A tipster's guide to the City

SEE YOURSELF ON TV: For tickets to some popular shows produced in the city, check belowMTV: To be part of the TRL audience, call for tickets at 212.398.8549 or e-mail TRLcasting@mtvstaff.com. The Today Show: The show airs Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. The studio is located at the corner of 49th Street and Rockefeller Center (between Fifth and Sixth avenues). Get there early to snag a good spot. The Early Show: The studio is located on the ground floor of the General Motors Building (Fifth Avenue and 59th Street); the show airs between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. No tickets are necessary, but get there early.The Letterman show: You can request tickets in person (Mon-Fri, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Sat, Sun, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. at 1697 Broadway. Do not line up before 9:00 a.m. or you will disqualify yourself ). You will be notified by phone if you are chosen. The minimum age to attend the show is 18 years old. Stand-by tickets are also available by calling (212) 247-6497 starting at 11:00 a.m. on the day of the taping you wish to attend. You may also submit an online application. Go to www. cbs.com. Late Night with Conan O'Brien: Call the ticket line (212) 664-3056 and follow directions. Saturday Night Live: For stand-by tickets: Arrive no later than 7:00 a.m. on the morning of the taping under the "NBC Studios" marquee on the 50th St. side of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. You may choose a stand-by ticket for either the 8:00pm dress rehearsal or the 11:30pm live show. Standby tickets do not guarantee admission. For more information, check the website: www.nbc.comFIND A BARGAIN: No one in New York pays full price if they can possibly avoid it. Century 21 is a favorite stomping ground, particularly good for designer shoes, handbags, clothes (for men, women, and kids) and house stuff. Note: the best time to shop is between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., weekdays, when everyone else is at work (22 Cortlandt Street). Loehman's has seen better days, but still you can get lucky. (101 Seventh Avenue)Daffy's is particularly good for accessories, but you'll also find women's and men's fashion heavily discounted, plus a terrific kids' department (Fifth Avenue at 18th Street; Broadway and 34th St.reet; 57th Street between Park and Lexington; www.daffys.com) Find Outlet At these small boutiques, you don't have to fight the crowds, but the selections, while trendy, are also more limited. (361 West 17th Street; 229 Mott Street).Among the department stores, Bergdorf's(Fifth Avenue at 58th Street), Bloomingdale's (Lexington Avenue at 59th Street), and Saks (Fifth Avenue at 50th Street) are known for their sales. It's also worth checking out the designer floor at Lord & Taylor (Fifth Avenue at 38th Street) when the seasons change, since the place isn't known for its cutting-edge hip, and there's often good merch to be picked up at a significant saving.On the street: West Broadway and Spring Street in SoHo have plenty of street vendors who appear on weekends, selling everything from handbags to hair clips. Another good stretch for bargain hunters is on Columbus Avenue above 72nd Street and on up to 80th. Also, check out Bloomingdale's country, Lexington Avenue above 57th Street to about 63rd Street. Flea Markets are a whole other animal. The market at 77th Street and Columbus Avenue (open Sundays) is especially good for costume jewelry and other accessories. Chinatown is a good place to browse for cheap, fun gifts -- think change purses, makeup bags, key chains and the like -- to bring home; you'll also find embroidered skirts, silk jackets, and such. A good resource is Pearl River, the area's main department store, which has moved from its old quarters on Canal Street to a slightly spiffier spot at 477 Broadway.LUNCH ON THE RUN: Looking to save a little time and money? Do what New Yorkers do, and eat on the go. The city's food carts now go way beyond hot dogs: New York Dosas, for example, wraps a skinny pancake around spicy Indian sambar (Sullivan and West 4th Street). Other carts to look for: Daisy May's chili cart, which patrols Wall Street and Midtown (50th Street & Sixth Avenue), and Hallo Berlin, which dispenses its wursts from a cart at 54th and Fifth. Aside from the carts, there are a few takeout places that should be mentioned. Hot dogs from Crif Dog are deep fried (don't think about the health issue) and crunchy (113 St. Mark's Place); cheese steaks from BB Sandwich Bar are not at all traditional, but they sure are tasty (121 West Third Street). Fish and chips aren't really a New York thing, but if you head over to A Salt and Battery, they'll put together a mean lunch to go. (112 Greenwich Avenue; 212-691-2713)Have a hankering for something sweet? Magnolia Bakery, in the West Village, has spawned something of a craze for cupcakes. The place is so popular, there's usually a line (401 Bleecker Street). Alternatives to the mother ship: Buttercup Bake Shop, in Midtown (973 Second Avenue) and Billy's Bakery (184 Ninth Avenue) in Chelsea. Uptown, you can satisfy a sweet tooth at Payard Patisserie (1032 Lexington Avenue,; 212-717-5252 ), which sells spectacular French pastry by the piece or indulge yourself at the Elk Candy Company (1628 Second Avenue), which specializes in marzipanA PLACE TO PLOTZ: On days when the weather is good, the steps at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the tables at Bryant Park, just behind the main Public Library, are great places to rest your weary feet. On the East Side, the park at Tudor City is a pleasant, convenient refuge (40th to 43rd Streets and First to Second Avenues). And just off Fifth Avenue, on 53rd Street, the vest-pocket park on the north side of the street, with its waterfall and tables, is positively luxurious. Way downtown, the Battery Park City Esplanade draws lunchers from Wall Street who sit on the benches and admire the river while they chow down.If you're suffering from Museum Foot and don't want to spring for a coffee, you can settle in on one of the cushy sofas at Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, or any other largish furniture shop. Usually, the staff won't bother you, and you can slip your shoes off for 15 minutes or so. Another good place to grab a seat? The tables at Barnes & Noble. (If, on the other hand, you feel a little hungry, take a table in the cafe).PARK THE CAR: You don't have to worry about carrying around a pocketful of change anymore when you want to park on the street. The city now markets a NYC Parking Card, available in $20 and $50 denominations, which can be used in all New York City municipal parking fields, all muni-meters, and selected single-space meter locations. To find out how to buy one, go to www.ci.nyc.ny.usTAKE THE KIDS OUT TO PLAY: Most kids are perfectly happy to tag along wherever you go, but it's nice to give them a treat after, say, enduring an hour or two at the Met. In fact, there is a perfect playground just north of the museum, in Central Park, where they can work off the energy they built up behaving themselves. Of course, the park in general is a great place to take kids of just about any age: Make sure to visit the zoo and check out the polar bears, the penguins, and the seals. At the other end of the island is Columbus Park, in the heart of Chinatown (Mulberry between Bayard and Worth streets), perfectly positioned for kids who've had enough downtown sightseeing. Also downtown is Hudson River park, with its innovative playground, which is great in summer (there are imaginative sprinklers), particularly well-suited to really young children.

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