Christmas Vacation: Part II

We did lots of classic “New York” things while we were in the city, but we also indulged in some tourist spots like Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Today I’m going to share two classic New York things you must do if you ever visit!

Brooklyn Bridge

 I mentioned yesterday that we shopped in Chinatown and dined in Little Italy, but then I convinced everyone that we should go see the Brooklyn Bridge. Well, really, I put everyone on the subway in that direction. 😉 My mom wanted to go too, but my brothers were getting tired at this point!

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We walked up the stairs of the subway and saw this cute little park area. This is one of the reasons I love being in a city…tall, historic buildings with some hidden peaceful greens in the middle.

There were SO many people headed across the bridge. One lane for pedestrians, one lane for bikers…and everyone going across and back. There were also little stands of NYC souvenirs, but the funniest item for sale were selfie sticks. Everyone needs one, apparently!

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We made good use of ours…

…and the views were spectacular! Check out that light post with all the locks on it. Just like the Lock Bridge in Europe! #kinda

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If you ever visit the Brooklyn Bridge, I definitely recommend just going for it and really walking all the way across into Brooklyn! There’s a subway stop not too far away from the other end, plus when you get towards the middle, the crowds thin and you can really appreciate the bridge and the scenery. I know it sounds crazy to appreciate a bridge, but if my brothers found enjoyment in this, you definitely will too. 🙂

Bryant Park

Okay, so I’ve been to the city at least once a year for the past few years, but I have never made it to Bryant Park! With its close proximity to Times Square, I just don’t know how that is possible, but when you are riding the subway and being driven around in taxis, it’s possible to miss some hidden gems. 🙂

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My favorite part of Bryant Park were all of the holiday shops! Each one was so unique, selling a variety of items from handmade jewelry to makeup bags to kids games to chocolate. In the above picture, you can see the green and white awning that tops the carousel. My mom and I just had to go watch the little ones riding around. Such fun!

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See…my favorite view. Little shops, a little bit of nature, and the beautiful tall buildings in the background.

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Perhaps the most fun thing I saw were the ping pong tables, all occupied with excited players! Apparently, there is also putting, chess, pétanque (a French ball game I believe is similar to the Italian game Bocce), and an art cart. You simply cannot get bored on this little stretch of land in Midtown. 🙂

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Visiting right after the holidays allows you to see all the beautiful decorations. How awesome is that Christmas tree?! The ornaments were as big as my head…truly.

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And if I could’ve convinced my brothers (and Jake would’ve been an easy sell), we would’ve stood in the lengthy line to ice skate. It was only $15 and the line really wasn’t too bad! At this point, the boys had taken our shopping bags and headed back to the hotel with visions of comfy hotel beds dancing in their heads. Ha! Listen, we walked A LOT on this trip.  Plus our hotel served a complimentary dinner and happy hour each evening, so you can’t really blame them. And don’t worry, my mom and I made it back to relax and have dinner, too!

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Linking up with Stephanie!

Christmas Vacation

Well last Monday at this time, I was driving to New York City. Since I am going back to work today after a nice long break, let’s review all the fun. 🙂

The day after Christmas, my mom, my brothers and I packed up for a few days in Hershey, PA and New York City. Hershey is perfectly halfway in between Pittsburgh and NYC and it is such a fun little town! Since we were only there for one night, we visited Chocolate World and drove through the Sweet Lights display of Christmas lights.

Do you see the castle on the left?! It is made entirely out of Hershey’s chocolate! The “bricks” are made out of the cookies and creme Hershey’s bar. You can totally tell now that I told you that, right?! 🙂

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The next day, we woke up bright and early to drive to NYC. I annoyed Jake and took selfies of us in the car. I was also the one in the driver’s seat on the way into NYC and as we were going through the toll on the highway before the Lincoln Tunnel, I saw the gas light in my mom’s car was on. And it didn’t say 30 miles until empty…instead, the GPS popped up with a warning that said “nearby gas stations”. Hahaha! It was a close one. 😉

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Can we all take a moment to make fun of my brothers and their excessive number of shoes?! I packed one pair of black over-the-knee boots and my running shoes…they brought three different colored pairs of Timberlands plus other shoes. Ha!

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We stayed in South Times Square in the Garment District. After we unpacked, we went to eat a late lunch at Heartland Brewery which is also right across the street from my future place of employment. Aka The New York Times. #inmydreams

Lunch is when we also started messing around with the selfie stick! Jake got one for my mom for Christmas, knowing that we would be going on a trip right away. We had so much fun with it all weekend!

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We started walking up towards Times Square and kind of walked right through it until we saw Bryant Park! This is one of my favorite pictures that I took while we were there. I’ve actually never seen or known where Bryant Park was located before, even though we always stay near Times Square. It’s funny how you can discover “new” places every time you visit!

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We were also trying to get a taxi or an Uber at this point because we were headed to Brooklyn for the New York Islanders hockey game. Unfortunately, Uber was taking forever and the one taxi driver we talked to (who was off duty) told us there was so much traffic that taking a taxi would be way too expensive. So that meant taking the subway for the low, low cost of $2.75 a person…and praying we didn’t get lost. I was terrified because of my experiences with Kristen in October, but we actually didn’t get lost once! I will say that one time when the train announced where we were I yelled and made my family run off because I thought we were going the wrong way. No fear, we were actually going the right way. They loved standing in the station and waiting for the next train. 😉 That experience let us see the world’s largest rat climbing all over the tracks. Yikes!

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My brothers have both gotten really into hockey this past year and Alex got tickets to see the Pittsburgh Penguins for Christmas! Still, we thought it would be fun to see a game while we were in the city. Ironically, the Islanders were the opposing team when Alex went to the Pens game this past weekend! So it was like he was checking out the competition a week early. Ha! They lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs terribly, but we had a lot of fun!

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I really wanted to go to Serendipity for hot chocolate after the game, so we took the subway a few extra stops to the neighborhood where that restaurant is located. Travel tip #1: we didn’t make reservations (because I honestly didn’t even think of that) and when we got there at 10 PM, the wait was two and a half hours! Luckily, there is a Dylan’s Candy Store on the corner of that block, so we decided to go there to satisfy our sweet tooth instead. Travel tip #2: Dylan’s Candy Store closes at 9 PM on Sunday evenings. Ha!

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We decided to walk back to Times Square (think 42nd street) from our failed Serendipity and Dylan’s attempt (think 59th street). My brothers were all about this walk for approximately five blocks and then they were OVER it. Somehow, I became official direction giver and no one liked my directions plus Siri was getting on my nerves so this was a very interesting walk. 😉

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I tried to appreciate the scenery as much as possible! How pretty are those lights on the trees?!

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The next morning, we discovered the 22nd floor of our hotel was the roof, complete with outdoor seating and Bose speakers hidden in the plants. I kid you not. But it was freezing up here so I snapped this picture and ran back inside!

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Our mission on Monday morning was to shop on Canal Street in Chinatown. I remember going here in high school when I visited with the chorus and band, but I have never been back to shop there with my family. My brothers LOVED bargaining with the workers there. And you couldn’t walk ten feet without someone asking you, “Hand bags? Michael Kors? Louis Vuitton? We have it all! I’ll show you!” I bought a pair of sunglasses from a suitcase on the sidewalk…I will let you decide if they are real Ray Bans or not. 😉 I swear the worker said they were $25 so I said $20 because I was walking around with a $20 bill in my pocket anyway. He agreed, I paid, and my brother and I walked away. Alex later told me that the worker initially said $35!!! I kind of felt bad because I didn’t mean to jump all the way down to $20, but I really thought I was just saving $5, not $15!

We ate lunch in Little Italy and picked up two cannoli’s from a street stand! I got hazelnut and my mom got chocolate, but we weren’t huge fans of either. They were SO sweet! We intended to eat lunch at Sofia’s, but they weren’t open for lunch, so we chose a restaurant across the street because the owner was standing on the sidewalk and he was very convincing! I wish I could tell you the name, but I honestly don’t remember…I just know it was across from Sofia’s. It was delicious though! There was a 45 minute wait for a table by the time we left (and we went in and sat right down!) so either the owner got a lot of business by talking to tourists on the sidewalk or it’s a really popular place. 😉

Monday was a marathon day…I will tell you all about the Brooklyn Bridge, shopping at Macy’s and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in another post!

Happy Monday!

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Marathon Monday: Spectator Edition

I haven’t blogged in awhile so I talk a lot in this post. Feel free to skim!

Last weekend, my best friend and I went to New York City. Several people have asked me if I just so happened to be there the same weekend of the TCS New York City Marathon, and the answer is no. We intentionally planned the trip so that we could spectate the race. Because runners are crazy and enjoy that type of thing. 🙂

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DC is only 4 hours from NYC, so we left early on Saturday morning and came back late Sunday night. It was a quick trip, but we packed so much into those 36 hours! This was also our first experience using Airbnb to book a place to stay. Combine Halloween weekend with the marathon and hotel choices suddenly look very slim…or look like $700. Neither of which I was willing to deal with. 😉

So how was the Airbnb? Pros: the price was beyond affordable, I was able to park my car for free where we stayed which was AMAZING, we had an entire one bedroom apartment to ourselves, and we were 3 blocks from the subway. Cons: the neighbors got into a very loud argument at 2:30 AM that resulted in the cops showing up. Those New York walls are paper thin, I tell ya! We weren’t in a bad part of town and they were just roommates arguing about who was supposed to be home and sleeping over blah blah blah…but still, at a hotel, I would’ve called the front desk immediately. Also…I’m a very easy going person, but it didn’t occur to me until I was about to go to sleep that I had to sleep in someone else’s bed. And then we made a makeshift bed with all the family room furniture because we couldn’t deal. Hahaha!

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When we arrived on Saturday, we went straight to our place to park the car and then headed out for lunch and shopping. We couldn’t check in until 3 PM, so we had some time to adventure! Kristen and I planned for some things, but at other times we just wandered and did whatever we happened to stumble across. Which is why I don’t remember the name of the place we ate for lunch. 😉 But I had a huge buffalo chicken salad and I DO remember where we got dessert…because it was dessert. Duh.

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We found Dylan’s Candy Bar which is three levels of straight sugar. I had created my own trail mix for our road trip that included these goodies:

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But since we were at the candy store, I just HAD to get some sour gummies! I love regular gummy bears, Swedish fish, and watermelon Sour Patch. Of course I threw in chocolate covered all the things (think cookie dough, nuts, etc) for good measure.

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We got on the Subway and realized it was going in the wrong direction…so we hopped off at the next stop and called an Uber to save the day. This would happen many more times throughout the weekend! We kept paying for the Subway more than once, too. There were several times we went into the station only to realize we were on the wrong side of the track. In DC, you can just take the escalator up and back down to the other side. In NYC, you have to go up the steps out to the street, cross the street, and go back down the other side. So since we were technically entering twice, we paid twice. Way too many times. I am not sure if there is some way to remedy this (I’m sure there is), but we never figured it out!

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We had to get ready for our next adventure at SoulCycle SoHo. What better way to spend Halloween night than going to a Spin class that only played Taylor Swift songs?! Yes, you read that right. It was amazing. Our trek to SoulCycle included getting off the Subway at the wrong stop, considering calling an Uber, quickly getting back on the Subway, nervously checking the time every time the train stopped, and forgetting a sports bra. Oh, yes.

We made it to the studio with ten minutes to get ready for class, which was perfect! Until I realized I forgot a sports bra. Luckily, SoulCycle sells wonderful (expensive) merchandise, so I ran out to the desk to buy one. My normal size looked HUGE, so I sized down. And then I put it on and wanted to cry because it didn’t fit. So now people were filing into the studio and I was at the front desk begging the worker to exchange the sports bra he just cut the tag from. I am sure he loved me. 😉 I got on my bike just in time and found a cute little Halloween treat bag on the handlebars! It had those fake red lips that I suppose some wear for Halloween and apparently they were edible…I can’t confirm because I didn’t try them ha! There was also a voucher for a free class, so I either have to convince DC to accept the pass or I have to go back to SoHo to Spin!

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We brought a change of clothes with us to class, so with dirty hair and pretty outfits, we shopped around SoHo and Times Square. We intended to walk to Times Square, but once we started walking the streets and going in all the shops, we realized we were walking the wrong way. Of course we were. 🙂 The streets are always insane in NYC, but they were especially jam packed on Halloween night because EVERYONE was in a taxi or an Uber. We attempted to take a taxi and ended up having him drop us off at the next Subway station because it was taking a hot forever and I did NOT want to pay for that!

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We grabbed the world’s latest dinner at Heartland Chophouse and Brewery in Times Square and were super excited to see this on the wall. 🙂 Duquesne is a beer, but it’s also the name of the university where we graduated from college in Pittsburgh. The school is beautiful, but I’m not a huge fan of the beer. Ha!

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For as many times as I’ve been to Times Square, I’ve never gone into the huge Toys ‘R Us! Kristen was shocked and made me go in. I had NO idea there was a huge ferris wheel in there!

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This car reminds me of my childhood so if I ever waited in line to ride the ferris wheel, I would intentionally place myself in line so I could ride in this car. 🙂

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It was getting late and we had a whirlwind day, so we started to walk to the Subway…and then I realized the roads weren’t as traffic-filled as they had been a few hours before. Taxi to the rescue. #diva

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My favorite picture to look at on Halloween night. 😉

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We were actually able to sleep in a bit because the marathon has a much later start than your typical 7 AM. The wheelchairs start at 8:30 AM, the professional women start at 9:20 AM, and the professional men start at 9:50 AM with other runners in the first wave. We wanted to see the very first runners but we planned to be at the top of Central Park around mile 23 and then head over to the finish, so we had to do a little time calculation of how long it would take those crazy fast people to get to those places. 🙂

In the meantime, we got to cross a major goal of mine off my bucket list: run through Central Park! When I visit NYC, I usually run on the treadmill at my hotel before I go out with my family for the day. I’ve never wanted to take the extra time to get to the park and run by myself…but this time, I was vacationing with someone who loves to run as much as me, so it was perfect!

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We only covered about 4 miles, but we ran such a random path that we saw a lot of parts of the park that I have never seen before!

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We were close enough to 5th Avenue to hear people cheering, so we dashed over to where runners enter Central Park and saw the first racer in the wheelchair division come past! They amaze me. Their arm strength is something else!

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We had a general plan of where we wanted to run while we were in the park because we knew we wanted to get near the end of the marathon, but other than that, we were just taking random turns. Which is how we found gems like these…

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Why yes, I did climb on these rocks mid-run.

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#creepingonKristen #runhappy

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Almost to our end point! And more rock climbing.

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My favorite? The track around the reservoir. And the view is so pretty! Even though I had never been to this part of the park before, I got so excited when we arrived because I recognized it from so many NYC runner’s Instagram pages! Ha!

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At 4 miles, we were on the correct side of the park to see the first finishers AND there was a spot in the race course where people were still allowed to cross the street because the masses hadn’t started coming through yet. We dashed out of the park and to the nearest Starbucks. We had junk (read: candy corn for me and chocolate chips for her) for breakfast so we weren’t really hungry…we just needed coffee. Guess what size coffee I ordered and what size didn’t have red cups yet?!

We found a spot along the fence 800m from the finish and had the best time watching everyone run past. We saw the first female and first male professional runners come through which was SO exciting and then we watched for other elites that we know the names of (And you are probably reading this thinking…wait, she knows the names of famous runners? Yes, I do…)! We watched for about two hours and had so much fun seeing people pass one another so close to the finish, cheering on those who just looked like they were in pain, and shouting out to those in shirts with some kind of logo on it. Think Penn State, November Project, Pitt…anyone we might “know”! Everyone appreciates a little encouragement, even if it’s from a stranger. 🙂 We even saw a guy in a Steel City Road Runners shirt, which is a Pittsburgh running club, so that was awesome! He was running with the 3:05 finishers so basically he is awesome and I will never be on his level. Ha!

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Priorities: leave the race and find food and the Steelers game. The Irish Exit served us well. We ran there, because why walk when you can run? It was PACKED so we stood for the first half of the game and finally scouted two seats at half time. Every single person in there was a Steelers fan, so the atmosphere was amazing. My dad and my brothers usually go to the game, but this day, my mom was at the game with her sister and her cousin. I always hope I’ll see them on the big screen, but so far, no luck. 🙂 This game had a stupid, stupid 4th quarter, but it was so much fun!

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Kristen and I got on the Subway to head back to the car around 4:30 PM. We were riding along…and then never stopping. Like just driving through every station. And now we were in the middle of the tracks, so even if the train stopped, there was no platform to step on to. LUCKY US, we were on an express train to 207th Street. Like, the very last stop on that line. We were DYING!!! We promised each other that no matter where it stopped (if it stopped at all before 207th), we would get off and run or Uber back to my car. It finally stopped at 125th Street and I have never gotten off a train faster! Hahaha

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As seen on our run back to my car!

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We left the city around 6 PM. When we were walking back to my car, we saw some runners in their 23rd mile right before they enter Central Park. It was CRAZY to see them because it was already getting dark outside, but at the same time, there were some runners who didn’t start until almost 11 AM! So it sort of made sense to see them then. I don’t know how I feel about the start time though…I think when I run a marathon, I want it to be over when it is still light outside! But I suppose when I finally work up the strength for a full marathon, I can’t really be picky about how or when I finish, as long as I do!

Because there were some roads that were still closed, leaving the city was a little challenging. I ignored Siri for awhile and then let her direct me. I usually take her directions with a grain of salt because she is usually wrong or making me go the long way, but with all the road closures when we were trying to leave the city, I gave in and started listening to her. The night before when our taxi couldn’t move, I mentioned how no one should ever be allowed to drive in Times Square EVER unless they are a bus, taxi, or Uber. And then good ol’ Siri said open mouth, insert foot, because driving through Times Square is exactly how we left the city. Shockingly, it was very easy! And then we got on the highway and Siri turned a four hour drive into a six hour drive. She’s a gem, I tell ya!

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Central Park, you have my heart.