great shows, great food.”
She added, “visiting NYC is like hanging out with an old friend: it doesn’t matter how long you have been away, there is still a connection and it is never boring! Sometimes the NYC weather sucks, but other than that, I’m completely in love with the crazy city, but I don’t think I could live there. It would overwhelm me.”
That’s understandable. So who we ask is who the nicest she knows is and why … but she can’t say me! “Again, very difficult,” she said. “Kerry Babylon. She is very considerate of others, an amazing friend that puts up with a lot of my crazy without snapping at me. She has an awesome sense of humor and is just plain sweet. So much nicer than I am, heavens knows why she hangs out with me!”
Oh, c’mon, Dolores. Nice Guy Tours loves hanging out with you!
#4 – “NYCE” Tip … Reading The Subway Map
Nice Guy Tour’s Dante Mercadante explains how to read the subway map for out-of-towners and folks who simply can’t figure out the subway system in NYC!
#5 – Dear Dante … People Watching in NYC
As a New York City tour guide, people often ask me what my favorite thing to do is beside eat. It’s a loaded question really because there is so much I love about the Big Apple, but it’s a no-brainer really. People watching is my favorite. To be a bit more specific, a highlight – long before I even started Nice Guy Tours – has been to sit in Washington Square Park (preferably on a spring, not-too-hot day) and drink coffee as people pass by. I think it captures the spirit of the city. In those moments, we are all equal there.
People always say it’s good to drown out the outside noise (and most times that’s accurate), but in this case, I can’t. I love watching people racing to work, walking and laughing with friends, walking their dogs, and everything in-between. In many ways, this setting is a visual soundtrack to my New York City.