The Ed Sullivan Theater, home to The Late Show with David Letterman
The Theater District

Topics Covered:

Hotel, Yankee Stadium, the Late Show with David Letterman, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City buses, cruise, the World Trade Center site, The World (WWE), Broadway Shows

By James Glasbergen

After my first experience in New York City, I was more determined to find a reliable hotel that would definitely have a decent wheelchair accessible bathroom. Fortunately, I found one near Times Square. I highly recommend that anyone planning to visit the many Manhattan attractions stay in the Time Squares area. I will never stay anywhere but Times Square when I am in New York. From there you can walk to almost all of the attractions in midtown Manhattan, and it is only a $1.50 bus ride to anywhere else you want to go in Manhattan. You can also get an unlimited day pass to ride the bus for $4.

Our hotel room was pretty good, although nothing spectacular. There was one king bed which had no space underneath it for the lift, so I slept on a roll-away bed. The room was quite small to begin with, so the addition of the roll-away bed made it especially tight. The bathroom was excellent though. There was quite a bit of room to manouevre and there was no lip going in to the roll-in shower.

On our first day in New York, we went to see a ballgame at Yankee Stadium. There was plenty of parking around the stadium as there were 13 or 14 lots in the immediate area. There was no designated wheelchair parking in any of the lots, but it was no problem to get a space where you could let a wheelchair ramp out. Wheelchair seating inside the stadium was excellent, second only to Wrigley Field in my opinion. We sat right behind home plate about 15 or 20 rows up.

The next day we went to see the Late Show with David Letterman which was located only a block from our hotel. Tickets for the Late Show were hard to get. Apparently you had to write in to the show requesting tickets at least 9 months in advance. However, there was another way to get tickets for those who couldn't plan their trip that far in advance. The Late Show had an online ticket request form on their website which you could fill in if you were planning to be in New York in the next 3 months. Then, if there were ticket cancellations for certain dates, you could get called by someone from the Late Show and be offered tickets subject to a skill-testing question about the show. That was how I got tickets. I was called by someone from the show 2 weeks before the taping, and I had to answer the question "who is Rupert?" Luckily I knew that he was the owner of the Hello Deli, the little deli right next to the Ed Sullivan Theater. We actually got to meet Rupert the next day. There was a step going into the deli () so it was not really wheelchair accessible, but Rupert was happy to step out for a second and take a picture with me.

Wheelchair seating at the Late Show was not very good. There actually was no designated wheelchair seating. We were preseated, which meant that we entered the studio a couple minutes before the rest of the audience. There were only 11 rows on the main floor, so no seat was very far away from the stage. We were shown to our seats which were on the left side of the audience. My friend sat in the last row in the aisle seat, and I sat directly behind him. The problem was that there was a long hand rail only 3 or 4 feet behind the last row, and this rail ran the whole length of the row. That meant that I could not even sit straight behind the seat in front of me because there was not enough room between the last row and the rail. Therefore, I had to sit sideways for the whole taping. They would not let me sit in the aisle either because I would apparently be a fire hazard. I had a super sore neck by the end of the taping, although it was worth it. The show was great. I'm not sure how they would accommodate wheelchair users who can't turn their neck, though.

On the third day we took a stroll through Central Park and checked out some of the attractions on the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Met" was very accessible. There was a floor plan that you could view online or pick up at the entrance which showed the best way for wheelchairs to get around on each floor. There was a suggested admission price to enter the Met, but you could basically pay whatever you wanted to pay to enter the museum.

The next day we took the bus over to the pier for a cruise around Manhattan. We picked up a Metrocard for $4, which provided unlimited bus rides for that day. Every New York City bus was wheelchair accessible. They were great. The bus drivers were very friendly too. All we had to do was tell them which street we wanted to get off at and they would stop when we got there. The boat had a ramp for wheelchairs to board and the whole main deck was accessible. However, the bathroom was not accessible and I am pretty sure the upper deck was not either. The cruise itself was very worthwhile. It circled the whole island of Manhattan, including a close-up of the Statue of Liberty.

From the pier we took the 42nd street bus back to Broadway and then caught a connecting bus down to the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. Since it had been almost a year since the September 11 attack and all of the debris has been cleared away, there really was not much to see other than a massive hole in the ground. Nevertheless, it was still an eerie feeling to be there and imagine what once stood there and everything that happened that day, especially since I had visited the exact same spot only 2 years earlier and had actually gone up to the observation deck at the top of the WTC. The site was now surrounded by a chain linked fence and there was a designated area where you could view the site, which basically looked like a huge construction site.

On our last day in New York, we went to the World restaurant. Located in Times Square, it was basically a huge restaurant/entertainment center owned by the WWE. On Mondays and Thursdays you could buy tickets to watch RAW and Smackdown there. We were fortunate enough to be there for Summerslam. The show was great, and the atmosphere in the restaurant was amazing with all the die-hard wrestling fans. There were also frequent autograph signings at the World. We were lucky enough to be in town for an autograph session with Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, and the Big Show. Apparently the lineup for autographs began at 3 am. By the time we arrived at around 11 am, the line extended around the block and there was clearly no chance of everyone getting in. Of course, we weren't worried because we were told to just go to the front of the line. The perks to being in a chair! We were the first ones let inside to meet the wrestlers, who were really friendly, especially Ric Flair, who was great. (Note: Unfortunately, the WWE decided to close The World in February 2003 due to large operating losses).

We went to 5 Broadway shows on this trip, 1 on each day of our stay. Just a quick note—I've been to 7 different Broadway theaters now and every one is freezing inside so dress warm. Unfortunately, a lot of the huge wheelchair discounts that were available a couple years ago were no longer available because several theaters made renovations to improve wheelchair access. The first night we went to see Les Miserables at the Imperial Theater. The show was excellent! In my opinion the only show that tops it is the Phantom of the Opera. Wheelchair seating was not very good at the Imperial Theater, and the tickets were still $90 each. I sat in the aisle by the wall about 10 rows from the stage on the far left side, so we were watching the whole show from the side and I could not see a large portion of the back of the stage.

We had the same problem at the Phantom of the Opera which played at the Majestic Theater. We sat about 5 rows from the stage, but we were way off to the right and up against the wall so we could not see a large portion of the stage. I actually had the exact same seats 2 years earlier. I believe the wheelchair seats at the Phantom were discounted rates at $55 each. While the seats were not great, the Phantom is still the best show I have ever seen and probably the best show I will ever see. It will be hard to beat.

I am pretty sure our seats for the Producers were also discounted. They were $49 each. The Producers played at the St. James Theater on 44th Street. The location of the wheelchair seats was pretty much identical to the wheelchair seating for Les Miserables, which meant that we were way off to the side. However, we could still see most of the stage. The show itself was very good, although I thought it would be better. It was quite funny, but I think my expectations were higher given all the publicity and awards the show had received.

We also saw Mamma Mia at the Winter Garden Theater. Of the 7 Broadway theaters I have been to, this one had the best wheelchair seating by far. We were right in the middle of the audience, 13 rows from the stage. The seats were $98 each, but worth it. The show was great, probably my 3rd favorite after the Phantom and Les Mis.

The last show we went to was the Graduate at the Plymouth Theater. This was my least favorite show. We felt like we were at a high school play instead of a Broadway show. The main reason we went is because of the 3 big stars in the show—Kathleen Turner, Jason Biggs, and Alicia Silverstone. Unfortunately, Kathleen Turner was replaced for that performance, but the other 2 stars were in it and they were quite good. When we bought tickets, we had a choice between $80 seats and $45 seats. The $80 seats were apparently located on one side of the audience and the $45 seats were located on the other side. It was a good thing we chose the $45 seats because when we arrived they upgraded us to a better location since the show was not sold out. We sat in the last row on the main floor about even with center stage. They were good seats, but the Plymouth Theater was the coldest yet. I was absolutely freezing throughout the whole performance.

For additional information on New York City accessibility, see "NEW YORK CITY 2000"


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