new york city Archives - Starr Tours & Charters
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It’s Who You Meet Along the Way

It’s said that it’s not the journey but who you meet along the way that is important in life. Well, as Tour Directors, we are fortunate to be able to do both: travel and meet interesting people along the way!

Sometimes we meet people at our various stops and attractions, but most often it’s right on our tour bus.  After I introduce myself, and before I get into the details of the trip, I will ask if there are any veterans aboard the bus.  Sometimes I’ll get a few gentlemen to raise their hands and I thank them for their service… often the rest of the tour guests will applaud.  On occasion, a woman will raise her hand and she will not only get applause, but many times tour guests will take time during the trip to ask her about her service.  On a 4-day bus trip to Vermont last year, I had two women who were traveling together and still in active duty in the Air Force.  The gentleman sitting across the aisle from them suddenly perked up and said he just retired after 20 years in the Air Force… and the three of them then became a fun trio during the bus trip!

St. John’s, Newfoundland

On a bus trip I recently escorted to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, I had a family group from Philadelphia aboard, taking their Canadian cousins to the Big Apple.  Talking to Lisa, one of the Canadians, I found out that they were from St John’s, Newfoundland.  I had seen a program on the Food Network from Newfoundland and asked about it. She told me about the filming of that show and how everyone in town was involved in it. Then she said that they were going to see a Broadway show the next week: taking the train into NY. It would be her first ride on a train! And the show they would see was “Come From Away,” the hit show about all the flights that had to land in Newfoundland on 9/11.  Yes, she was involved in that too, although she didn’t take anyone into her home, they were cooking for and helping all the unplanned visitors to their town.

On the 9/11 Museum trips, I talk about the early history of New York and about the many first settlers who came in 1624 who were Walloons: French speaking Belgians who were fleeing persecution and went to Holland. They petitioned the government and were allowed to come on the first ship that sailed to the New Netherlands’ colony of New Amsterdam.  As they were getting off the bus in New York City, one tour guest said to me: “I was surprised and very moved, to hear you talk about the Walloons because I’m a Walloon… well, my ancestors were and I never really understood their place in American history!” She was quite happy the rest of the trip.

And last, but not least, on another trip into New York City, I talked about the early explorers and the dangers of exploration back then. Henry Hudson was put adrift by his crew in the Hudson Bay in the winter, and Giovani Verrazzano met a horrible end on a Caribbean Island. I mentioned that today’s explorers also experience danger, such as in the space program. On that trip I had an astronaut/payload specialist from the Space Shuttle Columbia, onboard. (A rather poignant example of the dangers of space travel – the Space Shuttle Columbia completed 27 missions from 1981-2003 before disintegrating upon re-entry on the completion of its 28th mission. All seven members of the crew were killed.) He concurred that space exploration was just as dangerous as exploring was in the 15th and 16th  centuries, but the dangers are different as there are no cannibals in space, as far as we know anyway.

 

I can’t wait to meet more interesting people on my bus trips this year!

Hope to see YOU soon!

Bette Barr
Starr Tour Director

 

P.S. Travel with me to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in May, August, October, and November, the Hudson Valley in June, Boston in July or September, an overnight in New York City in August, the Tall Ship Festival in Erie, PA in August, the Poconos in October, and more!

 

Get Ready For An Overnight in The City That Never Sleeps!

Get Ready For An Overnight in The City That Never Sleeps!

This summer, for the first time, Starr is offering a weekend bus trip to NYC!  I will be the tour director/tour guide for this 2-day getaway so let me tell you a few things about it and why it is a really cool trip… even if it is August in New York!

In addition to being a Tour Director for Starr, I am also a licensed NYC tour guide and I will be using my in-depth knowledge of NYC to give you an introductory riding tour of the city before you go off on your own.  As a native New Yorker, I love sharing “my” city with you.

Included in the cost of the bus trip is your transportation to and from Manhattan and an overnight at a wonderful hotel located at the northern end of Times Square, convenient to all the Broadway theaters and restaurants.  It’s also an easy walk to Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and Central Park (and their delightful zoo).

If you don’t want to visit those places, you’re also near the American Museum of Natural History/Hayden Planetarium on the west side, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim as well as all the other museums on New York’s Museum Mile, on the east side.

The 9/11 Museum and Memorial is just a subway ride away, but I would suggest that you take our Starr bus trip there, separately, since I do a great narration on that trip!

How will you get to those places that are not as close? Well, I will give you a comprehensive tutorial on using the subways on our bus ride into the city. I’ll also be available to give you directions to specific destinations.  The subways are the best way to get around and, unlike when I lived in Queens and worked in the city, they are AIR CONDITIONED AND ANNOUNCE THE NEXT STATION.  And, if you are over 65, you can get a senior discount (50%) on the subways. (You’ll need a photo ID)

Another great thing about this trip is that you can catch a Broadway show! Starr offers a chance to get discount tickets in advance, with great seats, or you can visit TKTS in Times Square, and sometimes, at the box office just before the show (but the seats might not be as good). When the show is over you can relax and have a late dinner and then see Times Square at its best, at night, as you casually walk back to the hotel.  No rushing to catch a bus home or bail out your car from an outrageously priced parking lot!  You could even see a matinee on Saturday afternoon and another show that night!

The next day you can sleep in a bit, if you wish,  and then do some more sightseeing.  You’ll have the better part of the day to see the things you didn’t see on Saturday and maybe do some shopping.  Although breakfast is not included, you can get the best breakfasts within a short walk of the hotel: there are dozens of places to choose from. Again, I’ll give you suggestions and I’ll tell you this: New York bagels are the best in the world… bar none! (Sorry, Philly.)

So, if you’d like a weekend getaway that’s not too far but a world of difference, come on a bus trip to New York with me August 2-3, 2019!  I’m looking forward to it and trying to decide where I want to go and what I want to see. There is just so much to do!

 

See you on the bus!
Bette Barr
Tour Director

The Magic of Radio City

The Magic of Radio City

One of my favorite childhood memories is watching the movie Annie when I was a little girl and delighting with wonder and fascination at the scene where Daddy Warbucks takes Annie to Radio City to watch the Rockettes perform. I stared at the beautiful dancers in the same way Annie did, with such wonder and fascination, as the Christmas carols played in the background. Although I am far from being a red-haired orphan living in the 1930s, the wonder of the Rockettes is a universal feeling, one that many have shared for decades.

 

There is nothing quite like the holiday magic of Radio City Music Hall, which opened in 1932. Over 300 million people have flocked to the theatre to escape to the world created between the velvet curtains. Despite being 80 years old, the theatre still creates that pure sense of joy and wonder for people of all ages, while staying true to its history and roots. This season, millions will take a step back in time and enjoy the Christmas Spectacular which has wowed audiences from around the world with sparkling costumes, twinkling lights, and of course, the high-kicking Rockettes.

 

The first Christmas Spectacular, which debuted in December of 1933, was only thirty minutes long, but today the show has bloomed into a 90-minute celebration of the holiday season straight off the pages of a storybook. However, to the delight of audiences everywhere, two iconic numbers done by the Rockettes have remained completely unchanged for decades. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “The Living Nativity” give the same holiday joy to millions over, and over again while transporting them back to a similar, classic era.

 

Every April, hundreds of New York’s best dancers strap on their tap shoes to audition for a chance to dazzle audiences on one of the world’s most famous dance teams, the Rockettes, and continue this iconic piece of history. Over 3,000 women have performed as Rockettes, and even more hope of someday joining the kick line that so many dancers dream of being a part of. Those dances have become a part of history, and many want to continue that tradition.

 

This season, you can be part of history and experience the timeless beauty of the Christmas Spectacular. Take a relaxing motorcoach trip and gawk at New York City, glistening and shiny with the Christmas season. Then, take a step back in time to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas Spectacular like no one has seen it before. Watching from Orchestra Seats, you’ll be immersed in the sounds and sights of show. Finally enjoy some free time, and look at the cheery holiday energy in the City, maybe watch the skaters at Rockefeller Center, or just enjoy a bite to eat under that massive Christmas tree. This is an experience that is essential for the holiday season. Dazzle your eyes, maybe bring a little dancer with you, and book your trip now. Starr tours has 28 departures this year – but tickets are selling fast. Spend a day in the city with us and experience this once in a lifetime opportunity!

Broadway by Bus or Bust

It’s only August, but now is the time when we start planning our assortment of Broadway Show Bus trips for 2018. I bet you want to know how we decide which shows to book on which dates! A crystal ball of course! Doesn’t everyone have one of these?

Okay, so we don’t really have a crystal ball, but since we’ve been doing this for so long, we do have an idea of the type of shows our tour guests like. There’s the steady eddies like: The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, and Wicked. Then there’s the shows that are still bringing people in after a couple years like Beautiful, and School of Rock. There’s the newer shows like Come From Away and Anastasia. And, of course, there are the untouchables like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen – we get laughed at when we request those shows! Perhaps the most exciting, but most unknown, are the newcomers. Late 2017 and 2018 have their share of newcomers and it looks like there will be lots of new shows to deliver to our tour guests.

Check out the newest musicals coming to Broadway:

The Band’s Visit
The critically acclaimed new musical that celebrates the deeply human ways music and laughter connect us all.  After a mix-up at the border, an Egyptian Police Band is sent to a remote village in the middle of the Israeli desert. With no bus until morning and no hotel in sight, these unlikely travelers are taken in by the locals. Under the spell of the desert sky, their lives become intertwined in the most unexpected ways. The Band’s Visit celebrates the deeply human ways music, longing and laughter can connect us all.

 

Escape to Margaritaville
A new musical featuring both original songs and your most-loved Jimmy Buffett classics. Follow Tully, a part-time singer, part-time bartender, and full-time charmer who thinks he has life all figured out until a beautiful career-minded tourist steals his heart and makes him question everything.

 

Once On This Island
Bursting with Caribbean colors, rhythms and dance, the story of Ti Moune comes to vibrant life in a striking production. Ti Moune is a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures keep them apart, Ti Moune is guided by the powerful island gods, Erzulie , Asaka , Papa Ge , and Agwe, on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart. Come and gather around for Once On This Island, a triumph of the timeless power of theatre to bring us together, move our hearts, and help us conquer life’s storms.

 

Frozen
Elsa and Anna take the stage in the Broadway adaptation of Disney’s hit film! This is the timeless tale of two sisters, pulled apart by a mysterious secret. Both are searching for love. They just don’t know where to find it.

 

 

Half Time
An original musical about a group of ordinary seniors with extraordinary dreams. Take the uplifting  journey with these dreamers—and the young coaches who inspire them along the way—as they battle self-doubt, stereotypes and even each other for a chance to bust a move at center court in front of 20,000 screaming fans. Together they remind us that in life, when the odds are stacked against you and the challenges seem too great to overcome, it’s not the end of the game—it’s HALF TIME.

 

My Fair Lady
Lerner and Loewe’s classic musical returns to Broadway. Adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture Pygmalion, My Fair Lady premiered on Broadway on March 15, 1956. Boasting a score that contains such now-classic songs as “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Get Me to the Church on Time,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “On the Street Where You Live,” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” My Fair Lady was hailed by The New York Times as “one of the best musicals of the century,” and by the NY Herald Tribune as “a miraculous musical.”

 

Harry Potter & The Cursed Child (Part 1 & 2)
The eighth story in the Harry Potter series arrives on Broadway! It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and a father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable trust: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

We already have great seats reserved for many of these shows, and as always, if a show isn’t listed on our Broadway shows lineup you can still count on us for great seats to any show when you book with our NYC Express Option – you choose the show and we take care of the rest! We’ll drop you off at 11am and pick you up at 6pm – we make it super easy for you to enjoy New York City and Broadway!

When Starr takes you to Broadway, we drop you off right in the heart of the Theatre District where you’ll have access to great restaurants, shopping and people watching! Starr makes it easy to see a Broadway show so check out our assortment, sit back and let us take you there!

Why New York Means the (World) To Me

Why New York Means the (World) To Me

When people hear that I am a Tour Director for Starr, one of the most common questions I get asked is what are my favorite trips.  To paraphrase an old song: “If I’m not on the trip that I love, I love the trip I’m on!”

There are so many trips that I like for different reasons and here are some examples and why: Williamsburg/Jamestown/Yorktown* or Civil War Trails* for the historical aspects, the beautiful mountain state of West Virginia* or southern charm of Savannah* for the scenery, and some are just plain fun, like Brooklyn Christmas Lights, Villa Roma Resort in the Catskills*, or the Atlantic City Overnight Getaway!

9/11 Memorial, Photo by Rebecca Wilson

But the trip I get the most satisfaction from is the day trip to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  Why is this one a top favorite for me??  Aside from being able to pay my respects to friends, and others, who perished that day, it’s also because it gives me a renewed sense of hope that the city has been rebuilt and can move on.

I’m a New Yorker, born and raised in the outer boroughs. Going back to the city provides a connection to my home, my early years, and my family, but it also gives me a connection to our country’s beginnings.

Downtown isn’t just a commercial area that evolved over time, to become a center of world trade and commerce.  It was founded in the early 17th century, as a place from which commerce would emanate.  In 1609, when Henry Hudson sailed into the harbor that Giovanni da Verrazzano first discovered in 1524, it was for the Dutch East India Company, looking for that elusive passage to the east.  Unlike Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore, which were founded on religious freedom, New York, or New Amsterdam as it was called then, was founded for commerce – freedom of trade.

I love to tell my passengers stories such as the one about the early Dutch settlers who were merchants, not soldiers, so when the British came in to take over the colony for the King and England, they went along with it, much to “Peg-leg” Peter Stuyvesant’s chagrin.  Now, 400 years later, we still have the effects of the original Dutch settlers in NY, in town and street names as well as many Dutch words.

Did you ever wonder why we eat cookies here but in England they eat biscuits? On this trip, I’ll tell you why.

St. Paul’s Chapel/Trinity Church, Photo by Stacy Cashman at RamblingTraveler.com

Another place I always visit when I’m downtown is St Paul’s Chapel, which miraculously suffered no damage in the 9/11 attacks and served as an area of refuge for the rescue workers during the trying and difficult weeks that followed.  It’s also where George Washington prayed before he was sworn in as our first president.  He took his oath of office on the second floor balcony of Federal Hall, at Wall and Broad Streets, just a short walk from there.

The early history of our country is pretty well wrapped up in that small, downtown area of Manhattan, now larger than when the Dutch and English settled there.  Years of landfill from the tunnels and subway have changed the area around the battery and Castle Clinton, which, when it was the Southwest battery, was actually out in the river.  One other tidbit, Manhattan is from the Lenape word, Mannahatta, meaning hilly island. Those are some of the of the many reasons I am so drawn to it and love to share that information with my passengers.

Come join me on the 9/11 Memorial and Museum tour on July 15th, August 8, September 23, October 14, or October 22!

Bette Barr
Starr Tour Director and licensed New York City tour guide
*I am not directing these tours this year.

Here’s a list of the other tours I am Tour Directing this year:
May 27 – Central Park & Carmine’s, NYC
June 8-11 – Vermont Favorites Spring Special
June 23-25 – Boston, Massachusetts Getaway
July 9 – Assateague Island Boat Cruise
August 4-6 – Washington, DC: Our Nation’s Capital
August 12 – Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
August 19 – Assateague Island Boat Cruise
September 8-10 – Boston, Massachusetts Getaway
September 17-19 – Long Island, NY Featuring the Hamptons and Sag Harbor
October 1-3 – Long Island, NY Featuring the Hamptons and Sag Harbor
October 29-30 – Atlantic City Overnight
December 3 – Brooklyn Christmas Lights
December 16 – Manhattan Holiday Splendor

The Featured Image for this post was taken by Julienne Schaer © NYC and Company