BIG CELEBRATIONS IN THE BIG APPLE

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Sorry for being MIA last week! I had every intention of writing a post, but time got away from me. I have four projects due for my day job before the holidays, so things are a little…unhinged around here. Try to bear with me for the rest of December!

As you know if you follow me on Instagram, my mom and I took a trip to New York City the first weekend of December. So, my birthday is December 9 and my mom is a huge Christmas fanatic, and she always used to talk about wanting to go to NYC to see the Christmas lights and store windows for my birthday. I, however, despise the association of Christmas and my birthday in any way and prefer to keep the two occasions separate. Since my mom turned 60 in October, I decided to surprise her by giving her a trip to NYC to see the Christmas lights for her birthday, which worked out well since this was basically the first weekend I had available with no plans. I won the Daughter of the Year award and successfully avoided the joint Christmas-Birthday celebration that inevitably comes with having a December birthday. Brilliant!

The weekend started with a flight up to NYC on Friday. We arrived in the early afternoon and quickly set about figuring out the subway system and making our way to our hotel. To my shock and horror, my mother arrived with two rolling suitcases (although one was small enough to fit under the seat) and thus began an…interesting attempt at navigating the streets and transportation systems of NYC with two bags (I brought a backpack). Now, the last time I visited NYC was for 4 hours nearly 5 years ago, and I almost got killed by a cyclist within 30 seconds of exiting the subway. I found the entire city totally overwhelming and would have been totally fine never returning. But wow…what a difference a little travel makes! I guess after visiting Kathmandu, land of no traffic lights and mobs of people, NYC seemed downright civilized by comparison. Either way, I never felt nervous or overwhelmed at all and found it super easy to get everywhere. Of course, Google Maps doesn’t hurt.

Our hotel was right in Midtown and perfectly within walking distance to pretty much everything, which was amazing. After checking in, we headed straight out to see the sights! First up was Times Square, which somehow looked totally different (and maybe smaller?) than I envisioned in real life.

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Bright lights, big city, sweet jacket, awesome mom!

I was proud of my mom because she doesn’t really like crowds (or cities, or cold weather – upon reflection, I have no idea why she wanted to go on this trip), but she kept her cool. There was lots of energy in the air and although there were a lot of people, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. We just sort of wandered our way through Midtown and kept happening upon all the sights we were hoping to see!

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The tree really is absolutely massive. This is a next-level Christmas tree.

We lucked out and had really great weather the entire trip. It wasn’t too cold at all, but there was enough of a chill to feel seasonal. I sort of wish it would have snowed because I love snow, but it wasn’t meant to be. We settled for staring at the ice skaters in Rockefeller Center and looking at the Christmas windows at Saks, Macy’s, and Lord and Taylor.

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After grabbing some NY pizza at John’s on 44th (thanks for the suggestion, Lauri!), I dragged my mom to a nearby dive bar for a drink. She was mystified by the entire concept. “How did you find this place? This looks sketchy,” she said. I had literally googled “Dive bars near Times Square” and headed to the closest one. Although she wasn’t too keen about heading down into what seemed like a dark basement with neon writing on the walls, her fears were quickly absolved when it was a totally normal, if not tiki-themed, bar. “See?” I said triumphantly. “Now you know how I have survived solo travel. I google things.”

The next day, we had big plans to hit up Central Park and grab some food before heading to our Broadway show! Although it did cross my mind to bring running clothes and run in the Central Park, our trip was so short that I didn’t want to take time away from my mom. Central Park was just as lovely as I always thought it would be. I wish we had had more time to explore! Also, is anyone else shocked by how comparatively cheap those horse-drawn carriage rides are? I feel like they cost twice that much in Greenville.

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Enjoying the beautiful weather and leaves!

I really wanted to head to Katz’s Deli before it closes for good. Although they don’t have gluten-free bread there, the latkes are gluten-free, so I figured it was worth the trip. It’s not every day that you get to eat at a real NYC deli, and I do love a good latke. In order to get there, we needed to take the actual subway and walk a good bit from where we were. Thanks to Google Maps, it was super easy! Once we got there, the line was pretty long, but by the time we left, it was out the building and down the street! Worth the wait – those latkes were incredible.

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I made latkes a few days later for our Hanukkah party at the house (I know it’s not Hanukkah yet, obviously) and they did not taste anything like this.

Next up was the big event – seeing Wicked on Broadway! When I came up with the idea to bring my mom to NYC, I also suggested that my dad could get tickets for a play as his present to her. He assured me that Wicked is her absolute favorite (my mom and dad are musical fanatics) and secured us awesome seats – fourth row center! The performance was absolutely incredible. I had never seen it before (I know, I know, it’s been out for like 10 years), and I didn’t even really know much about the story line. The talent of the cast, the costumes, and the set were all amazing! I’ve seen a lot of great shows, but there’s nothing quite like Broadway.

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After the show!

So, while we were walking around NYC, I saw ads for another show called Kinky Boots, which was now starring Todrick Hall. I had seen an incredible YouTube video he made in tribute to Taylor Swift (seriously, even if you don’t like Taylor Swift, watch it and be amazed by his talent) and was telling my mom how amazing the show must be. Well, she loved Wicked so much that she came up with the idea of going to the theater where Kinky Boots was playing that night and seeing if they had any tickets left for that night’s show (we had seen Wicked in the afternoon). As luck would have it, we got the last two tickets, right in the front row, for half off! SCORE. The show absolutely blew us away, and Todrick was just as incredible as I expected. I immediately downloaded the soundtrack and have listened to it every day since.

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The incomparable Todrick Hall as Lola!

In between shows, we also got to meet up with my cousin Jimmy, who lives in NYC pretty close to where we were staying. Catching up with him was the perfect way to spend the hours in between shows. Even though we didn’t have a ton of time in the city, it was awesome to see family while we were there!

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I’ve got a little bit of red wine mouth going on…don’t mind me.

Our flights left on Sunday afternoon, but we were able to squeeze in one more activity before we left – brunch! My aunt and uncle had generously offered to take us to brunch at the Marriott in Times Square, where there is a restaurant on the 47th floor that spins and overlooks the whole city. They live in New Jersey but made the drive in with some friends to see us for a few hours.

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With my aunt and uncle after brunch

Although it was a busy weekend (we walked 20 miles!), we managed to fit a ton of activities in and have a great time. My mom really loved it and said that the city isn’t quite so scary after all. Mission accomplished!

LEAVE A COMMENT: Have you ever been to NYC? Seen a Broadway show? What is your favorite city?

 

 

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