In New York you can be a new man.
– Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton
Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!
History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be
In the greatest city in the world!
– The Schuyler Sisters, Hamilton
New York City, Center of the universe
Times are shitty
But I’m pretty sure they can’t get worse
It’s a comfort to know
When you’re singing the hit the road blues
That anywhere else you could possibly go
After New York would be… a pleasure cruise
– Santa Fe, Rent
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that my two favorite musicals both take place in and are, in their own unique ways, love letters to the city of New York, a city that has contributed in large part to my family history and culture. My father was born and bred in Manhattan; my mother and I have spent countless nights standing outside stage doors collecting autographs after Broadway shows; and it’s a place where I feel simultaneously comfortable and on edge. The energy of the city fuels me, making me want to go, do, see, feel, and leaving me exhausted at the end of the day. It’s a place I always want to visit but would never want to live. And even though I’ve been here a dozen times, there’s so much I haven’t seen, so many pockets of the city I’ve yet to experience.
So when my company needed to send someone to man the booth at a conference, my hand shot into the air. Me, me! I’ll go! The best part? It was my husband’s very first trip to the greatest city in the world!
Without further ado, our photo journal from four short days in New York City. (Just click on any photo to enlarge it.)
Where We Stayed
3 nights in a cute, quiet and fairly spacious AirBNB in the East Village, on east 3rd street, amidst bars and coffee shops galore, colorful street art, hippies and hipsters. Definitely our vibe and an area where we feel comfortable.
2 nights in midtown at Pod 51, on east 51st street, a creative hotel that embraces efficient European design to offer affordable rates in a decent neighborhood. (We booked a pod with a private bath but they also have bunk rooms with shared WCs for a lower price.)
What We Did: Downtown
We had to do a little bit of touristing, and lots of the things we wanted to see all happened to be in the Wall Street area. Luckily, the weather was perfect so we weren’t even too bothered by the crowds.
On our way to the financial district, we paid our respects at the 9-11 Memorial. A beautiful and sobering tribute to those who lost their lives.
I can’t remember having previously visited Trinity Church, so I’m glad we made time for it this time, where we paid our respects to one of our country’s founders and his patient and forgiving wife.
We only hit up one museum this trip: the inexpensive and educational Museum of American Finance, which sits in the former site of the Bank of New York.
The weather brought out droves of people so we didn’t cross the Brooklyn Bridge, but we did visit it briefly before becoming agoraphobic and heading back uptown.
What We Did: Midtown
There’s always so much to see just wandering the streets.
I wanted to pick one of the sky high views of the city so after reading plenty of Trip Advisor reviews, we picked Rockefeller Center. We were told to allow 2 hours but were in and out in 35 minutes.
While Nashville has some nice parks, we do not have nearly enough nor one as immense or awesome as Central Park. How long would it take to explore all 843 acres?
I can’t come to the city without seeing a show (usually more than one, but we had to pace ourselves!), so I bought us tickets ahead of time to School of Rock. I’m not a Webber fan but have heard only positive reviews, and we were not disappointed! It completely exceeded our expectations. A stellar production, with truly rockin’ music and face-melting performances by the young cast, and we got to see Alex Brightman, the guy who originated the role… That dude must pass out immediately after each performance because he is nonstop high energy. I was blown away twenty minutes into the show.
What We Ate and Drank
No trip to NYC is complete without eating and drinking well. The best part of being in a big city is that my paleo-esque elimination diet didn’t put a damper on our meals, and I was able to find lots of compliant food, snacks and drinks.
My favorite food find was Hu Kitchen, a paleo-friendly cafeteria and market that specializes in real food for real humans. No conventional sweeteners or refined sugars, no gluten, no soy, no preservatives, no canola/vegetable oils, no gums, no MSG, and lots of grain-free options! I definitely ordered too much food, stuffing my face with organic roasted chicken, almond-encrusted chicken, summer slaw, faux-cacia bread and on-tap turmeric kombucha. And I left with a bag full of goodies. (I’m obsessed and want one of these places in Nashville!!) I also have to recommend Treehaus and Juice Press (on 3rd Ave and 51st), both of which have tons of healthy and tasty food.
Of course, the husband’s favorite part of the trip was getting to visit four classic cocktail bars that have been on his list for years including Amor y Amargo, Death and Company, Angel’s Share, and Boilermaker.
We had positive dining experiences at: Nelson Blue in Seaport (good bar service, decent fish, HUGE New Zealand mussels); Boilermaker (excellent bar service, delicious burger, cocktails and house-made veggie chips); the Grand Central Oyster Bar (mediocre food at best but wonderful conversation with the Ecuadorian bartender who’s worked there 35 years); Mancora in the East Village (decent prices, friendly bar service, and the only place I’ve seen grilled squid on a menu since coming back from Barcelona!!!); the Bean coffee shop (delicious everything); Emmett O’Lunney’s (cheesy Irish pub near Times Square, but our bartender was hilarious and the food was not terrible); and Village Yokocho, the Japanese restaurant that houses Angel’s Share in a back room (wide, affordable menu, served super late).
The most fun we had was at the Stag’s Head, a pub right by Pod51, full of regulars and absolutely not one tourist. Go during the day shift, for happy hour, and sit at the bar. Marie, a spunky, friendly bartender will pose impossible Would You Rather questions while the regulars try to get you drunk on Jameson shots. The food is meh but the company more than makes up for it and you’ll feel like a local. (I have no photos from this place, just trust me.)
The Center of the Universe
Nashville always feels like such a small world, with friend circles criss-crossing and always being six degrees away from someone. But if Nashville makes our world feel small, New York shrinks the universe. It’s an epicenter of art and business, energy and creativity, and the ultimate criss-crossing of my friends and family.
My immediate family and I visited New York together in the fall of 2015, the first family trip we’d taken (just us!) since my brother and I were kids. We met up with an old friend of my parents and randomly, a childhood friend of mine, L, was in town as well.
When my mom and I visited in 2008, the day before we left, an Irish friend of mine, E, whom I had met while studying abroad the previous year, just happened to check into the same hotel as us. We all went out together and hung out with a local friend M, whom I met in California back in 2005 when I visited my childhood friend, K, at college. That same trip, a college friend from Florida, S, also just happened to be in the Big Apple, and went to MOMA with me.
M now lives in Nashville, K still lives in Los Angeles, and on my last night in NYC, she just happened to also be in NYC, staying six blocks away, attending a PR awards ceremony. So even though I was tired from three days of touristing and a full day of conferencing, and allergies were starting to bug me, I couldn’t NOT see K when we both just happened to be in the greatest city in the world on the same night.
Special shout out to the bartenders at Salvation Burger on East 51st for serving us when you were starting to clean up and letting us stay until the very last possible moment. It was fantastic getting to see a friend I only see every few years. We talked about how we’re both crazy cat ladies, how we deal with our own anxiety, and how much New York energizes us. We walk around and feel full of life, ready to kick our To Do List’s ass. Neither of us get to visit often, but when we do, we breathe in all in and hold our breath tight, savoring the aroma and energy of 8.5 million people. Sitting there with her at an empty bar at midnight felt like we were sitting on top of the world.
So thanks, New York, for making it possible to run into friends, from near and far! Cheers!
The Final Count
Miles Walked: 31.5
Cabs Hailed: 4
Lyfts Lyfted: 5
Photos Taken: 380
People Invited to Stay at our House in Nashville: 2
Number of Times We Quoted Hamilton: 117
One Last Thing
New York has a bad reputation for being unwelcoming, full of rude and overbearing people. I have never found this to be true, even after being spoiled to the friendly charms of the South over the last 8 years. We only encountered one bitchy bartender (who may have been having a bad day) and a few less-than-friendly locals attending the conference we had to work. Every other person we encountered wore a smile, talked to us warmly, inquiring about us, offering us advice, and making us feel welcome in this bustling metropolis. Even just sitting in the Nashville airport on our way out, we ended up next to a New Yorker returning home after a week of business and had the best time with him before our flight; we exchanged Facebook information and invited him to hang out next time he’s in town. I love New York and the people who live here, because they make this the greatest city in the world.
Have you been to New York City? What was your favorite tourist attraction? What restaurants or bars would your recommend? Have you seen any recent Broadway musicals? Share your New York experiences with us on Twitter or in the comments!