Eleven Tips for Leaving Times Square During RWA11

Attention, New Yorkers! This time next week, thousands of romance novelists will descend upon the crossroads of the universe for the annual Romance Writers of America conference! You thought Giuliani took the sexy out of Times Square? Well, watch out, cuz these ladies are bringing it back. (Not that gross, streetwalker, 42nd St. sexy. The good kind.)

But, let's be honest. There's absolutely nowhere worse than Times Square to get the true New York experience. Really. New Yorkers stay away from it, unless they work there or have theatre tickets. So, why should you stay there? If you're making breakfast plans or dinner plans or plans to head off and do something exciting with friends, my best piece of advice is Leave Times Square.

There are about a million places/things to see/eat/do in NYC outside of Times Square, and I promise you'll love every one of them.

So. I give you NYC experiences (beyond Times Square):

1. The  New York Times Walking Tours -- There are many reasons to love the Grey Lady. But one of my favorites are these incredible walking tours on their site. They tell you where to go, and direct you through a maze of places and events that happened in that neighborhood. I like the Greenwich Village one because it has a ton of writing history in it, but if you want to stay close to the conference and the hotel, try this Midtown tour!

2. The Empire State Building (at night!) -- The ESB is obviously one of those key landmarks. And if you're a romance lover, there's an added layer of *must do* attached to the massive building. I love it there. But here's the thing--I only go after 10pm (the ESB observation deck is open until 2am) Skip the daytime trip for a number of reasons. First, the lines are insane and by the time you reach the observation deck, you'll be through with humanity. Second, it's the best way to see how big New York is. The lights against the darkness make that so much clearer than during the day. And third, there's nothing more romantic than standing 100 stories above the rest of NYC, looking down on all those lights.

3. The Empire State Building (at night! with alcohol!) -- Or, you could skip the ESB trip altogether and get a group together for one of NYC's famous rooftop lounges with FABULOUS views of of the tallest building in the city. They can be a bit of a scene, but they're worth it for the experience, and the views! Get there early to get table. I recommend 230 Fifth or the Gansevoort Park.

4. Food. Food food food. -- You can't come to New York and not eat somewhere fabulous. Louisa Edwards wrote this post a week or so back recommending restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, so that leaves me free to recommend a few restaurants farther afield. I'm going to try to run the gamut of cost and cuisine!

Craft - Tom Colicchio's flagship restaurant, this one is expensive and worth it. If you consider yourself a foodie, Craft should be the first reservation on your list. Craft is in Union Square, and if  you feel like a crazy shopping experience beforehand, plan to spend an hour in ABC Carpet & Home a few blocks away. It's a home goods/furniture store, with outrageous prices and outrageous stuff. But worth the window shopping! Cost: $$$$

Snack Taverna - A tiny little Greek place in Greenwich Village, I think it's got the best Greek food in the city. It's very small, so you'll need reservations, and after 8 or so, it becomes very loud, so I recommend seeing if you can reserve the table in the window, but the food is excellent. Once you're finished, wander through Greenwich Village and up to (the original) Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker St. for cupcakes! Cost: $$$

Pepolino - I was raised by foodie Italians. I take my Italian food very seriously. And this is the best in the City. It's in TriBeCa, so it's about a 20 minute cab/subway ride from the Hotel, but absolutely worth it. Have the malfatti. You won't be disappointed. Drinks before or after at the TriBeCa Grand Hotel with the girls will make you very very happy! Cost: $$$

Burger Joint in the Parker Meridian - This is, by far, my favorite burger in the city, in part because of how secret this place is. To get there, you walk through the lobby of the fabulous Parker Meridian and then pull back a velvet curtain to reveal a greasy burger joint. They make burgers, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese and fries. And that's it. And they do it very very well. Cost: $

Little Bombay (East 6th Street between 1st & 2nd Ave) - Down in the East Village, on one block of East 6th Street, you'll find the best Indian food in the City, ranging from the expensive (Haveli on 2nd Avenue) to the inexpensive little Indian joints all down 6th. They're so packed into this one block, and the food is so comparable at all of them, that the running joke is that there's one kitchen that serves them all. The experience, of course, is choosing the restaurant. The barkers outside will try to convince you that theirs is the best, and you'll get to pick between Sitar players in one and a wild number of chili pepper christmas lights in the another. But whichever you choose, have a mango lassi for me, ok?

5. Museums - There are a million of them, of course, but here are a few that I'm feeling these days:

* The Museum of Sex - The collection here is fabulous. It's thoughtfully curated and really interesting. Worth the trip. Additionally, they struggle with funding because so many people are afraid to go, fearing I don't know what. It's terrific. I might see you there!

* The Intrepid - Maybe you write military romance, maybe you're just interested in the military. Either way, this is the museum for you (or your husband!) It's a massive aircraft carrier turned museum docked on the far west side of the Island. And if you're staying through the 4th of July, you can't miss the fireworks display!

*The Costume Institute at the Met - Centuries of costume on display year round and, through August, the Alexander McQueen exhibit about which everyone is raving.

* The Museum of Natural History - Ok. Eric calls this "The Museum of Dioramas," but I (and every kid I know) think it's fabulous. Go for the dinosaurs, go for the Rose planetarium, but don't miss the Hall of Biodiversity and the Blue Whale. Which will stop you in your tracks.

6. The Statue of Liberty (Not the way you'd think) - Tickets are for tourists. And they're sold out by now. To see Lady Liberty anyway (without waiting in line!) head down to the South Street Seaport, grab a real-deal NYC hotdog, wander south and hop on the Staten Island Ferry (FOR FREE!!!). The 25 minute ride takes you right past Ellis Island & the Statue, without all the fuss. Once on Staten Island, brag to your friends that you're in an outer borough, and then hop on the return ferry. You'll be back at conference within the hour!

7. The New York Public Library - This should have been in the museum section, but since we're all writers, I vote it gets its own slot. You gotta go. Go, get an ice cream, sit on the steps next to Patience or Fortitude (the famous lions), and soak in the place. It's worth it, just for the inspiration. Right now, the NYPL main branch has two amazing exhibitions on: for kids, The Real Winnie the Pooh is in the Children's Center, and for nerds like me, The Centennial Exhibition, in which the library is showing dozens of amazing finds from its collections, including a Guttenberg Bible and Virginia Woolf's writing desk.

8. The When Harry Met Sally experience - Designed by my BFF and me, try Washington Square Park(where they part for the first time), Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore (where they meet for the third time), Katz's Delicatessen (where there's a sign above the table where Sally faked her orgasm), and the Egyptian Wing of the MET (Where you can read the comic about Sphinxy).

9. 5th Avenue Window Shopping - Start at Saks Fifth Avenue (5th between 49th & 50th Streets) and walk north, and you'll get the best window shopping in the world. And I do mean window shopping. The windows of Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany & Co., & Cartier are worth the wander...these are stores where window dressers still take their jobs incredibly seriously. Finish at FAO Schwarz, where you can buy something fabulous for the little one in your life.

10. Lady Jane's Salon - If you're in town on Monday night, don't miss the mecca for romance writers in NYC, Lady Jane's Salon. The only monthly romance reading series in the country, Lady Jane's is hosting a special RWA Salon! Readers include Eloisa James, Carrie Lofty, Dianna Love Snell, Karen Rose, Leanna Renee Hieber...and me! It starts at 7:00pm...see you then!

11. ...... I'm leaving eleven blank, hoping that other New York romance brains can add their ideas in comments!

Anyway...hope this helps...and I hope you have an AMAZING time celebrating romance in this city I love so much.

Questions? Leave them in comments! xox