If you had only one day to spend in New York City, what would you do? Dine out via “Yelp” help, shop at Saks and Tiffany’s, get tickets to a Broadway show? So many choices, so little time. Here’s what our one February day looked like.
Times Square Diner
A hearty breakfast at the Time Square Diner started our day. With 4.5 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor, it seemed like the logical choice. Fast and polite service, tasty food; we were in and out without feeling rushed. Fueled up, we walked to the nearest hotel and grabbed a cab (best way to get one easily), ready for our day’s adventure to begin.
9/11 Memorial & Museum
With only one day to enjoy the sights without feeling like we were on a cattle drive, we prioritized. Because we were staying at the Double Tree in Times Square, we knew we could simply wander around there, but we truly wanted to see something important and impactful, which meant out first stop required a 25-minute yellow cab ride to the 9-11 Memorial & Museum.
I remember where I was on September 11, 2001; in the pool doing laps. We all have a story about that day, where we were and how we felt, but actually being at ground zero and going to the museum was truly one of the most impressive and important things I have ever witnessed in my life.
We started our journey where the buildings once stood tall and regal, reading the names of those lost, engraved in stone surrounding the breathtaking water features – it was unreal. Noticing random white roses by certain victim’s names, we learned the Memorial placed them there in honor of their birthday.
The museum building was deceivingly large. Housed inside was a mesmerizing collection of memorabilia and information pre/post attacks: collections of giant pieces of recovered steel, the skeletal remains of a sacrificed fire truck, the Vesey street stair remnant (an escape route),
an enormous artist’s interpretation of the sky on the morning of 9-11 showcasing single uniquely colored mosaic tiles each representing the nearly 3,000 victims lost, remembrance artwork, history of the building’s beginnings, historical timeline of decades of hatred and violence leading to the attacks, and numerous accounts of those who worked diligently and tirelessly to save, to shelter, and then to answer needs post 9-11. Photos, audio, video, news reels, print media; it was all there.
With so much to take in, one of the most moving features was the In-Memoriam tribute – an area housing photos of all those lost, with personal viewing screens where you could hear audio of those who knew the victims and read their individual stories, which made it all too real, but also made every visitor aware that none of those lost would ever be forgotten!
Throughout the museum, photos and videos told the story of that excruciating day, but one video in particular played on a loop; it was of the second plane crashing into Two World Trade Center. It was chilling and sadly mesmerizing. I watched people just like me, standing and watching, unable to pull away as the video played over and over; incredulously lost in the unbelievable and horrific reality of that day.
Photos pre/post attacks; new 104 story One World Trade Center and 9/11 Museum
Going to the memorial truly brought me back to an agonizing time in our history, but it also made me remember the sacrifices made by those who innocently lost their lives and by those who tried to save them. The entire experience was flawless in presentation. As the museum map so eloquently states: “…the Museum attests to the triumph of human dignity over human depravity and affirms an unwavering commitment to the fundamental value of human life.”
Statue of Liberty
Upon exiting the Memorial, we decided to take a reflective walk, one that led us across the street to a small park and wharf area overlooking New York Harbor. Keeping in mind that a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty would require at least three hours, we decided a view of Lady Liberty from afar would have to do. With her torch raised high, it was a fitting end to our first excursion.
Ready to re-enter the belly of the beast, a yellow cab kindly brought us back into Manhattan, dropping us off at Rockefeller Center, where a congregation of national flags fluttered in the warm winds around the sunken plaza. The unseasonable 70-degree February day drew people out into the plaza where they enjoyed lunch and leisure in the sun.
Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe, a cool contemporary spot just across the street from the plaza, offered us two seats at the bar where we enjoyed a glass of wine and delicious meal. It was a perfect impromptu find; great food, service, and ambience.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
With full bellies we left the restaurant and wandered around the plaza, taking in the architecture, the statues and building embellishments, and then we stumbled upon St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church, outstanding in depth, height, and artistry.
The statues, the artwork, the stained glass, the grandeur of the cathedral was breathtaking. Like so many visitors, we found a quiet spot (one of the many offered) and lit a candle in honor of those we lost last year. Even amongst the busyness of the visitors wandering, the candle lighting areas and plentiful pews were quiet sacred spots that provided solace.
The Empire State Building
Ready to forge ahead, we walked just over a mile, about 17 minutes, to the iconic Empire State Building. Once we figured out which way google maps was leading us, we journeyed to see this epic historical site which would offer us panoramic views of the city below.
With only the 86th floor available for viewing, (I really wanted to go to the 102nd) we entered the elevator and were treated to an almost Disney like video; construction by floor playing overhead, distracting us from our ascent. Our first stop was the 80th floor which was home to a rich history of the creation of the building, along with placards of movies referencing the tallest building in the world from 1931-1970, only to be outdone by the once spectacular One and Two World Trade Center buildings.
Pushing the limits of the thousands of trades people who diligently toiled over the building effort, the Empire State Building soared to the sky at a rate of one story per day, completing the building one month ahead of schedule; an awesome feat.
Venturing out onto the observation deck on the 86th floor, the sun shone brightly; not a cloud in the sky. We could see the lay of the land in every direction, appreciating the enormity of the city scape below.
The gift shop beckoned me just before we left, where I picked up my signature keepsake t-shirt, Christmas ornament, and a replica snow globe for my collection.
Sights and Sounds
Tired and ready for a rest, we walked back to our hotel, taking in the sights and sounds along the way: store fronts filled with glistening jewelry (on full display by day, but totally emptied at night) and flamboyant mannequins with clothing suggestions,
street food vendors, street performers in Time Square, ticket sellers approaching us trying to sell their wares – one trying to get our attention by saying “you look like normal people,” and the crazy inundation of electronic billboards that were just screaming for our attention.
Time flies in Time Square, and before we knew it, our day had turned into night. The one thing we did plan on doing weeks before our trip was to go to a Broadway show. With fairly affordable tickets to “Kinky Boots” in our pockets, we were ready to be entertained.
From the hotel we confidently walked the wrong way to the Hirschfeld Theater, but thanks to google maps, we quickly turned around, walked a few blocks and found the Iron Bar, a high energy sports bar where we grabbed a quick bite right next to the theater.
By 7:45 p.m., we were in our seats waiting for the curtain to rise. With Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and six tony awards to its credit, we anticipated a great show; and oh, what a show it was! The singing and dancing were electrifyingly mesmerizing, and the message was timeless – acceptance of not only others, but of oneself as well. I didn’t want it to end. It is a must-see musical!
After the show we were energized, and Havana Central was calling. We had 30 minutes before the closing bell sounded, so we grabbed a drink at the bar and listened to the authentic Cuban band.
From there, we wandered across the street to the Pig ‘N’ Whistle, an Irish pub where we watched some of the U.S. Women’s Gold Medal Ice Hockey game, ate delicious tacos (yes, at an Irish bar), and listened to a young Irish performer taking requests; he humored me by doing a lively rendition of Zac Brown’s Chicken Fried.
Knowing we had to leave early in the morning, we gave our livers a rest, and headed to the hotel, with one last look at Time Square. We left 7th avenue behind that night with no regrets; we had experienced our one day in New York City, and we were satisfied with our choices.
Honestly, I’ve always been intimidated by big cities, especially NYC, but driving in and walking around was far easier than I had imagined. We didn’t rush, we planned but we didn’t over plan, we became a part of the vast landscape of the city, and we enjoyed every minute.
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