New York City is one of our favorite places in the world. We were lucky to spend the last four days there.
One of my great motivators to build wealth is so that we can travel and see more of this amazing world without fear, guilt, or stress about how traveling impacts our finances. Every year I worry less about how much we spend on travel, because every year we own more assets (stocks and real-estate) that fill our bank accounts back up with fresh cash when we get home. We had a little taste of our future as we spent last weekend exploring New York City, New York.
We biked around Central Park; went to a Broadway show; visited the 9/11 memorial museum; and even made it to a Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden. It was our second time being in New York City. We fell in love with it even more this time around. To us, New York City is like a best friend that we have to visit every once in awhile to catch up. This article is about how to make the most out of a trip to New York City, from 2 people who love it like it’s part of their family.
Why do we think New York City is one of the most magical places on the planet? It’s the only city I’ve ever been in that feels like the streets and towers go on forever when you’re in the middle of it. Every block is different. You pass thousands of other people every minute, and every person you see there is dramatically different. Fashionistas, Wall Street Bankers, Tourist, and homeless people all share the same landscape and make it their own. As you walk the streets, you see every race, age, subculture, and hear every language. New York City is like walking through a snow globe of the world, and every type of person you can find in the world is right there on all the streets in New York City.
OUR FIRST TRIP TO NEW YORK: A TOUR BUS.
The first time we visited New York City was 3 years ago. We took a train into the city from Jersey, and stepped into Penn Station in the heart of downtown and the beginning of this urban wonderland. We didn’t know what we should do on our first trip there, so we took a recommendation from one of my business clients back home and bought 2-day passes on a sightseeing hop on/hop off bus.
This turned out to be a fantastic idea because it was a GREAT way to get familiar with the entire city. The buses ran into a continuous loop and they allowed us to hop-on and hop-off the bus and see all the most important destinations in the city. The bus passes were around $100, but well worth it. It was like having a personal all-inclusive taxi that took us to all the best places New York had to offer.
If you’re going to New York City for the first time, and don’t know much about the city, or what to do, we would definitely recommend taking one of the bus tours. It’s a great way to get familiar with the entire city, and then once you know the city, it’s easy to come back again like we did on this trip and you’ll know exactly where you want to go next time.
The purpose for this New York trip was to attend my cousin’s wedding on Long Island Saturday. So we flew into New York City a few days before the wedding. I will warn you right now: New York is fun, but you will get exhausted wandering around the concrete maze of streets all day. New York City is NOT a relaxing vacation, so try to get as much sleep as you can before you arrive. Before this trip began, we made an outline with some of the things that we wanted to do.
My wife, Amanda, loves Broadway musicals so she said she wanted to see a Broadway show. Personally, I like rock and roll concerts more, and after doing a Google search, I saw that Billy Joel was playing one of his famous residency concerts at Madison Square Garden on Friday night. So those two events made up our plans for the evenings. Then we just had to decide what we wanted to do during the day.
CENTRAL PARK, NEW YORK CITY
The last time we were in New York City we only had time to see the very southern edge of Central Park. Being an outdoors lover, I wanted to see more of the park on this trip. So on Thursday afternoon, we rented bikes and rode them around the entire park.
On Thursday afternoon, while we were walking from Times Square towards the park, we noticed a man holding a sign that said, “Bike rentals.” We stopped and inquired about the bikes, and to my surprise he walked us to the bike rental place, and gave us a GREAT deal. The normal bike rental fee from the store was $40 for 4 hours, but since he was making commission on anyone he brought to the store during a slow week-day, he offered us 2 bikes for $16 for 4 hours! We eagerly paid the $16 and took the bikes out toward Central Park.
We entered Central Park near Columbus Circle, and we spent the next two hours biking around a 6 mile loop that goes around the entire park. We stopped a few times to watch people sail remote-controlled sailboats on a small lake inside Central Park, and we walked around the Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir, that looks like a lake, inside Central Park. We biked all the way to the northern edge of the park and were amazed by how hilly the North end of the park was. There was some seriously intense hills to climb on our bikes, and we noticed a lot of hiking trails that veered off the main bike path into the woods and hills that I’d love to explore on another visit to New York City.
After 2 hours of biking we finally made it around the entire park and stopped by Strawberry Fields and the “Imagine” mosaic which are a tribute to John Lennon of the Beatles who was shot and killed not far from where the memorial now sits on the south west side of Central Park.
Earlier in the day, we had visited the TKTS booth in Times Square where they sell legit last-minute discounted tickets to Broadway shows, and we had picked up two $135 tickets, which we negotiated for $100, to the Broadway play, “Dear Evan Hansen.”
We finished our bike ride around Central Park around 5 PM, and our Broadway tickets were for 7 PM. We walked several blocks back to Times Square and took our seats at the play. The play was a modern tragedy, and I’d give it between 7 and 8 stars out of 10, but I’m not much of a theater guy so you don’t have to listen to my review. Last time we saw Wicked on Broadway and that was hard to top! I’d give Wicked 10 out of 10 stars. After the play, we wandered back to our hotel, and I grabbed a deli sandwich on the way. That’s the other thing I love about New York City: There is food everywhere and it’s just fun to buy random items from delis that look good and eat as you walk the streets.
9/11 Museum in New York City
We fell asleep exhausted, and when we woke the next morning, we decided we’d learn how to take the subway from Times Square to the southern tip of Manhattan where the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the 9/11 memorial are located. We ate lunch on the way and enjoyed our first subway ride now that we were real “New Yorkers” who knew how to get around on public transit and didn’t need a cab or tourist buses to get to the places we wanted to go.
When we got to the 9/11 ground zero site, we realized we had a few hours to burn before the Billy Joel concert, so we bought $24 tickets to the 9/11 museum next to the Twin Tower reflecting pools. At first, I was a little hesitant to pay the $24 to visit the museum, because the building looked so small from the outside. I thought there’s no way such a tiny building could be that interesting. But I was WAY wrong!
The 9/11 museum building you see on the street level is only a tiny fraction of the full 9/11 museum, because the rest of the museum is all underground and it is HUGE! It encompasses the original foundations where the Twin Towers once stood, and where it’s steel beams were anchored into the bedrock. While underground, we were able to walk around both of the original foundations of the Twin Towers, and see some of the preserved wreckage that has been preserved underground. We finally walked through the last exhibit which chronicles the day of the 9/11 attack. It begins with videos of the terrorists walking through security in the airports before boarding the planes. The exhibit trail walks inside one of the towers, and ends with artifacts showing all the devastation that happened on that day.
I felt angry, scared, curious, and thoughtful all at once as I walked through the massive underground museum. I am not a man who gets emotional, or cries easily, but I did get choked up a few times reliving the horrible act of terrorism that took place that day.
After two hours of extreme emotions, we decided we’d had enough and it was time to go. I entered the museum thinking a $24 admission was on the steep side of what I was willing to pay. But I left not regretting spending it. I’ll never forget the two hours we spent underground walking on the bedrock foundation of the original twin towers. The entire experience made me curious to learn more about the terrorists, plot, and exactly how everything happened that day.
Days later, I found myself googling questions I’d never thought about before, like: “How did the hijackers get inside the cockpits of the planes?” I am sure I’ll be watching more documentaries about 9/11 in the coming weeks to try to learn more. Visiting the museum was an experience I will never forget, and it made 9/11 much more real to me.
After walking out of the museum’s preserved underground lair, we sat in the 80 degree sunshine and collected ourselves for awhile. Eventually, we walked down to the southern tip of Manhattan and sat on a park bench in Battery Park which overlooks the bay where the Statue of Liberty stands.
I honestly could stare at the Statue of Liberty for days and just think about all those millions of immigrants who once arrived into America through that bay, and what they must have been feeling as they left their old homes behind and searched for new homes here in America. I kept thinking that my ancestors, and probably your ancestors, arrived in this exact spot looking for a new and better life in America. Thinking all these thoughts also inspired a great sense of sadness inside of me as I thought about all the Native American cultures that once existed in the west, and whose lives and cultures were about to change dramatically because of all the new cultures flooding into America though the same bay I was looking at.
Madison Square Garden: New York City
Before leaving to New York City, we decided not to buy the concert tickets and hoped the second-hand ticket market would drop as we got closer to the show. It did. Tickets to the concert were $150 each before we left, and an hour before the show they dropped to $50. We bought 2 $50 tickets, and walked into Madison Square Garden to cross a dream off of my bucket list: Seeing a concert at Madison Square Garden.
In the end, the Billy Joel concert was well worth the $100 we spent, and it was a night we’ll never forget. After the show, we walked back to our hotel through Times Square again and looked up at all the giant billboards glowing in the sky. We got our bags, and booked a $77 LYFT ride at midnight to get to our next hotel on Long Island, where the rest of my family was gathering for the wedding.
Our Lyft driver said he was from the country Tibet on the 40 minute drive from Manhattan to Long Island. He said the country of Tibet no longer exists after China conquered and acquired it in 1950, so he was a man who’s culture no longer had a country. He said he’d moved to the borough of Queens as a refugee (One of the five boroughs of New York City) and had lived there for the last 10 years.
As we drove out of New York City, I asked him: “Do you like living in New York?”
He said, “At first, I didn’t. It is so unlike the country I came from. But New York and America grows on you. The longer you live here, the more you realize that you can be whoever you want to be here and nobody cares. It’s nobody else’s business who you become, and I have started to like that way of life.”
We drove in silence the rest of the way. His comment, I think, sums up the New York and American attitude that I love.
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