New York City with No Agenda

Whenever we travel to a location that we’ve never been to before or one that has too many attractions to visit in a single trip, we make sure that we prioritize the places we want to see, but leave time for the unexpected. Several years ago we took a four day trip to New York City and we made the most of our time. We used to live on the east coast, so we’d been to New York City a couple of times, but just for day trips, in and out with a few hours in the city, so we were excited to spend several days and immerse ourselves into what the city has to offer. We had a few priorities while we were there, the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, seeing a Broadway show, and eating a New York style pizza. By the time our trip was over, we had an unbelievable time and have tremendous memories of the sites, the food, and the people we met.

Central Park
Central Park
Dona and Pete on Top of the Rock
Observation Deck on the Top of the Rock
Empire State Building
Empire State Building

We arrived in New York City on Saturday, July the 4th, and obviously the city was abuzz with excitement for the fireworks.. Being from Colorado, the heat and humidity of New York was somewhat of an adjustment. As we arrived by taxi, a billboard taunted us with the Minus 5 Ice Bar, a bar where the tables, glasses, seats, and the walls were all made of ice. We dawned fur coats and gloves and a few drinks later we were ready to start exploring the city. We always like to take our first day and try to acclimate ourselves to our surroundings, so we made our way to the streets of midtown Manhattan and worked our way towards Rockefeller Center. After a couple of glasses of wine at the Rock Center Café Summer Garden and Bar, we saw Radio City Music Hall and then found a little restaurant for some food. By the time the lights of the city were burning bright, we made our way to Time Square for some pure tourist photo opportunities.

Time Square
Time Square
NBC Studios at Rockefeller Plaza
NBC Studios at Rockefeller Plaza
Minus 5 Bar
Minus 5 Bar

On the second day, we made sure that we hit some of the attractions that were important to us. Our first stop was at the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center with amazing views of the city including a view over the roof of our hotel, which was just two blocks from Central Park. Even if you have a little bit of vertigo, seeing the city from these heights simply can’t be missed. After viewing the city in all of its glory, we went to Central Park to get some lunch. As is our typical practice, we asked several locals where we should go. We knew that Tavern on the Green was quite famous, but everyone we asked said to go to Loeb Boathouse on the lake, we were not disappointed. Gondolas and row boats in the lake, and a wonderful bar for wine while we waited for a table.

Loeb Boathouse in Central Park
Loeb Boathouse in Central Park
Central Park Fountain
Central Park Fountain
Loeb Boathouse
Loeb Boathouse
Freedom Tower in NYC
Freedom Tower in NYC

We’d gotten plenty of suggestions on where to get the best slice of pie in town and one place definitely stood out as far as recommendations. So, on our next full day in the city we grabbed a cab and headed towards lower Manhattan. When we arrived at the restaurant, mouths watering, the sign on the door at Arturos indicated that they didn’t open until 4:00 pm, our pizza experience was going to have to wait. These are the little surprises that make a trip that more enjoyable. After walking a few blocks heading towards the 9/11 Memorial, we came across a tiny Italian restaurant and stopped to check out the menu. The owner came out to greet us, full Italian accent, ingratiating smile, and we had to stay for lunch. We couldn’t have been more pleased, Peplino Restaurant was one of the most satisfying meals of our entire trip. Once our stomachs and souls were nurtured, we continued on to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Words cannot describe how emotionally overwhelming it is to relive that horrific day through audio, video, and tactile content that truly moves the soul. Someday soon, we’ll talk specifically about that experience, but it is too much for a single post about New York City. Upon leaving the memorial museum, we were emotionally exhausted, but there was more of the city to be seen and we were determined to get our New York slice, so we headed north towards Arturos. Luckily we arrived just in time, this place definitely has a reputation for a reason and the place was packed with locals, always a good sign. We order a full pizza, knowing that it will likely be too much for us, but every bite was as delicious as the next, and for another few moments, we felt like locals sitting in our local watering hole.  Our day wasn’t done yet, though.  It was a long walk back to the hotel from Arturos (100 blocks), about half way, we were ready for a break and we were fortunate to find the Belgium Beer Café just in time for their happy hour.  Oysters and Manhattans while we were in Manhattan seemed a must.

Pizza at Arturos
Pizza at Arturos
Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower
Pasta of the day at Peplino
Pasta of the day at Peplino
Ravioli of the day at Pepolino
Ravioli of the day at Pepolino
Manhattan at the Belgium Beer Cafe
Manhattan at the Belgium Beer Cafe
Oysters at the Belgium Beer Cafe
Oysters at the Belgium Beer Cafe

With one full day left in the city, we booked our Broadway show, “Finding Neverland”, and started out for a full day of enjoyment. This was the day to do the Empire State Building with more incredible views of the city and another stark reminder of the loss of the twin towers. After enjoying such an incredible view of the city, lunch was in order and we lucked out by finding another little restaurant where local’s way outnumbered any tourists. After an afternoon of roaming the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, we found an Irish restaurant with a good happy hour and excellent food called the Malloy’s Irish Pub and from there we were off to Broadway. The show was incredible, we laughed, we cried, we were thoroughly entertained.

Tapas at Parker & Quinn
Tapas at Parker & Quinn
Scallops at Parker & Quinn
Scallops at Parker & Quinn
Pete and Dona at the Empire State Building
Enjoying the View from the Empire State Building
Playbill for Finding Neverland
Playbill for Finding Neverland

All in all, it couldn’t have been a better trip. We weren’t on a schedule, rushing from attraction to attraction, but we saw incredible sights, met amazing people, and actually decompressed from our day to day lives and enjoyed a completely new environment. New York City is a truly special city and is definitely worthy of spending several days there in order to see everything it has to offer.

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