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Monday, June 19, 2017

Girls Trip to NYC - Day 1: Broadway, High Line, Chelsea Market

New York City and I have a weird love/hate relationship.  I always loved that New York City had so much to do, was so easy to get to, and has an abundance of amazing food.  But I always hated how crowded, often dirty, and expensive the city could be.  Before Salt Lake City, Katie and cities were like oil and water...we just didn't jibe.  When Amanda mentioned wanting to head into the City on her trip to the Northeast, I was a little torn.  First, cities were never my thing and I wanted to show her New England, not New York City.  But how do you fly to the Northeast and not spend a day (or two) in the Big Apple?

Amanda coaxed me into talk of New York City with the idea of going to see a show on Broadway, something I am embarrassed to say I have never done.  Phantom at the Opera has been playing in New York City since 1988 and for about $100 we could see this famous show at the famous Majestic Theatre in Manhattan.  With the show settled, we decided to plan a few other highlights for NYC.  Amanda had a "wish list" which included The High Line, a walk through Central Park, going to the top of Rockefeller Center, seeing the lights of Times Square, walking the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing the Statue of Liberty.  Thankfully we were able to do most of these things despite some awful unlucky weather and a shortage of time.

As much as I was originally hesitant about spending two days in the city, I left pleasantly surprised and excited to return.  I think my two years spent living downtown in Salt Lake City gave me a new appreciation for the hustle and bustle and offerings of our cities.  I learned to embrace public transportation, chaos, and crowds.  NYC was not the dirty bustling city I remembered visiting several times in the past.  For starters, the rain kept the crowds at bay and Google Maps made navigating the subway system so (SO) easy.  Lastly, the endless list of things to do in the city kept us more than busy despite the weather.  New York, I gave you a second chance and you surprised me. 

An interactive map showing a list of popular sites around the city 
(some on our list) and recommendations from friends on where to eat.

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station Selfies

Thankfully, in Connecticut we have access to the train that allows us to get over to New York City generally stress free and without having to drive.  You have two options- grab the train in New Haven (pay for parking) and take Metro North directly to Grand Central Station or - drive to Old Saybrook (free parking) and take the Shoreline East Commuter Rail to New Haven Union Station and switch trains to take Metro North to Grand Central.  Because of the holiday weekend (i.e. lots of traffic on the highway driving to New Haven on a Friday of Memorial Day Weekend) and added cost of parking at New Haven, we decided to drive to Old Saybrook and catch Shoreline East and transfer trains.  All in all it was about a 3 to 3.5 hour voyage including the drive, the trains, and the transfers.

New Haven Union Station 

We walked outside of Grand Central Station at about 11 am on a Thursday morning to a steady rain that unknown to us, would not let up for the entire day.  From the moment we arrived in New York to the moment we went to bed in our hotel that night, it never stopped raining.  Not even for a minute. We made the 1.5 mile walk in the rain to The Watson which would serve as our "home base" for all activities that were NYC.  We dropped off our luggage and swapped our soaked shoes for a drier alternative and hopped on the subway to head to the Meat Packing District.  First stop was to get out of the rain and explore Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market

"A block long and a block wide and just a short walk from the Hudson River in the area of Manhattan known as the Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market has become in just fifteen years one of the greatest indoor food halls of the world, with more than thirty-five vendors purveying everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake. Attracting 6 million national and international visitors annually, it is one of the most trafficked, and written-about, destinations of any kind in New York City".  --

Vendor in Chelsea Market

Artwork in Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market

Picture this awesome industrial trendy building with everything from book stores to booze.  We were very excited to get out of the rain, wander through the shops and drink a coffee in this historic market place.  After the market it was back in the rain to walk The High Line.  A set of rail lines that once brought freight trains through the city in the 1800s to early/mid 1900's was repurposed in an excellent example of "industrial re-use" to give New Yorkers a 1.4 mile green way and walking trail.  Gorgeous gardens and various seating line the walkway as you make your way from Chelsea Market north towards Hudson Yards.

High Line
Next stop in the two-drowned-rats-in-the-city tour was the High Line on the lower west side of Manhattan, right by Chelsea Market.  This 1.45 mile long walking path/linear park was built on an elevated section of the New York Central Railroad on the West Side Line.  The High Line serves as an "aerial greenway" and was inspired by the Promenade plantée, a 3 mile tree-lined similar project in Paris. This old railway turned urban park has set an example urban re-use around the globe.  The High Line is maintained by "Friends of the High Line" and we passed by a small shop selling various t-shirts and items sporting the trendy High Line logo and maps of the area. 

Infographic along the High Line

The High Line Map

High Line History

Of course, it did not stop raining and we waited in the covered sections of the High Line for the heavy sections of the storm to pass.  Overall, we were pretty impressed by the amount of greenery, meticulous care of the gardens, and the way the industrial space was reused.  Plants grow among the old rail lines and rolling chairs and benches now sit on the tracks that trains once used.  The design and thought process behind the park was clear and with all this rain we have been having, the High Line was so green.  We didn't have the best weather as we walked the high line from one end to the other, but we could definitely appreciate what a gem this green oasis is on a beautiful day in the city. No dogs allowed but this is a great way to see the city from a different view.  

Photo opp. along the High Line

High Line

Along the High Line

After the High Line, we made one more wet stop at an iconic part of the city so Amanda could see it for herself and take a few pictures, Times Square.  I prepared her for the crowds of people, mega screens and billboards, people dressed in various dirty costumes ranging from Hello Kitty to Power Rangers, and the other aspects that are Times Square.  Did I miss anything?

Times Square

After spending a little bit of time at Times Square (pun intended) we dragged our cold wet bodies back to our hotel for a hot shower and a change of clothes.  The plan was a quick dinner before the show that started at 8 at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway.  Kristen was arriving on a 4 o clock train and I grabbed a bottle of champagne to celebrate our lady evening in the city.  

Champagne at the Watson before the show

After a shower and champagne we quickly got dressed and headed out the door for dinner.  Dinner planning in NYC can be a little tricky and we had a few restrictions: it had to be affordable, relatively fast, and vegetarian friendly.  After a little bit of research (and KC's recommendation) we settled on "Toto Ramen" in Hell's Kitchen virtually on our way to Broadway.  We got there and realized there was A:  Toto Ramen and B:  Toto Ramen Next Door (yep, next door).  After a bit of initial confusion we realized we could be sat immediately at Toto Ramen Next Door.  What is the difference?  Toto Ramen has a chicken based stock while Toto Ramen Next Door has a pork (tonkatsu) and vegetarian broths.  With quick seating, fast service, vegetarian options and dinner under $15, this was the perfect solution to the dinner issue.  The food was fantastic and we were quickly on our way to the show. 


We made our way to Broadway where we would be watching The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre. I am embarrassed to admit that with NYC so close, this was my first time to a show on Broadway.  We chose Phantom for a few reasons:  A- it was a classic and B- the tickets were the most affordable compared to other popular shows like Wicked.  For $100 including all fees and taxes, we had some pretty good seats of the show.  

Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre

"Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is the stuff of Broadway legend. The Great White Way's longest-running show of all time, this Gothic epic has been enchanting New York audiences for over a quarter a century with its irresistible mix of romance and horror, backed by its iconic rock music score. Undoubtedly one of theatre's greatest spectacles, Phantom boasts exquisite costumes and set design, and of course, the magnificent chandelier that crashes onto the stage to close out the first Act. 
Originally opening on Broadway in 1988, the show won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and has over the years starred some of musical theatres greatest names, such as Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman and Sierra Boggess. Among the many famous numbers in its score is the title track, 'All I Ask of You' and 'The Music of the Night'. For a night out at the theatre, you can't do better than the Phantom. Phantom has been running for over 29 years, making it THE longest-running Broadway musical ever".  New York City Theatre

We were all very impressed by the show from the singing to the elaborate sets and costumes.  We all agreed the boat scenes with all the candles were some of our favorites and the famous chandelier did not disappoint.   The weather did not cooperate but rain or shine, we still had a great first day in the city.  Plans were slightly altered but we still found some great food, watched a fantastic broadway show, and acted like tourists on a rainy Thursday in NYC.  Check back in later in the week for our second day in the city featuring the SUN and a day spent in Brooklyn.

Click HERE to read all about our second day in the city including the Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial, Williamsburg, and Central Park.  Also included:  My expenses for the entire trip!

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