“New York is not a city, it’s a world.” – Unknown
A month or so ago, my husband and I decided to take a trip to New York. We had already taken 4 trips this year, so another one seemed a little overkill, but it was his birthday and we only have one life to live, so why not, right? Our philosophy is that we work so we can play…we believe in life experiences more than material things. I think it’s also important to add that we rarely take our children on our vacations. This is something that many people don’t understand, but to us it makes sense. These little mini vacations, along with the week long overseas excursions, strengthen our relationship. We have an absolute blast together…I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather see the world with than my husband. He keeps me constantly laughing…especially on trips like this one where we’re just a couple of rural rednecks trying to survive 3 days in a very urban setting.
My favorite quote of the week from my husband (who is wearing a Cardinals shirt, plaid shorts, tennis shoes with socks that are a little too tall, and in Soho nonetheless)…”Babe, do I look like a tourist or do I fit in?” My response: “Ummm…if you want to fit in we need to go buy you some skinny jeans and a scarf.” Now if you know my hubby, you will laugh at the mental image you just conjured up:))
When we originally planned this trip, we did not want to have any kind of agenda. We despise itineraries! The only thing that was a definite plan was Ground Zero. I came to NYC a few months ago for only one day and all I did was shop, so really this trip was the first real New York experience for both of us. Seeing the 9/11 Memorial and museum was definitely at the top of our list, and words really can’t express how powerful that experience was. I’m going to do my best to describe the way I felt while being at the site of the 9/11 attacks.
NYC #1 Experience: 9/11 Memorial
On September 11, 2001, as I was driving my cat to the vet, I heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I had never been to New York and really wasn’t even familiar with what the WTC looked like, so the enormity of this didn’t mean a whole lot to me at that point. My next errand was the dentist, and as I was getting my teeth cleaned I was watching the news. That was when the second plane flew into the other tower. Of course, like everyone else in the country, we were confused. What just happened?! This was not an accident. I remember watching the towers fall, seeing the piles of debris, watching in horror as the rescue efforts took place. I will never forget the hopeless feeling that I felt as the next few days unfolded.
And that leads me to the main point of this particular piece of this post: what we saw on TV made the devastation seem minimal compared to what it actually was. You can’t possibly look at the debris pile from 9/11 in photos or on TV and fully understand the enormity of it. If you haven’t been to New York and stood where the towers once stood, it’s difficult to picture how huge they were. When you walk on the streets of Manhattan and get to physically see exactly how widespread the debris and dust damage were, it’s practically unimaginable. And it’s eerie. VERY eerie. The feeling you get when standing at Ground Zero is overwhelming. It’s a feeling of sadness, fear, peace, pride, and the greatest sense of patriotism and American strength that you might possibly ever feel. I’m not kidding. I knew I would feel sadness, but I had no idea that standing in front of those memorial pools would evoke such raw emotion. Even as I type this I feel the need to cry. It’s really indescribable.
After we looked at the memorial pools we went into the museum. I recommend getting there at 9am when they open because the line for entry gets long fast. The museum itself is beautiful. There is dark wood everywhere and the design is immaculate. It is HUGE. There are lots of pieces of the towers, such as steel beams, concrete walls, etc, inside this museum. I think the most powerful part of the museum for me was seeing how massive these individual pieces were. One steel beam is absolutely massive. And there were literally hundreds of them in the debris pile, which was 7 stories tall. Again, seeing it in photos or on TV is not an appropriate reflection of how epic this debris pile was. Seeing the twisted, bent, and melted steel, the crushed fire trucks, the huge wires that were severed, the intense heat damage that occurred, etc. is overwhelming. There are also pieces of the hijacked planes, including a window from one of them.
Along with these massive pieces of debris that you will see in the museum are smaller and more intimate things, such as personal belongings of those who perished and those who survived, including shoes, purses, eyeglasses, handwritten goodbye letters, uniforms worn by rescue workers, and many other artifacts. One of the most gut wrenching aspects of this tour were the recordings that you could listen to. There are numerous “phones” that you can pick up and listen to phone calls that were made from people on the hijacked planes to their loved ones, calls from the flight attendants to air traffic control, a recording of the hijackers talking to the passengers, etc. I made the decision to not pick up any of these phones. It was too much. Too overwhelming. I read the text of the calls, but couldn’t bring myself to listen.
I was allowed to photograph some of the larger pieces, but most of the things were in an exhibit where photography wasn’t allowed, so I pulled a few of these photos from Google images.
Another amazing structure that we saw at Ground Zero was the newly finished Oculus, which is a transit hub, and was created to look like a flying dove to symbolize the rising up from the ashes of 9/11. It is breathtaking! This experience is vital for anyone who has the opportunity to visit NYC. The cost of tickets for this was $24 per person.
NYC #2 Experience: “Wicked” on Broadway
When we decided to take this little mini vacay to NYC I was torn on whether or not to do the Broadway thing. I’m typically not into live theater or musicals at all. I love the music from lots of famous musicals, but I simply do not enjoy the live acting. I’ve seen several live theatrical productions and I was not impressed. My husband is even less enthused with this type of thing than I am, so seeing a Broadway show was not at the top of our list. However, we really wanted to fully immerse ourselves in the New York experience, and we felt that we couldn’t do that without seeing a real live Broadway show.
When trying to decide which show to see, we also thought about “School of Rock”, “Phantom of the Opera” (I love the music from that one), “Chicago”, and “Cats” (hearing “Memory” live would be simply amazing to me). Ultimately we went with Wicked and we were both very pleasantly surprised! We went into the experience knowing nothing about the story behind Wicked, other than it was a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. The costumes were soooo amazing, the acting was great, the music was perfect, and I LOVED the story! I’ve seen people on Facebook posting about how they cry when they hear the original actors sing certain songs, and I don’t quite understand that, however I did really enjoy it and I would see it again! And can we just talk for a moment about these dresses that I’m including photos of that were designed for the original Elphaba and Glinda on Broadway?? The Glinda dress was gorgeous! Our tickets to the show were about $300 total and we sat in the orchestra section, 5th row back from the stage.
NYC #3 Experience: Big Bus Tour
The Big Bus tour is one of many double decker bus tours in the city. What’s so great about this is that it’s a guided tour through each of the 6 (I think) neighborhoods in NYC, and you can get off and on at any of the 17 stops. We got off at Noho/Soho/Little Italy/Chinatown, and again at Chelsea. I learned so much about the city by going on this tour. For instance, did you know that NYC has the highest populations of Chinese, Italian, and Russian people in the US? The city is also home to more Puerto Ricans than Puerto Rico. To say the city is diverse is a huge understatement. We also learned about which neighborhoods which celebs live in, the rent prices in the different neighborhoods (Tribeca is average $6K per month!!), and we saw the hotel that the Titanic survivors were taken to. The tour was very fun and informative and it cost us about $75 total. This is a heck of a lot cheaper than taking cabs or Uber from neighborhood to neighborhood!
NYC #4 Experience: the food!!
–Lincoln Square Steak: This is where we ate dinner on night 1, which was my husband’s birthday. We make it a priority to eat a good steak in each city we visit, and we have actually dubbed ourselves as “steak connoisseurs”. Lincoln Square Steak did not disappoint! I had the filet, Moe had the New York strip (not his usual choice but it just felt RIGHT to eat a NY strip in NY), and we shared potatoes au gratin and mac n’ cheese. It was all amazing. We also received a dessert sampler platter, compliments of the chef, which I thought was so nice! This was also the location of my very first dirty martini experience, and let’s just say that it was less than desirable and I will never ever ever be ordering one of those ever again. LOL. Notice that I’m smiling in the photo because it was taken PRE first drink. The smile turned into gaggy face pretty quickly. Over all the experience was wonderful and I would certainly recommend it. Average price per person is about $60-$80 including drinks.
-Natsumi: This is where we had dinner before the Broadway show, as it’s located right across from Gershwin Theater. Natsumi is a Japanese restaurant with a great sushi bar. FYI they do not have hibachi. The sushi was amazing and the entrees we ordered were delicious. VERY good Japanese food! The cost here was about $30-$50 per person including drinks.
-Artichoke Basille’s Pizza: When we hopped off the bus tour in Chelsea we decided we wanted some authentic NY pizza. I searched Trip Advisor and came up with Artichoke Basille’s. First of all, the slices are ginormous…we shared 3 slices and we could not finish them. We tried the artichoke pizza first, and let me just say that I would typically not order this. I only wanted to try it because that’s what this particular place is famous for, and like I said earlier, I wanted to experience New York 100%. Surprisingly, the artichoke pizza was really really good! We also tried a meatball slice and a pepperoni slice and they were also very tasty. I think we spent a total of about $40-$50 here!
-Toloache: This is in the Times Square/Theater district, and it’s where we ate on our last night in NYC…we really weren’t that starved after having pizza at Artichoke Basille’s, so we ordered their guacamole (amazing), and the appetizer tacos. Moe ordered the carne asada and I got the brisket. They were small but oh so good! The highlight of the meal was the dessert platter which featured various desserts, including flan with caramel corn on top. I don’t know who thought of this idea, but in my mind that person is a true genius!! This meal cost about $40 per person including drinks.
-Magnolia Bakery: This adorable little bakery is located right by Rockefeller Center and each time we passed by I swear I was drooling over the yummy deliciousness staring at me from the windows. On the last day I finally made hubby walk the 5 blocks from our hotel on over there so I could get a cupcake, for the love of God! There is ALWAYS a line at this place, so that must say something about how famous it is and how good their desserts are. This is apparently the bakery where Carrie always got her cupcakes from on Sex and the City. I ordered a vanilla cupcake and an oatmeal raisin cookie and Moe got the red velvet cupcake. SO good! The icing was simply delectable:) I think our bill here was $8, so not too bad really, at least by NYC standards.
-The street food!!! If you’ve ever been to New York City you know what I’m talking about. On every corner there are little vendors set up, and they are serving everything from hot dogs to pretzels to ice cream to stir fry. The smell is so intoxicating, and even if you’re stuffed beyond stuffed, you’ll still be tempted to order something because it’s just THAT good. When we left the LOL Comedy Club on Friday night it was cold and rainy, but that did not stop us from waiting on some of the yummy street food. I got a pretzel with spicy mustard and Moe got a platter with chicken and rice. So good, especially at 2 am in the rain…and because we love making memories. I have no clue how much this cost because, like I said, it was cold and raining and too late for me to actually care. Ha:)
-TSQ: This is a French restaurant at Times Square and I loved it because it’s directly on Broadway and you can sit by the windows for a great people watching experience. We had lunch here on Thursday, and breakfast here on Saturday. I had a salad for lunch and the petite PB&J waffles for breakfast. While we loved the lunch, the breakfast was the shining star! Their breakfast sandwiches (either on croissants or panini bread) are huge and delicious. The waffles were incredible. I highly recommend this one! I think our cost per meal was about $20 each for food only. We were not drinking alcoholic beverages at breakfast or lunch…crazy, I know…gotta hydrate at some point!!
NYC Experience #5: Shopping
Ok I could literally write a novel about the shopping in NYC. There’s Fifth Avenue, Soho, Chelsea, and on and on and on. Think of any store that you absolutely love and you will find it here. Bloomingdale’s and Saks and Lord and Taylor, oh my! The shopping options are endless. We actually did not shop much because this was not a shopping vacation. BUT let’s just leave it at this…I could’ve spent an absolute fortune quite easily. Now I personally am not into couture clothing or the really high end designers because I simply cannot afford it, plus I’m a bargain girl at heart and I can’t live with myself if I buy one piece of clothing that costs $500 when I could go to TJ Maxx or Target and get an entire wardrobe for that. However, it’s still fun to browse around in these places. We did go to Zara, Superdry, Express, and the Frye store. Ahhhh the Frye store. Ok so I said I’m a bargain girl and that is very true, but when it comes to good boots you will definitely catch me spending a pretty penny because I do believe that you get what you pay for when it comes to good footwear. Well some of it anyway. I was on the hunt for a good pair of mid height low heel harness boots and the Frye store was my haven for that. I ended up with a great pair!
So there you have it…our experience in “the big apple” was a success! There are a few other tips I’d like to share if you’re planning a trip to this amazing city anytime soon:
- If you want to see a filming of a TV show you need to book it well in advance! I really wanted to do this, but when I looked for tickets about a month ago everything was already sold out. If you don’t have tickets you can always wait in a standby line, and we actually looked into that, but this girl does not like big groups and long lines for a long period of time. We learned our lesson on this one. If you’re walking around the city in the morning, chances are that you will see the news shows being filmed, and that’s pretty neat, but if you’re looking to actually sit in a studio audience you need to book ahead.
- Wear comfy shoes! I cannot stress this enough. Forget the Jimmy Choo’s if you plan on hiking around the city all day. Even if you take a cab or Uber, chances are that you will still have to walk several blocks on many occasions. I wore heels a couple of nights and I honestly wanted to chunk them out the window when we got back to the hotel because my feet were dying. Not good.
- Book your trip in the fall if you want some fabulous weather. I think September was the ideal time to visit because the temperatures were perfect and the breeze was so nice. I hear that Christmas in New York is a wonderful experience, but you’ll never catch me there in December because it just gets too cold. I felt that we could fully enjoy everything because it was so pleasant outside.
- Take lots of money. Take double what you think you need to take because everything in NYC is expensive. This is not a cheap vacation. And I really didn’t even shop. Ouch!!
Well I think I’ve just about covered it. This was my first real trip to New York City, so I’m an expert by NO means, but if you have questions about anything that I experienced please feel free to ask me! I’m always happy to share:))