New York City turned out to be everything I had expected and much more. Up to this point, I had resisted a visit to “The City” and now wonder why I had such an aversion. I think a lot of what made this trip so successful was all the planning I had put into it, from getting the shows lined up to just navigating around the city. My location was perfect. The itinerary was taxing but allowed me to visit so much of the city. The shows were great. The food was great. To top it all off, it was NYC at Christmastime, one of the best times of year to visit The Big Apple.
After landing at La Guardia, I headed into the City by taxi, a ride that was pleasant, but didn’t really offer me a view of the place I would be spending the next four days. As we ducked into the Queens/Midtown Tunnel, I knew the next sites would be of Manhattan. Little did I know it would put us right in the middle of Midtown. The cab turned onto 35th Street, heading right towards my hotel. I had no idea how strategic the location would be.
That location, less than a block from Herald Square, put me right at the second-best station in the subway system. With 8 trains running through it, I only had to transfer trains twice during the entire trip. Most of my destinations were on the N, R, or W trains. Everything else was on the F or B trains. On Friday, I walked a block from my breakfast café to the 1 train to travel down to Christopher Street to see the Stonewall Inn.
With regards to food, my first stop was to Katz’s Deli where I was greeted with one of the biggest and most delicious pastrami sandwiches I’ve ever had. The deli had all the hype I had read about, and it was a great way to start the trip. Wandering into Katz’s, it took a little bit to figure out the flow, but once I was in front of my Cutter I felt like I was a regular, ordering, sampling, and then finding a table to enjoy the meal. Of course, I had to have a Dr. Brown’s black cherry cola to wash it down. At that was left was to re-enact the scene from “When Harry Met Sally.” Don’t worry, no embarrassing moment.
After that, I just enjoyed food from the street such as New York City’s famous hot dogs and bagels. They are everywhere and surprisingly the taste is consistent just about everywhere you go. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to sample a New York style pizza which was on my bucket list. Tuesday night I had planned to eat at Junior’s before my show, but time just didn’t allow for it. Instead, I stopped by their walk-up window and picked up two delicious cheesecakes to take back to the room.
Wednesday, I splurged and had an incredible Italian meal at Lattanzi on Restaurant Row. My only dining challenge was when I tried Korean since I was staying in Koreatown. It’s pretty bad when you’re Googling how to eat a particular meal as it sits before you. Too many dishes to figure out what to do. The next visit I’ll be more prepared and give it another go.
The City has so many museums to choose from and they are some of the best in the world. Knowing that it takes time to visit a good museum, I allocated time for only three – the Polonsky exhibit at the New York Public Library, the American Museum of Natural History, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
All were incredible and the only one I probably did justice to was the Polonsky exhibit. It was a collection of treasures held by the NYPL. Items included the original toys of Christopher Robin Milne that inspired Winnie the Pooh, an original handwritten draft by Thomas Jefferson of the Declaration of Independence, the original manuscript of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Charles Dickens’ reading copy of A Christmas Carol.
I barely even was able to touch the surface of both the Museum of Natural History or the Met. At the Met, I focused mostly on the American wing, as I’ve really been exploring the great American painters and the history they captured in their paintings. One painting that I really found intriguing was Moving Day (In Little Old New York) from 1827. It captures the chaotic experience of urban American in the early years of our nation. In those days, leases expired on May 1st, often forcing residents to have to find new homes and move to them. Trade stopped as businesses also had to move. It’s an example of why I love American art. You learn so much more about the history of this nation as captured through the eyes of the painter.
At the 9/11 Museum, I opted for the early tour, a limited tour of about 30 people scheduled an hour before the museum opens to the public. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable of the events leading to the day and the day itself. While many of us lived through 9/11, we probably didn’t have a comprehension of the magnitude of that event or the personal stories of those lost. One of the most touching parts of the tour was seeing the wall behind which the unidentified remains of victims are housed. The wall is covered with sheets of blue paper of different shades and a stirring quote, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.’
Throughout the four days, I tried to catch as many sights of the City as I could, interspersed between the planned visits. On Tuesday, I spent time at the skating rink at Bryant Park which was extremely relaxing. Watching skaters of all ages coasting around the oval with the city surrounding us gave me a nice break in the day. Seeing the City from 100 floors up at The Edge, the highest outdoor observation deck in the nation, showed me how vast New York City really is. Of all the observation decks in the City, it’s probably the best.
Walking through Rockefeller Center, both during the day and at night, gave me that NYC Christmas experience. From there, I enjoyed the light show on the front of Saks Fifth Avenue and then a stroll down Fifth Avenue to look at the incredible window displays. Times Square was a bit much for me, but I can say I’ve seen it during the day and at night. You really can’t avoid it if you’re going to see a Broadway show, two of which I caught during my visit.
One thing I can say about Broadway shows is that the theaters provide a much more intimate setting for the shows. I’ve seen touring Broadway shows in several cities, but even when you’re up front you still end up with a detached feeling from the show. In Broadway theaters, you are much closer and you really get to experience the depth of the show and music. I saw Come From Away and Hadestown while there, two entirely different stories and music. If you get the chance to see either of them, I highly recommend it. Fortunately, I was able to get the shows in before shows started cancelling. With Omicron just hitting the city, casts and crew were getting infected daily.
Wrapping this up, I should say that my timing couldn’t have been better. The weather was great, and the city was in full swing for Christmas. Crowds weren’t too heavy, and it was easy to get around the city. But, as Omicron had started to creep into the City, mobile testing sites were cropping up every other block with lines halfway down the block. Shows were starting to cancel, and cases were rising. Probably another week and a lot of things could have been spoiled. I left the City by train to DC at just the right time.
I loved the city more than I ever thought I would and plan to visit again later this year when hopefully things are in much better shape. I now have a feel for how to tour the City and want to explore a few of the other boroughs like Brooklyn or the Bronx. There’s more of the Met and other museums I want to see. Of course, there will be more shows on and off Broadway as well as exploring more of the food scene. I’m looking forward to hitting the Big Apple again.