My answer to, “Do you want to go to New York?” is pretty much always yes, but especially so when my cousin Tracey asked me to be her tour guide and partner-in-crime for her first-ever foray into the Big Apple. We picked dates and got flights and then it was down to the business of planning an itinerary that would ensure that she got to see as much of New York as humanly possible.
We had two full days in the city, and two half days in the city, with the other half of those days consumed by travel. I showed the itinerary to Jessica, who has gone to NYC with me many times, and she asked, “Are you trying to show her everything at once in case she never goes back?” And, that’s exactly what I was doing. When I presented Tracey with an itinerary of four 18-hour days (6am – midnight), she didn’t even flinch. She thought it was fantastic, and that’s how I knew it would work.
I asked her what tourist things she wanted to do, and I added some of my favorite NYC discoveries to the list, and then I added some things that would be new to me as well. To that end, I decided we should make a point to go to all five New York City boroughs. You know what they are, right? Thanks to the Beastie Boys? “Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten [Island], from the Battery to the top of Manhattan…”
We got up bright and early to drive to RDU, and by 1:00pm, we had landed and checked into our hotel in Queens. (1 borough, check!) We bought our unlimited 7-day MetroCards for $29, which is absolutely the way to see NYC on a budget. Even though we were only in the city for a little over 3 days, less than half of the time our 7-day pass was good, we each took $56.25 worth of rides (16 subways, 7 buses, and 2 trams) around the city, reducing our cost by nearly half.
Tracey had a crash course in subways, because our first subway ride was jam-packed. Then we had a transfer, and it was similarly packed. So, she got to dive right into the thick of things. Literally.
We rode the subway out to Brooklyn Heights (borough #2!) and walked along the Promenade for our first (slightly foggy) view of Manhattan.
Next stop was Grimaldi’s for Brooklyn’s famous pizza. We got ham, mushrooms, and ricotta – in addition to the usual fresh mozzarella and basil. Delicious!
After dinner, it was getting dark, so we walked down to the river, under the Brooklyn Bridge. I snapped this photo and it turned out incredibly blurry, but there’s something about it that I like very much all the same.
Someone else was also checking out the waterfront, except they had arrived in this stretch hummer limousine with party lights in the back. Just another day in New York.
Since we were visiting New York in December, there was one attraction that couldn’t be missed. So, our next stop was Manhattan (borough #3, though technically, we went through it earlier, just underground) and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. I’m not sure if it was because my visit this year was a bit closer to the lighting of the Christmas tree, or because I had another person to keep up with, but Rockefeller Center seemed even more packed with people than I remembered. It was crowded, to be sure, but we were all united with a purpose – to stand there and marvel and take pictures of the most amazing Christmas tree in the world. (Or, at least that I have ever seen or heard about.)
Saks 5th Avenue, across the street, was running their projection show again this year, but it had definitely been upgraded. Parts were even in color!
The top of Rockefeller Center was obscured with fog, accenting the incredible height of this building.
I snuck up on this tourist gawking at the tree. (Shhhh, it’s Tracey.)
We found a spot overlooking the skating rink that wasn’t filled with tourists, but quickly realized it’s because they were distracted by another incredible sight – this enormous dog! I am disappointed that the picture doesn’t do justice to his size. He had all the humans quite matched (or over-matched) for size. Even so, he was the sweetest thing. He kept glancing up at his owner, as if to say, “I don’t know why all these people are petting me and taking pictures with me, but I think we should go home now.” Quite a gentle giant.
I took a picture similar to this last year – the actual Rockefeller tree in the background of the Swarovski star replica – but it’s just so cool that I had to take another one this time. And of course, make sure Tracey got a chance to take one, too.
It seemed for the best to conquer all of midtown on our first night, when we were already wading through tourists like a champ. So, we headed south to Bryant Park, for another Christmas tree, another ice skating rink, and a cool foggy view of the Empire State Building, emitting an all-red hue through the clouds.
I went to Bryant Park last year, but only during the day. I must say, their tree is much more impressive at night. It was also situated where we could walk right up and stand under its enormous branches. Can you tell that I’m actually under the tree here?
And this was my view looking up.
After getting our fill of interacting with the tree, and checking out the little Christmas shops, we set off toward Grand Central Station. With the fog framing the Chrysler Building over Grand Central Station, this may be one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken in New York.
The inside of Grand Central is renowned for its beauty. I am still smitten with it after all of this time. However, it’s also impossible to photograph its splendor. I can stand in the middle of the room and look at everything at once – take it all in. My camera can’t do that. Maybe a video would do the trick, but I think the only way to appreciate Grand Central Station is to be there.
Another grand New York Christmas tradition is the décor in the shop windows along 5th Avenue. Certain stores go all out (like Saks with the huge projection show, for example), so I noted them on the map so we could take a look as we walked by. Lord & Taylor won the prize for my favorite windows again this year. Tracey agreed. Their theme was “Wish for Tradition.” Here are a few shots of their windows. It’s hard to tell from simple photographs, but the attention to detail in these displays is mind-boggling.
Macy’s continued their “Believe” theme from last year, and I’m pretty pleased with this angled shot I got of the outside of Macy’s with the Empire State Building in the background. I like that it has both red and green.
Macy’s windows showed “The Magic of Christmas” throughout New York. I thought the display was cute of the family watching the parade balloons go by their living room window.
After Macy’s, we walked north again toward Times Square. Tracey commented on how it kept getting brighter as we got closer. Here she is – first time in Times Square!
We stopped at Café Un Deax Trois for dinner and to rest our tired feet before continuing through Times Square. We glimpsed Toys R Us, the Hershey’s and M&Ms stores, and the iconic red steps before hopping on another subway up to Lincoln Center. Dante Park, next to Lincoln Center, had a Christmas tree lit up as well. Somehow, I missed seeing it last year, but I was only there during the day. With or without a Christmas tree, Lincoln Center is magnificent at night. But everything is better with Christmas lights.
I didn’t plan any part of our trip with a leisurely pace, but since we had planned to do some walking in Central Park on Sunday, I had some wiggle room built in for that. It was fortunate, then, that Sunday is the day our schedule got a little sideways. We realized while doing inventory on our purse contents Saturday night that we’d left something behind at Grimaldi’s, so we had to schedule a return trip to Brooklyn. However, we had timed tickets for the NBC Tour at 30 Rock, so we started our day there (back in Rockefeller Center!) and saw the studios for Dr. Oz, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Saturday Night Live, along with the control room and hair and makeup. I had actually never done the tour before, so it was a first for me. Tracey is the NBC viewer, but I have seen a few YouTube videos from Jimmy Fallon or SNL, so even with my limited knowledge, it was cool to see those places.
Our tour finished just in time for our scheduled time at the Top of the Rock, but because of the dense fog that was still hanging around that morning, there was zero visibility, so we went in and changed our time for later, and hopped the subway out to Brooklyn.
Grimaldi’s didn’t open until noon, so we used the extra time to walk down to the Brooklyn Bridge Park that had closed at dusk the night before. The sky was clearing on the Brooklyn side, but the view to Manhattan was still foggy.
When we left the park, I happened to notice this graffiti on the side of a warehouse building. Right on!
We had a successful stop by the Grimaldi’s Lost and Found, so we were back on the subway just a few minutes past noon. Our new Top of the Rock time was 1:15pm, so we had time to ride up to Columbus Circle and look around that side of Central Park before walking back down toward Rockefeller Center.
We also seized the opportunity to get a hot dog, which is a New York staple, but much to our disappointment (and disbelief), our hot dogs were really pitiful. That was certainly a first for me in NYC, and not a first I enjoyed. Oh well. At least it was only $2.
This “LOVE” art installment has been there for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never stopped to take a picture there. Since we were embracing the tourist thing, it seemed as good a time as any.
We made it to the Top of the Rock on time, and although the sky looked bright and clear from the ground, the building is so high up that we were told it was still about 50% visibility from the top. We didn’t have binoculars on us, anyway, so I figured we’d be seeing about as far as usual, but just through a bit of haze. Thus, this snazzy photo of the Empire State Building’s silhouette looking quite prominent amidst the fog, while the sun does its best to burn through the gray.
We could still see the enormity of Central Park, too!
Having seen Central Park from high above it, we were ready to explore the inside a bit. We caught the bus back to the base of the park and I “hustled” (his word, not mine) a pedicab driver into giving us the tour we wanted at the price we wanted, and to drop us off at a different location than usual. His face conveyed the brief consideration to argue the terms (or more specifically, the price), but he seemed to read me just as quickly to know that I was going to get my way, so he just said, “Ah, you know what? Come on.”
He turned out to be one of the best pedicab tour guides I’ve ever had. He was friendly and funny and actually came up with a few tidbits of information that I hadn’t heard before in addition to giving Tracey the general rundown as we rode along. I think he was grateful that he didn’t have to give the big spiel every time he stopped at a new location and let us out, because I already knew where to walk and where to meet him to continue the ride. He commented on how expedient we were at going to take our photos and then coming right back. “Places to go, people to see!”
Here are some shots of the FRIENDS fountain, Bethesda fountain (drained to protect the pipes for cold weather), the San Remo towers, bow bridge, and the tall buildings hiding in the background of the trees that have shed their leaves.
We concluded our tour by the Museum of Natural History, as Jessica and I did last time, so we could walk into the park for a bit. We opted to walk around the turtle pond so we could see Belvedere Castle from the ground, which was pretty cool.
We actually did a great job not getting lost amidst all the paths, and went by Cleopatra’s Needle and through the Greywacke Arch, which had a flower sprouting out of the stone on one side, and a saxophone player serenading passersby.
We came out on the other side of the park at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we sat for a bit before setting out in search of some dinner. We took a chance on a little café where Tracey had Greek food and I had breakfast for dinner. It was pretty tasty, in fact.
Then, we hopped a bus up to the East River, where I gave a local woman directions so she’d “remember how to get home later.” That always cracks me up.
The fog was still hanging around, but it made for this awesome picture looking over toward Roosevelt Island and beyond that to those smokestacks in Queens, not far from our hotel.
Most of the Christmas tree lightings and related events take place in New York during the week after Thanksgiving, but there are a few others that are scheduled a little bit later. Two lightings took place while we were in the city, and they were both on the Upper East Side. Because we had a schedule conflict with the lighting of the Park Avenue Trees, we opted to attend the tree lighting and candlelight carol sing at Carl Schurz Park. It was clearly the kind of event that only the neighborhood residents attend, and is certainly not a tourist destination. They passed out thick books of Christmas carols to the folks who had gathered ‘round the tree, and a professional choir sang some Christmas songs, local leaders gave short speeches, and then we all had a New Year’s Eve-esque countdown to the moment that they lit the Christmas tree. The tree itself was nothing special compared to the ones New York has to offer, but it was still fun to do the countdown with the “neighbors” and then have a whole host of people burst into “Joy to the World” as the lights came on.
I kept trying to take a picture of the hundreds of candles all around us and on the hillside in every direction, but never got a clear shot. That kind of lighting is a bear to photograph, and I was too excited to hold still, anyway. A fellow standing close by us offered to take our picture, though, so we got a shot of us holding our songbook with the stage in the background.
We stayed singing carols for about 45 minutes before heading out to be sure we made it to our show in time, but that was a wonderful experience. Quite a dose of Christmas spirit with a feeling of community togetherness and pride, and we got to blend right in as if we’d strolled right over from our Brownstone down the street. We sang verses of beloved Christmas songs that I never even knew existed, and just about the time I saw that “Twelve Days of Christmas” was on the next page, the choir leader said, “Everybody hates this song, anyway! Let’s skip it!” Hurray, hurray!
After we left, we could still hear the people singing for several blocks as we walked to the bus stop. We were tired after our busy day, and the bus was the least labor-intensive way to get back to the Theater District, since we were going to see Wicked!
We got a little pre-show entertainment on the bus, however, as the guy sitting behind us carried on a very loud phone conversation with what I assume was one of his kids. It ran the gamut of everything imaginable, and I know I would not do it justice if I attempted to convey what we heard. I did relish the irony of him telling his kid that he/she needed to stop complaining about everything all the time, except that he paused that anti-complaining rant every 30 seconds or so to exclaim things like, “This is the slowest bus EVER! It stops at every block! I’m never gonna get there. This is ridiculous! I should ask for my money back – that’s how slow this bus is!” We were delayed a bit at a stop because a man in a wheelchair was getting on, so the bus driver had to get out and let down the chair lift for that passenger to board. The grumpy gus behind us gave his very loud opinion that there should just be some kind of a forklift for that sort of thing. Charming. He did eventually get frustrated and disembarked “the slowest bus ever,” and when I looked at Tracey and lamented his departure, an older couple in front of us turned around and said, “I know! I’m sorry to see him go, because that was really entertaining!” New York, ladies and gentlemen.
Even with a few delays, we made it to the Gershwin Theater with just enough time to hit the ladies’ room and find our seats before the show started. Even better – it began to sprinkle rain when we were half a block from the theater, but it did all of its heavy raining while we were dry inside the theater.
I saw Wicked in 2009 and had been eager to see it again ever since. I had forgotten some of the plot twists, but knew some of the music this time, so it was excellent to see it again and enjoy some laughs. Tracey liked it, too!
Monday morning, we got up early and headed downtown like a couple of Wall Street traders. We beat the rush on the subway, and we beat the tourists to the Charging Bull, too.
We proceeded to board the Staten Island Ferry so we could ride by Lady Liberty and visit borough number four on our list!
We had a nice view of downtown Manhattan as we disembarked from Battery Park.
The fog was sticking with us, too, so as we drove off toward Staten Island, we watched Manhattan disappear like Atlantis.
We hopped off the boat when we reached St. George, and walked along the water down to Staten Island’s own 9/11 Memorial. Ordinarily, the buildings of downtown Manhattan would line up right in the middle here. Due to the fog, it’s harder to tell, but you can still see WTC 1 peeking up a little higher than all the rest off in the distance.
We sat by the water for a while, just watching the boats and the birds, and then walked back to board the next ferry to Manhattan.
We hadn’t caught even the slightest chill riding on the back of the boat from Manhattan, but on the way back, we rode on the side, and it was a little colder. Still not bad for riding on the water in December!
Here I am with Lady Liberty (and another Staten Island Ferry) behind me.
And a closer shot as we rode past.
Once we were back on dry land, we walked back up toward Wall Street and saw the New York Stock Exchange and paid a visit to Trinity Church. The outside was under construction, but the inside was as lovely as ever.
We had reserved a time slot to visit the Ground Zero Memorial, so we went there next. It wasn’t brimming with tourists as much as it was on my first visit in May, but there were still a lot of people there, which makes it difficult to appreciate the solemnity. Once construction is complete on the new World Trade towers, the intention is to have the Memorial open via sidewalks on all four sides, so it would act more like a public park than a tourist exhibit. I look forward to seeing it with new eyes then.
I had read online that the World Financial Center had a display of Christmas lights in their Winter Garden, and I had never been in the World Financial Center before, so we went to do that next. That just so happens to be a series of buildings, so we walked several “blocks” indoors before finding what we were looking for. The sight reminded me of the hotels in Vegas or the Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
We exited the building on the opposite side, so we could look out at the water again.
By this time, the nagging headache that I’d woken up with that morning had become a raging monster of pain, so I called a time out and walked toward that shining beacon of hope known as the Shake Shack. I got an enormous Diet Coke and washed down some pain meds and we both ordered up some cheese fries and sat for a while. Whether it was the food, the caffeine, or the medicine, I emerged half an hour later feeling like a new person. My body still ached from the waist down, but my head felt fine and dandy, so we went roaring off to the next adventure.
As we walked, we stumbled on this odd kind of park. I have since looked it up and found that it is the Irish Hunger Memorial in remembrance of the Great Irish Famine from 1845-1852. It contains stones, soil, and vegetation brought in from Ireland, including stones from every county of Ireland.
We were headed to St. Paul’s Chapel (known for having sustained no physical damage when the World Trade Center buildings collapsed across the street, and for the ministry they provided afterward), but we passed by St. Peter’s on the way (New York has all the apostles in vast supply), so we peeked inside. They were having a service (you don’t have to go far to find one at seemingly any time of day), so we just peeked inside and continued on our way.
St. Paul’s was also setting up for a service or concluding one, so we glanced inside and then spent some time taking photos from the courtyard, including the Bell of Hope, which was a gift from London on the first anniversary of 9/11. The bell rings each September 11th and has also chimed in remembrance of victims of other tragedies since.
We left the church and walked through City Hall and past the Brooklyn Bridge on our way to the subway to whisk us up to SoHo, which remains one of my favorite areas to this day. We were quite a ways from the iconic 5th Avenue shop windows, but we found a different kind of Christmas window as we walked. What do you think? A social commentary on Christmas consumerism? A Grinch with no holiday spirit? Whatever the reason, I had a hearty laugh.
Of course, whenever I am nearby, I never miss a chance to stop into Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I have assumed that my partiality to this comparably small and inornate church rests on sentiment, as it’s the first church I ever visited in NYC, and I stumbled on it unexpectedly, but Tracey said it was her favorite so far, as well, so it certainly has something special to offer.
Just across the street from Old St. Patrick’s is another place that is my favorite of its kind in all of New York, and simply named: Little Cupcake Bake Shop. We stopped in for cupcakes to power us on our walk to Greenwich Village. Tracey got strawberry, and I got a blue and white one that looked like Christmas to me, and turned out to have blueberries in the cake batter. Yummmmmmmmm.
Our cupcakes were gobbled up long before we reached the Village, but that was OK since we were headed there to get lunch. MacDougal Street is lined with restaurants, and our plan was to pick up a few different items to go and have a picnic in nearby Washington Square Park. While a MacDougal creperie owner was making our order, we related this plan, and he directed us to the Risotteria on Bleecker Street for something to pair with our crepe. Bleecker is a pretty famous street, anyway, so we threw in a little extra tourist-ing with our lunch order.
Having procured our lunch, we walked to nearby Washington Square Park and sat on a park bench to eat. This park’s most famous attribute is its arch, pictured here with their Christmas tree below it. Their lighting ceremony is later in December, so the tree was not decked out just yet.
We proceeded up 5th Avenue toward Union Square, which took us past the rather gothic-looking First Presbyterian Church.
Also, just before entering Union Square, we found “The One.” We were on a mission and therefore did not stop to inquire further, but I am curious whether he was conducting some sort of social experiment or legitimately hoping to find a date. It was funny, either way.
Union Square, which usually has a farmer’s market on the weekends, also had their Christmas shops set up around the entrance to the subway station. These little Christmas villages spring up all over the place in NYC.
We were in a good rhythm of walking 10 blocks, seeing a park, walking 10 blocks, seeing a park, so we carried on until we reached Madison Square Park, which is one of my favorites. After all, it has the original Shake Shack, in case you need a snack, the Flatiron Building, a great view of the Empire State Building, and they even had their own Christmas tree.
We were keeping an eye on the time because we wanted to have a nice sunset view, so we hopped the subway from close to Madison Square Park up to 59th Street to catch the tram to Roosevelt Island. Tracey’s camera battery had given up the ghost for the day, so I handed her my camera so she could snap some shots as we crossed the river, such as this one, as we’re taking off from traditional Manhattan and headed up over the streets below.
We got onto Roosevelt Island at the perfect time. We walked to the south end of the island as the sun was setting, admiring the view along our way.
Then, we walked part of the way back and chose a park bench with a great view of the Chrysler Building and rested our aching… everything… while we watched the sky darken and the lights brighten.
I have a problem sitting still in New York, so I kept going back and forth between where the Empire State Building was visible, and where the Chrysler was visible. Gorgeous views from any angle.
The only time I thought Tracey might try to off me and leave my body in the East River was about here…
Me: “Ready to hop back on the tram?”
Tracey: “Yep! Are we going to dinner next?”
Me: “Well, we have one more walking tour, and then dinner.”
Tracey: “Today? We have one more walking tour today?”
Me: “It’s a short one. And then we go eat.”
Tracey: *glares, considers* “OK.”
True to my word, we did about a 30 minute loop to see the rest of the prominent shop windows and peek inside the Plaza hotel.
Bergdorf Goodman had some pretty cool windows this year.
We also checked out the UNICEF snowflake at 5th Avenue and 57th Street.
I also thought the storefront of Torneau was cool.
We had dinner at the original PJ Clarke’s location at 3rd and 55th. My friend Lana had some friends in town from Texas, so they all came to meet us there so we could spend a few minutes catching up, which was really nice. PJ Clarke’s is known for their burgers, so that’s what we ordered. Tracey had a traditional burger, and I got mine subbed out for a turkey burger. We both thoroughly enjoyed them, and had juice dripping out onto our hands, which seems like the mark of a good burger if ever there was one.
We were both pretty wiped out after dinner. We’d covered a LOT of ground, and had done most of it on foot. In fact, I had sent Lana a copy of the itinerary ahead of time, so as soon as she saw us and hugged me, she turned right to Tracey (who she’d just met) and said, “How are you? Are you OK? Her itinerary is like a torture device. I told her not to wear you out.” Tracey, however, replied that she loved the itinerary and the crazy pace, so ha ha!
Even so, I thought we’d both appreciate catching the bus back over to Radio City. It wasn’t a long walk, but why walk if you can ride? We got to the bus stop, though, and the next bus wasn’t coming for about 10 minutes. That would have gotten us there in time (barring any extraordinary traffic), but it seemed silly to wait on a bus for 10 minutes if we could walk and be there in 10 minutes, so we opted for that. After all, the best way to really SEE New York is on foot.
And, it meant walking past Rockefeller Center again.
We got to Radio City Music Hall in time to admire the general splendor and find our way to our seats just before the lights went down. I attended the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular last year, but it was so much fun that I definitely wanted Tracey to get to see it. It was also the 85th anniversary of the show, so that added to the excitement, and it’s a great way to get on the fast track to the Christmas spirit.
The show was magnificent, but 90 minutes was also BY FAR the longest either of us had sat down all day long. When I stood up, my body showed me exactly how it felt about the day’s activities, and it was none too pleased. We knew we just had to make it a few short blocks to the subway station, and then we could head back to the hotel. We used the last bit of my camera battery to get some photos of the Christmas decorations across the street from Radio City, and then we were more than happy to get back to Queens for a hot shower and a bed.
Tuesday was our last day in the city, and we’d be leaving mid-afternoon for the airport, so we got up bright and early and packed our bags so we could check out and leave them with the bell hop. I also printed out our boarding passes in the business center so we could save some time when we got to the airport. Tuesday was supposed to be the warmest of the days we were in New York, and given that I’d been a little too warm with my jacket on the previous days, I had decided to leave that with our bags and just go out in my long-sleeved t-shirt. That is, until we got to the lobby and looked outside to see that it was raining! So, my jacket had to come along.
We rode the subway to the Upper West Side and visited the Church of the Ascension before folks started coming in for their 8:30 service.
Then, we walked just down the street to Neal Caffrey’s house for a visit. The house has been on the market for a long time, and I can’t imagine what the price tag must be for such a big house in such a stately neighborhood. Whatever the cost, we didn’t have enough to buy it, but we had a good time just being a couple of goofy White Collar tourists, pretending we were dropping in on Neal and June.
Fortunately, though the rain was hanging on, it was barely a mist, so it didn’t put much of a crimp in our plans. We walked up Broadway to fulfill Tracey’s final NYC-specific food wish: a bagel. The place I picked out from the online reviews (and location) was Absolute Bagels. Not a fancy name or a fancy place, but there was a steady stream of customers coming in for their morning bagel en route to work. I’m not much of a bagel eater, myself, so I just sat at a table by the window while Tracey ordered hers. She came back with an original bagel filled with cream cheese, and it looked pretty amazing. She said it tasted great, too, and I should try it, so I did. And then I ended up eating half of her bagel. Luckily, it was quite big enough for two. Here she is with her side.
Here is a little something for you Seinfeld fans. I knew we’d be passing by here, and even though I only saw a few bits and pieces of episodes over the years, I still recognized this iconic restaurant front from the show. I figured I’d take a picture, knowing that show no doubt has some fans among those reading this.
We proceeded up through Riverside Park in Morningside Heights, and came out at Riverside Church. I’ve been there several times, but I never mind going back.
From there, we crossed the street to the General Grant National Memorial.
After our walking-intensive day on Monday, we opted to take the bus whenever possible. So, we hopped aboard a bus that would take us into Harlem, and we got off at the corner of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevards.
Here I am in front of the Lenox Lounge. Unfortunately, it’s only open in the evenings, so we couldn’t go inside, but I hope to make a return trip someday. White Collar filmed an episode using the Lenox Lounge, which is enough for me to be interested, but they chose it because they like to highlight the greatness of New York, and the Lenox Lounge has a rich history that gave me chills just standing outside of it. They still have live jazz there on a regular basis, but once upon a time, greats like Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday played here. Langston Hughes read poetry here. Malcolm X was interviewed for his biography here. (If more modern accolades are your thing, then consider folks such as Justin Timberlake and Denzel Washington, who are two of many who’ve done productions here.)
From Harlem, we had a fairly lengthy subway ride to take us up to our final borough, The Bronx. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been to New York in the last ten years, but this was a first for me. We went up to visit the New York Botanical Garden, where they were having their annual Holiday Train Show. The grounds are lovely, so I’ll have to make a return trip sometime when the gardens are in bloom.
The Holiday Train Show takes place inside the Haupt Conservatory and includes over 140 scaled reconstructions of iconic NYC buildings, but built from natural materials such as bark, twigs, fruits, seeds, and pine cones. Model trains run along tracks around these buildings, on replica bridges and by vegetation and waterfalls. It’s pretty spectacular to see. I think I took a picture of every single building, but that’s excessive, so here are a few highlights.
And these aren’t in New York, but they’re from the artist studio, showing some of his other work.
When we left the Botanical Garden, our plan was to walk through Fordham University to admire some of their buildings, but as we strolled onto the grounds, we were shooed away by a security guard who said the campus was private and we weren’t allowed. He was grouchy, to say the least, but I guess it probably gave him a little bit of joy to growl at would-be passers-by, so Happy Holidays, I guess?
So, since we had some extra time, we made a stop back through Bryant Park again, where we had some lunch before walking back through Times Square to grab some Junior’s cheesecake for the road.
It was lucky we had cheesecake, because though we got back to our hotel on time, and then to the airport and through security in record time, our flight ended up delayed by about 2 hours by the time we actually got off the ground. There are worse things that can happen, though, to be sure, and we still made it back to my house at about midnight. All in all, I’d say we had a successful trip. Tracey may even like to go back to New York with me again sometime!