Getting to NYC by bus, enjoying it by foot and saving it with a selfie

Bil Bowden

Touring New York City during Christmas season must be an exciting experience. To where else can we travel for three hours, fight ungodly crowds and shop for gifts that are probably found at the York Galleria? And buy lunch for double the price and half as tasty as home?

There's an old joke that says visiting NYC this time of year is easy on the feet because all you have to do is lift your feet and the shoulder to shoulder crowd will carry you down Seventh Avenue.

Ah, but the holiday spirit is overwhelming. There are candy canes, Santa Clauses, dancing Salvation Army soldiers, Christmas shows, music and the chestnuts roasting on an open fire. The nuts are fresh from Italy, roasting at open-air stands.

It's one of those sites everyone should see at least once. Like Yellowstone National Park or the Statue of Liberty. Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue stores alone are worth the day's visit.

People from all over the world were visiting Saturday, and most were taking selfies with NYC's most well-known landmarks. One young lady from Turkey planned to spend all day wandering around Times Square, a couple from Japan had all week and was going to see it all. And France, England, Germany, South Africa and Australia were also represented.

But getting to New York is a problem. Driving IN Manhattan is something only for crazy people, bus drivers and people with old, dented cars.

So, take another vehicle. A bus from one of the many local bus companies will whisk you into town, drop you off at a convenient location and let you spend the day without worrying about your car, where you parked it, if it's still there when you get back. On a bus, you get explanations from experienced drivers like Jerry with Conestoga Tours. He'll explain about streets, avenues, uptown, midtown and downtown. Maybe he'll suggest where to eat, what to see.  If you drive your car into town, you'll hear none of that. Well, you will, but a block past the parking lot and with a few expletives from your personal navigator.

Check with a reputable travel agency if finding transportation is confusing. Krouse Travel in Red Lion suggests that their personnel can find deals where the inexperienced traveler can't, and give suggestions on time, routes and kinds of travel.

Sitting in the bus's front seat is a thrill ride. Jerry squeezed his nine-foot wide coach through a seven foot opening and then played no-tag with equally adept bus drivers coming the other direction. It was better than some HersheyPark coasters. Once in Manhattan, the hundred or more bus drivers managed to slip into parking spaces more fit for a bike path.

If you drive, you won't even see a movie after your long day is over-- Jerry showed a comedy. After a day of dodging strollers, bus tour hawkers, angry Santas (really), and street entertainers, it was perfect for lowering the blood pressure.

Conestoga Tours still has openings for New York trips on Wednesday, Dec. 16 and Saturday, December 19. After Christmas, Conestoga will host a December 29 trip which might be perfect for after-?Christmas bargains. All trips are $70. Trips will leave from Conestoga's Manheim Pike office in Lancaster. All other area bus lines are either sold out or not running any more NYC trips. Executive, also out of Lancaster, is taking six buses sponsored by radio station WROZ on December 19, but all are sold out and there's a waiting list already started. Interested? Call 653-0806.

The Lititz Rec Center sponsored our trip, and left from there. Bus driver Jerry said he parked in a NYC lot with about 200 buses, including six others from Conestoga Tours.

Amtrak has available trains to Penn Station from Lancaster. Cost is about $160 round trip. Normal price is much lower, but demand is up and so are the prices.

Good luck on your trip. The nervous twitch you acquired should go away after about a day or two.