We got to spend five glorious days in New York City for our tenth anniversary. No kids. No work. No agenda. Just Chris and Mary Graham exploring the city that never sleeps.
We had the best time. We booked a hotel and bought flights months in advance, but other than that, we had no expectations. I had a few pages of ideas in a notebook and each night, we’d take off our shoes to rest our weary feet and make a plan for the next day. It was very low-key and no pressure. Chris had been to NYC as a child and I’d been multiple times in my twenties, but we’d never been there together and our only real goal was to just be together. We travel all the time, but with kids and that is VERY different (I’m sure this had not occurred to you before I mentioned it). Exploring a place with just my spouse was exciting on a different level.
How we tackled New York City: every night we’d sit on our hotel bed with my notebook list of things to do and a map of the city. We’d pick a place to go the next day and then figure out what else was nearby that we wanted to hit. I love this approach because it was based solely on our immediate interests (we didn’t decide months in advance to do something that we no longer were interested in) and it was flexible enough to give us time to have plans but also just fly by the seats of our pants. When we travel, I’m a random mix of plan-all-the-things and let’s-just-see-what-happens. This is the opposite of my daily life so it feels risky and new. For food, we had a few places we wanted to try but as always, we relied heavily on the Yelp app to find places based on where we had ended up or where we wanted to be.
We shared a lot of our adventures on Instagram through stories and pictures and most people wanted to know a daily agenda so they could plan their own trips so that’s how I’m sharing our trip. Here’s what we did each day (sort of in order, as much as I can with a horrible memory) and what’s feasible to do in a day.
(Random tidbits: we walked 9-13 miles a day. We did take the subway occasionally when we were traveling far, but you miss so much when you’re underground so we just wore comfortable shoes and walked walked walked. We also ate a TON of food and even when we weren’t hungry we reasoned that we just had to try that place because we wouldn’t have the opportunity again. So walk a lot because you’re going to eat non stop and it all evens out. Sort of. We left our hotel room most days around 9:00-9:30 and were gone all day, and then we’d stumble back to our hotel around 7:00 or 8:00 each evening. While the city never sleeps, the Grahams did; we ran ourselves ragged during the day and since it was a vacation, we took advantage of no kids waking up early.)
We stayed at Yotel near the theater and restaurant districts and would stay there again in a heartbeat. We could walk to so many great places, had access to the bus station if we needed it, and were near Times Square and tons of shopping too. If you need a place to stay, I would highly recommend Yotel.
Thursday (we arrived early afternoon)
–Friedman’s in Hell’s Kitchen for a late lunch; get the herb fries and the sweet potato fries.
-Hudson River & the USS Intrepid
-explore Times Square & the Theater District
-evening snack of pizza from 2 Bros Pizza (this is a legit NYC pizza place where you buy by the slice with very little seating; up your tourist cred by walking around as you eat your giant slices)
-breakfast at Cosmic Diner
–Radio City Music Hall
–St. Patrick’s Cathedral
–Museum of Modern Art
–Central Park (south end)
–Wafles and Dinges (DELICIOUS)
–American Museum of Natural History
-dinner at Kodama Sushi (they also deliver to Yotel if you’re too tired to eat there)
-breakfast at Dean & Deluca because I watched Felicity in the 90s and I couldn’t pass it up
-World Trade Center site & 9/11 Memorial
–Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island tour
-Chinatown for pot stickers and the best noodles I’ve ever had (Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles)
-dessert at Juicy Spot (where they do this!)
-stroll on the Brooklyn Bridge (it’s a lot longer than I imagined; also really crowded)
-explore Brooklyn (we took the subway back home because we were exhausted by this point)
-pizza from 2 Bros Pizza again
-brunch at Cookshop (it was a very Sex and the City place so I felt very chic and fancy pants here)
-walk the Highline path (don’t miss this; busy but worth it)
-wander around Chelsea, stopping at any bookstore we could find (Idlewild Books and Three Lives & Company)
–New York Public Library (all the rooms! plus the Rose Room!)
–Grand Central Station (in the basement we had Magnolia Bakery cupcakes which were not as impressive as people make them out to be; the lower level has tons of yummy food options, so go hungry. We also spent a lot of time in the Market smelling and touching things. So many great things to eat there. We ended up going back to this market before our plane home. We filled up on meat, fresh, warm bread, and delicious cheeses to eat at the airport and to enjoy once we got home. *SIGH*)
-late lunch at Sarge’s Delicatessen for an authentic pastrami sandwich. They also have amazing sweet potato fries, so get those while you’re there.
-evening church service at Hillsong Church in Times Square (ehh, it was interesting.)
-snack/really late dinner takeout: I had more noodles from Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles II, this time from their Times Square location and Chris had chicken from Sticky’s Finger Joint. Both are within walking distance of Yotel.
Monday (our plane home left late evening)
-breakfast at Westway Diner which is famous, apparently, because it’s where Seinfeld and Larry David conceived the idea for the Seinfeld show.
-more exploring in Central Park, this time the middle and north parts
–Church of the Heavenly Rest (they have a free book cart that got me all jazzed up)
–Two Little Red Hens Bakery (a friend said get their cheesecake, but I’m not a huge fan of cheesecake so I got their triple chocolate cupcake and it made my life infinitely better.)
-explore the Upper Eastside
-hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya (Anthony Bourdain raves about this place on his show.)
-back to Grand Central Market for more food
We came home fat and happy. When we got married in 2006, we didn’t take a honeymoon because we were broke and it was in the middle of the school year and only a two-day fall break. So our ten year anniversary trip to New York City was the perfect celebration of our marriage and not killing each other yet. Chris has already said we’re going back for twenty.
*I used this article for things to see and do in Central Park and it did not disappoint.
*I also used this list to make part of my notebook to-do list; it’s full of great ideas for your visit.