Manhattan is becoming a Christmas thing for me. I went in 2014 with my mom and in 2015 with my college roommate. Travis hadn’t been invited yet, and the two of us haven’t been on a vacation by ourselves since March of 2013 (probably not great for the ol’ marriage) so off we went to have a carefree week in NYC. We didn’t do all the typical touristy stuff, and I feel like we should have solicited pledges for the number of miles we walked to raise money for Watsi (shameless plug for our favorite charity) or something. Maybe next time.
More than anything we did, we enjoyed the people watching and brief conversations with strangers the most. It’s often at restaurants with tables and randos shoulder to shoulder, crowded Subway rides, and drivers from foreign countries where the best and most memorable conversations and moments happen. It’s about to get real for a second: getting outside of your comfort zone and engaging with the world and people around you is the best recipe for breaking down racial and ethic barriers and other ridiculous social constructs. What better place to do this than NYC? Oh yeah, wherever you live. Hint: do this.
I wrote the following primarily for people like my mother and mother-in-law who are actually interested in what we did every day, but in case you fit in to that camp or are planning a trip to Manhattan yourself, here you go:
Wednesday: Arrived at LGA at 5:45, Ubered in traffic for an hour to our Airbnb at 56th and 8th street. Turns out the apartment faced 8th street. That = loud. Also the elephant in the apartment above us. Oh well. We walked over to 9th street (Hell’s Kitchen area), ate some delicious Thai food at OBAO and hit up a local grocery store to get some breakfast provisions for the week.
Thursday: First a little background – I love Jimmy Fallon. My college roommate and I went to NYC about this same time last year and tried like hell to get tickets to a taping of the Tonight Show. Did not happen. This year, rinse and repeat. We managed to get tickets to the monologue rehearsal, which seemed super lame, but better than nothing. We planned our day around being at Rockefeller Center at 2:20 for the taping. So, we slept in, walked to Bryant Park to do a little window shopping at their winter market, watch ice skaters, see the big tree, etc., then headed over to Dafni for a delightful greek lunch. We made it just in time to 30 Rock, waited in one line, waited in another line, got our wrist bands, and were about to walk in to the studio, when a staff member realizes that Travis has on a small backpack (which he dutifully carried all week so I didn’t have to take my purse). Mind you, this backpack will fit inside of my normal purse. In any case, they don’t care. The backpack is a no-go and they won’t let us in so long as he has it. This was stated in one point type at the bottom of the ticket on the back side, which I frustratingly admit that I totally should’ve read, but damn, seriously? We offered to let them search it. No. We tried furiously to find a store inside Rockefeller Center that would hold the bag, a locker, something, anything. No. So we just had to leave. The staff acted all cool and nice until the evil backpack was discovered, then we were prospective terrorists all of a sudden. We left, I cried (again, not a crier), and that was that. I’m still mad. I get that I didn’t read the fine print, but holy shit, what a stupid crap policy. I’m just sayin’. Ok, rant over.
There wasn’t much excitement to the rest of the afternoon – I was mostly trying to get over myself about the JF thing. We went to the giant Apple store inside of Grand Central Station, finally got help from a competent person to help us upgrade my phone (yes, first world problems), ate some dinner in Bryant Park, and grabbed last minute tickets to see Chicago on Broadway. Chicago is amazing, as is the 56 year old female lead (total BAMF), and that was the redeeming grace for our day.
Fitbit stats: 8.7 miles, 21,325 steps
Friday: Late start again (I’m sensing a theme here), we took a long and lovely walk through Central Park, ate more yummy Thai food on the Upper East Side, spent a few hours at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum (if you’re in to design of urban development, furniture, and textiles, go here), had yummy snacks and hot drinks at Dean and DeLuca (fancy pants store and coffee bar, because people living on the Upper East Side would have nothing less), then walked 80, yes EIGHTY, blocks to the New York Comedy Club for stand-up night. The only stand-out was a super funny chick named Leah Bonnema. We took Lyft back up to the Hell’s Kitchen area and had a cool driver from Senegal who shared a lot about his home country and how he and his family have made their life in the US. We had a mediocre late night dinner at the Brickyard Gastropub.
Fitbit stats: 8.97 miles, 21,410 steps
Saturday: You guessed it, late start, walked a million blocks to the High Line, walked the High Line to Chelsea Market for some Christmas shopping, had some delicious brunch at Westville in Chelsea, more walking around Chelsea, then had the pleasure of spending the evening catching up with a friend of Travis’ from high school with his wife and 10 week old son. From there, we walked a million bazillion blocks back up to Columbus Circle and got dinner at Whole Foods. I realize that’s a lame place to eat dinner while in Midtown. Deal with it.
Fitbit totals: 10.4 miles, 24,078 steps
Sunday: We did not have a late start on Sunday, but we did experience some fail. We attempted to make the 11am service at The Brooklyn Tabernacle. I attended a service here with my family during a visit in 2002, and it seemed fitting to check it out given our sampling of churches around the country this past year. Travis was in charge of navigating, and while we did almost make it to a place called Brooklyn Tabernacle, it was no where near THE Brooklyn Tabernacle. So, after a very long subway ride, a few mile walk, an extended Lyft ride, and then more walking, we were able to quickly check out the Brooklyn Bridge Park and catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, AND make the 1pm service at THE Brooklyn Tabernacle. This ended up working out beautifully because we got to see the first performance of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas show. If you haven’t heard of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, you are missing out. By the time we finished up here it was nearly 3:30, freezing, and snowing. Our intention was to spend the whole day exploring Brooklyn, and in a way we did, but basically with the time we had left after church we got to walk around Park Slope, have delicious flourless chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, and a very late lunch at Seed (totally meh lamb chops, but Travis loved the lamb casserole). Then drinks at a local dive/medium hipster bar and took the subway back to Times Square for last minute tickets at the TKTS booth for Avenue Q.
Fitbit stats: 6.15 miles, 14,700 steps
Monday: Late start (shocking), spent 3 hours at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I’ve been to NYC 4 times since 2001, but this was my first museum trip. Even after 15 years, it still seemed too soon, too real, and was extremely moving. Regardless, I highly recommend spending half a day here. We had lunch at Tribeca’s kitchen (pretty tasty, good gluten free options), walked around downtown, took the Subway back up to Columbus circle, walked around the shops there, finally found some legit peppermint bark (which we’d been searching for all week), then headed back to the apartment to get ready for our farm to table 10 course meal at Blue Hill in Greenwich village. Damn. We were there for 3 hours. We’ve had many nice dinners – I’d say only 2 that come close to stacking up to the one we experienced at Blue Hill – but this one takes the cake. We first learned of Blue Hill on the first season of Chef’s Table on Netflix – check it out. We feel incredibly lucky to have gotten to go and have set the bar incredibly high for future fine dining. For the beer lovers out there, Travis would like to add that he also had the best beer he’s ever had, a Grimm Field Rotation Ale.
Fitbit stats: 5.39 miles, 13,462 steps
Tuesday: Slept in and then spent 12 long hours making our way back to Oklahoma (my parents’ place where we are briefly “home-basing” before heading northwest again in 2017).
Total miles walked: 39.61
Admittedly, we did not take many pictures. I snuck a few in from previous trips. Enjoy looking at our freezing faces over and over and over if you care to scroll down.