Sunday, March 4, 2012

New York, New York!

First of all, thanks for my welcome back to blog land! Apparently I have at least 3 readers, so I will do my best to stay on task... for now at least! Second of all, it was no thanks to blogger (or possibly my computer and/or internet connection) - I wrote this blog on Sunday but couldn't get any pictures to upload and I didn't want another vanilla blog post with no pics!
I have always wanted to visit NYC, and apparently so has R. There are many places we'd like to visit, actually, just not enough time or money... Anyway, NYC was on the top of our list and we especially wanted to see it at Christmas time, so we bit the bullet, used our recent first wedding anniversary as an excuse, and booked flights and a hotel room for an extended weekend before Christmas (Thursday - Monday). Interesting tip I learned when I was researching tickets: Flights are cheapest after 3pm on Tuesdays - they go up after that throughout the week. Well, at least according to a blog I read and fortunately I found this to be true. Our tickets were about $90 less PER PERSON! as compared to a couple days prior when I purchased them on a Tuesday evening.
We flew out Thursday morning and managed to phenagle the transportation system to get from the airport in New Jersey to our hotel in the Times Square area. We chose the hotel based on location - close to Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the Theater District and a main terminal for subway/buses so we could get to the other places we wanted to visit easily. The hotel looked much more "plush" than what it turned out to be, but it was really nice considering the reasonable price and just the fact that we were in NYC. Hotel rooms are just small there, period, from what I can tell... unless, I'm sure, you're willing to spend an arm and a leg. But we need our arms and legs. A couple nice features were free breakfast every morning and "Happy Hour" on weeknights. So we were able to check in to the hotel and have a free glass of wine while we decided what to do our first night. I'm a high-strung traveller so this was especially nice :)
I'm also an inexperienced traveller and I worry that I'm not going to make the most of my time at a destination - and I sure don't want to waste the money I'm spending on the trip - so I do my best to plan ahead. When we went to Chicago, I bought a guide book and had a pretty good plan in place, which worked really well. I thought I'd do the same thing for NYC, and bought the book and talked to R about what we really wanted to do and asked friends for recommendations - but still didn't have a firm plan - there were just too many things we wanted to do! So, after consulting my guidebook and the internet for pizza places, we finally landed on going to Lombardi's that night in Soho/Little Italy (I never really figured that out), which claims to be the first pizzeria in NYC. We weren't super hungry so decided we'd try to walk - and realized pretty quickly it was farther than we thought, so we decided to do something else "New York" and tried to hail a taxi. Easier said than done - there are alot of people on the streets trying to do the same! When we finally snagged one, we realized taking a taxi in that area in the early evening is not productive but definitely expensive - traffic is just too thick to drive. The driver got us fairly close and we walked the rest of the way. At least we got the experience, right? Pizza was good... not much too say about it, but we were not disappointed. We headed back in the direction of the hotel and explored the shopping in Times Square. The store I was most impressed with was Toys R Us - really awesome ferris wheel with toy cars, Candy Land, Legoland, Barbie World... any kid would be in heaven, but you could not pay me enough to navigate a stroller or deal with a small child in that environment (the city, not the store itself)! Getting the two of us around was headache enough for me.
On Friday we started early on the typical touristy activities: watched the taping of the Today show, toured NBC studios, took pictures in front of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, watched ice skaters, stopped in at St. Patrick's Cathedral before taking the subway to Ground Zero. Here's a tip if you are planning a trip and want to go to the 911 Memorial: get your tickets ahead of time. You can actually get tickets on the day of, but it isn't guaranteed. We learned the hard way. So, instead of going to the memorial, I took my very disappointed husband to Battery Park, where we took a boat ride to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island close up (we stayed on the boat - we were pretty wiped out already and I wasn't feeling too hot). Then we headed back to the hotel to get ready to see the Lion King. We were running short on time, so grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor (on R's must-do list) as we walked to the show. I didn't know that most of the shows had an entire theater dedicated to them. Not quite like Houston's theater district! Also unlike seeing a show at the Hobby Center, you can take refreshments you purchase there to your seat... including adult beverages in SIPPY CUPS! with fun names like Hakuna Matata (my beverage of choice) and Scar's Revenge (R's) for only $17 each. I'm glad we didn't know how much they would be until the drinks were already poured and it was too late to be smart. The show was cool - great costumes, sets, music... at least I could appreciate where my money went, I suppose!
On Saturday, we slept in a bit - I still wasn't feeling great and R had caught my cold by this point. Our goal for the day was to check out Central Park so we headed up town and had brunch at this awesome spot called Good Enough to Eat. The guide books warned us not to fall into the trap of waiting in line for brunch... but we were there, hungry, and didn't know where else to go so we just went with it. Luckily, we got to pass up most of the line because a 2 person party is so much easier to seat. Hooray! We were happy campers smooshed in a corner, elbow to elbow enjoying our delicious meals. After that, we finally made it to Central Park. Nonetheless, we had a great time exploring and enjoying the beautiful scenery in the midst of the ginormous city. Then we (I) decided to go to Bloomingdale's to see what all the hype was about. It was not as close to Central Park as I realized, which was fine with me because I had thought ahead and worn sneakers, unlike my stylish husband who didn't and his feet paid the price. Any-hoo, Bloomingdale's was packed and I was surprised to find it to be kind of like a mall - the departments were more like smaller stores/boutiques. We didn't stay long - neither of us are into crowds. Then we thought we'd meander over to Serendipity for a frozen hot chocolate... just like every other tourist, apparently! I suspected it would be crowded because when I called on Friday to make a reservation I was informed they were booked until January (!) but did accept walk-ins. The wait was 3 hours. And people were actually waiting that long! Not us. So, note: If you want to go to Serendipity, make a reservation way in advance, especially if you go over Christmas! We settled for a cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery back at Bloomingdale's. Then we took the subway to Grand Central Station to cross that off our list. From there, we headed back to the hotel, cleaned up and then went to a very nice seafood restaurant Oceana near Rockefeller Center. The atmosphere was awesome and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
On Sunday, we decided to make another attempt to see the 911 Memorial so we headed out to make the first opening at 8am. It was 23 degrees outside. I have never been so cold. We wandered around for quite a while trying to find the place to get tickets which ultimately was almost at the foot of the subway exit we emerged from initially... awesome. Luckily, we were able to get tickets so we had to walk over to the actual memorial... and continue to stand in line to wait to get in. And did I mention it was 23 degrees? We finally got to actually go in after going through airport-style security (which included taking off our coats!) and guess what? The only part of the memorial that is open is outside... so it was surreal to be at the site and the reflection pools are nice... I don't really know what to say about it, but I'm glad we went. Afterwards, we got inside as soon as possible to have breakfast at a great deli, George's. From there, we took the subway to the American Museum of Natural History, which was cool as far as museums go. Back to the hotel to clean up and then headed to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas Spectacular (the Rockettes' show) which was awesome!! I expected it to be good, but had no idea. I enjoyed it more than Lion King. Even R thought it was great, plus it is just such a historic, beautiful place. Afterward, we had dinner at Joe Allen, in the theater district, which was great food and a great atmosphere as well, but much different from Oceana, so I felt like we got a good spectrum. Then we headed back to the hotel to pack up and get a good night's sleep.
Monday we got up, had breakfast at the hotel and caught a bus to the airport and then flew back to H-town. We had a great trip and were really pleased with how much we were able to do in only a few days. If we go back, hopefully we can explore some other neighborhoods that are less touristy and maybe even take advantage of the half price tickets for shows. For our first trip, I wanted to be sure we would be able to go to the shows we (I) really wanted to see, so I got them ahead of time and paid full price (it was hard to do, I couldn't think about it too much!)
What is the best city you have ever visited? Where do we need to go next? Boston and Seattle are on the top of our lists. But we still need to make a trip to Nicaragua (my brother), Baltimore (his sisters, my uncle, and a cousin). Oh... and apparently we are going to Vegas in July with his high school friends + wives to celebrate a big wedding anniversary. How could I say no when he never sees them? Heaven help me.
Love, B


  1. So glad you had a fun trip! And I agree- Seattle is awesome! We went last Fall and loved it so much that we were tempted to stay!!