After getting married in June, Sarah and I knew we weren’t going to be able to take a honeymoon immediately after the wedding. She didn’t have enough vacation time saved up to do anything worthwhile and the newspaper wasn’t in a place where its editor could be gone for two weeks.
So we waited and debated our options. Did we want to go big or small? Would we go tropical or touristy? I told her I was neither rich enough nor handsome enough to spend my time just sitting on a beach without a shirt. As a redhead, she has her own misgivings of spending all day in the sun, so a trip to the tropics was instantly nixed. Neither of us also didn’t want to go anywhere we had already been, which seemed like nearly everywhere.
After debating on trips to both the East and West Coasts for months, we finally decided on a five-day vacation to New York City over the Labor Day weekend. It was one place where neither of us had been and somewhere we both desperately wanted to experience.
Of course, the reporter in me felt it necessary not to walk into the busiest city in the world completely blind. So I did my research and asked several people for pointers, including both my publisher, our company’s CEO and two of my reporters, as well as an old college buddy who is a native New Yorker and one of The Press’ contributing columnists who lives in Lower Manhattan.
Their advice: Do the touristy stuff, admire the skyline, soak in Central Park, spend too much money on at least one meal at a fancy restaurant, visit the Top of the Rock and overlook the city, go somewhere tourists wouldn’t regularly go, and, of course, do something unforgettable.
We did all of the above and more as New York City gave us plenty of unforgettable experiences and memories that are sure to last a lifetime.
We walked up and down the busy streets of Times Square, watched the crazy people, had our caricature drawn by a street artist, and took a double-decker bus tour of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
We overlooked the city from the Top of Rockefeller Center and viewed the Manhattan skyline at night from the Brooklyn Bridge Park and during the day on the Staten Island Ferry.
We went to “The Lion King” on a Broadway stage and shared a spaghetti dinner at a popular spot on Restaurant Row.
We gazed upon the 9/11 Memorial, admiring its beauty and simultaneous sadness.
On Labor Day, we watched kids play with their remote-control sailboats in a Central Park pond as the sun melted into the park’s western treeline only minutes after I had been picked to participate in a street show next to the iconic Bethesda Fountain by The Afrobats, a widely-known street performance acrobat and comedy group. (I’m sure someone has uploaded the video to YouTube by now).
On a 95-degree afternoon, we walked around Liberty Island and admired the Statue of Liberty before wandering the halls of the Main Building on Ellis Island, where generations ago our ancestors walked as they entered America.
We sat in Yankee Stadium and watched Derek Jeter — in the final month of his Hall of Fame career — stretch out a highlight-reel single against the Red Sox.
We felt like real New Yorkers when we walked into Grimaldi’s Pizza in the Flatiron District late one night and shared one of the best pepperoni pies we’ve ever had and enjoyed a cannoli on the house.
For Sarah’s birthday the night before we left, we dined at a Central Park restaurant most people only see in movies and followed it with a romantic carriage ride through the park.
We walked down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as Sarah shopped and I admired the architecture of skyscrapers as well as the people who buzzed in and out of them, acting more important than they probably are.
We walked until our feet and knees hurt, and then walked some more. We sweated in the steamy urban jungle on a hot night. We experienced an “air quality alert.” We found out that getting in the right New York City Subway car can make all the difference in starting the day out right. We discovered the gloriousness of Uber. We returned to North Dakota thankful for all of our experiences, but glad to be home where the air is clean, the food is still pretty affordable, the people are friendly and the traffic isn’t nearly as bad as we think it is.