I’ve lost count as to how many times Charlie and I have visited New York City. Early in our marriage we squeezed in as many trips as we could to our favorite destination. After having three kids our travels were limited to road trips visiting in-laws in Ohio or day trips to the beach.
Shortly after the 9/11 attack, with hearts broken, we made a pilgrimage, as a family, over the Thanksgiving holiday. Renting a small apartment through Manhattan Getaways in Hell’s Kitchen, just a couple of short blocks from the corner of Broadway and West 53rd, we were able to take in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Making our way to lower Manhattan we witnessed the still-smoldering remnants of the World Trade Center. It was a sobering visit, kind of scary, at times, for the kids but a trip that needed to be made and a lesson that needed to be learned.
Since retirement we’ve tried to make our way to Manhattan every few years, finding inexpensive lodging such as the Stay The Night in the upper East side (you’ll share a bathroom) or a cute walkup in Harlem through Airbnb. This time we were taking advantage of frequent flier miles so we decided to splurge on an actual hotel. Of course, during the holidays you won’t find anything decent under $350-400 per night in Midtown so we still had to go through Hotwire to find something closer to $200. Our 4-Star request landed us at the World Center Hotel, smack dab next to the newly constructed Freedom Tower and 911 Museum.
The location was great as it was around the corner from a couple of subway stops and the crowds were in midtown, not lower Manhattan. We never had to worry about grabbing a booth at the neighborhood cafe for breakfast and there was always a seat on the Rector Street subway stop, unlike midtown where it was standing room only. The hotel was upscale and offered our favorite perk, free wi-fi.
Weather did not cooperate, however, and we were greeted by super storm Damon, along with the Royal couple. We chose to catch a ride from LaGuardia with Super Shuttle but the trek took longer than the 2 hour plane trip. Midtown was jammed and the driver got nervous when he was overdue to make pickups after dropping off our group. We were the only ones being taken to lower Manhattan so his solution was to stop at a corner, flag a cab and give us $12 to get to our destination. The tab was closer to $20.
Next day the rain gradually turned to snow which made walking the streets a bit easier. We headed over to the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on West 49th Street to see if there were any inexpensive tickets left for that night’s performance of The Book of Mormon. Ha, dream on! The cheapest seats were $199 each and they weren’t even together. We were told that if we came back at 4:30 we could put our name in a drawing for a lottery where we could win the chance at 2 tickets for $32 each. Our first try that night netted nothing so we headed to TKTS to see what was on the boards for discounted tickets. We chose Sting’s The Last Ship and, even with 40% off, paid $80 per ticket. Sting had just taken over a role that week so we were excited to see him perform and felt it would be worth the price. We weren’t disappointed.
Earlier in the day we showed up at The Late Show with David Letterman studios around 9:30 and signed up for possible tickets. Later that morning we were called and offered tickets for a show the next day featuring Chris Rock and Sting! Sitting in on a Letterman show is great as the band provides a live concert during commercial breaks. While setting up for his performance, Sting came out and jammed with Paul Shaffer’s band, an added bonus. If you don’t mind standing for about an hour prior to being seated, taking in a taped episode of any of the New York shows provides free entertainment and, in our case, respite from the cold.
As soon as the show let out, around 4:30, we literally ran the four blocks to 49th to, once again, get our names into the Book of Mormon lottery. Lo and behold, we made it with 5 minutes to spare and Charlie’s name was actually chosen. For $32 per ticket we won front row, center seats. What a treat and the show was phenomenal!
We spent the rest of our time in the city checking out the ice skaters Rockefeller Center; the famous Christmas windows of Barney’s, Sax, Macy’s and Lord & Taylor; and just breathing in the city. The inclement weather kept the crowds away from window viewing, so we would check out the displays then duck into the stores for warmth where everyone else in the universe were shopping.
Our daughter gave us a Groupon to ReSette, a wonderfully cozy Italian restaurant in Midtown. The Ravioli con Mela (made with apple, pear & ricotta cheese, prosciutto, roasted pistachio in a gorgonzola cream sauce) was heavenly and Charlie’s salmon was ridiculously delicious. We thoroughly enjoyed the wine, warmth and ambiance of this tiny spot. A family friend who went to school with our oldest daughter was singing Jazz at an uptown club so we hopped on the subway and headed to the 103rd Street Station, making our way to Lura where we re-connected and enjoyed her first set. Jennifer stayed with us for a short time in Orlando when she performed as Cinderella at WDW. What a treat to meet up with her in NYC!
The last day of our visit was reserved for the 911 Museum. You’ll need at least 2 hours to tour this massive display. More on that in my next post…