New York City Travel: US Open 2011, Broadway and Times Square, Discoveries in Brooklyn

New York City is a great city for sports fans – from Major League Baseball to NFL football, NBA basketball and professional hockey, hundreds of thousands of people travel every year to the Big Apple to take in some exciting live sports action. One of our favourite sports is tennis, and NYC is a great destination for tennis fans. We had planned a nice late summer getaway to catch some great tennis at the US Open.

Jo Wilfred Tsonga was one of the many tennis stars we saw

Jo Wilfred Tsonga was one of the many tennis stars we saw

After a relaxing drive from Toronto via Gananoque, Syracuse and Binghampton we arrived in New York City in the mid afternoon on September 31, 2011. Our GPS had done a tremendous job navigating us to our accommodation in Brooklyn’s Midwood area. We had booked a private hotel-style bedroom through Airbnb.com, a website that connects locals who are willing to rent rooms or apartments to travellers. Being on a budget, we had tried AirBnB before on our recent trip to Montreal and had had a good experience. So we figured let’s try AirBnB again for our stay in New York City.

Our room in Brooklyn, booked through AirBnB

Our room in Brooklyn, booked through AirBnB

When we arrived we realized we were going to stay at a modern apartment building and called our local contact at the RentEasyApt management company. Danielle arrived just minutes later and took us into the rental office of a building that rents 5 bedrooms on the basement level with 3 bathrooms with brand-new showers and one extra large size washroom. She explained all the rules to us as well as the checkout procedure and showed us our room which was on the small side but very clean and modern. We also had a large kitchen and communal area that we could share with the other guests. For $60 a night (plus 10% booking fee) this would be a great home base for us to explore New York City. We had free parking on the street and the Avenue M subway stop on the Q train was literally two minutes away.

Naked Cowgirl is playing for the crowd on Times Square

Naked Cowgirl is playing for the crowd on Times Square

On our first evening we took the subway and headed into the pulsating heart of Manhattan: Times Square and Broadway. Neon lights were flashing, street performers were doing the best to entice tourists to part with tips, various mascots in furry costumes were charming the crowd and having their pictures taken, hot dog and fruit vendors were keeping the walking crowds fed. T-shirt vendors and souvenir shops were doing brisk business  while portrait and caricature artists were looking to create their next piece of art. Without breaking the bank, we dined at Sbarro’s, a reasonably priced franchise restaurant right on Times Square that serves a mixture of Italian foods.

Delicious looking takeout food near Times Square

Delicious looking takeout food near Times Square

In the evening we walked off the extra calories by strolling north to Central Park. The action in this urban park is just amazing: joggers, rollerbladers and bicyclists take over the roadways at high speed. As a pedestrian you have to be careful not to get run over when you cross the street. Various performance artists were doing their tricks, couples were enjoying romantic moments and sports fans were throwing baseballs on the fields even as the sun was going down.

The neon world of Times Square

The neon world of Times Square

After an ice cream on Columbus Circle we took a quick walk through the Shops at Columbus Circle and headed back on the subway to Brooklyn, entertained (or a bit scared) by some local urban teenagers who were using the subway car as a stage for their rapping and break-dancing skills, often using the poles in the train car to swing around and do semi-acrobatic tricks inside the subway car. The majority of the subway riders appeared relieved when they exited somewhere in downtown Brooklyn. Experiences like these are part of the urban atmosphere in the Big Apple.

Spiderman swoops in for a hug

Spiderman swoops in for a hug

Our first day reacquainting ourselves with the city that never sleeps had gone well. On the second day we headed off to our main event for this trip: the US Open. Unfortunately, when I had booked our accommodation in Brooklyn, I did not realize that there was no good way of getting by subway from Brooklyn to Flushing Meadows in Queens, the location of the USTA National Tennis Center. Taking the subway would actually have taken us a solid 90 minutes, so we decided to do the same thing as last year: hop in the car, drive up to Roosevelt Avenue and catch the Number 7 train to the tennis stadium. Once we arrived at the USTA National Tennis Center,  security at the gate told me I had to check in my backpack, which cost me about 20 minutes. This was definitely a learning experience for next time: don’t bring a backpack cause you are going to have to line up and check it in anyway.

Arthur Ashe Stadium, the world's biggest tennis stadium

Arthur Ashe Stadium, the world’s biggest tennis stadium

Finally, after a short line-up we got into the grounds of the US Open at about 11:30 am, ready to watch a great day of tennis. On September 1, 2011 we got to see many interesting players, from Samantha Stosur, Andrea Petkovic and Jelena Jankovic on the women’s side to Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Tommy Haas and Alexandr Dolgopolov on the men’side.  Altogether, we spent about 8 hours at the US Open on this beautiful sunny day, mostly watching singles and doubles matches on the outer courts.

Samantha Stosur, the eventual winner of the US Open women's title

Samantha Stosur, the eventual winner of the US Open women’s title

Our second day at the US Open started better as our GPS found us a much better route to Queens and we arrived just two subway stops away from the tennis stadium in a little more than half an hour. Today the grounds were much more crowded and we were seeing long queues on the outer courts of people waiting to see matches. Content with watching some less famous players, we sat down and watched a match with Jürgen Melzer and various doubles matches. We also saw new Canadian talent Vasek Pospisil take on Feliciano Lopez; unfortunately the young Canuck lost in a tight match. We enjoyed a nice Italian dinner on our way back to Brooklyn and a good night’s sleep back at our AirBNB accommodation.

A passionate fan of Roger Federer

A passionate fan of Roger Federer

So far our plans for the US Open had worked out great, and we had one more day left in the city to do some sightseeing. Having visited Manhattan last October, this time I was going to focus on Brooklyn.

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