An Anniversary Trip to New York

May 26, 2019

One of Mike's and my favorite pastimes is dreaming about all of the places we want to visit. Me: Prince Edward Island. Mike: Zambia. Me: Hawaii. Mike: Caribbean islands. Me: England; Mike: Italy. Back and forth, back and forth, each of us vying for our favorite. But one place that never seemed to compete for a top spot was New York City. For some reason, it just didn't tempt either one of us.

But a few months ago we decided we wanted to go somewhere for our anniversary, and somehow, in the early stages, there was New York. And then we talked about a few other possibilities. But then, there it was again. We just kept coming back around to it. Maybe it just seemed wrong that with all the traveling we've done, we still hadn't ever been to America's most famous city.

So it was decided: we would fly across the country and spend a few days in the Big Apple. And we were determined to use those days to their full potential and do and see and eat as many things as humanly possible. We quickly learned that New York waits for no one. When we were getting on the boat to see the Statue of Liberty, the boat crew kept shouting, "Don't stop or hesitate!" And we decided this was a pretty good motto for New York City in general.

We adopted it as our own personal goal for this trip, and our efforts were not too shabby. In fact, on our last day, as we squeezed in a little walk on the High Line before catching an uber to the airport, I said, "Maybe next time we should go on a trip where we actually relax." Because by that point, we were dead tired.

Tired, but so happy. New York might have not been at the top of our list of places to visit, but it is now at the top of our list of places to return to. We loved every minute we spent in this beautiful, vibrant city.

Here are the highlights:

Central Park
I'll start with Central Park, and not just because it was one of the first things we did in New York. If I could go back to one, and only one, moment during our vacation, it would be this one. We walked to the park early in the morning, stopping at a nearby bakery to pick up breakfast along the way. We beat the tourists and arrived with the locals--the ones running and riding their bikes and walking their dogs. That morning in Central Park was the best weather we had during the trip, and it was heavenly. The trees were all in blossom and the grass was already green. I shed my jacket early on and basked in the sunlight. Central Park is one of those places I had heard about all of my life. I had this vision of what it would be like, and the crazy thing is, it was exactly as I imagined! We rented bikes and took our time riding around the perimeter of the park, stopping here and there for a photo or to explore a little side path. I loved the feeling of being away from the city and right in its heart at the same time. There's nothing else like it. After we got home, I realized we had only scratched the surface of all of Central Park's little secrets and beauties and hidden attractions.

Between ubers, walking, and the subway we got around the city without any problems. We decided to take an uber from and then back to the airport and also used one to visit an out-of-the-way yarn shop. It was worth it to us because it allowed us to really maximize our time and do a couple of things that we wouldn't have been able to otherwise. But most of the time, we walked. At first I was slightly terrified to step foot onto New York streets because I had seen the way our first uber driver paid no attention to whether or not pedestrians had the right of way. Instead he would just inch his nose into a sea of people, and they would gradually part to make room. I thought for sure he was going to hit someone. But it didn't take me long to realize you just have to make the decision and then go (also, jaywalking on one-way streets is apparently what you do). Walking gave us the best view of the city--close up and personal. There was so much to see, and it was always changing. But we definitely used the subway a ton as well, which helped to shorten the distances when necessary. We got a seven-day metro card, and I think we used the subway enough that it was worth it. One thing I loved about the subway is that it really highlighted how varied the landscape and architecture of New York is. When we were walking, the changes were more gradual and subtle, but when we took the subway, we dropped down in one neighborhood and popped back up in another, and it often looked like we were in a completely different city.

Rachel and Micah
When we decided to go to New York, we called up Mike's cousin, Rachel, and her husband, Micah, to see if they wanted to meet us in the city for a day or two. We don't get to see them nearly as often as we would like since they live in Pennsylvania, so we couldn't get so close to them and not at least attempt to get in a visit. Luckily, they had time to drive up on Friday, and we spent the entire day with them. We loved having the chance to make some memories together and catch up on life. Rachel and I are always up for a good bookish discussion, and we had fun discussing and debating a recent controversial read as we walked among the skyscrapers. We're so grateful we got to be with them.

New York lured us in with promises of delicious food. We came with a list of recommendations a mile long and did our very best to eat our way through the city. After checking into our hotel, we literally ran to Levain Bakery to buy a cookie, and we maintained that sort of focused intensity for the entire trip. Want to know what we ate?

--Levain: chocolate chip cookies are always my dessert of choice, but these! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I love it that this was my first taste of New York.
--Jacob's Pickle: I asked the waiter if the fish tacos were good. He said, "Well, let me put it this way. The fish tacos are the healthiest item on the menu, and we're not exactly known for our healthy food." I got them anyway, and they were delicious. Mike got the more traditional fried chicken, which was also good. But the street corn stole the show. We ate outside and enjoyed watching the sun go down on the city.

--Stopped at a bakery in the morning. I can't remember the name of it. It wasn't anything special.
--The Great American Bagel: We only got one bagel to split because we didn't think it was going to be very good (we had our eye on a couple of other bagel places to try), but then we bit into it, and we were like, "Is this a bagel?!" It was like biting into a cloud. It was the biggest shocker of the trip.
--Grimaldi's: a cross between American and Italian pizza. It's popular for a reason.
--Natsumi: We had reservations here after The Lion King, and we felt like true New Yorkers going out for sushi at 10:30 at night (except that we didn't drink).

--Levain: Again. Don't judge. This time besides cookies, we also got the brioche (my mouth is watering just thinking about it), lemon bread (dense and crumby without being dry), and a scone. It's good I don't actually live near one of these in real life.
--Ipuddos: a ramen place that I would recommend in a heartbeat. We got a bowl of ramen to split, but the thing I really loved was the side of rice you could add on to the ramen. It was so good! And the frozen yogurt for dessert hit the spot.
--The Smith: the mac and cheese came highly recommended, which sold me before we even went. Besides that, we also got the potato chips with bleu cheese fondue (sounds weird, tastes amazing), the tomato soup encrusted with toasted cheese, and the burger (which Mike said rivaled the best burger he's ever had). The one mistake I made was ordering three things that all had cheese. Individually, I would have loved each one. All together, it was a little too rich.

--Bubby's: I had the pancake flight. Mike had the biscuits and gravy (except their biscuits weren't ready so he had to swap it out for ciabatta). I loved the location and vibe of this restaurant, but Mike said the gravy was trying too hard to be healthy.
--Shake Shack: Our last stop in the airport before heading home because why not?

After it was all said in done, we only had two food regrets. Mike, that the only bagel we ate was one that he had to share with me; and me, that we walked into Max Brenner and didn't order a hot chocolate.

Bookish Destinations
We didn't make it to any museums, but we did visit two literary spots that have been on my must-see list for a long time: the New York Public Library and Strand Bookstore. The New York Public Library was magnificent. The outside steps, the entrance hall, and the reading room took my breath away. But I'm not going to lie, the children's section was a disappointment (except that it had a case containing the original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed toys). I'm guessing there are other New York branches that devote more space to children's literature; there must be. In contrast, the Strand traded in sophistication for miles and miles of books (eighteen, to be exact), all crammed in on top of each other. It was overwhelming. I didn't know where to look first. I actually wish I had gone with a list of out of print or difficult to find books because I bet they were there. I just didn't think to look for them.

Yarn Shops
Since time was of the essence, it was actually a big sacrifice (and a sign of true love) for Mike to let me go to, not one, not two, but three New York yarn shops. And I loved every single one of them. Each one had its own unique culture and vibe and actually matched the neighborhood it was in very well: Knitty City--friendly and social; Brooklyn General Store--charming and old-fashioned; and Purl Soho--sleek and sophisticated. I came home with little yarny souvenirs from each one, and I'm looking forward to making some new things that will help me remember our vacation.

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Since this was our first time in New York, we had check off some of the big bucket list items. The Statue of Liberty almost got cut at least twice, but in the end, I'm so glad we devoted a large portion of our time to it because it really was special and made a big impact on me. Also, for a mere $18.00, it is literally the cheapest thing you can do in New York (or at least feels like it). We got to ride the ferry to Liberty Island, go on the walking audio tour (which was fantastic), get back on the ferry for a short ride to Ellis Island, go on the walking audio tour (equally fantastic), and get back on the ferry for the ride home. Seeing the statue in person was surprisingly emotional for me--partly because there's just something about Lady Liberty that is so majestic but also because I couldn't help but imagine my great-grandfather sailing from Denmark and what it must have been like for him to catch a glimpse of her for the first time. I also just loved learning some really cool facts about her (like, did you know that Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, creator of the Eiffel tower, designed a similar type structure for the inside of the Statue of Liberty?). We originally had tickets for Friday that would have allowed us to go inside the pedestal, but we ended up having to switch to Thursday and the pedestal tickets were gone. Maybe it's really cool and maybe we really missed out, but I still felt like we got to see plenty.

Broadway Shows
We ended up getting to see two shows  while we were in New York: The Lion King and My Fair Lady. We decided on The Lion King after several weeks of deliberation. Of course we wanted to see Hamilton but not really enough to fork over the money. We tried the lottery but didn't get it, and really, I was fine with Lion King because it felt like such a New York classic to me (it has been running since 1997), and I actually hadn't ever seen the stage production. I don't need to tell you that it was fantastic. The costumes especially were really spectacular. The only downside for me was that the theater was in Times Square, and I'll be honest, Times Square and I did not click. It was too loud, too bright, too gaudy. I much preferred Lincoln Square where My Fair Lady was playing. We had toyed with the idea of seeing a second show but didn't know if it was the best use of our one and only day with Rachel and Micah. However, Rachel really wanted to see My Fair Lady (and frankly, I did too), so we went to the box office right as it was opening to see if they had any standing room tickets. They didn't, but the sales clerk said they had a few tickets for $99 (which was half the price of what we were seeing online), so we snatched them up. And as it turned out, going to this show is one of my favorite memories from New York, partly because I went into it in such a grumpy mood (the subway had some delays which was bumping us up right against the clock, and I hate being late), but as soon as the play started, my sourness dissipated. It's such a delightful story and much funnier than I remembered, and of course, the acting and singing were stellar. Ironically though, one of my takeaways from New York was actually that I don't have to go to New York to see a high quality production. I'm grateful for our own local theater that cultivates an amazing pool of talent that we get to take advantage of on a regular basis.

The Color Factory
We spent most of our time trying to check off some of the big ticket New York things: Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Broadway show, etc. But one of the things that Rachel really wanted to do was visit the newly installed Color Factory. It's an interactive museum where you take a guided tour through different rooms, all encouraging you to experience color in a new way. For example, in one room, Mike and I sat across from each other and followed several prompts to create portraits of each other. In another, we spun around on different color wheels. Many of the rooms had tasty, colorful samples to try. It was totally unique, and being a big fan of color myself, I really liked it (although when we reached the last room and jumped into the giant blue ball pit, I was a little amused that I was there without my kids).

Maximizing our time
Even though we couldn't do everything we wanted to, we did try to cram in as much as we could, even if it meant we couldn't get the full experience this time. For example, on Thursday we went to the 9/11 memorial. We didn't have time for the museum, but we walked around the memorials and read the names etched into them. It felt somber and sobering and beautiful all at the same time. We also squeezed in a walk on the High Line just before we left on Saturday. It was a lovely mix of urban green space. Unfortunately it was very cold and windy, so I was kind of glad we could only walk for a little bit.

I almost always leave every trip wanting a little bit more while at the same time feeling grateful I get to go home. It's a good place to be--a sweet spot of craving and satisfaction. But this time, I've been surprised by how often my thoughts have strayed to New York and how much I want to go back. It's going to make choosing our next destination a challenge--from now on, I'll never be able to decide if we should go somewhere new or go back to the limitless possibilities of NYC.

P.S. Many thanks to my mom and Mike's sister who kept our kids for us while we were away. This trip would not have been possible without them.


  1. Looks like an amazing, wonderful, fun-filled, memorable trip!

  2. You are both wonderful photographers, and that sounds like a great trip!

    Also, I hate to break it to you, but I counted the boys in that last picture and either your mom or Mike's sister lost one of your kids.

    1. Oh my goodness, this comment cracked me up, Beth! Clark was the only one who went with Mike's sister. The other four stayed with my mom. Hence the photo with only four!


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