Bright Lights, Big City

Lessons learned from our most recent trip. 1) Two days in New York City is not nearly enough time to do all the things on my list. 2) New York City isn’t as scary as intimidating as originally thought. We initially feared a bedbug-infested hotel room and being mugged, but NYC was just like our trips abroad.

With all those things, there is will be no hesitation of returning if timing and funding allows. But here are the things we did manage to fit in.

Empire State tourists

I had been to the Empire State Building once as a preteen on a family vacation. Paul? Never. But somehow I had implanted it into my skull that we must go there. In reality, it was a bad decision. We wasted three hours of our trip waiting to go up several elevators. Despite the incredible views and a bit of vertigo looking directly below the observation deck, the Empire State Building will always be remembered for the mad dash up five flight of stairs — floors 81-85 — to avoid additional 45 minutes of waiting time. Yes, five flights of stairs. The cardio prepared us for a long, long night of walking.

I had really, really wanted to go to this cafe that resembled a library turned on its side. We whipped out the iPad to double-check the cafe location (and only confirming myself as a tourist with several hundred dollars of equipment on me), we still could not locate it. We instead wandered up Manhattan in search of another place on my list.

On the way there, we encountered several notable sights.

Penn Station

Grand Central Station was majestic masterpiece and the hub for all trains leaving the city. Simply amazing architecture.

30 Rock

Rockefeller Center was much smaller than I had imagined but immediately recognizable from watching The Today Show and 30 Rock. The ice rink was set up and people were already skating, although the weather was near 80 degrees during our visit.

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall was only a short walk away from Rockefeller Center.


Momofuke's Birthday cake

Momofuku's Crack Pie

We were so overtaken by the prominent landmarks we walked past Momofuku’s Milk Bar twice. Maybe it was the unassuming signage or the dark interior but their crack pie was everything I imagined. The crack pie’s oat crust was filled with a sinful and luscious buttery filling. I wanted to take home several of their other baked goods but instead walked away with a variety of cookies, including a compost cookie; I made my own batch earlier this year.

We had planned to take the subway back to our hotel but were swayed by the lights of Times Square off in the distance.

Ray's NY Pizza

But first — pizza! Not just any kind of pizza but NY-style by Ray’s.

The typo in the awning outside was kind of annoying but the place was busy — always a good sign (it was now close to 10:30pm).

Ray's pizza

The crust was thin and crispy. Folding the pizza in half to eat it created a clean break. I loved my slice topped with breaded chicken, pepperoni and mushrooms. Paul’s ricotta-topped slice paled in comparison.

Free Cupcakes at Times Square

Times Square was crazy-busy and packed with people. It’s not for the faint of heart or those afraid of crowds. It is truly a sensory-overload among the lights, the smell of cooking food on the street and the noise.

After returning to our hotel room a half-hour later, my ears were still buzzing much like I had gone to a concert sans ear plugs.

The next day, we planned to leave NYC in the late afternoon to get to our rendezvous point in New Jersey. So we had a full day in front of us.

Magnolia Bakery lineup

While waiting for breakfast at The Spotted Pig with a some dear friends, we watched people go into the famed Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake breakfast. We walked in and left with nothing. Although everything looked wonderful, it was just too early in the morning for sweets.

After breakfast, we continued the visit with our friends and wandered the streets of SoHo. Seriously, Deb Aoki and Kevin Church were the best sightseeing guides and retail therapy companions you could ask for. They kept us entertained as we explored New York on a mini walking tour. We were having so much fun, we eventually worked up an appetite for — you guessed it — cupcakes. Miniature Stuffed Cupcakes!

Mini cupcake stand

Half dozen cupcakes

A half dozen cupcakes were $2.50 and the perfect size to pop into your mouth.

Eventually, we had to go to the convention center — after all, we were in Manhattan for a comic convention. Afterward, we had to race into New Jersey to meet my brother.

Up next: I’m Always Hungry in Philadelphia

9 thoughts on “Bright Lights, Big City

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  1. hi darlene – those mini stuffed cupcakes are so cute! did they taste any good though? two days is such a short time in nyc too. you’ve got to take another trip! 🙂 loved your pix too, esp. of the view from the empire state (i spy the flat iron building – the park it’s next to has the shake shack) and grand central station.

    1. The cupcakes were good! Usually with the regular sized cupcakes, I never get a full take of cake WITH the frosting. With the mini cupcakes, it seemed to be the perfect size. When I returned back to San Diego, I wanted to immediately book a return trip to NYC so I could go to all the places I had missed.

  2. I went to NYC for one day when I was in college – you definitely need more than a few days to explore it all! Those mini cupcakes are way cute, too.

  3. I’ve never been to New York City and the bedbug thing is scary. But from your photos, it looks like a lot of fun!

  4. 2 days is definitely too short! So many places to eat in NYC. The pizza looks yummy and mini stuffed cupcakes!!! soo cute! I can’t believe you walked out of Magnolia with nothing!

  5. Two days in New York City is enough time if you pace yourself. But I would omit going to any of the boroughs and concentrate on Manhattan. That pizza looks fantastic!

  6. You didn’t miss anything at Magnolia’s. If you can make a cake from a box of Duncan Hines, you can make the same thing at home.

    A few places for your list for next time:
    Grand Central Market in Grand Central Station

    Chelsea Market – in the old Nabisco factory that used to be the home to the Oreo. It’s now the home to the Food Network and a bunch of foodie shops. Try to go there late Saturday afternoon and stick around to watch the free tango dancing lessons in the hallways in the early evening.

    The Burger Joint @ Le Parker Meridian – walk into the hotel and wander around until you find the reservations desk. Look to the right, back in the corner, for brown curtains. In the corner you will see a *small* neon burger, maybe 9′ off the ground. (This can be hard to find.) Enter behind the curtains there, and walk down the hall (if there isn’t a line). Read the directions closely and follow them! (IIRC, cash only.)

    BTW, the bed bugs are locals, they might not hang out too much in the hotels. 😉

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