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NYC 2018 - The Best Laid Plans...

Old Mar 26th, 2018, 11:54 AM
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NYC 2018 - The Best Laid Plans...

Home for just over 48 hours and I am still reeling. The magic of the city I experienced as a child still held as an adult. While the Nor'easter may have forced some plans to change, the outcomes were well worth it (and left things to look forward to the next time!) I apologize for the length, and I again give great thanks to those of you who took the time to help make this trip one we'll talk about for ages.

We (Myself, DH, DD14) traveled March 19th-24th out of Chicago, arriving at 5pm Monday night. We used the Airtrain and NJ Transit ($13/person) which dropped us right at Penn Station in NYC. From deplaning to arriving at our hotel, total time was less than 90 minutes. I think DH was skeptical at first that it was that easy, and despite a train breakdown that resulted in us boarding the one that stopped in Secaucus en route to Penn Station, he was pleasantly surprised at the ease of travel.

We stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn near Bryant Park. This was a fantastic location as there was a subway stop across the street with several major lines. All the lines we used brought us to within two blocks of our hotel. Despite my slight nervousness at the subway system, both DH and I found it incredibly easy to use and didn't get turned around once. Quick note - if there is an empty car in the middle of a train packed with people, it's empty for a reason! Hotel was fine - clean, free breakfast, no issues waiting for elevators. View was lovely with the Empire State Building right outside our window. Shower seemed to have trouble picking a water temperature in the mornings, but that's a pretty minor complaint.

Upon arrival, we dropped our bags and headed out to 2nd Avenue Deli for dinner, a few blocks from our hotel. We were seated right away and had some excellent pickles. There was what I'm guessing was a half-pickled cucumber that may be my new favorite thing in the world. DH had the pastrami, and DD and I split the corned beef. We also had a knish at the urging of our waiter. Sandwiches were great, Knish was okay. A small shot glass of chocolate soda was served at the end. DH was a happy man as a New York Deli was high on his list! We set off down 33rd street towards our hotel. We ducked into a Duane Reade for some earplugs (DH snores something fierce). Upon exiting upstairs, we realized we were in the Empire State Building (how I missed this upon entry, I don't know!) DD decided she needed to go up right then, so we went down to check the lines. We were happy to discover there were absolutely no lines. We headed up to buy our tickets and checked out some views from the inside first. I wasn't going to go (had seen the view last time I was here and was not thrilled with the price), but boy am I glad I went. Seeing the views at night was unlike anything else I had seen. To me, there is just something magical about a city at night, especially one as grand as New York. After looking out from all sides, we realized how cold (and tired) we were and decided it was time to head back to the hotel. It was a great first night in the city.

Tuesday morning came early as we were ready to explore. We hit the Maison Keyser by our hotel as DD had noticed the pastries in the window the night before. She had a raspberry tart (too sweet for my liking) and DH got a croissant (I stuck with coffee - not big on sweets for breakfast). DD was quite impressed! We walked through Bryant Park and took a look at the Library (too early for it to be open, so just admired it from the outside for now). From there we made our way to Grand Central Terminal. We found ourselves in the food court first, listening to a string quartet play 'Despacito'. This was one of those unexpected moments that makes travel so memorable. We listened to another song and continued up to the main hall to marvel at the ceiling (and the 'dirty' square). I can only imagine how grand this space must have felt to travelers way back when. We checked out a few more spaces and headed out to St. Patrick's Cathedral, a few blocks away. It was quite a contrast to see the Cathedral in the midst of the city, although it blended in a bit more than, say Trinity Church did. With all the chapels ringing the interior, it reminded me a bit of St. Vitus in Prague. We gave our $5 donation to light a candle for both our mothers and walked through the church. We probably spent a bit less than an hour though here. We then walked over to MoMA, getting there about 10:30am. There were no lines, especially as we just used the kiosk to buy tickets instead of going to the counter. We checked our coats at the Member's Only check (they were accepting anyone that morning - saved us about 20 minutes judging by the lines at the regular check on our way out) and headed right up to see Starry Night. Thank you to those who have suggested this route in the past; we were able to view it with about 10 other people around it. Coming back to it later as we were leaving, there was probably a crowd of about 50. We were happy to got to see it as we did! We discovered some new artists to love, and DD found a few things as well (art is not her favorite). We spent about 2-1/2 hours there getting to see most of the exhibits. We realized we were all quite hungry (it was after 1pm at this point), so we ate just behind the Museum at Xi'an Famous Noodles. The food was very good, and the portions quite large. Neither DD or I finished our bowl of soup, but we were happy and full. This place is tiny and busy,and don't stress if you don't see any open spots when you enter. Spots open up quickly - you just need to have an eye open for the open chairs!

The afternoon now open to us, we decided to head up to Central Park so we could see it before the snow storm (weather guys were predicting anywhere from 8-13" of snow the next day/night). We walked in through the east entrance, saw the skating rink, walked up to the dairy, and headed over to Strawberry Fields. The park was quite empty given the weather, so it was nice to not fight crowds on the pathways. We saw the Imagine marker by Strawberry Fields, and walked out of the park over to the Dakota. It was undergoing some work so we didn't see the Lennon marking, but it is a beautiful building to look at. From there, we headed down the western part of the park to Columbus Circle. DD saw a sign for Sephora in what we found to be Columbus Mall, so she and I went that way while DH went for some coffee. While in search of restrooms, we saw a woman with four tiny dogs in matching bright pink down vests and booties. The woman was pushing stroller with a cover that matched the dog's outfits. Of course, the stroller was for the dogs, not a child. Mark that down as unexpected memorable moment #2. Since we were now warmed up and had some caffeine, we decided to continue walking back to our hotel. We walked down through Times Square (so glad we changed our hotel - what chaos!) It is quite the area; DD found an H&M and had to stop (she had birthday money). A few purchases later and we headed back to the hotel, feet ready for a rest. That night, we purchased our subway tickets (7 day unlimited - $33/person) and had dinner at Somtum Der as suggested by a family friend. It was amazing; I believe it had a Michelin Star at one point but lost it due to service. The food was spectacular and the service was good; if anything, they hovered a bit too much but I never felt rushed. I thought they were maybe bored since it was a Tuesday night and while they had a good crowd, there was no wait for tables. This was probably one of our cheapest meals at just over $50 for all three of us. From there, we walked a few blocks to 10 Below for ice cream rolls for DD. She had wanted some when we went to DC last summer (they are not a thing in our area), but of course the one location we found them in there had just had a fire and was closed). DD and DH got their ice cream rolls and ate them on our way back to the subway, shivering along the way.

Remember in the title I talked about the best laid plans? Well, I checked my e-mail upon getting back to the hotel only to discover our Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island tickets had been cancelled for Wednesday due to the impending storm. Since we didn't have a ticket for the pedestal/crown or a tour of Ellis Island, we weren't able to reschedule, and could only request a refund. I'm still waiting to hear back on the refund, but I have received two surveys about our experience from Statue Cruises! As this (and the 9/11 Museum) was one of the only things we had booked in advance, we had to chuckle that of course this would happen on our day! However, it was a slight blessing in disguise.

We awoke Wednesday to no snow, but it started falling as soon as we left the hotel. Big, heavy, beautiful, wet flakes. We decided to go down to the 9/11 Museum to see if they would let us in with the 9:00am tour (there were still tickets available for that time slot on their website). We got to the area around 8:30am, and there was literally no one else at the memorial besides the security and maintenance staff. We were able to view it (albeit through heavy snow) in complete peace. Although I was in the towers as a child, I really don't have a memory of them. I'm sure they just seemed like two really tall buildings to my nine-year-old self. We took in both pools and the Tree of Life for several moments, feeling names etched into the memorial and saying our silent prayers. We walked over to the ticket line where they accepted our tickets for the 9am tour. They let us in early which was kind of them as we were all soaked from the snow. The museum, I felt, was extremely powerful. I'm choking back tears as I write this, remembering my feelings of that day. We spent over four hours here, and I felt I rushed through the end a bit as I think I was just overwhelmed. I have seen Holocaust camps and museums in several countries, but this museum was one of the hardest things to see; there were a few pieces that hit a bit too close to home and I almost had to step out to compose myself for a moment. It really struck me how many people were there from different countries (based on languages I heard). I don't know why this surprised me so much, but it did. DD didn't get as much from it as I thought she might, but I think at 14 it is hard to fathom that this could happen again. As I said above, the SOL/EI tour cancellation was somewhat of a blessing as the museum announced they were closing at 3pm and the last tickets allowed entry would be those with a 1pm time slot. We would not have made our tour (nor would we have been able to see the pools in silence) had our first tour been cancelled.

We left in silence and made our way to Eataly. We perked up a bit and ate some good ravioli, crepes, and tiramasu (too sweet for me). DH and I decided having one of these at home would cause some major damage to our grocery budget! On our way out, we again discovered we were in a mall (apparently we are a magnet for those things), and DD asked to go to Banana Republic. Another purchase made and we were ready to continue on to Trinity Church. The church was quite different from St. Patricks, but still had its charm. We discovered choir/band practice was just beginning for the Trinity Church Choir when we stepped inside. They were absolutely amazing. DD is in choir at home, so this was especially memorable to her. I could have listened to them all day. They were quite different than the church choirs I grew up listening to; DH looked them up when we got home and said they had been nominated for some prestigious awards. It was such a treat hearing them sing in a beautiful place. Since the graveyard was closed, we viewed Alexander Hamilton's stone from the road and headed in search of some shoes for DD. As we are from a cold and snowy state, the show was not a deterrent to us. It was actually made walking quite a bit easier as there were not many people out and about that day. We got to the shop DD was looking for in SoHo, only to discover they weren't open yet (Nike - DD wants track shoes with spikes, but they are impossible to find anywhere). We wandered around the area for a bit before realizing how cold and wet we were. We headed back to the hotel to change before dinner. We were originally going to try Madame Vo's, but with the snow, and seeing several restaurants closing early for the night, we called to see if they were still open but didn't get an answer. After a few more tries, we decided to stick by the hotel and just walk over to Shake Shack (another of DH's picks). It was tasty!

Thursday brought no snow and sunny skies, and a bit of a sleep in for DH and DD (with a toddler at home, 6am is about as much sleep as I can muster these days). We skipped the hotel breakfast and went over to Ess-A-Bagel for New York bagel (DH request number 3). If you go, play attention to how the lines work. The poor ladies in front of us did not and paid the price from the lady behind the counter. DH got his bagel and DD and I shared one. They were really good - it will be hard to go back to the usual stuff at home! We took the subway up to 72nd (77th?) street and walked along Central Park to the Met. The park was gorgeous, covered in snow but with blue skies and sun in the background. We took several pictures and were once again cold and wet from the snow falling off the trees. We hit the museum about 10 minutes early and waited for entry. We again bought our tickets from the kiosk, skipping the lines at the counters. We spent five hours at the museum, including lunch (surprising good - Jamaican chicken, soup, olives, carrots with a tahini-yogurt dressing - but pricey). It was probably a bit too much time as I was just speed walking through the end to see as much as I could. We spent a fair amount of time in the Egyptian, Greek/Roman, and Medieval areas. DD met a boy from Georgia. Everyone was happy. We headed back to the hotel via subway to get ready for dinner and Phantom of the Opera. Dinner was at Le Rivage (prixe fixe). I found it to be okay; service was very good and they had some decently priced bottles of wine for DH and I. My app (mussels) and main (seafood crepe) were okay, but dessert was excellent (creme brulee). Finally nothing too sweet for my taste! DH and DD loved their food, although I think DD loved the waiter's French accent as much as the food. We walked over to our theater (the Majestic), and waited for the curtain. DH has always wanted to see Phantom (I'd seen it once before), and the last time the production came to our area, I was heavily pregnant and not wanting to go anywhere. He was so excited for the show, and DD was enthralled with it as well. Just being on Broadway adds to the experience! I will say I think they should not sell any candy/snacks that make any noise in the theater It was hard to ignore the sounds of ice cubes in cups and people crunching their chips/candy while the play was going on. However, the ushers were well on top of anyone that pulled their phone out. I was surprised that they seated everyone that came in late, no matter where the musical was when they came in. None of us was in the mood for dessert after the play, so we took a walk through Times Square again on the way back to the hotel, to experience it at night. Almost all the stores were still open, even close to 11pm. That was enough Times Square for us!

Friday was beautiful weather, again with blue skies and no clouds. We went down to the Lower East Side/Little Italy/Chinatown. We walked for awhile, ducking into a huge market in Chinatown. It was quite interesting to see everything they had in the glass jars on the side of the store - dried sea urchin, every mushroom you could ever need, and powders I couldn't identify. DD had fun looking at all the candy, trying to figure out what it was. I wanted to bring the condiment aisle back with me, as it contained everything I have a hard time finding in our area when I'm trying to cook a Chinese dish! We met up with my Husband's Uncle for dim sum at the Golden Unicorn. This was, again, an experience like no other I've had. You step out of the elevator into a room covered in gold and red, robust with lunch chatter and woman pushing carts full of bamboo steamers full of surprises. Alas, I couldn't work up the nerve to try the chicken feet, but I think we had one of almost everything else. I wish there was a dim sum option for every type of cuisine, as I loved how you could have a little of this and a little of that! We left with our bellies full and our senses stoked. We said goodbye to our host and decided on our next move (we had nothing set in concrete for this afternoon). DH wanted to see the Bull on Wall Street, so we set off walking in that direction. Partway there, we realized we were near the 9/11 Memorial again and decided we wanted to see it when it was not covered in snow. We detoured over there and spent a few moments at the pools again, but this time with thousands of other people. Again, I was grateful that we got to see them differently on Wednesday. We took a walk through the Occulus (what a cool-looking structure) as we did not do that on Wednesday, and headed towards the Bull. Upon arrival, there were two lines for pictures - one at each end of the bull. People certainly weren't shy in choosing those poses at either end. DD was quite amused. We also took photos of the Fearless girl; I almost missed her as she is quite small and the line for the Bull was blocking her. But, she stood her ground!

We decided then to walk to Battery Park to at least view the SOL. We walked through the park and saw the statue while plotting our next move. At that point we decided to take the subway to Brooklyn and check out the DUMBO area. We got some coffee (Gregory's coffee - pretty good) and realized we were right down the road from the NYSE and Federal Hall, so we walked up to see the buildings. We caught the subway one stop into Brooklyn and made our way to the water. We passed Juliana's along the way and decided we'd stop there for dinner (we were starting to work off our dim sum lunch). The views from DUMBO were amazing. We saw three wedding parties while we were there; I can only imagine what the area looks like in warmer weather! We took lots of pictures and wandered around for a bit before walking back up to join the pizza line. We were able to get in right when they opened at 4pm. We had their No. 1, and it was simply amazing. One of the best things we ate all week, and I am not one that typically cares for pizza. We ate the whole thing. It was another cheap meal, coming in under $50 for the three of us. We walked the bridge back to Manhattan, pausing for photos along the way. I really felt bad for the bikers that were commuting; people were completely oblivious to the lanes for walking vs. biking. I can't imagine it's a fun trip to make daily during heavy tourist season. What a great experience, however. I never had it on my original list, but I am so glad I read the many suggestions and trip reports here that I kept it in mind when we had the time! We took the subway back to the hotel, did some souvenir shopping for our little guy, and called it a night.

Our last day, Saturday, was also a beautiful day. We checked our luggage with the front desk as our flight didn't leave until 7:15pm. We headed over to the Highline, and grabbed some coffee as it was a bit of a cool morning. The Highline was a treat; I was surprised at the number of people out that early, but it certainly wasn't crowded. DH amused himself by looking up the prices for rent at the multiple new residential buildings going up in the area. I think that was an eye opener for DD! We walked the whole line, then doubled back towards Chelsea Market, hitting a few stores along the way for DD (sticker shock for her!). Chelsea Market was a lot of fun; DD and DH picked up some macarons, and DD and I got some loose tea to bring home. DD finally found her smoothie bowl and was happy again. From there we headed about a mile east to one last Nike store to find DD's shoes. We enjoyed the different neighborhoods along the way, and while we never found the right shoes, we found some very helpful salesmen who pointed DD in the right direction as to what to look for online. We kept walking towards Washington Square, stopping by Dylan's Candy Store (picked up a few things for my son at home) and the market at Union Square. DH had Luke's Lobster for Lunch, and DD and I walked over to the Halal Guys for their huge portions of delicious food (we were happy we found their brick and mortar location). We got to Washington Square and found a kid playing a grand piano under the arch with a dog at his feet. He was incredibly gifted. There was another man blowing huge bubbles near the park center; when DD started chasing them I was reminded how much of a kid you still are at 14; that was a neat moment. Again, I could have lingered all day but the time was getting short. We took a quick walk over to the apartment building from the Friend's show per DD's request ("that was it?" was her reaction). From there we hit one more store for DD and headed back to grab our bags and head to Penn Station. Tip - check the schedule for the trains back to the airport. I have no idea why I did not do this, but we barely caught the 3:56pm train out. I don't know how often they come, but it never occurred to me to check! Tip two - double check the amount of tickets you're buying or you'll buy too many, like I did. Oh well; someone got a free ticket to Newark on Saturday!

The return trip home was uneventful; we landed at Midway, drove our weary bodies the 3-1/2 hours home and had four hours of sleep before our little guy was wide awake and welcomed us home. Travel is amazing, but there's no place like home. Moral of the story - you can plan all you want, but the best times we had on this trip were when we just went with the direction we felt like going. Thank you all for guiding me in that direction - this trip was made with your help!
jensml16 is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2018, 12:11 PM
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Thank you for this wonderful trip report - NY in the snow is truly magical, so I'm glad you appreciated it.
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Old Mar 26th, 2018, 01:02 PM
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There was what I'm guessing was a half-pickled cucumber that may be my new favorite thing in the world. DH had the pastrami, and DD and I split the corned beef. We also had a knish at the urging of our waiter. Sandwiches were great, Knish was okay.
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It is called a 'new' pickle. And can be sent to your door for a small fortune from the Pickle Guys.

The PICKLE GUYS! 1-888-4-PICKLES
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Old Mar 26th, 2018, 01:31 PM
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Sounds like a fantastic trip!
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Old Mar 26th, 2018, 02:02 PM
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Marked as Trip Report
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Old Mar 26th, 2018, 03:49 PM
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>>>It is called a 'new' pickle.
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Old Mar 26th, 2018, 03:57 PM
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>It is called a 'new' pickle.
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Old Mar 26th, 2018, 04:12 PM
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We live and learn! Thanks.
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Old Mar 26th, 2018, 05:58 PM
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Great report. I love that you did so much with your daughter. Nice getaway she will remember always.
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Old Mar 27th, 2018, 03:05 AM
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What a fantastic time you had with seeing & eating everywhere. Glad you had a great time!
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Old Mar 27th, 2018, 06:01 AM
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Vickiebypass, we are in a state that gets a lot of cold, but was low on snow this year. As someone who loves winter and snow, getting to experience that in the city was a treat! IMDonehere, the Pickle Guys were on my list of places to check out, but we just didn't make it. Now I know what to ask for for Christmas this year! Macross, the trips I took with my family growing up are some of my greatest memories. I can only hope she feels the same as she grows up!
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Old Mar 31st, 2018, 07:47 AM
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What is DUMBO????
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Old Mar 31st, 2018, 09:27 AM
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DUMBO is an idiotic name that real estate interests invented. It means Down Under (the) Manhattan Bridge Overpass. For a long time it was a rough commercial area, but now it is upscale residential area.
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Old Mar 31st, 2018, 04:41 PM
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It’s wonderful to feel all your enthusiasm in this trip report! You covered a lot!
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Old Jun 6th, 2019, 04:23 AM
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Enjoyed your travel report! I am heading for a first time ever NYC trip in September & have a hotel near Penn Station. I'm jealous that you were able to ride a train in from Newark; I'm flying into LaGuardia and looking for an easy way into the city. Am especially looking forward to a visit to the Met.
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Old Jun 8th, 2019, 08:11 AM
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Taxi from LaGuardia is not so costly. You might ask him to take the 59th Street Bridge which caries no toll.
I believe he has to tke what you ask and again, I think it is a flat rate from the airport but someone else must confirm....I usually fly in and out of JFK.
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