The Easter Parade

People in fancy hats and outfits stroll up and down 5th Avenue every year for the Easter Parade. I have wanted to see this since I first saw the Judy Garland musical comedy by the same name, and this year I got to catch the end of the festivities. Some great and not so great outfits. Something you definitely must see (or participate in).


Chowing down at the Shake Shack

Slowly but surely the weather is getting nicer here in NYC. This means less time taking the subway and more time enjoying the walk to and from work and spending free times in the various parks and outdoor venues around the city.

If you are looking for an alternative snack to a hot dog from one of the numerous street vendors, I suggest checking out the Shake Shack.

With locations in Madison Square Park and the Upper West Side you should easily be able to access the deliciousness of the Shack.

Shake Shack

Southeast corner of Madison Square Park (Madison Ave. and 23rd St.)
366 Columbus Ave. (at 77th St.)

The food is reasonably priced with burgers, hot dogs, fries, drinks and custard ranging from $1.75-9.50, average price for a meal is easily under $10.

The burgers taste fresh and are surprisingly not too greasy for a place that calls itself a Shack. I highly recommend going with a Shack Burger to enjoy the awesomeness of the Shack sauce. Not really sure what it is, but it makes the burger taste way better than your average fast food joint.

Above and beyond everything else the Shake Shack has to offer, I highly recommend getting an order of the cheese fries. (I am a sucker for a good order of cheese fries, no matter how unhealthy. However, the Shack's special-made blend of real cheddar and American cheese sauce make this snack a true delight. Supposedly the fries also have %25 less fat than average fries and paired with the lack of artificial florescent orange cheese these fries could be considered downright healthy! Okay, maybe not, but they are delicious!)

The line at Shake Shack can be downright gigantic during busy times (The Web site has a live video feed so you can check the line situation at the MSP location) and there is definitely a protocol to ordering that can be intimidating. You want to have your mind made up and your money ready before approaching the order window. For newbies, I suggest going on a rainy day or during off-peak hours (3 p.m. on a weekday?) the first time if you are easily flustered.

Overall, I loved discovering this eatery this winter and I can't wait to truly enjoy the great food and drinks now that the weather is warming up.


Go find the Naked Cowboy


Met The Naked Cowboy in Times Square for the first time today. He is hilarious and a definite must see while living in the city. Sure, he'll be surrounded by a ton of tourists, but it's okay to play tourist for a day. Take a picture, have a chat and have some fun.

Best of all it's free (although a few dollars in donations wouldn't hurt ya too much. I mean the guy does stand around in his underwear all day just to entertain you!)

I saw him in the heart of Times Square at the corner of 45th Street and Broadway, but I hear he moves around a lot. So keep your eyes open because you never know where he might be.


Volunteering to see a free Broadway show

One of the best times I have had seeing a Broadway production was by volunteer ushering for the Roundabout Theatre Company. The company, which owns the Laura Pels, American Airlines and Studio 54 theaters, allows anyone to sign-up to volunteer usher for specific months during the run of the performance. By ushering you get free admission into the show.

Just call the hot line: 212-719-9393 Ext. 523 (It has an updated list of when sign ups for volunteer ushering begins for all theaters. I suggest going on the first day to choose the date of whichever performance you want).

The amount of work required is minimal and I found the experience really fun. You arrive an hour before curtain and are given a badge and brief introduction to the theater. When attendees arrive you just show them to a seat and hand out playbills. Usually you are assigned a post during intermission as well, like making sure no one messes with the stage or brings food into the theaters.

Seats can vary depending on whether a performance is sold-out or how many general admission attendees there are, but I have always gotten great seats. The head usher will let you pick any vacant seat once all the guests have sat.

Dress code is strictly enforced, but is simply black pants and shoes with a white shirt.

Thus far I was able to see Hedda Gabler at the American Airlines Theater and Distracted at the Laura Pels by volunteer ushering. They were both good shows and it was great seeing them for FREE. Next up I plan to sign up for Waiting for Godot!


Eat in Chinatown for a buck

Check out this excursion into Chinatown to find food for $1. Some great cheap ideas.


Follow NIN on Twitter

I've started a twitter, NoviceinNYC, to get frequent updates and share more tips and sweet deals. Follow me!


Meeting the talented and famous at the Stage Door 2

As mentioned previously, checking out the stage door after a show or even just going by when you know a show ends is a great FREE way to meet some famous faces. Check out who was signing autographs after Guys and Dolls last week.


Have you found the 'burger joint'?


Hidden somewhere on 56th Street is "The Burger Joint." You won't see any signs and I'm not going to tell you where it is. The fun is trying to find it yourself. (Although if you aren't up to the adventure a simple Google search should point you in the right direction). I will say don't waste your time at the edges of Manhattan. Stick to the middle and you should find this place.

Once you get behind the curtain, be prepared to order. This is a no-nonsense system. Price wise it's a bit more than your average fast-food restaurant, but the food is so much better! There are no plates and don't expect any fancy treatment. Everyone is in the same boat here.

Be prepared for long lines during peak lunch or dinner hours (I suggest going around 3 p.m. if you're not up for waiting). Be sure to check out the wall of famous signatures and see who you can spot. Samuel L. Jackson and Leona Lewis were just two of the many names I could decipher.

If you see a free seat grab it immediately. This place is tiny and tables are coveted.

Now go start looking and you will be rewarded with a truly delicious burger!

Music is free at Rockwood

This small little bar in the Lower East Side is a great place to see live music. There is no cover charge, but there is a one drink minimum. Prices vary but you can get a Bud Light for $4 (although some drinks will set you back for $8+). Still, not a bad price for a night of tunes.

Rockwood attracts all kinds of bands and musicians, so if you go in blind you never know what might be in store for. Bands play 40-minute sets before switching on the hour, and you could see 7 different acts in one night.

Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen Street (between E. Houston and Stanton)
New York City 10002
Accessible by F and V Line

Feb. 26 - I caught the accordion-infused style of John Foti and his seven-member band (a tight fit in the small bar). The triangle player was sitting at a table with patrons, and the show had a very community backyard feel. This was followed by a great acoustic set by Indie Aussie brothers, The Kin, with special guest Ahn Trio. The environment was so small and tuned in that they sang part of one song without microphones - a truly sweet experience.

Check out Rockwood's Web site for full listings, but if you've got a free night and are looking for something to do without spending a lot head down to Rockwood and see what surprises you!


Free entertainment brought to you by Apple

If you are like me and try to avoid the Apple Store for fear of spending too much money, well this post is going to make it harder. The Apple Stores are now offering some pretty sweet entertainment promotions which will have people flocking to the stores.

The Apple Store in Soho offers some fabulous FREE entertainment. With a built in theater space, the store often hosts musicians, directors, actors and other famous faces for in-store performances and meet and greets.

Apple Store Soho
103 Prince Street
New York City, NY 10012
(212) 226-3126

You can check out the calendar of upcoming events on the Web site. The key if you want to grab a seat is to arrive about an hour early for popular events, which most of them are.

Some pretty cool appearances are in store for March -

- March 5 - Meet "Watchman" Actors: Patrick Wilson & Jeffrey Dean Morgan, 7 p.m.
- March 10 - Meet "Knowing" Director: Alex Proyas, 7 p.m.
- March 17 - Meet the Actor and Filmmaker: Clive Owen and Tony Gilroy for "Duplicity," 4 p.m.

These events can be pretty spontaneous and you never know what surprises might be in store.

I went to the Joss Whedon event in February and was surprised by special guest Eliza Dushku arriving to participate in the talk. Even better, Joss signed autographs afterward and I was able to meet the man himself. Check it out!


$5 meal, yes please!

On 34th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues) Sandwiched between a Burger King and a Wendy's is an even cheaper food option: The Lunch Box.

A Chinese buffet and bakery this little venue offers a great $5 meal deal. For $5 you can choose 5 options from more than 20 different selections, including sesame chicken, broccoli in garlic sauce, three different fried rices and much, much more.

You will leave with a heaping to-go box of your selections!

The place does have a slightly questionable ambiance and I am sure its sketchy appearance has turned many away, but don't be deterred. Most of the selections are quite tasty. You'll get the occasional misfire and may have to experiment a bit to find your favorite dish, but at $5 it is well worth it.


Figuring out B'way's student rush and lottery system

Playbill keeps an updated list of all current Broadway shows that offer general rush, lottery and student rush tickets. If you have some time to wait in line than you can get Broadway tickets for as little as $20.

Check out the current offerings at Playbill.com.

General Rush
typically begins when the box office opens (usually around 10 a.m., but it depends on the theater). This allows anyone to purchase day-off tickets usually costing $26.50.

Student Rush works the same as general rush. Supposedly it is only for students with ID, but I haven't yet been asked to show it. This can be kind of competitive and many will line up before the box office opens for really popular shows. However, I was able to get a student rush ticket to Guys and Dolls just a few hours before the show. It's hit and miss, and it never hurts to just go in and ask the box office if they have any rush tickets left. (Be warned that these tickets are often for partial view seats, which for some productions can cause a lot of the action to be blocked from your view. Some theaters get really uppity if you change seat, but I've found that scoping out an empty seat and then switching during intermission is usually a safe bet.)

Several shows like In The Heights, Shrek and Wicked are so popular that they only offer a lottery system for day-of tickets. Typically the lottery begins three hours before a performance. All you have to do is fill out a slip of paper and put it in the bucket. A half-hour later they draw names. Usually about 20 tickets are given away for good orchestra seats. These lotteries can get really popular, so like the TKTS booth try going on a Tuesday or Wednesday for a better chance of winning. However, you will likely need to keep trying. I've done the In The Heights lottery four times already and haven't won yet! Tickets cost $26.50 and you must have cash.

There is also the option of purchasing standing room tickets. I haven't yet had the need to do this, but assume it works much like the other methods. Standing room tickets are only sold for "sold-out" performances and are typically available two hours before a show. Only select shows are able to sell standing room tickets because of theater designs.


Small venues offer cheap concerts

The Highline Ballroom is a fun venue to see a band. With a full restaurant, two bars and a dance/crowd floor, the concerts feel intimate and grand at the same time.

The acts range from comedic impressionist MacHomer to pop rocker Tyrone Wells to Desilicious Hai Hai Holi Party! - there is something offered for everyone. Prices for the lesser known acts average around $15 dollars, which is a pretty good deal. Some of the pricer acts can reach $70+ dollars. Age limits also range from act to act. Beers ($7) and food are typically pricey, so eat/drink before hand if your on a budget.

Highline Ballroom
431 W 16th St
New York, NY 10011
between 9th and 10th Ave
(212) 414-5994
A, C, E or L lines will get you closest

I saw singer/songwriter Matt Wertz with opener the Alternate Routes there Feb. 5 for $12. It was a really good concert and easy to connect with the artists in the small space. Could see how it could easily get pretty rowdy with the right band.

These photos are from standing in the second row on the right side of the stage.


Free Wing Fridays (and now Thursdays)

Boss Tweed's Saloon is a grungy, little bar with cheep drinks, beer pong and other sweet deals.

Boss Tweed's Saloon
155 Essex Street, Lower East Side
(Between Rivington and Delancey)
Accessible by the F, J, M and Z lines

The best offer by far is the free wings on Fridays (and according to the Web site now on Thursdays too!) starting at 5 p.m. The wings aren't hot or buffalo style, but rather like a blackened, jerk chicken wing. When I was there they were so tender the meat literally fell off the bone. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

They are served buffet style and you can just help yourself. (Purchasing a drink is required, but for $3 you can have a beer and a delicious meal).