Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New York Trip Part 2: Friday Night Lights

In case you missed the beginning of this trip report, Part 1 is here.

Background: My husband and I have both been to New York City before. I lived in New Jersey until I was 5 years old and my dad worked in NYC. I remember riding the bus with him to work one day (my siblings and I each did this once a year). After we moved away and we went back to visit relatives, we would usually spend 1 day in the city. But back in the '70s and '80s, New York was still considered a little dirty and seedy, especially Central Park. I've been to NYC twice as an adult, both times for business. I didn't have much of a chance to do anything fun, but I did go to the top of the Empire State Building as an adult. My husband went to NYC on business and also did not have time to see much.

When we planned the trip, we talked about what we'd like to see and accomplish. We don't like to see a ton of things in one day and run ourselves ragged. When we vacation with our kids, we usually plan one major thing per day and spend the rest of the day lounging around. We knew we could probably accomplish a little more without our kids before we would feel tired. Similar to the Top 3 List by Have Heart Will Travel, our priorities for the trip were:

1.  See a Broadway play (and not a Disney-themed one)
2.  See an aerial view of the city
3.  Visit Central Park

If we had time, we also wanted to visit a museum, walk on the Brooklyn Bridge, see a comedy show, etc.

Friday, September 5, 2014

We left our house at 7:00 a.m. We had to drop one of our dogs off at the boarding place before heading to the airport (we didn't want to stick Grandma with 3 kids AND a rambunctious puppy). We hit a lot of traffic on our way to Dallas Love Field airport, but we still made it in plenty of time to catch our 9:20 a.m. flight. Love Field was recently renovated and is very spacious and clean.

Our flight had a short layover in St. Louis, but we landed at LaGuardia airport in NYC around 2:30 p.m. I had booked tickets online for the NYC Airporter bus, which had stands and friendly employees very close to our baggage claim. We arrived at our hotel around 4:00 p.m.

When I called to book the Doubletree Times Square with my free weekend certificates, the employee on the HHonors help desk was very helpful. He asked if we were going to NYC for anything special, and I told him that we were going to celebrate our 10th anniversary. He said he would make a note in our reservation for a possible upgrade.

Our check-in process was quick and easy (and included the hotel's signature warm chocolate chip cookie). We were assigned to room #903.

It had a sitting room with a sofa, desk and TV.

The cabinets held a microwave, refrigerator and safe.

There was a separate bedroom (with a door) that contained a king-size bed. That was our first clue that we had received an upgraded room, because we reserved a room with a queen-size bed.

I'm sure the room was just like every other suite at a typical Doubletree hotel. But then we looked out one of the windows and saw this: Times Square! The Doubletree hotel is tall and narrow, and only 3 rooms on each floor face Times Square. We were ecstatic with our lucky upgrade!

Our outward view:

The view looking down:

The view to the north:

We spent some time just looking at the scene below us. We were close enough to the ground that we could people-watch. (As a side note...our room had some great blackout curtains and we could not see any light nor hear any outside noise in our room).

We were starting to get hungry, and we asked the hotel concierge to recommend a casual restaurant. The concierge pointed us towards Junior's.

On the way to the restaurant, we saw the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.

Our dinner at Junior's was pleasant. We sat on the patio and saw interesting people walk by while we ate.

Junior's is mostly known for its desserts, and the cheesecake and black and white cookie did not disappoint.

After dinner, we walked to Rockefeller Center (home of NBC studios) and purchased tickets for the observation deck (Top of the Rock). Since I had seen the view from the Empire State Building, we wanted a different perspective (and reading this article convinced us we made the right decision).
We had just a short line to buy our tickets, but our reserved deck time was one hour away. We were free to explore the sights of Rockefeller Center.

The ice skating rink from winter turns into a cafe during the warmer weather:

We visited the Lego store across the street. This sign is made of thousands of minifigures on their sides.

A mural made of Legos on the ceiling:

I thought the Lego store would be cooler and have more New York things in it, but it mostly just looked like a regular Lego store. (The store in Downtown Disney is much cooler!)

While we waited for our elevator time, we saw a meet-up group playing cards:

At 7:40, we boarded the elevator to take us to the top. It was dusk and the city was not entirely dark yet.

The view to the south with a great shot of the Empire State Building:

The view to the north (Central Park):

The view to the west (Hudson River):

The view to the southwest. The bright lights are Times Square.

There were 3 observation levels, and we visited all of them. The views were stunning. As it grew darker, we could see the Tribute In Light for the World Trade Center towers. These lights are only visible in the days leading up to 9/11.

After we gazed at the city lights from above, we made our way back to Times Square. I wanted to go to the Disney Store since it was just a few doors down from our hotel, but we weren't sure if it would still be open.
Times Square
We discovered it is open until 1:00 a.m. every night! When a cast member asked what we were doing in NYC and we told him we were here for our anniversary, he lead the entire store in a song and cheer for us.

The most surprising thing about our first day in NYC was how polite and friendly all of the employees and visitors were. The bus employees and the Top of the Rock employees asked us and everyone where we were from and helped us find our way if we looked lost. This continued at other places throughout our weekend. I did not expect NYC to be so friendly.

Up next--
New York Trip Part 3: Saturday in the Park

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