Even though we’ve been back for almost a week, I’m still getting used to life back in small town South Carolina after spending five days in New York City! To say things are different is an understatement.
The trip, spurred by an extremely lucky chance at two decently-priced “Hamilton” tickets, was meant to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and my 27th birthday, both of which had passed the two weeks prior to our trip. (In case you missed it, I recapped my thoughts on seeing Hamilton live yesterday on the blog.) If you can believe it, Nick and I haven’t flown together since 2014 when we visited DC, so going on a “proper” trip was long overdue.
Nick and I spent a lot of time looking (and stressing) over where we were going to stay. I knew that NYC was pricey and the rooms were notoriously tiny. Not so great for a girl who’s claustrophobic an d on a limited budget. After lots of searching we eventually settled on the NYLO NYC hotel. We stayed at a NYLO location in Plano, TX a few years ago and really enjoyed the experience, so we knew the caliber of the hotel. The lobby of the hotel was absolutely gorgeous and our room was too. (It was very small, but we made it work. Plus the bed was insanely comfortable.) If you’re looking for a moderately priced hotel in NYC, we definitely recommend NYLO. It’s located in the Upper West Side on Broadway and 77th, so it was easy to walk to the subway and had lots of great food options within just a few blocks.
Tip: No matter what you’re planning to see in NYC, this hotel is a great location. It was just two blocks away from Central Park and the Museum of Natural History, both of which are great things to see!
Speaking of food, it’s a pretty important thing to us when we are traveling! But because we did SO MUCH WALKING during the day that we stuck close to our hotel for dinner each night. Many of my recommendations came from blog friends (especially Betsy) and they did not disappoint. We didn’t really hit the ~hot spots~ (in Hell’s Kitchen or anywhere in lower Manhattan really) because we didn’t want to spend tons of money on food this trip. Favorites included Nice Matin for brunch, Luke’s Lobster for a quick dinner, and Celeste Pizza* for some yummy Italian. We also hit up Gray’s Papaya (Nick liked it more than I did) and Shake Shake (I liked it more than Nick did.) The star of the trip was absolutely Levain Bakery. If you go, you HAVE to get the chocolate cookies. They are divine and unlike anything I’ve had before.
Tip: Many places we went to only accepted cash. It’s probably a good idea to carry cash with you when visiting NYC. There are ATMs all over the place and since we bank with Bank of America there was always one nearby. (Not sponsored, just the truth)
While we had a general idea of the kinds of things we wanted to see while in NYC, we tried not to schedule too much so that we could enjoy being on vacation! Two things we purchased prior to our trip was tickets for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island and The Tour at NBC Studios. Both of these attractions fill up early so you want to make sure to purchase them prior to your trip.
Since we waited to buy tickets until the week before our trip, we were only able to visit the grounds of the Statue of Liberty and weren’t able to go into the podium or crown, but it was the perfect amount of “playing tourist” for me. An audio tour is included in your ticket price so we took these and walked the perimeter of the island, which took about an hour. We knew it would be busy and very hot since we visited in August so we took the ferry that departed from Battery Park at 8:30 a.m. It was the perfect time to go, even if it did rain a little. Ellis Island was definitely worth checking out as well. Seeing the huge registry room took my breath away. You could feel the history on this entire island.
Tip: Take travel sized umbrellas with you if there’s even a slight chance of rain in the forecast. We were saved by these twice on our trip.
After departing on the ferry from Ellis Island, we made the 10 minute walk to Trinity Church. Prior to my “Hamilton” obsession, I knew this church from a movie I watch more often than I might admit: National Treasure. (No lie, I watched it last night on HBO.) In addition to the historical nature of the church, I really wanted to see the graves of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton and Angelica Schuyler Church.
Tip: In the last song in Hamilton, Eliza sings that Angelica is buried at Trinity Church near Hamilton. Well in this case, “near” is a relative term. In fact, she’s buried on the other side of the church towards the back of the graveyard. There’s an American flag and historical marker that indicates her plot.
A short jaunt over a few blocks from Trinity Church is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This was such a surreal experience, even though we didn’t enter the museum itself. The footprints of each tower is now a memorial fountain. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go (I’m not great at handling emotional things like that) but I’m glad we visited. I think the most heart-wrenching thing was seeing a construction worker just walking around and visiting the memorial on his lunch break. Even with him living in the city, he took time out of his day to visit and pay respect. It was really touching!
That afternoon we took The Tour at NBC Studios, which was a real treat! I’m a huge fan of the NBC network and its shows so it was so cool to be able to see the studios where things are done. Since the Olympics were going on, basically the entire NBC team is in Rio so we didn’t have any sightings. But because of that, Jimmy Fallon’s show was on a break and we were able to tour his studio. It’s much smaller than you might think! We also got to see the studio where they film SNL and it’s also much smaller than it looks. TV magic, I suppose.
Friday we spent the morning out of the sun (it was BRUTAL, y’all) and inside at the Museum of Natural History. Yes, this is the one from Night at the Museum! Having visited many museums in DC and Houston, I was very impressed with the quality of the exhibits.
Tip: You should be wearing comfortable shoes through the whole trip but especially here at the Museum. It took us about three and a half hours to do the whole thing. I accidentally wore flats instead of my comfy sneakers and my feet were killing me!
We continued our day of museums and visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) that afternoon. On Fridays beginning at 4 p.m. the museum is free admission so we took advantage of that! Unfortunately so did EVERYONE ELSE IN NEW YORK CITY. It was extremely packed. But the chance to see Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and and Monet’s “Water Lillies” up close was totally worth the crowd. This was one of my favorite things we did in NYC.
If you read my Hamilton post from earlier this week, you’ll know that it was one of the best experiences of my life. Being able to see a show on Broadway was such a cool experience. And for it to have been the reigning Tony Award winner for Best Musical? Even better. I won’t go into how much I loved it again, but I highly highly recommend it for anyone at all.
We ended our trip to NYC on Friday night with another Broadway show, The Color Purple. It also won a Tony this year for Best Revival of a Musical and its lead actress, Cynthia Erivo, won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. Plus my girl Danielle Brooks (she’s from South Carolina!) from “Orange is the New Black” was also in the play. Having known nothing about the play before we saw it was a little challenging (sometimes it was hard to follow) but the music and performances by the cast were flawless. Cynthia brings tears to my eyes anytime she opened her mouth, and Danielle was the perfect comic relief. It was a great show!
Getting from LaGuardia to the Upper West Side was fairly simple. We opted for a private taxi since there were two of us and the trip only took about 20-25 minutes. I believe we paid $35 plus tip for the ride. For me it was so much less of a hassle than the subway might have been.
However, we did take the subway for everything else on our trip. It’s easily the cheapest option and while it might not be the easiest or most glamorous, it is fairly quick and helps you save a few bucks. For our purposes we only ever took the “1” train (it’s the red line) that runs north to south. When we went to the Statue of Liberty we took it from the 79th street station to Battery Park which was right beside the ferry. Mostly we took in to the 50th street station which is just north of Times Square.
When leaving the hotel to get back to the airport the hotel offered a private car which was very nice. We encountered a little bit of traffic but nothing too bad. We had time to eat lunch before our flight (The Delta/American Airlines terminal in LaGuardia has some pretty good food!) and I even took a short nap while waiting to board our flight back to Charlotte.
Overall we really enjoyed our trip to New York and even though we didn’t do everything that we had hoped to do, it was both a relaxing trip and also full of excitement!
Have you ever been to NYC? Were you able to take a trip this summer?