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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Weekend in New York City

Jim Christy

If you are like me you enjoy visiting vibrant, exciting cities for weekend vacation destinations. It's fun. There is always something to see and do. And there is no city quite like New York, which offers a visitor the most opportunities for fun and excitement.

My wife and I spent a long weekend in New York early last fall. I personally feel this is the prime time of the year to be there, the weather is usually great, people are out in Central Park, the Yankees are in a pennant race and everyone seems to be busy going somewhere. VERY BUSY.

But New York is much, much more than Central Park and the Yankees. It is the premier city in America for dining. It has the most original ethnic neighborhoods such as Little Italy and Chinatown. New York is the live theater capital of the world. And you know what, all of these particular pleasures can be enjoyed in a short three or three and a half day weekend. My wife and I did easily.

We started our weekend by flying from Minneapolis/St. Paul International early on a Thursday afternoon. We were in our midtown East side hotel by early evening. Just enough time to take a little walk over to Fifth Avenue and reacquaint ourselves with the incredible shopping options waiting for my wife. We stopped for pizza at one of the many delis on Lexington Avenue and then called it a night.

Friday was a gorgeous day in the mid 70's and sunny. We decided to take advantage of the free continental breakfast offered by our hotel, the Midtowne Helmsly Hotel on East 48th Street. This is a reasonably priced hotel. I did some searching on the Internet to find a hotel in this area charging under $200 a night, and this one fit the bill very nicely.

We started our day of sight seeing by taking a taxi to Ground Zero. Awesome and devastating at the same time. We spent over an hour just walking around the site, looking at the pictures on the fence surrounding the cavernous hole that once was the WTC. It's enough to take your breath away.

From there it was a walking tour of lower Manhattan. We walked up Broadway, the world's longest street. We took a little detour over to Chinatown and later up past Little Italy. We stopped and went into a couple of small churches. We had coffee while sharing a snack in a deli.

We wandered over to Fifth Avenue and visited the Empire State Building. It's at 32nd Street and Fifth Avenue and its main entrance faces Fifth. The building is huge at 102 stories considering it's over 70 years old. There are about 15,000 people working in the ESB and estimates are another 10,000 visit daily. That's a lot of traffic and there can be waiting lines to get in. Later in the day is usually better.

Friday evening was a special one for me, since it was my birthday. We made dinner reservations at Gallagher's Steak House on west 52nd Street. We had been there for dinner many years earlier while in New York for our honeymoon and later when we were there celebrating an anniversary. It hasn't changed. It clearly is one of the finest steak houses in NYC.

We engaged a couple sitting at the table next to us in some brief dinner chatter. They were from the UK and very friendly. It turns out they were vocalists traveling with the London Philharmonic and had performed at the Kennedy Center the evening before. Two others in their group joined them shortly and we all enjoyed some laughs. Then came the biggest surprise of all: my wife asked them if they would sing Happy Birthday to me.and they did! To say this was the most incredible version ever sung to me would not be overstating this performance.

We took a taxi to 48th Street and Lexington and then walked over to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue for a glass of wine to cap off the evening. There was some serious people watching here to be sure.

Saturday was an especially fun day. It was another beautiful, clear day as we walked down to 34th Street, one of Manhattan's main crossing streets. We walked on Lexington then Park Avenue. Finally we went over to Fifth Avenue and did a little tourist-type shopping. It's pretty easy to spend money along these streets.

We had reservations to take a boat tour circling the entire island of Manhattan. It takes four hours and passes under the nineteen bridges connecting Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. Approximately 4 million people pass over these bridges every day entering Manhattan. There are many sights to see on this tour with just a few of them being: Yankee Stadium, The Statue of Liberty, Trump Towers and of course the Empire State Building.

These tours, if you have not been on one, are well worth it. You will get insights into many parts of the city and pick up little known nuggets of information. The tours by Circle Lines leave pier 83 at 42nd Street and 12th Avenue. Try and get there early to avoid waiting lines, which will happen early in the afternoon.

After the tour we took a bus back to the area close to our hotel. We had tickets to see the play Wicked that evening at the Gershwin Theater on west 51st Street. This location is beside Times Square and right in the heart of the Theater District. The play is a musical and the production was fabulous. We ordered the tickets on line and they were waiting for us at the box office one hour before the 8:00 PM curtain time.

Before the play we had dinner at the Palm on west 50th Street. This restaurant is another very high quality NY steak house. The two dinners we had on Friday and Saturday evenings were just outstanding pure New York restaurant experiences. It was probably a little bit of overkill in the steakhouse area, but what the hey, it's not something we do very often. Besides it was a birthday weekend.

After the play we wandered around Times Square for a while, then caught a taxi back to Park Avenue and 50th Street for wine at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel again.

Sunday was our final day in New York. We had flight reservations for late afternoon so we got an early start on the day. We walked over to St. Patrick's Cathedral and participated in the 9:00 AM service. Edward Cardinal Eagan was there to celebrate Polish Day in New York and spoke briefly before the service started. It was not a typical Mass with St. Patrick's full orchestra and choir providing the musical backdrop. This is not your ordinary musical support. It was just terrific.

After the service we headed up Fifth Avenue to Central Park. It was another beautiful sunny day and a great day for a walk. We did the final tourist thing and rented a carriage for a ride through the Park. It only lasts about a 45 minutes, but it is very charming and enjoyable.

From there we walked to 7th Avenue and down to 55th Street where the Carnegie Deli is located. I had to have one of their pastrami sandwiches.about 6 or 7 inches of delicious meat on some caraway rye bread. It's not like any sandwich you can get anywhere else. At 1:00 PM there were about 25 or 30 people in line on 7th Avenue waiting to get in. We got in line and waited about 45 minutes, and it was worth every bit of that time. Months later I can still taste that pastrami!

Our trip was over. We walked one last time across Manhattan from the West side to the East side to our hotel. We picked up our bags and took a taxi to La Guardia Airport for our flight home. We took carry-on luggage to avoid waiting at the airport in baggage pick up. Most carry-on bags are perfect for the 3 to 4 day trip and they are easy to use with telescoping handles and wheels.

I'm not sure where our next long weekend trip will take us. It will take some planning and searching to find a place with this much activity crammed into three or four days.

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