My sister Staci and I have been taking an annual Sisters Trip to New York City for about five years together. We both love Broadway Shows, people watching, eating yummy food (I can eat my weight in New York cheesecake-really) and touring around. We find an easy rhythm when we travel. We both have creative ideas and Staci can get us anywhere. Each year we decide on one big adventure-Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, The 911 Museum and Memorial, the NBC Tour. On every trip we usually take the Staten Island Ferry to see Miss Liberty and walk and walk and walk. We also spend a great deal of time in Times Square people watching morning, noon, and night. It’s our default place to hang out. This year was no exception. After missing our trip for two years due to the pandemic, we booked ourselves when Southwest was having a sale and got our bags packed. We were going to be York City Girls and we could not wait!
Booking an early direct flight on Southwest Airlines during their summer sale, was either going to be a really good idea or not. Turned out, it was a good idea.
The pilot, who drives like my sister, got us into the city thirty minutes early. The last time we flew in LaGuardia was under construction and the taxi line wrapped around the building. We were prepared and then pleasantly surprised that the Southwest terminal had been renovated and there was no line at all at the taxi stand. We were at our hotel by 10:30 am ready to roll. We checked our bags with Kevin the Bellman, a native to New Jersey, who has been with The Hotel Edison for 37 years! I loved listening to him talk and he is a huge baseball fan, so we had fun talking about the Cardinals.
We decided to find lunch just as the skies opened drenching everything in sight. Travel tip: bring an umbrella-had to buy one for $10 which now lives in my suitcase.
I learned long ago to go to buy tickets at the box offices for the Broadway shows we wanted to see. I never buy them ahead of time, nor do I buy them at outlets. As in years past, we were successful: theatres want people in seats. Often we luck into house seats, seats that haven’t sold and this year seats reserved for wheelchairs behind the back row of the orchestra section that were not being used.
It takes a little bit of a juggling act to figure out which shows play when and which tickets are at the best prices. And I’m not sure if the pandemic prompted this change, but each show/theatre was dark on different days, not just Monday. Shows played at various times throughout the week. We thought staggered show times were to help with reducing the number of people in the theatre district at the same time. Didn’t really happen as there were still hundreds of people walking around at night when shows let out.
We knew we wanted to see certain shows, so we headed over to Into the Woods which was playing a limited run and bought second row seats for $99 each. I asked if these seats would have limited sight, or if we would we be looking up the entire show because we were too close (which is actually not the best way to enjoy a show); we were assured that was not the case. (Stay tuned for more) We then walked over to MJ, the Michael Jackson Musical and were delighted to learn-after much discussion and being quoted expensive tickets-they would sell us $84 tickets if we were willing to sit in chairs behind the last row of the orchestra. Yes, we were willing! (This proved to be a good move.) We then walked over to the theatre where Funny Girl was playing starring Lea Michele. The least expensive tickets were $225 each and we just could not do it. Sad, because we are Glee fans, and this would have been very cool. The box office said we could get Thursday night tickets easily, however, Lea Michele was not in it. I later spoke to a friend who did indeed see the show without Lea Michele and said it was amazing. Next time!
On our way out I asked the woman ahead of us who HAD bought the $225 tickets why she was willing to do this. “Last time I was here I didn’t see Patti LuPone in Company because the tickets were too expensive. Now I never will. I want to see Lea Michele, so I was willing to pay for them.”
Hmmmm, interesting thinking.
Walking over to the theatre where Moulin Rouge was playing, (it had won 10 Tony’s!) we found balcony tickets for $119 each and grabbed them. We were set!
As city girls, we usually take the subway everywhere, however, this year we decided to try cabs. It was quite fun to see the city zipping by and holding our breath with each crazy lane change. We walked as much as we could as well, clocking at least 5 miles each day. Good for us-after all that cheesecake.
A few months ago, I heard a story on CBS This Morning about The Museum of Ice Cream and both Staci and I knew that was going to be a destination. You can only buy tickets on-line which we did before hopping in a cab. A museum of ice cream? All the ice cream we can eat. Are they kidding? Do they know us?
Arriving at The Museum of Ice Cream we were greeted and welcomed inside. It felt like being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory if his factory was completely…PINK! As you begin your tour, there is a Wall of Ice Cream history. And yes, we were happy to see that the ice cream cone invented at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis is highlighted.
Then an ice cream helper opens the door. Again, like Willy Wonka…We were holding our breath, not knowing what to expect…. “You cannot move backwards, only forward,” the guides advise, “Eat as much ice cream as you want in each stop.” Oh, okay. You don’t have to tell us twice.
The first stop was serving pink vanilla ice cream. With or without sprinkles. We looked at each other and both thought, best pink vanilla ever!!!!
Moving through uniquely decorated rooms, we sampled pink lemonade popsicles (sweet and tart), cake batter and strawberry cheesecake (rich), pineapple sorbet (incredibly light) while we built paper ice cream trucks, and lastly lemon sherbet (tart). There are slides to slide, history to read, statistics to laugh at, guides all around to help. Travel tip: don’t skip this even if you have to take Lactaid (which we did).
After all of that ice cream there are two giant Sprinkle Pools. We hopped right in and then…. started laughing. You know that uncontrollable laugh you only laugh with a sibling? That is how hard we were laughing. Then Staci said, “This is kind of gross,” and we hopped out-with help!
The Museum of Ice Cream is definitely a destination. We thought it was fairly pricey (even with an on-line coupon code) and there could have been better use of space. However, at the end of the day, we went to an Ice Cream Museum!
We then checked into Hotel Edison, our hotel of choice. Sitting two blocks from Time Square in the theatre district complete with around the clock security, we have stayed here the past three years.
After dropping our luggage in our room, we headed out to find a deli…we were on a mission to find corned beef! We found excellent Reuben’s at a local deli: Z Deli. Also enjoying cheesecake which tasted like it was baked my someone’s grandmother; light and delicious.
Heading over to Times Square, I was so happy to see it alive and active! It was busy, crazy fun. We found seats on the red steps (bleachers) and enjoyed the mild evening people watching. Below us on the sidewalk were two men dancing and taking turns videoing one another. I stopped to ask what they were doing, and besides telling me I had great hair (it WAS a good hair day), they told us they were making audition tapes as well as videos to put onto social media. We had an early night as that incredibly early/good idea flight was catching up to us.
A nice touch, Hotel Edison now offers breakfast vouchers at the restaurants in the hotel and at Carve on the corner. We regularly had breakfast at Carve on past trips. Excellent food. Friendly service. Staci even had pizza one morning on a previous trip. They are open sunrise to moonrise, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As well as an array of baked goods, including, you guessed it, cheesecake!
After this, it was off to The Friends Experience.
Located at 130 East 23rd Street at the corner of East 23rd and Lexington Ave, this is THE place for any Friends Geek!!!! Staci and I loved every minute of the interactive tour. It begins with a short video and then dramatically the doors open to…. the couch and the fountain! From minute one I was smiling, wondering, and hoping that Monica and Rachel and the gang would be there.
This Friends Experience is very smart, creative, and fun. Boasting sets, props, scripts, and mementos from the actual show, it is a fan’s dream. At four strategically placed exhibits, there is a Friend who will take your picture.
And at the end, the Friends give you the link and email you so you can download the photos at no charge. I know!!!! We loved seeing the apartment Monica and Rachel lived in, sitting on the couch wondering what it would have been like to hang out with the Friends, and poking the ugly naked guy on the balcony.
It was fun having our picture taken in front of the iconic fountain, while moving a couch for Ross, “Pivot!,” by the purple front door as well as on the couch in Central Perk. That couch WAS comfortable. No wonder the Friends spent so much time on it!
Reading the scripts and the recorded experiences was also fun. Who knew how much thought had gone into every single aspect of the show? Seeing the costumes was eye opening as well. Boy, those girls were tiny! Behind glass we were able to see Phoebe’s guitar and Monica’s wedding vows. My sister loved the Whom Dated Who Wall which tracked each character’s love life. Like the show, I could have stayed there forever! And, if you are a Friends fan….I have not given all the surprises away. I’ll be there for you….
However, we had places to go, cookies to eat.
Jumping in a cab, and by the way, I learned this skill very quickly and became quite good at it, we headed to one of my favorite places on earth, Levain Bakery. Located at West 74th, Levain Bakery is small but mighty. Often you might find a line down the street. On this day, we would walk right in. The bench in the front is the perfect place to inhale, I mean, enjoy a cookie. When you see someone coming out of the bakery (with a mouthful of warm cookie), people always ask, “What did you get?”
However, before we could indulge, lunch!
Staci found a slice of pizza and I found a wrap. It did not matter what I ate. I just needed something healthy and sturdy because once those cookies were in my hand, there was no stopping me.
We found Levain Bakery two visits ago: for me, it’s one of the highlights of the trip. In the past, we would have eaten one cookie before hopping back on the subway. Today, we decided to sit on the bench and enjoy our cookies. I bought four: original chocolate chip, the new chocolate chip cookie with three kinds of chips, a chocolate chocolate chip, and a chocolate peanut butter chip. This is absolute Heaven for me.
The cookies are both warm and cool. And GIANT. The outside is a soft/crunch, and the inside is pure joy. Soft, gooey, and yet, they rarely fall apart. In the first moments of cookie bliss, I once again wondered, how do they do this? Trying a small bite of each cookie, I am quite sure I ate an entire cookie.
No worries, as we found out later, we walked over 5 miles that day. If you tell me you are heading to New York, I will encourage you to make the pilgrimage to Levain. Also, please bring me home a cookie. Unbelievably, a few of those cookies made it home with me and I enjoyed them for the next week.
Since we had just eaten cookies, we decided to walk towards Times Square and Rockefeller Center. We had thought about going to the 911 Museum and grounds, but also knew to watch our time as we had theatre tickets. We have been to the 911 Museum each trip and always like to go to pay our respects. It is a beautiful, sacred site reminding us of how fragile life can be.
We walked for a while, spotting ABC Studios and wondering if they offered tours like NBC Studios. . Turns out they do not, but they helped us figure out how to take a bus. The first bus was not successful as the driver basically said he wasn’t going near Rockefeller Center. We walked for a few blocks and then spotting a bus stop sign, we asked a young couple which bus to take. They helped us and gave us other tips, so that when the next bus arrived, we hopped on, asking to be let off near Rockefeller Center. This driver was very kind and said he could get us within two blocks. As we sat down, the passengers all jumped in with suggestions about where to get off and which direction to walk.
Ugh. We must have sounded like tourists!
A few minutes later, the bus driver called to us, “Here’s your stop. When you get off turn left and walk two blocks,” the same advice the passengers had given us.
We hopped off and began walking. Suddenly, we hear a bus honking and turning to see the bus driver motioning with his arm and saying, “Turn left!!!” We laughed and gave him the thumbs up, turning left and yes, finding Rockefeller Center!
Rockefeller Center was alive with business and the roller rink!
It was also familiar which we loved. Stopping in the NBC store, we found all sorts of NBC goodies including Friends t-shirts and what I was really looking for: This is Us wear. Last time we were here there was a great This is Us t-shirt. That one is no longer available in store, but I found something just as good! I plan to wear this jersey and manifest Jack Pearson!!!
Walking back to Hotel Edison, we checked our tickets thinking we had an early show. We didn’t, so we changed and headed to dinner and then the theatre. We returned to Z Deli, as we did not have a lot of time. They were so gracious, allowing me to purchase meatballs-no noodles-for dinner. Staci had pizza which she enjoyed. And after the day of Levain cookies, we also bought a container of fruit-made us feel extremely healthy.
Heading over to the St. James Theatre for Into the Woods we were very excited to see this show. One of our favorite actors, Stephanie Block was starring. We met her years ago after a show and have been fans ever since.
Unfortunately, this was the theatre where the box office told us we would not have limited sight and we wouldn’t be looking up the entire show. We were in the second row off to the side, but we were not happy with these tickets.
I found an usher and said, “Hi. Your box office lied to us. They told us these were good seats without limited site. We are very unhappy. Can you help us?”
He asked me to wait and then came to find me, “Follow me, please.”
We had met the woman in front of us and I said, “Can you help her too?” She jumped up and followed us.
The usher showed us to the “house seats” which are the last row of the orchestra section which were perfect seats and which we would have bought! We thanked him as well as thanking the manager in charge when he came to check on us.
We loved Into the Woods for what it was. A fairy-tale that did not sugar coat happily ever after. At intermission, we thought the show was over. However, they were just getting started! Both Staci and I thoroughly enjoyed Into the Woods and Stephanie Block was amazing! Actually, the entire cast was exceptional. Walking back to Hotel Edison we commented on how much we love New York! Another day as city girls.
We were up and out early. We had a meeting with Lady Liberty herself. We caught a cab, called by the door attendant, and were surprised to find out that the cab was off duty and wanted us to pay in cash. We texted one another in the cab, “Don’t make any trouble, pay the guy and get OUT.” Which we did. Travel tip: confirm the cab is ON the clock. You will know this because you can pay with a credit card and the meter will be on. Lesson learned. Scary.
We’ve been to Ellis Island and we’ve been on the Staten Island Ferry for the views of the Statue of Liberty, however, today was the day we would meet her. We were both so excited. The security for the ferries is similar to airport security. After we made it through that line, we waited to load the ferry. In line, we began talking to a group of women from Spain. They seemed to be having fun and we asked if they had seen shows. They told us that they were here for the Statue of Liberty, great food, and shopping. When we began talking about food, I smiled and said, “Spectacular!” On board, we all found ourselves on the top deck of the Miss Liberty ferry enjoying the weather. During the ride which lent beautiful views of the city, they were trying to take a selfie with all four of them. I offered to take their picture and when they checked it, they said, “Spectacular!” We all laughed.
Arriving on Liberty Island we were surprised at how tall Lady Liberty is. In fact, she is 305 tall! She is giant. And everyone everywhere is taking pictures of themselves at every angle.
Including us! We took a few selfies and then traded taking pictures with other people. This actually made the experience globally fun; talking to people from everywhere who, like us, wanted and needed to be here. Everyone was in awe of our backdrop.
Honestly, I was so glad to actually be on the island with her. The only other time I’ve been with Miss Liberty was in 1996 on my first trip to NYC. And yes, we were able to walk up to the crown. The crown was not open while we were there, the Park Rangers informing us that it would open a few weeks later.
Not to worry. We enjoyed the 13, 000 steps up as well as being outside on the pedestal. Every angle offered a beautiful, stunning view of the city, the water, and Ellis Island. We had a fun time walking around and looking UP. On our way down, we stopped in the museum which explained how Lady Liberty made it onto our shores. Gustave Eiffel partly designed her! Walking over to the other museum on the island we sat outside enjoying the weather and then walked through the museum. One of the most interesting sites housed inside is the original flame.
Worn out we waited in line for the ferry and then found a cab to Little Italy. Remember how I said I was really good at this? The cab managed to get us about two blocks from Little Italy as there was an annual festival taking place that we didn’t know about. There were thousands of people in very few blocks. We did what came naturally-ducked into a delicious looking restaurant to avoid the crowds.
Caffe Napoli was an excellent choice. We had stumbled into one of the few remaining locally owned restaurants, seated next to three young woman-two of whom worked on Broadway! Enjoying delicious Italian food on a beautiful day, sitting outside, I commented that this was our first actual meal. We had been living on deli sandwiches, pizza, and cheesecake! The owner’s grandson was busy keeping his guests happy making suggestions and the service was exceptional.
We then braved the festival trying to get to a main street to grab a taxi back to our hotel.
We landed at our hotel for a much-needed re-grouping and then headed out to Times Square for our hot dog dinner (we have this once each trip). Looking forward to MJ The Musical, we arrived a little early at the Neil Simon Theatre. This is the first time that we would see a Tony winner in his Tony award winning role. And Myles Frost did not disappoint! These were the seats behind the last row of orchestra. And did we luck out! Excellent seats for one of the most inspiring Broadway shows we have ever seen. My feelings about Michael Jackson have completely changed. After growing up with his music, I was glad to have another peek into his story.
We waited outside the stage door after the show (because we are theatre geeks) and met Myles Frost. We were also lucky enough to meet dancers who, in their words, were, “living their dream!”
Before the cast emerged, we ran across the street as Funny Girl was letting out to get a glimpse of Lea Michele. She was out talking to fans-in a mask. She is also really tiny! We didn’t get to see that show, but this part was pretty amazing.
After that, it was goodnight.
We slept in this morning! After three days of being on the go, we decided we needed to let ourselves recharge. We had a leisurely breakfast at Carve.
After breakfast, we headed to the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction which we accidentally found on our last trip. This year there were many more people! The first one we attended was not as busy and we met actors from a few of the shows. This time we could barely get near the tables, but we gave it our best effort. Staci found a cool Broadway bag and I found an Unbreakable pin from Six. It all supports Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, so we were happy to see so many theatre geeks…um theatre supporters.
On our way out, we noticed a line wrapping around into Times Square. Apparently Beetlejuice is a cult favorite; some people seeing the show 7 or 8 times! A few of the actors had shown up, too.
Wandering into Times Square I noticed a huge Broadway sign and we wandered over. After all, anything that says Broadway has to be interesting.
Broadway Up Close offers award-winning tours and handmade gifts. Right in the center of Times Square.
We sat in Times Square and walked around, eventually sitting down at Juniors near our hotel for lunch. One of my favorite places for cheesecake, we also ordered a loaded potato pancake along with lunch.
Staci had a good lunch, however, I had to send my Rueben back because it was not edible. (that’s all I’m going to say). As an aside, at the next table, the matzo ball soup looked amazing. The waiter could not have been nicer and said that the Reuben would be taken off our bill and he would like to bring a piece of strawberry cheesecake. I thanked him and said, “We’d rather have the brownie explosion cheesecake,” which arrived at our table within minutes. So, my lunch that day was potato pancake and cheesecake. Sounds good to me!
Moulin Rouge! The Musical was playing at 5pm at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre so we hustled back to the hotel to change and head to the show. Upon entering the theatre ushers are quick to say that 10 minutes before the show starts no photos are allowed. They are very serious about this. The theatre was overwhelmingly RED and yet you could feel the electricity in the air. Moulin Rouge! had won ten Tony’s in 2021. When we were in NYC the last time, we could not get tickets; we knew we were in for a special show. Sitting in the balcony afforded us a perfect view of the entire stage.
Just a note on theatre etiquette: please do not put your hair in a bun on TOP of your head. Nobody can see through it. Second, please do not talk or whisper during the show. We can all hear you and it is disruptive.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical was a visual show with incredible dancing, singing and costumes. Though the story is sad-no surprise, you leave with a feeling that…love is the answer.
After our show let out, we tried to find chicken soup to no success. My sister was so patient as we stopped in a few places. She was happy with her pizza. Eventually, I picked up a piece of cheesecake at Crave (I DID mention I can eat my weight in cheesecake…) to go with my healthy leftover wrap and we had dinner in the room. It was a lovely way to end our day.
We had decided this was our day to visit The Today Show. In years past, we had such luck at the Today Show, seeing Rita Wilson and even meeting and talking to Hoda Kotb. This year we walked down to Rockefeller Plaza and at the gate/security they asked for our vaccination card. Up to this moment, it did not look like there was ANY virus or pandemic in New York City.
I don’t know about you, but I have my vaccine card with me at all times.
Except at that moment.
Nobody had asked for it in so long, I thought I didn’t need it. Travel tip: ALWAYS have your vaccination card with you. I finally found something on my phone indicating I was clean and healthy, and they let us through. Unfortunately, it was the ONE day that the hosts went inside at 8:45!!!!
On our way back to Times Square we stopped in Magnolia Bakery because I had not eaten enough sugar and I spotted their banana pudding!!!! Yes, the very famous banana pudding.
I have made Magnolia Bakery’s banana pudding before with my friend Jenny from Magnolia Bakery’s recipe. They sell it in three sizes and so, as a pre-lunch snack, I bought a small one and we headed to Times Square to people watch and try the banana pudding. It was amazing!!!!! As good as ours!
We then headed to the hotel to grab our suitcases and catch our car to the airport. Hotel Edison has a car service, and it was a lovely tour through Manhattan to the airport with a friendly, informed driver.
Arriving at LaGuardia, I had mixed feelings. I was ready to go home and yet I was not. It was one of our best trips and I loved New York City even more. Already we were planning our next New York City adventure.
The flight home was easy and sitting on the left side of the plane we were treated to a view anyone who grew up in St. Louis loves…. our Arch.
My love of travel, new experiences, and the opportunity to explore is part of who I am. Gratitude for the ability to enjoy a trip with my sister lights my heart and soul. She is a good travel companion, and we complement one another. It was fun to be a New York City Girl in the place that I dream of someday living and always visiting. Girl on the GO!