For an extended weekend just prior to Christmas, Susan and I, along with her parents, had the privilege of visiting New York City! This was my first trip to the Big Apple and I was determined to make the most of it. Our primary focus was Manhattan, which I assume is natural, and we basically hit every landmark possible in three and a half days.
This selfie became our Christmas card photo
Thursday, December 18, 2014: Arrive at LaGuardia Airport. By virtue of using LaGuardia, the borough of Queens was visited, even if it was just by the virtue of a cab ride to and from. It did seem odd that Citi Field is so close to the airport, but at least it is in New York and not New Jersey (looking at you Giants and Jets).
Times Square was always busy, but it was great place to start each day
From the airport, we headed towards our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn at Time Square. The cab ride was long thanks to traffic, but it allowed me to observe the skyscrapers and landmarks along the way. We were early for check in, but our rooms were ready, so we were able to get our bags to our room and start being tourists. And luckily for us, our rooms were upgraded to king beds, which I am sure no one in history has ever complained about! From our hotel window we had a view of Times Square and the ball that will drop on New Year’s Eve, which was better than the side of a building that my in-laws were treated with.
Awesome view of NYC
Lunch was at a burger place called The Counter, which was really good, the amount of customization for each burger was astounding. After lunch, we walked around Times Square and Bryant Park. Susan and her mom enjoying looking through all of the Christmas shops in Bryant Park and I was just taking in the sights. I must say that the characters that wander around Times Square are creepy. Most of them do no speak English, and costumes are not exactly top-notch quality. We saw a Mickey Mouse with a pink face and pointy ears, a hybrid of Cookie Monster and Animal from the Muppets, a Leatherface Statue of Liberty, and a blonde Mario. There were several others, but those will be etched into my nightmares for a while. And to be fair, there were some really good ones, most notably the man dressed as Batman.
If this has to be a warning, then you should not engage the characters.
We then walked to the Empire State Building. I know it is touristy to do, but I wanted to go to the top of it, so we did. The views were awesome, and the architecture and design inside of the building was beautiful. I tried to do a self-guided tour, but my device was broken.
After the Empire State Building, we returned to our hotel to get ready to watch Aladdin on Broadway. Aladdin was being shown at the New Amsterdam Theatre which was very ornate inside, but the seating was cramped. I thought my legs were going to be horribly bruised from how I was sitting for the show. This was excused because of the performance of James Monroe Iglehart as The Genie. It was the most amazing single performance that I have every had to privilege of witnessing! I could watch and listen to his rendition of “Friend Like Me” on repeat for the rest of time! After the show, we just grabbed dinner at a hot dog stand in Times Square and called it a night.
Friday, December 19, 2014: We awoke and headed out early. We had breakfast at a little place near the hotel called the Evergreen. It was a good and cheap breakfast place, that got insanely busy before we left. Afterwards, we trekked on to 30 Rock, Radio City Music Hall, 5th Avenue, and FAO Schwarz. It there was not a line of children, I would have played that piano from Big! Seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center seemed to be that most asked about landmark from everyone about our trip, so, yes, we saw and took our picture with the tree on Friday morning.
Tree at Rockefeller Center
After walking around all of the stores and sights near and around 30 Rock, we headed to Brooklyn for some pizza. we ate a Grimaldi’s Under the Bridge, for some fantastic pizza, and a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge. We gorged ourselves on this pizza since it is nothing like what we can get here in Memphis, and then headed back over the bridge to continue our touristy adventures.
Nice view post slice
First, we hit Battery Park for a view of the Statue of Liberty. We decided since the weather was on the chilly side, we would not venture out to the statue, and I just got a glimpse from the park.
9/11 Memorial (South Tower)
Then we headed to Ground Zero. There is so much that I can and want to write about this portion of our trip that I am going to at a later date to try to do it justice. I will say that it was very sobering to see the Freedom Tower, and 9/11 Memorials and Museum. The entire time you are there you are either crying or on the verge of crying. There is so much to see in the museum and the tribute to each victim will give you chills. We also visited St. Paul’s Chapel, “the Little Church That Stood” which is a remarkable building in its own right. I will go into greater detail when I do my Ground Zero post, but this church has stood for centuries, and was protected from a downed cedar on 9/11. Susan has book about it that she shares with her children every year on 9/11.
After the very emotional visit to Ground Zero, we took a cab back to Times Square where we ate a Junior’s, and discovered amazing cheesecake and black and white cookies. Both items were delicious, and were consumed repeatedly throughout the rest of the trip.
I had to get my cheesecake to go
Saturday, December 20, 2014: The day started at the Evergreen, and then we headed to Central Park for a carriage ride. We walked around Columbus Circle and then headed to Tom’s Restaurant, which is better known as Monk’s to those of us Seinfeld nerds in the world, and then had lobster rolls at Luke’s Lobster Rolls.
This might be the most common photo from every Seinfeld fan when the visit New York
After lunch, we had a museum tour/scavenger hunt at the American Museum of Natural History conducted by Watson’s. The hunt was very detailed, and was designed to take over two hours to complete. And since we were double booked with scavenger hunts, and the temperature in the museum was somewhere between the sun and the seventh layer of Hell, we left early.
I could have spent all day in the dinosaur exhibits.
Our second scavenger hunt was in the Village so we exited the museum, grabbed a cab, and headed south. This scavenger hunt was conducted by Accomplice: The Show. There is one for New York and The Village, but during December, the New York show is not available. The actors in the show are of great quality, and you end up seeing quite a bit of the Village as you go from place to place to gather clues. It is a fun way to spend an afternoon, but the amount of fun heavily depends on the amount of engagement of your fellow participants. If you get some duds in your group, your experience will be tarnished somewhat.
After solving the crime in Accomplice, we headed to Katz’s Delicatessen for dinner. We did not sit in the When Harry Met Sally table, but we did get to absorb the full Katz’s experience. I went with the pastrami and it was delicious! I was able to conquer the entire sandwich, which was not an easy feat.
So freaking good!
After dinner, we, along with 6 billion other people returned to Rockefeller Center to see the tree at night. My mother-in-law wanted a family photo with the tree, but that was not happening. We fought the crowds for a bit, looking at the decorated store front windows, and then headed back towards the hotel, making sure to detour for some more cheesecake before retiring for the evening.
The tree, at night, with several other spectators
Sunday, December 21, 2014: This was our last day in New York, and it was mainly a travel day. We did have another trip through Times Square and Bryant Park, buying some last-minute souvenirs and getting one more taste of the culinary fare of New York. Over the course of the extended weekend in New York, we saw everything on our list, walked over 23 miles along the streets of the city, and got a brief glimpse into another area of the country. I guess you can say that we enjoyed our trip, and we look forward to our next visit to NYC! Also, sorry for the novel of a post, I guess I should have separated it by each day!
A pic of Susan and I at the tree at Rockefeller Center