Sean and I faced a couple of new travel challenges when we started planning our trip to New York City: (1) we’d been five times between us, but never together, so we had to find things to do that were new to both of us and/or interesting enough to see again, and (2) New York City is very expensive. New York City on the first holiday weekend of the summer is even more expensive. New York City at the last minute on the first holiday weekend of the summer is O_O!!!
Once we started researching, we realized number one wouldn’t be that much of a problem. It’s New York we’re talking about, not the backwoods. Number two required a bit more thought — we didn’t want to break the bank for three days in the city — but with a bit of creative finagling we ended up overcoming that, too.
Transportation: One of the nicest things about living in New England is how easy it is to get around without a car. Trains and buses run in all directions, and they’re very widely used and comfortable. When we decided to go to New York City we didn’t think for one second about driving ourselves. (Can you imagine how much it would’ve cost to park there for three days? Plus the tolls we would’ve had to pay? $13 just to get on the George Washington Bridge!) Our first transportation choice was Amtrak, but by the time we’d committed to the trip all the cheap seats were gone and tickets would’ve cost us more than $175 apiece. Two seats on Bolt Bus cost less than one train ticket, so it seemed like a much better bet (HA! — more on that later).
Lodging: Sean’s a big fan of Greenwich Village, so that’s where we started our hotel search. He stayed in a very reasonable hotel in the area last summer, but that same hotel was very unreasonable on Memorial Day. In fact, every hotel that we looked at was at least $250/per night. NOPE, NOPE, NOPE. We’d never tried AirBnb before, but we’d heard good things from friends, so we decided to give it a shot. And it was FANTASTIC. We paid around $125/night for the cutest little studio in the perfect part of Greenwich Village. The girl we rented from made the process so easy, and she left us a note telling us to help ourselves to her wine. I mean!
Friday: As soon as we arrived in New York, it started raining. HARD. We hailed a cab to drive us to the apartment, but it’s a wonder we didn’t wind up at the bottom of the Hudson:
We hid out in the apartment for an hour or so waiting for the rain to let up before venturing out to dinner. When Sean told me that two of his New York friends had recommended The Meatball Shop, I felt myriad emotions: confusion — they only sell meatballs? How does that work? Hunger — mmm, I hope they also have provolone cheese! And, ultimately, bemused acceptance — we’re talking about New York City here. Of course there’s a restaurant that specializes in meatballs. They also specialized in serving Shiner Bock. I KNOW.
Saturday: The first half of Saturday was all about immigration — we booked a combo tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We chose to tour the Statue of Liberty island only (meaning no going into the pedestal or climbing up to the crown) but that packed a great, big emotional wallop for me, so I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. Plus there were more than enough people to bump into on the island — thinking about squeezing into Lady Liberty’s nethers with hundreds of other tourists gave me hives.
SPEAKING OF WHICH — Ellis Island. Ho boy! Talk about living history. That place is HUGE and absolutely swarming with people. It’s a multicultural free-for-all. It probably hasn’t changed much in 150 years. That said, I absolutely loved visiting. It was, hands down, my favorite thing about our trip. Half of the exhibits were closed (casualties of Hurricane Sandy) and we were short on time, but I would absolutely go back to see more.
After Ellis Island, we ventured to Times Square to attempt to buy discounted theater tickets, only to be thwarted by a line that covered an entire city block. Rather than spend the rest of the day waiting in line to maybe get tickets to a show, we walked straight up to the Avenue Q box office and bought tickets for full price. It was splurgier than we’d intended, but Avenue Q is off Broadway, so the cost wasn’t that extreme. And it ended up being totally worth it. Songs from that show still pop into my head from time to time (I just have to be careful not to sing them out loud).
After the show was over, we met up with one our friends from college who lives in New York and explored the city into the wee small hours of the morning. (I’m now qualified to tell you that New York does, in fact, sleep.)