I’m a city girl by nature. Most of the trips I’ve taken in the last three years have been to major metro areas like Atlanta, Boston, New Orleans and Philadelphia. But until now I had not been to the mother of all metro areas- New York City. Last week, I finally rectified that problem by spending 5 days and 4 nights exploring as many blocks as I could of Manhattan.

The trip started on a whim. In August, Expedia was offering $200 off three nights hotel and flights. I looked at several different cities I hadn’t been to yet, including Chicago, Portland and Miami, to see if I could find a good deal. When I looked at NYC, I hit paydirt. I could get 3-nights hotel and flights for about $130. At the time, the flights alone would have cost about $200. After finding the deal, I tweeted about it. I quickly got a note from my mom. She knows how much I enjoy travelling and wanted to come along on this trip. A mother-daughter adventure was soon born.

For the trip, we flew MCO-EWR on Continental. I chose CO mostly because it was a non-stop flight that fit our schedule and budget well. Plus, they were offering double elite-qualification miles which was a nice bonus. The flight to New York was around 90% full, but surprisingly free of crying children and babies that often fill flights coming to and from Orlando. This probably had to do a lot with the fact that school is now in session and we’re in the low season for tourism.

Once we landed in EWR, plenty of signs guided us to the Airtrain that goes to NYC’s Penn Station. Unfortunately, the section of track that connects the airport with the New Jersey train station was under construction, so only one side of the tracks could be used. This meant that folks riding the Airtrain from the airport had to get off at the last airport stop and wait 10 minutes for a train coming from the station, rather then ride the train the whole way. This caused a lot of confusion and delay among passengers as everyone was forced to get off the train unexpectedly. New Jersey Transit, who runs the EWR Airtrain, did have a lot of redcoats were around to help direct people around. Still, it didn’t help one gentleman who exclaimed “There goes my train!” as our train pulled into the station- and his Amtrak train pulled out.

Sidewalk cafe where we had dinner in Little Italy.

The train ride from Newark to New York was fun in that the train goes under the Hudson river to get to the city. It’s the first time I’ve gone underwater in a train. Entering Penn Station was a bit overwhelming at first. So many people rushing around to get to where they needed to go. The signage was a bit confusing at first, with signs pointing every which way, but with the aid of a giant subway map and a friendly cop, my mom and I figured out where we needed to go.

After accidentally getting off at the wrong subway stop, we finally made it to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. The hotel is an independent hotel located in the heart of the Tribeca area. The hotel doesn’t have a lot of frills, but it was well-maintained and the room was large for a NYC hotel. After dropping our stuff off, we headed out to find some dinner.

The Little Italy district was about 15-minute walk from our hotel. It was easy to spot the district- it was marked by lots of red, green and white bunting; sidewalk cafes and a large Ferris wheel. The 10-day celebration of the Feast of St. Gennaro was in full swing. We picked one of the many sidewalk cafes along the street and enjoyed a nice pasta dinner while doing some people-watching. It was fun listening to Italian accent of the cafe owner and watching pedestrians enjoy treats like cannoli and gelato.

Afterwards, we walked through more of the Little Italy and Chinatown areas before heading over to visit Grand Central Station.

Times Square

Seeing Grand Central during rush hour was a delight. People were rushing everywhere across the grand marble annex while conversations created a pleasant echo in the lobby. It was fun to watch the destination boards light up and to imagine that I could go hop on the next train to  New Haven or Boston like so many New Yorkers were doing. After seeing the hustle and bustle of the station, we walked to another area known for its frenetic activity- Times Square.

Seeing Times Square left me speechless. All the lights- all the people- all the activity- and to be in the middle of it all! It was wonderful to finally be standing in the spot that I’ve seen countless times in movies, TV shows and pictures. After taking some pictures, my mom and I stopped into the Toys ‘R Us store to gawk at the ferris wheel inside and to see the lego sculptures of New York landmarks.

After that, we wanted to take a night tour of the city. Now, I’m normally not the tourbus type. I prefer to see things on foot. However, my mom had heard of the night tour because it was getting great reviews from vistors and natives alike. Plus, it would serve as a good introduction to the city. So off on the double-decker bus we went.

The tour was interesting because the guide provided all kinds of tidbits about the area, from where to find the best pizza in Brooklyn to which apartment complexes various celebrities live in. And the bus did go into places that I simply wouldn’t have time to get to on this trip like Brooklyn. The only downside of sitting on top of the double-decker bus is that it got a bit chilly up there, especially as we crossed over the bridges to and from Brooklyn.

After the tour, it was getting rather late and it was time to call it a night. We had so much more to explore over the next few days.

Later posts in this trip report will include a visit to the Today Show, riding the Staten Island Ferry, and seeing Wicked on Broadway. Stay tuned!

The Brooklyn Bridge.
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