Concrete Jungle Where Families Come Together

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Ahhh it’s been too long my dearest NYC. 

My last trek to the city was back in 2015 with the whole O’Hara clan. I’d been itching to get back up there as we used to go quite regularly while growing up. Need a new pair of boots? NYC trip. 13th birthday? 16th birthday? New Broadway Show with phenomenal music? NYC.

THIS trip was even more exciting for another reason… Family friends of ours who used to live in California and who have since relocated to Arizona were coming to the Big Apple for the youngest’s College Graduation trip. TBH I hadn’t seen any of them in about 22 years… Yes. You read that correctly. Over 2 decades.

I was hoping to see them a few years back in Cali when the oldest “cousin” got married, but it was the same weekend as a college roommate of mine so I split to Lynchburg, VA while the family jetted across the country.

I was around 7 years old when we took the trip to California. My uncle lived out in LA for a while, but I can’t remember if we visited him first or if this was our first trip. I just remember it was a time when airlines used to serve kids meals in coach (with a stuffed plane toy like a happy meal) and Dad used to get special perks which allowed us into the cockpit of the plane to meet the pilots and DO NOT TOUCH ANY OF THE BUTTONS.

Little Brother was around a year old at the time, and there were quite a few firsts for that trip. His first haircut, we went to Universal Studios & Disney Land, Saw Gloria Estefan in concert AND handed her roses/shook her hand on stage *cue the I’m-never-washing-this-hand-again promises*, Uncle Denny tried to teach us how to water ski, and plenty more fun.

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Yes, I still have the newspaper from the day after the concert, That’s August 17, 1996

I luckily had enough credit card points to purchase my direct flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia and met the family late on Thursday night for our stay at the Renaissance Times Square. After all the hello hugs, we headed up to the restaurant lobby for a quick snack, and then to get a good night’s rest before Mom & My tour guide services would be needed.

One of the best parts about staying in a hotel with Mom & Dad is that Dad reverts back into the old Softball tournament ways and finds breakfast to bring back to the room 🙂 The even BETTER part about sharing a hotel room with Mom & Dad in NYC is that the breakfast he brings back, is New York Bagels!! Breakfast in Bed, why yes I am on vacation – You’re the best Daddio!

The hotel was centrally located to just about everything – right in the heart of Times Square so Mom & I planned our loop to see the most we could before the rain was supposed to start.

First Stop? Central Park of course! A quick 13 blocks straight up 7th Ave allowed us to wander in the natural beauty of the park that almost feels like you’re in a completely different place. It looks like a giant rectangle from the sky, but when you’re in it the paths wander and roll, bringing you up to lots of memorable movie locations such as the Bethesda Fountain in the Boathouse area (27 Dresses, Elf, Maid of Honor) and Literary Walk on the Mall (EnchantedDefinitely, Maybe and about 194729 other movies).

Then up to the Met, and back down to the Plaza (Bride Wars, Eloise)… I’ll be honest, I don’t know Eloise. But our friends were very fond of her, just…. not the $500 toddler dress available in the shop downstairs.

Since we were on 5th ave, we just haaaad to stop into Tiffany & Co of course – but we were all pretty taken aback by the $22,000.00 price tag on a custom Tiffany’s Huffy Beach Cruiser bicycle. We headed up to the only floor we could afford – the Sterling Silver section, but did not leave with any blue bags in hand.

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About this time it was getting close to lunch so we started to wander towards Rockefeller plaza (where the Christmas tree and ice rink is usually set) however in the summer it transforms into a lovely outdoor cafe.

NYC is almost like Disney World in the sense that there are hidden gems under the streets. In our case – our lunch spot for the day. Sadly though, there’s never enough seating so like a good New Yorker – you sit wherever you find available, even if that means the floor.

We did a little more shopping before deciding last minute to head to the Met’s Game as the rain was supposed to hold off for us! A quick stop at my usual favorite (Grand Slam in Times Square) for a replacement of NY Yankees Boxers as mine were over 15 years old and sporting holes – plus some fairly well priced sweatshirts. Then we jumped on the subway and off to Citi Field!

A  Met’s win sent us back home on the Subway tuckered out with over 20k steps on the day. We all slept fairly hard that evening in preparation for Saturday’s Broadway Matinee!

It rained on us almost all day, and wasn’t seeming to let up but we kept on like New Yorkers do and walked down to Macy’s to ride the wooden escalators….

And then on to the Gershwin Theater to enjoy Wicked on Broadway – Mom & My second time seeing the show, Dad and the rest of the gang’s first. We had planned to change into proper Theater-wear, but by the time we got back and considering the next walk – we were going to be soaked anyway so we went as is.

I do love this show – the music is moving and the lighting/effects are really breathtaking. We looked at Daddio at intermission and asked him what he thought after Defying Gravity, and all he could say was “WOW”. 🙂

The rain did let up a little bit after the show and we headed back to the hotel to regroup and find dinner at one of my old favorite bars off Times Square – The Mean Fiddler. I found this spot while interning with CBS Sports the summer of 2009 and fell in love with it. The staff is all from different parts of Ireland so if their accents don’t get you – I don’t know what’s wrong with you. The food is good pub food, the beers are cold & below the main restaurant is a space for karaoke, salsa dancing, etc. depending on the night! I stumbled back to my apartment a time or two from there that summer.

Because it was also a celebration weekend for my parents (34th wedding anniversary) the waitress we had brought the entire table of 7 Cinnamon Toast Crunch shots and then took the boomerang of all of us!

With our tummy’s full we decided to jump in with the rest of the tourists at the M&M and Hershey’s stores right next to our hotel for the sugar fix. Hershey’s store is definitely more affordable than M&Ms (although you can choose your individual colors & flavors) plus they give you a fun size Hershey bar as you walk in the door – Just like at the end of the ride at Hershey Park!

All of our tired butts headed back to the hotel for bed and the final stops Sunday before flights out of town. We went together to Daddio’s Bagel spot for breakfast, Pick-A-Bagel on 8th ave, and with the tiny restaurant so packed, we came back to the Firefighter’s memorial park on 47th ave. We all reminisced on our favorite parts of the weekend and started planning for our next trip together… maybe New Orleans?! 😉 But definitely not in the thick of summer – maybe in the Fall…. October.

A couple of us headed back towards St. Patrick’s Cathedral and took in a piece of Sunday Mass while admiring the artwork inside. I jumped in an uber with the extended family for a ride back to the airport while Mom & Dad called their car for the 4.5 hour drive back to Virginia.

I really lucked out with my flights – not only because they were technically free, but when I arrived back at LaGuardia to head home to Charlotte I didn’t have a seat assignment yet. So I breezed through TSA Pre-Check (totally worth it not to have to remove electronics & shoes) and onto my gate where I was placed in the exit row, window seat.

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My little legs were happy for the extended space and I arrived back in the Queen City with NY Bagels in my backpack for the following week.

A great time back in my home away from home – you know that total relaxation feeling you get when you walk in the front door to your home after a long day? That’s how I feel in New York City. While I wouldn’t be able to live there again, I like my space too much, I know where I am and how to get where I want to go when I’m there. The people really aren’t all as rude/mean as you think they are – you can ask anybody down in the subway for Directions and they’re happy to help.

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