Because of EF Explore America’s thoughtful approach to travel and on-tour safety, groups are back out on the road, confidently exploring all the excitement, history, and charm of North American cities and national parks. As the world learns how to adapt to the current times, New York City in particular is experiencing an exciting resurgence. Broadway is back, museums and restaurants are opening their doors, and the Big Apple is once again bustling with the energy of locals and tourists alike.
We connected with EF’s resident New York City expert Courtenay Betts to peek behind the curtain (Broadway pun intended) and learn what it feels like to visit this iconic city.
A: Hi! I’m originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I first entered the tourism industry as a Tour Director, leading Canadian students across major destinations in Canada and the United States—my favorites being Ottawa, New York City, Chicago, and California. I began my career with EF over a decade ago, and have held a few different roles in tour operations throughout the years. I’m currently the Senior Procurement Manager, so I directly oversee all of our needs for hotels, meals, and attractions for tours traveling to New York City, New Jersey, and Hawaii.
A: I try to visit New York City for at least a few days every month. It’s one of the most amazing cities in the world, partly because it’s always changing and evolving. New attractions, restaurants, and stores are constantly opening, and it’s a crucial part of my job that I keep up with its (literal) changing landscape. While New York City was certainly hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic, New Yorkers have proven to be resilient by coming together, putting work in, and transforming the city. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to both watch and participate in this revival. If there is one thing I want travelers to know, it’s that New York City is BACK! Museums are open, new parks have been developed, and outdoor dining has added a new energy to the streets. New Yorkers are out enjoying their city, and the process of reopening progresses every day.
A: Broadway is open and I have been! It’s one of New York City’s top attractions for visitors—whether you consider yourself a theater nerd (like me) or are just interested in seeing what all the hype is about, there is a show for everyone.
Broadway was closed for 18 months—the longest closure in its history. As an industry, it’s one of the largest job sources in the five boroughs of New York City. Each show employs hundreds of people, so its closing during the pandemic had a huge impact on people’s livelihoods. The performers, backstage crews, front-of-house staff, costume and set designers, marketing companies, etc. were all out of work overnight. There were no audiences to fill the restaurants or souvenir stores in the adjacent neighborhoods, so many of those jobs were lost as well. Luckily, now that Broadway is back, many of those places are also open again in NYC.
The theater district is buzzing again, and the energy is amazing. While each show has set their own reopening date, Hamilton, Wicked, The Lion King, and Chicago all chose September 14, signaling the official Broadway reopening. Every week since, more theaters have opened their doors. As the lights go down, audiences are cheering with more excitement than ever! Theater fans have been posting all over social media as they buy tickets for their highly anticipated “first show back.”
When I went to my first show back, I didn’t know what to expect. Will I be nervous? Is it going to feel different after so much time away? I’m thrilled to report that it felt the same as it did before the pandemic—even comforting. To help keep shows open, there are new health and safety procedures in place, but these pieces did not take away from the experience. Having theaters be dark for so long made audiences realize how much they missed live performances, and they’re ready to do their part in helping to keep Broadway open and safe.
A: Yes, every time I visit I discover something new! Just before the pandemic, Hudson Yards had opened, bringing new attractions, shopping, and dining experiences to the island’s West Side. This neighborhood also connects to the High Line, which is a personal favorite of mine. It’s such a unique use of space and offers a fun way to traverse the city and see it from a new perspective.
This past summer, Little Island opened, and I immediately fell in love. This new urban oasis, built on the remnants of a historic pier that was once operated by the British Cunard-White Star Line, is now a reimagined public space. It’s home to an amphitheater for outdoor concerts, has plenty of space for food trucks, and offers great views of Lower Manhattan.
Also, it would be an injustice to NYC if I didn’t mention something about its food. Right before the pandemic, there was a surge of food halls opening across the city, and that trend is only intensifying. I love visiting them because the stalls are filled with local vendors, and you can enjoy almost any type of cuisine you’re craving.