15 things to do in N.Y. /N.J. region during WrestleMania week

No region in the world shares as special a connection with WWE — and WrestleMania in particular — as the New York/New Jersey area. Want proof? This year’s event will mark an unprecedented seventh time that WrestleMania has taken place within either New York or New Jersey state lines.

However, just because The Grandest Stage of Them All is “coming home,” that doesn’t mean the thousands of out-of-town WWE fans descending upon MetLife Stadium will be entirely familiar with all the New York/New Jersey area has to offer.

To help you plan your travel itinerary, here are 15 uniquely fun destinations that will make your WrestleMania week experience a memory that lasts a lifetime.

Liberty Science Center

Liberty Science Center (25 minutes away)
Liberty State Park
222 Jersey City Blvd., Jersey City, NJ 07305

Although you won’t see scientific wrestling standouts Daniel Bryan or Tyson Kidd demonstrating the intricacies of leglocks there, the Liberty Science Center is nonetheless a must-see destination for any science-minded member of the WWE Universe. From wind simulators that’d make Hurricane Helms and Texas Tornado proud, to an animal collection that spans more than 100 species (including a Goliath bird-eating tarantula — but no Mantaur, sadly), the 300,000-square foot learning center never fails to capture the imagination of its visitors.

Central Park Zoo

Central Park Zoo (25 minutes away)
64th St. & 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10021

When you arrive at the Central Park Zoo, located within the pristine 843-acre park, don’t expect the cast of the animated movie “Madagascar” to greet you — there are no zebras, lions or giraffes. However, you can expect a menagerie of other characters, including polar bears, snow leopards, red pandas and emerald tree boas. If you go, be sure to catch the adorable Gentoo penguins during their 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily feedings. Trust us, they’re much nicer than the penguins in the movie.

Branchburg Sports Complex

Branchburg Sports Complex (55 minutes away)
47 Readington Road
Branchburg, NJ 08876

Before watching WWE Superstars take out their aggression on The Grandest Stage of Them All, exorcise a bit of your own aggression inside a 9,000-square feet, sci-fi-themed laser tag arena. In addition to the futuristic shooting gallery, the Branchburg Sports Complex, located 50 miles southwest of MetLife Stadium, features 78,000 square feet of space, including four batting cages, a play maze and an arcade, where players can redeem tickers for a host of prizes. 

New York Penn Station

New York Penn Station (20 minutes away)
8th Ave. & 31st St.
New York, NY 10001

Visit New York’s Penn Station and you’ll find yourself standing in not only one of the world’s busiest transit hubs but also at the coordinates of one of the most storied sites in WWE history. Roughly 500,000 passengers move through the train station daily, but it’s not the volume of wayfarers that makes the historic station a destination for the WWE Universe. There is only one documented instance of The Undertaker executing the Tombstone on an escalator, and it happened smack-dab in the middle of Penn Station during an early episode of WWE Shotgun Saturday Night. In the spectrum of unique WWE venues, Penn Station stands alone.

Directly overhead, however, is a more familiar setting for WWE action: the world-famous Madison Square Garden. WWE’s “home arena” dating back decades, MSG will host the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday, April 6, meaning you can easily visit two WWE landmarks in one fell swoop. ( HALL OF FAME TICKETS)

Katz’s Deli

Katz’s Deli (27 minutes away)
205 East Houston St.
New York City, NY 10002

Feed Me More! Have a Ryback-like hunger? You’ll do well to track down one of Katz’s towering deli sandwiches. Founded in 1888, this Lower East Side landmark is known for hot pastrami and corned beef masterpieces — and also for a famous scene filmed there for the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” in which Meg Ryan shows Billy Crystal that things aren’t always what they seem. Although the prices at Katz’s aren’t cheap, unless you’re sporting a Shell Shocking appetite, one sandwich is more than enough to feed you and a friend.

Rebounderz of Edison

Rebounderz of Edison (45 minutes away)
76 Carter Drive
Edison, NJ 08817

Prepare to emulate some of WWE’s highest fliers like Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara inside this massive indoor trampoline arena. The extensive facility is packed with a multitude of the gymnastic gadgets, both large and small, as well as giant pits filled with soft, foam blocks for leaping into. Rebounderz also includes a room lined with basketball hoops, padding and trampolines, designed specifically to practice those monster dunks. Be sure to call ahead, though, as wait times can vary.

Intrepid Museum

Intrepid Museum (20 minutes away)
Pier 86, 12th Ave. and W 46th St.
New York, NY 10036-4103

“Intrepid” isn’t just a fitting description of WWE fan favorites John Cena and Sheamus — it’s also the name of one the United States’ most celebrated Navy aircraft carriers. Today, the nearly 900-foot-long USS Intrepid is home to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex, where visitors can enjoy tours and interactive exhibits, as well as view an expansive collection of aircrafts. More than just the foundation of a cool portal into American history, the USS Intrepid also played a pivotal part in transforming Lex Luger into WWE’s top hero in 1993. It was on the ship’s flight deck that Luger arrived by helicopter and galvanized the WWE Universe by becoming the first Superstar to bodyslam the 600-plus-pound Yokozuna.

The Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art (24 minutes away)
11 West 53rd St.
New York, NY 10019

What better way to juxtapose the adrenaline rush that is WrestleMania than with a serene visit to New York’s beautiful Museum of Modern Art? The museum (also known as MoMA) is so rich with culture that even a snob like self-professed “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” Damien Sandow can’t help but be impressed by its awe-inspiring collection. Boasting a mixture of media, MoMA’s exhibits run the gamut from paintings, photography and sculptures to film, architecture and design. Art connoisseur or not, visitors who are in town for ’Mania will assuredly appreciate Edvard Munch’s famed “The Scream” painting, which is on display through April 29.

Ed Sullivan Theater

Ed Sullivan Theater (25 minutes away)
1697 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

Before he introduced America to his Top 10 list or began jousting with Jay Leno, the Emmy award-winning host of “The Late Show with David Letterman” made television history when he conducted an infamous interview between comedian Andy Kaufman and Jerry “The King” Lawler. In 1982, Letterman looked on in shock as the quirky Kaufman and the WWE Hall of Famer sparred verbally before tensions escalated into physicality. You can reserve show tickets in advance or take your chances waiting in line at the theater box office. After all, who knows when another WWE Hall of Fame highlight might strike?

Manhattan Center

Manhattan Center (27 minutes away)
311 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001

Want to snap a photo of the place where television’s longest-running weekly episodic series got its start? Look no further than Manhattan Center, which hosted dozens of early editions of Raw, including the show’s auspicious debut in January 1993. Originally constructed as an opera house in 1906, the building has long since been renovated into a more broad-based entertainment venue. Among grappling enthusiasts, however, the Manhattan Center is all but sacred ground: Beyond the numerous episodes of Raw that have taken place there, the building, which contains the Hammerstein Ballroom, has been the site of pay-per-views promoted by both the original and WWE versions of Extreme Championship Wrestling, and several smaller wrestling companies still run there today.

Times Square

Times Square (20 minutes away)
New York, NY 10036

If you want just a taste of the hustle and bustle that New York has to offer, you could do far worse than Times Square. More brightly lit than a Chris Jericho ring jacket and more kaleidoscopic than Brodus Clay’s disco ball, Times Square is lined with enormous electronic billboards and larger-than-life signage, and it often lands on lists of the world’s most visited tourist attractions. The unofficial nerve center of New York, Times Square offers no shortage of food, retail or entertainment options, although it’s also worth a trip for the sightseeing factor alone.

Ninja New York restaurant

Ninja New York restaurant (27 minutes away)
25 Hudson St.
New York, NY 10013

Hiyaaaaa! Prepare to conquer your cravings at this martial arts–themed restaurant. The menu includes sushi and steak as well as more kid-friendly fare, but the real appeal of this eatery emerges from the décor, inspired by a feudal-era Japanese village, and the ninja-costumed staff, who are adept at sleight of hand trickery. Ninja New York makes dining as entertaining as watching Far East favorites like The Great Muta, Yokozuna and Bull Nakano. Just make sure to leave a decent tip … or else!

Mountain Creek Water Resort

Mountain Creek Water Resort (1 hour away)
200 McAfee Vernon Road
Vernon, NJ 07462

Ever wish you could make a spectacular zipline entrance like Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII? Wish no more. Mountain Creek Water Resort offers year-round ziplines ranging in distance from 200 to 1,500 feet and rising up 200 feet with scenic views of a lake. A ski resort when the flakes are falling, Mountain Creek transforms into a summer playground when temperatures rise. Whether you feel like golfing one of seven courses, shooting down an Alpine roller coaster or cooling off at a massive water park, Mountain Creek has you covered.


Rockefeller Center Plaza

Rockefeller Center (25 minutes away)
45 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY

Comprising 19 commercial buildings — including Radio City Music Hall and the world-renowned GE Building — the Rockefeller Center “restored the image of New York as the premier American city,” according to its “Statement of Significance” in the National Historic Landmarks Program. A trip there can take you in any number of directions, from 70 floors above street level for an incredible view of Central Park (courtesy of the “Top of the Rock” observation deck) to behind the scenes at NBC Studios (where guided tours are offered). Considering its purview also includes Studio 8H (the site of “Saturday Night Live”) and a universally recognized sculpture of Atlas, Rockefeller Center may well be considered the other Showcase of the Immortals.

WWE Headquarters

WWE Headquarters (57 minutes away)
1241 East Main St.
Stamford, CT. 06902

You won’t find the giant “DX” spray painted on the side of the four-story glass building anymore, but it’s still worth heading north on I-95 to visit Titan Tower. Take a photo in front of the iconic structure proudly flying both the U.S. and WWE logo flags. And who knows, maybe you’ll even catch WWE Hall of Famer and WWE.com historian Howard Finkel grabbing a bite to eat at Myrna’s Kitchen cafe across the street?

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