Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Empire State of Mind: New York City

New York City- January 2010

New York....

"Concrete Jungle where Dreams are Made of......"

"Bright Lights will Inspire You"

"Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York...."

What can I say. I love this city. The huge sky scrapers, the loud noises, the bright lights, the energy. I just can't get enough. I'm pretty sure every time I've been there, it's with someone who has never been. I am some sort of unofficial tour guide. And I'm totally fine with that!
The trip started out like most of my trips do. Stayed late at work trying to tie up loose ends before my 3 days off (plus the weekend). Since my roommate no longer works at my hotel, I no longer have someone to hold down the fort while I'm taking a few days off. Enough of the shop talk though! Where was I.....oh yes. Running late. So I get home from work around 9pm because of course I had a few errands to run after work. I finished packing, chatted with the roommate since we hadn't seen each other in a few days, took a shower and then decided to paint my nails. At midnight. Well of course I had to wait until my nails were semi-dry before I could go to sleep. Did I mention my alarm was set for 3:30am?

Woke up and left my house by 4:10am. Picked up my friend and headed to my parents. My dad was able to drive us to LAX. A tip for you. If you decide to carry on your bags (like we did), print out your boarding pass at home. That way you can go directly to security without standing in any other lines. Also, make sure you have all of your toiletries in a zip lock bag and depending on the airport, you may need to have it out of your bag during security. Which we did. Did anyone see Up In the Air?? Use my tips and George Clooney will want to stand behind YOU in line. haha. Although it does take me a minute to get re-organized after going through security. Shoes and layers going back on and toiletries back in the suitcase and making sure I did not leave my ID in the security boxes. But I just grab my stuff and move to the side so the line doesn't get backed up.

We were off to New York JFK on American Airlines.

Arrived at JFK around 3:30pm. We decided to save the $45 plus tip on taking a taxi and took the subway. I am familiar with the subway and decided to take the challenge. You have to take the "Air Train" which is $5. You pay when you exit. The air train takes you to the subway and from there you pay for your Air Train and add your subway fees onto your Metro Card. You take the subway from there to your destination. The total cost ended up being $7.25 per person. Not bad!

Arrived at the hotel where they had a promotional thing going on in the lobby. They gave us each a shot glass full of their special margaritas. Nice start to our trip! :-) We checked in and decided to head to Times Square. We stayed at the Eastside Marriott Hotel. This hotel is a few blocks from Times Square. It's located on Lexington at 49th Street. There is a subway station on 51st street.

New York Marriott Eastside hotel with Chrysler Building in the background.

We walked to Rockefeller Center where we got to see the Christmas Tree and the ice rink! I have never seen the Christmas Tree so that was a nice treat. They actually started taking it down the next day so we were lucky to see it in it's full glory!

Rockefeller Center ice rink & Christmas Tree

Times Square is awesome. Tons of lights, TV screens, billboards, theatres, taxies and people everywhere! I love it all. You will also find tons of tourist shops, wax museum, all of your Broadway theatres, restaurants, pizza joints, Nuts for Nuts on the street, Hot Dog vendors and the list goes on and on. If you like energy and bright lights, please go to Times Square!

Decorations between our hotel & Times Sq. Love this picture! Next years' Christmas card maybe??


Early night since we had been running on only a few hours of sleep and a little bit jet lagged. Not to mention I'm old now and can't hang on a few hours of sleep as well as I used to. haha.

Next day we decided we would go to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. If you are going to be downtown to go to the Statue, you might as well do Wall Street/Financial District since it is all so close. Also, if you are going to see a Broadway show and were planning to stand in the ridiculous line in Times Square to get your discount tickets....please check out this tiny version of the discount ticket booth in the Financial District. It is by the Seaport and the cross streets are Front & John Streets. It opens at 11am and if you get there right before that there is usually not much of a line. Maybe 10-15 people. This beats having to wait until like 3pm for the ticket booth in Times Sq. to open and be in line with about 100 other people wasting your day away. Just saying.....
Our first stop of the day was the ticket booth (TKT booth). We took the subway downtown to Fulton/Broadway Nassau and walked from there. We bought orchestra seats to Chicago for about $70. Then we walked to Wall Street, rubbed the Wall Street Bull's nose for good luck, saw the site of the World Trade Center and then headed to Battery Park where you get on the ferry to go to the Statue of Liberty. FYI, there is a security screening here so be prepared to un bundle.

The Wall Street Bull. Rubbing his nose for good $$ luck.

The ferry takes you to Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is located. From there, you can catch the next ferry to Ellis Island and then from Ellis Island they have the ferry take you back to Battery Park. All of the ferry service is included in the price of your ticket. While at Ellis Island, you should try to take the immigration test to see if you would pass! I passed but had help from my friend who is a history buff! :-)

School kids waving and yelling at us from their Liberty Island ferry.

The Great Hall in Ellis Island. This is where immigrants waited for legal and medical processing. Amazing building.
We decided to have dinner in the Financial District. We found a Chinese restaurant China Chalet which ended up being very good and reasonably priced.

We had our Broadway show to go see so we headed back to our hotel and then to the Ambassador Theatre to see Chicago. I've seen this musical manyyyy times. I love it. It was my friends' first Broadway show and she had chosen to see it. What I like about it is that it's always different depending on the cast. I've seen Billy Zane (Titanic) play Billy Flynn, Linda Carter (Wonder Woman) play Mama Morton and this time Ashlee Simpson was playing Roxie Hart. I actually really like Ashlee's recorded voice but wasn't sure if she would be good live and on Broadway. However....she was actually really good. Her singing was good, her choreography was good and she did not miss a line. I was impressed. After the show, we walked outside and were hanging around taking pictures of the signs when who did I almost walk right into?? Jessica Simpson! haha. She had obviously gone to see her sister in the show. We also saw Ashlee when she came out to leave and our friend we were with was able to get her autograph on her Playbill. So it was actually a really fun night.

Jessica Simpson right after I almost walked into her not realizing it was her. haha.

In her Escalade...

Ashlee signing autographs
Next day we decided on going to the United Nations and Central Park. I have never been to the United Nations so that was very cool. We did a tour which ended in us seeing the General Assembly room. I learned that there are 192 members of the United Nations. Also, learned that they are seated alphabetically however there is a raffle for the first seat that way it is fair to everyone to have the first seat at some point. Oh, and you can not call 911 from the United Nations because it is not considered part of the United States. I thought that was interesting!

United Nations General Assembly room

While walking, we found a pizzeria restaurant called Deans. It's not a by the slice kind of place but it's a nice little restaurant. Very cute inside. Seemed to be a popular lunch place. We had salads and split a small pizza and it was the perfect lunch. There were 3 of us and the small pizza was perfect with our salads.

Off to Central Park after that. It had snowed the night before so Central Park looked beautiful all snowy! Coming from California, I was very excited to see the snow! We decided to go iceskating at Wollman's Rink in Central Park. FYI, rates are higher on Friday and Saturdays. It was so worth it. Total, it was about $20 for skates and entrance fee (we were there on a Friday). Out of all of the ice skating rinks in NYC, this one is my favorite. Rockefeller is small and crowded and Bryant Park's line was way to long and it is also small. I did get in trouble for taking a picture on the ice. You are permitted to take pictures from off the ice, you just can't take your camera on the ice. I had no idea! And maybe I got in trouble again by the same guy for playing with the snow on the side of the rink. I swear I thought I was going to get kicked out. We had stopped on the side of the rink and there was a pile of snow. Well me being super excited about the snow in general, grabbed a handful and threw it back onto the pile of snow. Never did my snow hit the ice. But I STILL got in trouble. GOSH!

Horsey posing for the camera.

I love the park with the city scape in the background.

So pretty with the snow!
Wollman's Rink, Central Park

Professionals. Not.

The trouble maker....aka ME!

So it was snowing here and I wanted to document it because I've only seen it snow a few times in my life. However, you can't tell it's snowing! But there is a little snow on our jackets. :-)

After ice skating, we decided to go to Serendipity for some Frozzzen Hot Chocolate. We were having a "Serendipity" day with the ice skating and the frozzen hot cocoa. :-) Now where's my John Cusack??!! We only had to wait about 1/2 hour to get our table. I've been there where they've told us to come back in 2 hours! So this was a huge step in the right direction. 30 minutes later I was enjoying my Frozzzen "mint" hot chocolate which is new on their menu. It was delicious!! My friend really enjoyed her Frozzen peanut butter hot chocolate.


Yummm..... Frozzzen Mint Hot Chocolate

Next day we decided to go to Brooklyn. We took the subway to the Clark stop or was it Court? Either way, it was one of the first stops after you leave Manhattan. Only about 15-20 minutes from midtown and 10 from the financial district area. Brooklyn Heights is where I like to go. Mainly, Montague Street. Cute cafes, boutique stores and surrounded by brownstone houses. Think Cosby Show! :-) At the end of Montague Street, you find the Brooklyn Heights Promenade which over looks New York City. You can see the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Chrysler building and Empire State building. I would soooo love to live there! Much quieter than Manhattan as well. We walked to the Brooklyn Bridge as well and across part of it. Mainly for the views.

Then back to midtown. We went to the New York Public Library which is amazing! So pretty. I would definitely like to go back there. We were on a schedule so we didn't stay too long. They have an amazing gift shop too. They offer a tour once a day but we had just missed it. That would have been interesting to do. The library is so huge that I don't think we would have even found the books. haha.

New York Public Library and Bryant Park skating

Fountain in Bryant Park. The water froze into icicles!!

The gift shop in the Library. Sooo cute! I love the book shelves and the little upstairs bookcases. So old fashioned.

Not sure what this guy was doing with a white tiger at the Library but kitty was adorable!!! He said kitty was going to the zoo in 2 weeks.

Then it was off to the Empire State Building. They also had security screening there which I had never had to do before. They also moved the gift shop to a different floor. The gift shop is a little bigger now and there is more room on the observation deck level. It was a perfectly clear day and the views were amazing. Of course, it was very windy up there as usual and extra chilly since it is January!
View of Chrysler building from Empire State Building.

We had our last dinner at Mama Mexico which was a very busy Mexican restaurant in midtown near our hotel on 49th Street. The food was good, the chips and salsa was good, the place was crowded and the prices weren't too bad.

So our trip comes to an end now and the next morning we had to leave pretty early to take the subway/airtrain back to JFK for our 10am flight. We were doing great on time and since we had our boarding passes, we got to skip the long a** line at check in. Breezed through security and then the escalater was down. It was a really steep one so we decided to take the elevator since we had our luggage with us. Well jokes on us because the elevator got stuck!!! It was us, a guy and another girl who ended up actually working for American Airlines. Well no one ever came to fix the elevator after we called them via the elevator emergency phone and the girl called people at American to call the maintenence people. We tried to open the doors but we were completely between floors. We were stuck for about 15 minutes when it finally started working and took us back to where we started. By then, it was time to board. We had to lug our luggage up the non working escalators and the girl let us go in to the Admirals Club (Oh hey...George Clooney's) where they gave us complimentary bottles of water and muffins. Wish we had more time to stay and enjoy it but we were literally almost the last ones to board because of this. We grabbed our waters and a muffin and ran to catch the plane. No time to use the restroom or fill up our waters or eat breakfast so we were happy to receive our water and muffin. :-)

Mission accomplished..... we were now ready to depart. Back to reality. No more New York state of mind for us. Back to the OC life of work and bills. Until the next trip that is!!!

Something about New York City that I need to mention. They usually have a bad rep for being rude or just cold and unfriendly. Well, I have to come to their defense. I would say about 5 different people asked us if they could help us find something when we looked confused or while looking at a map. Also, someone selling knock off handbags, told me to zip mine because people can be quick in snatching things. There were other instances where we came across very helpful people so I just wanted to give New Yorkers a shout out for being friendly! Woo hoo!

Until the next trip.....
travel girl

Travel Girl's New York movie picks:
Sex and the City
Up in the Air

Travel Girl's New York Reads:
Lipstick Jungle
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Songs on Travel Girl's NYC Playlist:
Empire State of Mind- JayZ and Alicia Keys
Chicago The Musical soundtrack (or any Broadway showtunes!)
New York, New York- Frank Sinatra

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Heart New York!

Just got back from a nice little trip to one of my very favorite cities in the world, New York! I had a blast and got to see some things I hadn't seen before. I will have a new post soon! I think I forgot to mention that I was even going so I thought I'd do a little "teaser" post for you. hehehehe...

For now, i'll leave you with a few phrases/words describing my trip. Wet nail polish, Christmas Trees, The Simpsons, Not falling on the ice, Stuck in an elevator, People in New York are Nice, All that Jazz, Frozzzen drinks and We are soooo George Clooney.

Ok bye! :-)