Exploring the world: New York edition

posted on 5/28/2019

Our every year adventure led us to New York City. I’ve already been to New York City several times but it was the first time for my boyfriend, so we made the usual stuff, like visiting the Statue of Liberty.

Our journey began on 1stMarch 2019 starting from Frankfurt to JFK International Airport. The first challenge was to find a shuttle that would bring us to our hotel. We didn’t want to take a Taxi since they cost about $60. After looking for 10 minutes for the shuttles I remembered from 2012 (though I assumed they’re no longer operating), we decided to take Gold Tours, a bus which stops 3 times in NYC and you choose where to leave. After we left we had a good 20 minute walk with 3 suitcases and a bag pack over Times Square. Sounds stressful, is stressful. When we finally arrived in our hotel (of which we were scared of because literally no one ever heard of this hotel) we were positively surprised. It was really clean, the location was good and close to Times Square and Metro and the room was really nice and modern. I really can recommend The Ameritania at Times Square hotel (again, no, this is not sponsored, it’s my personal opinion.)

After we checked in we wanted to see (of course) the Disney Store and take a closer look at the Times Square. Unfortunately you’re barely able to walk straight without being interrupted by people who want you to take a flyer about their sightseeing busses. As soon as you passed them the character are waiting for you. They’ve all kind of costumes starting with Elmo over Princess Anna to Hulk. They just join you on your pictures without asking and if you don’t tip them, they start arguing. If you’ve a kid with you, the start hugging them and shout you shall take a picture.

The Disney Store makes every Disney heart skip a beat. As you go up the escalators Rapunzels lantern are flying over your head. Afterwards it was time for the ice hockey game at Madison Square Garden: The New York Rangers against the Montreal Canadians. Unfortunately the New York Rangers lost but it was really nice to experience a game like this        . We’re from Germany; ice hockey games are more aggressive and less patriotic here. While it was already 6a.m. in Germany we almost immediately fell asleep when we saw our bed.

The next morning started pretty early since I couldn’t sleep. The cars kept honking and our nice next door neighbors decided to scream while coming back. It was super cold and it has snowed and I only had some really thin sport sneakers with me. As soon as I stepped outside, I, of course, stepped into a really deep puddle and my shoes were soaking. Lucky me, we did a Behind the Magic Disney Broadway tour, so my feet were literally falling off.  

The tour was amazing. Our tour guide Corey was so ambitioned and you could tell he loves what he does. He showed us some spots, told us Broadway secrets, answered all our questions and did a quiz about Disney and Musicals with us. The winner would get a small price. My personal highlight was the end of the tour (this sounds so wrong). We were allowed to go on stage at the New Amsterdam Theatre where Aladdin is currently playing and got to try on or hold real costumes and requisites from several Disney Broadway Musicals. 

Right after, we decided to get an overview over Manhattan and went to the observation of the Empire State Building. Before we started our trip, we bought the NY Pass, which I really can recommend, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. Seeing New York City from up above covered in snow was truly beautiful. We then shopped for a while to kill some time and ate at TGI Friday’s until it was time for our first Musical: Aladdin.

We bought our tickets over Attraction Tickets. You don’t know where you’ll sit, so you pay less, than when you choose your seats. We had every time the best seats. 

I really liked the Aladdin musical but it was “too funny” in my opinion. I just don’t like to question things, and when someone told Jafar and Iago that they need Aladdin to get the magic lamp they kept calling it “the spooky voice out of nowhere”. Genie was just perfect. Just as sarcastic and funny as he needs to be.

Our third day started with a breakfast at Majestics, near our hotel. After spending way too much money at the Disney Store we visited the Central Park. It was completely covered in snow even though it has already melted in the city. There was an ice skating competition and they were so good. We took a stroll through the park, spotted some nice undiscovered places and walked to the American Museum of Natural History. This was also included in our pass, so we decided to warm up inside and see what they have. Usually I like museums, but this was the definition of a boring museum for me. I really liked skeletons of the dinosaurs though. When we were done what happens to be real fast, we walked to Gray’s Papaya, my favorite hot dog shop in the city. For sure I haven’t tried all yet, but I would always prefer to eat there. The appearance isn’t too good neither does it look trusty, but I really love their hot dogs (the German TV spoke about them several years ago. This is why I trust them). 

After we were done with this direction, we decided to head back to our hotel to warm up again and continue going to Rockefeller Center, Lego Store, Trump Tour and St. Patrick’s Cathedral to light a candle. We walked down the 5thAvenue and picked up our Wicked tickets. To kill –again- some time we decided to use our NY Pass again and visit Madame Tussauds. We took some fun pictures and headed then to the theater. I used to watch Wicked about 8 times when it was in Germany back in 2008 and seeing it again was incredible. Even though those flying monkeys are still hunting me into my dreams.

The next day was the only day without a musical. I heard that you can “open” the Disney Store and as thanks you’ll get a small version of the key you’re opening the Disney Store with. I actually got chosen and got to open the Disney Store. They had an offering in honor to the premier of Captain Marvel where they take a photo of you and put it on the big screen outside of Times Square above the Disney Store and this is a once in a lifetime chance, so I embraced the chance and got shown all over the big screen.

After breakfast we headed to Metro to go to Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial. I think it’s always hard to take and the museum left not a dry eye. They had a room with pictures of all the victims and screen where they showed some more pictures of them and their story. I just can’t believe how someone wants to kill so many innocent people. We spent 4 hours in the museum and walked then down Wall Street straight to Statue of Liberty. Unluckily the ferry was already closed so we took the next metro back to Times Square and ate at Olive Garden. As it was getting dark we went to Rockefeller Center and went to their observatory. New York City by night is stunning. I’ve never been up there by night and it literally took my breath. All those lights were just beautiful and somehow unreal. Afterwards we called it a night. 

The next day was bitter cold. I think I never experienced weather THIS cold. After we missed the last ferry yesterday, we headed straight to Statue of Liberty. Right after we got out the metro,  a guy stopped us and told us that he’s security and he needs to know if we’re going to Staten Island or Statue of Liberty. I heard a lot about this scam. As soon as you tell them you want to go to Statue of Liberty they bring you to their “boat”, which just passes the Statue. Only the official ferry is allowed to stop directly at the Statue. Also don’t forget, that large bags are not allowed on Liberty or Ellis Islands. Backpacks, strollers and large umbrellas are not permitted in the Monument. The security control is pretty hidden in Battery Park and the queue is really long. We waited for 1 hour so plan some extra time. 

When we finally exited the ferry we got to enjoyed not only the beautiful Statue, but a breathtaking skyline. Unfortunately it was that cold that every part of uncovered skin would hurt and we couldn’t really enjoy it so we left pretty fast. 

We then took the metro to Brooklyn. I wanted to take a picture of Dumbo Street, because I’ve seen this street way to often but never been there. On our way to the street I – of course- had to slip and cut my hand. After finally seeing the street and strolling through Brooklyn, which I really enjoyed, we took the metro back to Time Square and warmed up in our hotel. As dinner we ate at Planet Hollywood and had a huge milkshake. 

This evening we planned on watching Frozen. I heard only good about it and that it should be better than the Musical Wicked (which was my favorite musical for a decade). I know the story of Frozen, I am not a big fan of it, which is probably owed to the hype. This musical was THE BEST. How they realized the scenes, the costumes and the songs. I LOVED it. If you get the chance to see it (what you probably get, since it starts touring pretty soon) do it! 3 months later and I’m still singing their songs.

Every morning, when we were walking down Broadway, we passed a restaurant called Ellen’s Stardust Diner. People waited in front of it all the time. This morning no one waited, so we decided to give it a try, not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a restaurant with performing waiters and waitresses. One waiter told us, that each of them came to New York with the dream of becoming a Musical actor and no one did it. By now they can say, that in every Musical on Broadway, they have at least one former waiter in there. The food was delicious but it was really expensive. We paid $55 (including tip), so this was our first and also last time, even though we enjoyed their singing. While being there I received an E-Mail that I won the lottery for the Lion King Musical this evening. There are lotteries you can sign in for and you can win cheaper (usually about $30 per ticket) tickets for the musical you signed in for. 

This day was exactly as cold as the day before, probably even colder, so we decided to do all the tours which were included in our New York Pass without requiring a reservation. So our first tour led us to Madison Square Garden in which we got to take a closer look behind the scenes. We got to see the locker rooms, the lounges and the beer room, during the preparations for Elton John’s concert in the evening. 

Our next tour led us to the Radio City Hall. Our guide was pretty ambitioned with “us Germans”. She asked us if we knew what Disney, a Musical or who Tina Turner is and even with us answering yes, she would still explain everything extra to us, which got super annoying really fast. At the end we got to meet a real rockette dancer and ash her questions. 

Since the day wasn’t even close to end but it was way too cold to do anything outside, we perforce visited a museum, which was also included in our New York Pass. We ate at Shake Shack for dinner and then visited the Lion King Musical. I liked this Musical at least from all the Musical we’ve visited during our vacation, but it was still good. 

Our day of departure was literally just eating at Applebee’s and buying souvenirs for family and friends. After the hotel shuttle picked us up (and drove the weirdest way ever to the airport), we stood for nearly 2 hours in security control line, so plan enough time for departure.

The vacation was fun and I love to experience cities on my own. Even though it was throughout bitter cold, we enjoyed it and would totally come back, just when it’s a little bit warmer.