I had a surreal experience last weekend.
After my husband and I had a delicious Cuban dinner in Manhattan with friends, the four of us walked off our meals by exploring Central Park. The night was perfect. It wasn’t too cold and Central Park was a new experience for hubs and I. I was in total awe of the size of the park and how it’s literally in the middle of huge urban buildings. There are enough movies set in the park that you’d think it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise, but it was. On a big, main path we came across a plump raccoon who couldn’t have cared less that we were there. He climbed the fence a few feet away from us, lumbered across our path, and climbed over the opposing fence. I wasn’t prepared for there being anything but squirrels living in the middle of the city.
We kept exploring and discovered various street performers blasting loud music and gathering large crowds of spectators. Then we came upon a wedding reception at the Boathouse that looked and sounded like a heck of a time. I knew you could rent paddleboats, but I didn’t expect to see a Venetian gondola silently row through the dark water. Pushing further into the park we heard Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind, you know, “let’s hear it for New York”, carrying over the water from the wedding reception. I couldn’t help but smile and have one of those moments where I still can’t believe I live here. It was like a soundtrack to my life, perfectly fitting the moment I was in.
Minutes later we came across temporary barriers and people working some type of event security. When asked what was going on, we were told there was a huge concert happening all afternoon and right now the headliner was playing. Ready for the surreal part? It was none other than Jay Z himself! We were unknowingly being serenaded about the grandness of New York City while experiencing it first hand. Goosebumps.
It was then that I knew I had to start writing a series of New York travel guides. This really is an incredible city with so much to discover. Without further ado, here is part one of my NY travel guide series.
Live TV show tapings
There are a lot of shows taped in front of a live audience in NYC. I went to The Colbert Report. It’s a really neat experience if you’ve not done anything like that before. Not only do you see famous people, but you catch a glimpse behind the curtain of TV magic. I liked seeing the studio and watching the production team work, and now I have a little better idea of how the show comes together for the viewer at home. Plus, you can’t beat the energy in the room when filming begins. Show tapings are free, but you do have to secure tickets, which is a little different depending on the show. I scored my last minute tickets by following @DailyTix on Twitter, but you can sign up for tickets to your favorite show in advance if planning a future trip to New York.
Get out of the city
Sounds like the opposite of a city travel guide, right? Governors Island is minutes from lower Manhattan by ferry and has a stunning view of the city skyline. There are expansive fields for picnicking and sports, a beach area for soaking up sun, historical forts, art, bicycle rentals, and more. My favorite area of the island was a quiet spot with hammocks swaying in the breeze. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t doze off in the warm sun while hearing the constant hum of helicopter tours heading out to the Statue of Liberty. Plan your visit from late spring to early fall because the island is closed to visitors in the cooler months.
I’m not an avid Broadway fan, but only because it’s new to me. I may be one before I leave. I’d highly recommend experiencing a real Broadway show because the actors are just so talented. Everyone can find something to appreciate between the phenomenal vocals, emotionally driven acting, or the perfectly choreographed dancing. I loved the elaborate costumes of Cinderella. While Broadway shows aren’t inexpensive, you can play the Broadway lottery if time is on your side. Some shows raffle off select tickets at a discounted price hours before the performance begins. You can enter your name into the lottery for one or two tickets per showing. You must be present when names are drawn, and even the drawing is a highly anticipated event. If you don’t win the lottery, you may be able to get in a stand by line or purchase standing room only tickets. Current students may also be able to purchase rush tickets at a discount. Each show has its own rules, so make sure to know them before you show up to try your luck. And of course you can go the old fashioned route and buy tickets ahead of time to see the show of your choice during your trip.
I had to throw a sweet location into the mix. Holey Donuts was an accidental find in the West Village that I am so thankful for! The bright colors and decadent scent drew me in, but I became really skeptical when I saw the inner signs describing them as low fat. They looked so delicious that I probably would have ordered one at full fat, and I was completely intrigued. I ordered a chocolate raspberry truffle; it was love at first bite. I immediately decided that instead of a birthday cake I just wanted a small box of holey donuts this year. Holey Donuts was instantly added to my short list of places to take friends and family when they visit.
Look out for additions to my New York travel guide in the future! What are your favorite NY attractions?
Shannon @ Financially Blonde says
I love New York moments like these!!! I have seen a bunch of acts perform live on the Today Show. You have to wake up a little earlier than normal, but it’s worth it. I also love seeing taped shows. I got my hubby tickets to the Daily Show for his birthday. I had to plan months in advance; however, they were free and he loved it. We have been trying to get Tonight Show tix but those have become like the holy grail, seemingly impossible to find.
I think it was the Today Show that I saw had a summer concert series when we first moved here. I was excited about it until I saw how early we’d have to get into the city. It will be something we try in the future I’m sure! We’d like to see the Daily Show or Last Week Tonight next.
Erin @ Journey to Saving says
Nicely written, Natalie! Central Park was probably my most favorite thing about the city. It is overwhelmingly big, and you can easily lose yourself wandering around, finding all it has to offer. I have to admit, I didn’t go into the city as much as I would have liked (LIRR was expensive!), but there is always something new to experience there.
Thank you! I can’t wait to explore more of the park in daylight.
Robin @ The Thrifty Peach says
I loved going across the Brooklyn Bridge to get some awesome views of Manhattan. I also liked taking the Staten Island ferry (free!). I lived there for about 4 months in 2005 and I’m dying to go back for a visit. I’m looking forward to more of your NYC posts!
The Staten Island ferry was one of the very first things we did here. I unfortunately didn’t think about the time of day we were taking it. The angle of the sun made Statue of Liberty pictures really difficult, but it was still enjoyable. I’ll be going back earlier in the day next time. And I can’t wait to go take pictures from the Brooklyn Bridge!
I heart Central Park as it holds very special memories for me since DH and I got married in the park. There is also the Central Park Zoo that a lot of people don’t seem to know about for some reason. DH and I went earlier this year and loved it! Great write up Natalie and love that you also mentioned Governors Island.
I love zoos, but I was surprised at the cost of the Central Park Zoo. I thought I might opt for the Bronx Zoo instead. I remember you saying you got married there; what part of the park? I bet it was beautiful!