In January I took M to NYC for the weekend. She had just turned 13 and I wanted to share something with her, make memories with her that were so much greater than any gift. I know the next few years aren't going to go any slower. The amount of time I get with her is fleeting, and with each passing day she opts for her friends over me more and more. I wanted something that was just ours...to show her an incredible city and just be us without any of life's typical distractions for a few days. And that's exactly what we did. Here's a little peak into three, jam-packed days in one of the most incredible places. There honestly wasn't a thing on our list we didn't do, and we walked over 24 miles. From mid-town, to downtown, the Upper East Side to SoHo, the Brooklyn Bridge to Broadway, the Upper West Side to Little Italy, and China Town to Central Park...we made Manhattan ours and it was truly everything I hoped it would be and even more than I imagined. When asked what my favorite part was, the answer is simple: watching M take it all in...seeing her reaction to every site and sound...experiencing it all with her.
After a crazy early start to the day, our flight landed at LaGuardia almost an hour early (thank you westerly winds) which proved to be a huge advantage given the state of traffic into the city. I decided to take a cab from the airport so she could check that off her bucket list. And, yes, it was exactly as I expected and and over/underwhelming as she imagined. An hour and ridiculous amount of money later, we discovered that our hotel was smack-dab in the middle of a 20-block radius that was closed off for the funeral of NYC Police Officer, Steven McDonald, being held at St. Patrick's Cathedral. (Side note: there is NO WAY to give adequate credit to, or truly express, the emotional gravity and absolute sadness and pride I felt at being present for such an incredible event. I have never, and hope to never again, witness such a monumental display of gratitude and grace. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.) Long story short, our driver could only get us to 48th St. and our hotel was on 51st between 5th and 6th so, we got out and walked the last few blocks through barricades and the hundreds of officers and all of a sudden stepped into a clearing and realized we were at...Rockefeller Plaza!! The flags, the ice rink, the crazy tall 30 Rock building, and to our left...The Today Show (stick around, there's WAY more about that later) - the place I spent most of my life dreaming of and we were looking right at it! We snapped a couple quick photos and walked around the block to our hotel.
We stayed at the incredible Club Quarters Hotel (opposite Rockefeller Center location) and could not have been more pleased with our stay! The location was perfect, the staff were beyond helpful, our room was much larger than I expected, and we even had a nice view of St. Patrick's Cathedral from our window. I would recommend this property to anyone and would go back in a second! Anyway, we settled in, and made a game plan for our first day in the city. Thanks to the Explorer Pass, we were able to purchase discounted tickets for both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock (I wanted to do both - one to start our trip and one to end it - both iconic buildings with incredible views, neither of which disappointed) so we set out to kick off our weekend with a trip to the top of the ESB to get a view of the city. We walked down 5th Avenue - passing by the NYC Library, blocks of motorcycle officers waiting to lead the funeral processional, and thousands of people rushing from one place to another as we took it all in. The weather was gorgeous! Near 50 and sunny, which made a mid-January trip absolutely perfect!
We found our way to the ESB and when we walked into the lobby it felt a bit like something out of a movie (thank you Sleepless in Seattle and Elf for that). I had read about how long it could take to wait in line, but we were at the top in 15 minutes. The view was breathtaking. And watching M's face as she took it all in was priceless. We were able to see everything...the new One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty way off in the distance, the beautiful Chrysler Building just below us, building upon building each view better than the last.
From the ESB we walked back uptown along Park Ave. so we could walk through Grand Central Station and the Waldorf Astoria as we made our way to Bloomingdale's and ultimately Serendipity 3 - home of the world-famous frozen hot chocolate as seen in one of my favorite movies, Serendipity. This quirky, whimsical restaurant was more than we imagined and the frozen hot chocolate...can we just take a moment in honor of the absolute frosty, chocolatey, creamy goodness that this giant cup of heaven truly is...and, yes, I ordered fries with it!
After Serendipity 3, we strolled over to Central Park where the sun was starting to set. We wandered through a bit of the park, seeing Wollman Rink and the zoo while enjoying the paths and bridges. We talked about how for the kids who live in the city, this is their backyard, their playground and while it is a beautiful park, for us mid-westerners it made us even more thankful for our little yard and the space that is all ours everyday. It was getting dark and cold and for fun my phone died, but we had one last stop to make on our way back to the hotel - the Museum of Modern Art, which is free to the public on Friday's from 4-8pm and I had my heart set on seeing Van Gogh's Starry Night so we asked a nice gentleman walking a dog for directions (I had a general idea of where we were going but didn't want to waste a bunch of time wandering the streets of NY in the dark and thankfully he was very kind - something we found to be true of New Yorkers all weekend). We lucked out and stumbled upon the LOVE sculpture on our way and grabbed a couple of fun photos before finding our way to MOMA. Let me say, I've been fortunate enough to travel to Paris and see some of the world's greatest art, but MOMA was incredible! We were greeted by a docent who shared invaluable information with us about not only the museum, but how to navigate the massive crowds and exactly where to go to see not only Starry Night, but several other pieces I had no idea were on display. We made our way up to the fifth floor and, just as he said, came around the corner to find the piece I had been waiting for...and it was even more beautiful in person, even more incredible than the Mona Lisa...rivaling only Monet's Water Lilies - and I was so thankful to be able to show it to M...something she certainly doesn't fully understand now, but will in time. There is something about seeing great art...for me it's a connection to the past and to all those who've stood in its presence and been touched by it...and I wanted her to be able to have that memory as well. We left MOMA in awe and exhaustion ready to put our feet up for a bit before finding dinner.
After a brief rest at the hotel, we decided we needed dinner and couldn't think of a better place to find food than Times Square (just a couple blocks from our hotel). The lights, the people, the sounds - all a lot to take in and I could tell M was a little overwhelmed, so we found our way to Sardi's - a restaurant rich in Broadway tradition, with caricature lined walls and a nod to days gone by. Times Square didn't disappoint, and with a visit to the huge H&M store, we called it a night to rest up for Saturday.