I’m not a huge fan of new year’s resolutions, but this year, I decided to make a few for myself to try and motivate positive change in the way I process daily life. One of my resolutions is to be more mindful, and includes practices like journalling, reading more, and regularly practicing yoga.
The other is to travel more.
I work for the government, which means that along with a bunch of other sick benefits—I get a ton of paid time off. I get a bunch of three day weekends on top of two weeks of paid vacation and being able to flex time (work different schedules to get an extra day off). This felt too good to waste, so a day after I was officially hired on as a full time city employee, I booked my first ever trip to New York City over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. I left late Thursday night, arrived in JFK Friday morning, and had 72 hours to wander the city before leaving late monday morning.
Here’s what I did.
DAY ONE: MoMA, Ippudo, Chicago the Musical
When I landed at JFK, it was 40ºF and rainy. There was still a substantial amount of snow on the ground from the prior week’s bomb cyclone snow storm. By the time I was settled in my AirBnb in Brooklyn it was a little warmer, but still raining. I bought a student ticket for the MoMA online and ventured back out into the rain.
Even though I had packed my student ID for the precise reason of getting museum discounts, nobody at the MoMA asked to see it. I got a free audio tour, and wandered around the museum for a couple hours. The MoMA reminded me a lot of the Tate Modern in London, a good mix of classic pieces and more modern works that offer different social critiques.
By the time I left the MoMA the rain had let up a bit and I decided to go wait in line for a discounted Broadway ticket at the TKTS booth in Times Square. I talked with a lovely couple from Ireland in line, and ended up getting a 3rd row orchestra seat for Chicago 50% off (~$80 after fees and taxes).
As per Facebook friend recommendations, I went to Ippudo NY for dinner. I got in line 5 minutes before they opened and was one of the first people to order and get their food. I got their spicy ramen with an egg and it was delicious. Very, very rich broth and the noodles were nice and chewy. $30 for a beer and a bowl of ramen is definitely more than I’m used to paying for such a traditionally humble meal, but I think it was worth it.
I walked around a lot after dinner and took lots of sick pictures of different buildings on my way up fifth avenue to the southernmost point of Central Park.
Then I saw Chicago! I met a girl from Argentina while waiting in line and we talked about solo traveling for a while, and then chatted with two teachers from Atlanta when we were eventually seated. The show was absolutely amazing, and I honestly wish I’d had more time to see more Broadway shows. I’ve still got songs stuck in my head.
DAY TWO: Greenwich, Midtown, Upper West Side, Instagram Foods
I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with Minji, one of my best friends from junior high, during my short stay. Minji is in her last semester at Juilliard and was incredibly eager to show me around her stomping grounds. We took almost 20GB of pictures in 12 hours.
We had brunch at While We Were Young, potentially the smallest and most Instagrammable restaurant in existence. We shared an order of chicken and kale waffles and a huge piece of avocado toast for roughly $30 a person. Both things we ordered were delicious, but I definitely felt like we were paying more for the ambience.
Over the course of the day we walked over 15 miles and hit a bunch of big tourist attractions around lower Manhattan, including:
- Washington Square Park
- Flatiron Building
- Lady M Bakery: ordered a $9 slice of their famous matcha crepe cake and it was worth every penny
- Levain Bakery: ordered a chocolate walnut cookie and had a few bites before saving it for later. It ended up freezing in my backpack and tasted like cookie dough when I ate it for breakfast the following morning.
- Juilliard and the Lincoln Center
- Carnegie Hall, where Minji will be performing this semester! How cool is that??
- Grand Central Station
- Westfield Mall at the One World Trade Center
DAY THREE: Brooklyn, 9/11 Memorial, Top of the Rockefeller, Katz’s
The third day was extremely cold, like 15°F cold. Before leaving my AirBnb I decided to buy a ticket for the Top of The Rock for 4:30PM with the hopes of photographing golden hour and the sunset.
I took the train to DUMBO (which I learned stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass, I thought that was kinda cool), and took one of millions of pictures of the bridge being framed by two buildings with the empire state building peaking through the bridge.
I then braved the incredibly cold and windy conditions on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Once in Manhattan, I walked south and saw the statue of liberty from Battery Park. I saw a huge crowd of people around what was presumably the stock market bull and defiant girl statue, and kept walking until I arrived at the 9/11 Museum. I used my student ID to get a discounted ticket and experienced the museum for a couple hours.
The museum was tough. It was really interesting and I learned a lot, especially since my memories from the date were limited given me being 4 years old. I saw a lot of people crying. All of the exhibits were really powerful. I highly recommend visiting if you think you can emotionally handle it.
On my way to the closest train station I saw a Shake Shack and decided that I had to experience the In-N-Out Rival, so I ordered a shackburger and some fries. I think that In-N-Out has the better burger, but Shake Shack has the better fries.
I got on the train and arrived at the Rockefeller Center right around 4:30PM. It took me about 30 minutes to get through airport-style security and up to the very top level and take pictures without any glass obstructing the view. I found a guy with a camera that looked sorta like mine so I thought he’d be able to take a good picture of me, but alas, sometimes looks are deceiving.
If I had a dollar for every picture I took of other tourists, I’d probably be able to afford a plane ticket back to NYC. I got really creative with people’s pictures as it got darker and used my phone light as a way to bring them more into focus. I stayed up at the top for a good hour before I stopped having feeling in my fingers and decided it’d probably be best to head back down.
By this point I was feeling pretty physically and emotionally exhausted, so I went into a fancy juice cafe and got like a $12 green juice and caught up on some journalling.
I started feeling a bit hungry and realized that I hadn’t experienced a Jewish deli yet, so I made my way towards one of the last classic Jewish delis in the city—Katz’s Delicatessen. I took a train and ended up needing to walk a bit more than expected, but I eventually made it and navigated the ordering system with the help of a super friendly local. I ordered a pastrami sandwich and it was the most delicious sandwich I’ve ever had in my life.
I sent a selfie to my parents and my dad requested that I bring a couple pounds back for them. A pastrami sandwich and two pounds of pastrami set me back $90, but it was totally worth it.
When I woke up the morning after, I was greeted by the most soft, beautiful light coming through the AirBnb window.
I feel so grateful to have been able to experience the city and see so much in so little time. I can’t wait to go back to New York City—preferably when it’s a little warmer 🙂