My New York Vacation and Tips (Part 1)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Earlier this year I had the crazy idea to go on vacation somewhere crazy without my kids. My brother and his wife agreed to stay at my house for a week this Summer so Ryan and I could go to New York City! We used Ryan's Delta Sky Miles to buy the tickets and then splurged to get a hotel right in the middle of it all.

I did tons of research before going and I learned a lot while there.
Tips will be highlighted in red.

Tip: Before going I bought a new camera and theft-proof bags. I bought the Pacsafe Venturesafe 200 Compact Travel Bag for myself and the Pacsafe Venturesafe 150 for Ryan (You will see both bags in the photos to follow). I also brought a lot of cash and made sure it wasn't all in the same place. Ryan and I both put $100 dollar bills in our shoes for an emergency. The rest of the cash we carried were smaller bills (cab drivers will likely tell you they don't have change so they can keep a big tip). I found that having exact change was very helpful. 

We stayed at Park Central Hotel which was a block away from Times Square, Central Park, and Broadway. I read all of the reviews and knew that the hotel was old and had slow elevators. I chose this hotel because it has pillow top mattresses and was close to everything. Out of all the reviews of Park Central, none of them complained about the beds and that was very important to me.
When we arrived at 2:00 am, they had given our room away even though we called ahead to let them know we would arrive late. We had to wait along with several other unhappy guests for 30 minutes while they found a room.
Our view was of a brick wall, but it was quiet with no street noise.

Tip: A really great thing about our hotel is that we were able to get a mini fridge in our room (no extra charge). We found a market just a block away and we went there every night and bought water (it was only 50 cents a bottle at the market, but $2 or $3 at all the tourist attractions). We also bought fruit, yogurt and other breakfast items and snacks. In the morning we had breakfast right in our hotel room for a lot less than the hotel lobby and local restaurants. It also saved us a lot of time so that we could get to sightseeing quicker. The trail mix and snacks came in very handy during the day.

If I ever go to New York again, I will probably save money by staying outside of Manhattan and take the Subway in. However, I am very glad that we stayed close to everything for our first trip.

First Day in New York
We saw Kathie Lee in the NBC Digital Cafe; She was filming her segment on The Today Showand asking audience questions. It was too crowded so we went back outside and were walking past where they film the Today Show (the big window where you can actually see them filming the show), when I heard a familiar voice. I turned around to see Kathie Lee right behind me only inches away and right on my heels!

Here is a photo from the show on July 18th and that is the window we stood outside.

While walking around Rockefeller Center  we saw This Old House filming a segment called Ask This Old House. We got to meet Kevin Oconnor and Richard Trethewey and ask them a couple of questions which may or may not be on TV this September. Since asking them our questions I thought of a million better ones, but it is really hard to think on the spot like that with a microphone and camera in your face!

Richard and Kevin are the 2 in the middle of this photo. They are really nice guys in person, but not very helpful. Their answers to our questions were just to tear down the wall or dig up the yard (We asked how to find a leaky drain and how to find some lost sprinkler valves in the yard).

Then we went on the NBC Studio Tour and saw these famous studios:
The Dr. Oz Show, Saturday Night Live, msnbc, and more.

After that we went to the top of the Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock) for some really great views of the city. The elevator goes up 67 floors in 39 seconds, causing your ears to pop.

We found a really cute bakery cafe called Pie Face.

Tip: We bought week long Metro cards for $30 each. The only time we took a taxi was from the airport to our hotel at 2:00 am. We relied solely on the Subway system for the entire week and saved tons of money. We felt sorry for all of the tourists riding those over-priced double decker tourist buses. They always had long lines to get on a bus and they were always in the hot sun or rain (the top of the bus is open). We had a Subway entrance right next to our hotel and were able to go anywhere in just a few minutes. It took us a couple of tries to figure out the Subway system, but New Yorkers are super nice and helpful. Subway maps are available for free at hotels and in the subway.

That night we saw the second half of Spiderman on Broadway. Someone hadn't come to pick up their tickets and the doorman sold them to us for half price during intermission.

Second Day in New York
We started our day at the Empire State Building.
Tip: I had read that the lines can get really long and it is best to go before 11:00 am. We were still on Utah time so the earliest we could get ourselves up was 9:00 am which was like 7:00 am for us. We made it to the Empire State Building by 10:00 am where we had a very short line and were at the top in less than 30 minutes (I had read that it took between 1-3 hours to get to the top).

Tip: Take binoculars
We bought these binoculars before our trip and were really glad we had them. We could see things like the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks. We also took them to all the Broadway shows (most of our seats were far back).

Meg Ryan waiting for the man of her dreams at the top of the Empire State Building.

Me with the man of my dreams at the top of the Empire State Building.
We paid extra to go the last few floors to the very top. There were not as many people there and it was a much smaller area.

After the Empire State Building we walked around the area.
We walked by this old, ornate Catholic church and decided to take a peek inside. It was BEAUTIFUL!!! The interior was lit entirely by hundreds of candles, the ceilings were tall with beautiful carvings and paintings. There was a beautiful carving of Christ at the front and it was so quiet and peaceful. I love that anyone off the street can walk in and pray/meditate. There were a couple of people sitting in the benches meditating and it felt really spiritual and sacred. There are hundreds of old, elaborate, and beautiful chapels in Manhattan; I could spend an entire vacation just visiting them all and admiring their beauty.

While wandering around we found Grand Central Station.
Can you find me in the picture below?

There is also a Subway station inside, so from Grand Central we took a train uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met). We spent 3 hours there and only saw half the museum. The place is enormous!

I love Renoir and Degas and could have spent an entire week in these rooms.

This is my favorite show of all time! 
I have seen all of the episodes at least 3 times or more and they make me laugh every time. The writers are insanely whitty and Jim Parsons is by far the best part of the show. I also love Kaley Cuoco's character, Penny. Amy Farrah Fowler is the female version of Sheldon and she is another one of my favorites played by Mayim Bialik (TV's Blossom). Anyway, I LOVE this show! When I found out that Jim Parsons was going to be on Broadway this July in Harvey, it sort of was in my subconscious when I chose to take a vacation in New York in July. I bought Harvey tickets before booking a hotel or planning anything else.

Jim Parsons did not disappoint in Harvey and it was worth every Penny.
The play was full of big stars like Carol Kane, Larry Bryggman, Jessica Hecht, and Charles Kimbrough.

I bought a poster and waited outside the back entrance along with tons of other fans. Ryan had scouted out the area before the play and made sure I was up front. While we were waiting for Jim Parsons to come out, Kaley Cuoco stopped by and she even signed my poster!

Ryan went across the street so he could get a photo of me with Jim Parsons, but the crowd went crazy when he came out and this was the best he could get.
I got his signature right next to Kaley's! I was so pumped up that I had a really hard time sleeping that night.

Click below for the rest of the adventure:


  1. WOW your really rocked the Big Apple.... favorite places, food, TV, Broadway, Metropolitan wow wow time I go, I want to take you to show me your boogie'n travel style. Great post.

  2. How exciteing, I am having a virtual vacation via your blog :) maybe one day I'll have my own escape to the big apple :)

  3. What a fabulous vacation, I really enjoyed your travelogue.

  4. WOW your really rocked the Big Apple.... favorite places, food, TV, Broadway, Metropolitan wow wow time I go, I want to take you to show me your boogie'n travel style. Great post.

  5. I Love NY too and could live there. It amazes me everytime I visit. YOur picts are fabulous.

  6. I 100% Agree with you, EVERYONE should go to NYC at least once in their lifetime.

    I was also in the Big Apple in July (17-20, not nearly long enough!!) and spent many hours researching good hotel deals and the likes.

    Check out my blog, An Awesome Life ( to see my two posts on NYC.

    We stayed in Queens this time (first time was spent right in the hub of it all) and were able to find MUCH cheaper hotels and, as you know, the subway is a breeze to use so it made no difference to us that we were a bit farther out. Times Square was a 12 minute subway ride for us, so really not far at all.

    A great idea for seeing the sights for less is the New York Pass - I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but it gets you into over 70 attractions for one price (included are Empire State, Top of the Rock, the Met, Museum of Natural History and many others). Truly an excellent deal - I highly recommend to anyone hitting up the Big Apple!

    Cheers! :-)