Here's my FABULOUS NYC story! WITH all of the craptastic pictures! I wrote it on 13 November 2008.
How to Be An Accidental Tourist for Free (or Cheap Anyway)
Just make sure it's somewhere you want to go, and have talked about visiting, but make no concrete plans to go there.
Do no research on where attractions/sights are located.
And go in the middle of the night. 3 am is good.
That's what we did.
Scott and I had talked about taking a side trip somewhere while in Albany--to Niagara Falls (too far) or Montreal (forgot...no passport) or New Hampshire (to Dartmouth where I went to college and where Bobby was born) or to New York City (Manhattan). We never got our ducks lined in a row (or whatever old colloquialism one uses when one wishes to say that plans were never organized or solidified) so we just let it go and decided to "one day" go "somewhere."
Scott's job in Albany ended last Friday. He'd been up there for at least six weeks. Honestly, I lost count. I had driven up there twice with the kids, and am pretty darn proud of myself if you don't mind my saying so. After getting on the road this last time to head home (well, actually, to Charlotte) we took a different route to New Jersey. Accidentally of course. I just couldn't remember what I had done the time before when I drove home.
So we get to the New Jersey coast, and see the George Washington Bridge. I informed my husband that it was the George Washington Bridge.
"Does that take you into Manhattan?" he inquired.
"Yes, but it's the...non-tourist-y part of Manhattan. Upper Manhattan. Harlem. Not where all of the let's-go-see-that things are," was my response.
To which he responded, "Let's go!"
"Honey, it's the middle of the night! I'm not at all familiar with Harlem. I don't know where to go, and don't WANT to go."
That was basically the end of the discussion, as he talked me into it and I went along happily, because, hey, what could happen?
So we pay our eight dollars and cross the George Washington Bridge. Scott was a little bummed that we weren't on the top level of the bridge, but we could still see everything. It was lovely. We got into New York, and were instantly non-plussed with what we saw. I told him it would be this way. We were heading to the Bronx. I let him know that if we continued on this path we would end up in Connecticut, and needed to turn around. We did.
Coming back toward the bridge, we decided to take the last exit before it, which was the Hudson Expressway or something like that bridge. Scott was determined to see SOMETHING of New York City. I didn't blame him. I wanted to see, well, something, too. And if it didn't lead to anything interesting we would just turn around and head back.
What it led to was an expressway that goes down the entire island, with Manhattan on the left and the river and New Jersey coastline on the right. It looked almost like the river would come right up to our vehicle. It was awesome.
We're basically gawking at the coast and all of the buildings and every block we pass. The street numbers are decreasing...fifty-something street, forty-something street. "Hey! We're heading toward the touristy part! The street numbers are getting lower!" I exclaimed. Scott got really excited, as did I. "Woohoo" and "Yay" were things I said a lot. I've been to New York about five or six times, but it was years ago and it was Bronx, Brooklyn, and Harlem. I had never seen any of the things that come to mind when one thinks of New York City, save the Brooklyn Bridge. I was very excited at the prospect of maybe seeing at least one popular spot. Of course, neither of us knew where any of the popular spots were located.
This is a craptastic picture of a ship.
We come to a red light, and on the water is this HUGE ship, all lit up with red, white, and blue lights. (I'm now wondering if it was the Intrepid.) I told Scott to just make a left there, since we were wondering where and when to turn and head back. We make the left.
We then realize, upon noticing the street sign, that it's 34th Street.
Craptastic photo of Macy's.
"Thirty-fourth Street! We're on Thirty-fourth Street! We're on miracle-on-Thirty-fourth Street!" I exclaimed, and immediately looked up to see the Macy's building. "Oh my gosh! That's where they have the parade!"
That was just the beginning.
What else did we see?
Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, that really fancy McDonalds, the New York Times Building, the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron District and the Flatiron Building, Broadway, Madison Avenue, Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Battery Park, Times Square, the Chelsea Meatpacking District, and Ground Zero.
We even ran into mega-music producer Swizz Beats, as we ended up pulling up behind his Maybach at a gas station in the Financial District.
All at 3:30 in the morning!
We couldn't believe it. We couldn't have managed to do that if we had planned it! We were so psyched. Bobby was pretty amazed. Even Ian woke up and was fascinated by all of the buildings and lights.
We went through Lincoln Tunnel and got back into New Jersey, and as we got onto the Turnpike, we looked over to the left and saw the freakin STATUE OF LIBERTY.
We drove for about five minutes with our mouths just hanging open I think. We had just seen, in an hour, New York City. For eight bucks. We did miss few things--the Empire State Building, Central Park, Wall Street, Lincoln Center--but we couldn't have asked for a better "side trip."
And now I'm sitting here looking at Natalie, wearing her little onesie with the cupcakes on it. It says "Mommy's Little Sweetie." Indeed she is. She makes me smile.
I know that had nothing to do with the subject, but I don't care. I'm smiling.