Saturday, November 14, 2015

Getting the Most Out of Our Short New York Trip

We aren't your normal vacationers or tourists. We do enjoy seeing some of the touristy locations, but for us we really love to see the "real" side that a place has to offer. Having friends out in New York that could take us around and give us "insider info" was perfect for us. 

We definitely wanted to see the city, but wanted to do more than just go down the checklist of "must see" spots. For only having 2 real days in New York (1 day flying out and arriving at sunset, 2 full days, and a fourth day flying back home), I feel like we got our time's worth!

So let me show you a small snapshot of what we did, with "tips" (not sure what else to call them) on how we vacation and get the most life out of our trips! 

We flew into Newark on a Thursday evening and our friend picked us up at the door and then drove us down through Jersey City to Liberty Park. I didn't get pictures of Jersey City because I was too busy loving just sticking my head against the window and looking at everything I could. For this Southwest country girl, even the side roads in Jersey City  were fun to look at!! Tip#1, which is weird coming from a photographer, don't try to document everything. Sometimes you just need to enjoy! 

We got to Liberty Park just after sunset and got to watch the light change on the sky line. Honestly, I think that was my favorite view of the city! It's spectacular!! 

We stayed until dark and then drove to their home in New York.

The next morning we were on our own as our friends had work and their kids were in school. Some of our favorite vacation memories over the years have been the times when we've been on our own and had to wander an area on foot. You get a whole different feel and taste of the area!
So, Tip #2...hoof it for a few hours just exploring!

After wandering a bit we were hungry and decided to pick a restaurant at random and go eat. And here's Tip #3. We go for the "Mom & Pop" looking places, the local dives, the un-advertised. Those are usually the best places and have such a fun atmosphere to them! Those are where you get a true flavor of a place! Chains and the norm are good, but following this tip has helped us make some wonderful memories on our vacations. Eat somewhere and/or something you can't back home!

The Muddy Brook Cafe was perfect. We had no idea when we picked it at random that it was a little Irish Cafe!! It was delicious and we couldn't get enough of the accents of everyone in there (workers and clientele).

Being Southwestern Desert Rats, the fall colors were spectacular. At least to us. We missed the peak week, but still they were pretty awesome to us! Darrow thought the piles of leaves were just fabulous!

And, oh my gosh...the water! So much water! Everywhere! We went out to Piermont to the old Ferry landing in the middle of the river. This was the view back to the close side of the shore!! We have lakes out here that aren't that wide! And that's a RIVER! It's just amazing.

Just driving around and seeing the country side was so fun. Beautiful homes, fun neighborhoods, great old buildings. It was fabulous!

Probably one of our favorite stops was the Rockland Bakery in Nanuet, NY. We've never seen anything like this! You grab your bag and your gloves and can go get fresh bread of the racks and racks and racks they have lined in there. Or, even grab a hot loaf straight from the conveyor belt! The smell was indescribable. Why don't they make candles that smell like baking bread?!?!

 Hehe, I just noticed the typo on their sign. 

So Tip #4 would be to not just stick to the normal tourist locations. This place isn't a tourist stop, but it should be!

In preparing for this trip, Cameron read and listened to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Of course at that point we had to go see Sleepy Hollow. We did, but pulled into town just as the cemetery was closing, and it all still felt quite touristy and done up. Just beyond though was farm land and old estates, so our friends took us out to see those. It was beautiful! And it gave us so much more of a feel for the right setting for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow than the actual town did with the tours, and over priced entry fees to the mill (which we didn't do because of time).

On the way home we stopped for some authentic New York Pizza. Again, you find a place that isn't packed with tourists. You want to find a place the locals go. We definitely had locals. Locals as in I swear it was an Italian mob boss that came in and sat down and got immediate service and extra care. It was great! The pizza sure hit the spot, but the atmosphere was just as much a part of the fun. So, Tip #5 is similar to tip #3, but just enough different that I'll state it out: Eat where the locals eat!

We hit up the Rockland Bakery on the way home to pick up an Italian Cheesecake for the adults and some cupcakes to celebrate Darrow's 2nd birthday. Not that this really has much interest to you all, but it's a Mommy Milestone and I think he's pretty awesome. He won't remember his 2nd birthday, but we will!
Trying to blow out the candles. 
The next day was New York City day! Think of all the normal places people hit up when they visit NYC...we probably didn't stop and visit them. Mostly that was just out of sheer lack of time. How do you do NYC in half a day?! You get a driving tour! Our friends drove us down the west side of the island, and back up the other side. We got to see a lot that way, and they gave us so much awesome information about the different buildings, areas, and sites. Things we would never have learned just going on our own! That was really fun!

Just a few shots from the car as we drove around:

I LOVED all the little shops we passed. They were simple but seemed so artistic compared to our grocery stores here.

We did get out to see the American Museum of Natural History, and then went to Central Park to take family photos of our friends. This of course was Darrow's favorite place that day.

Well, it was his favorite until Cameron let go of the balloons on accident and they flew away. Oh the face of a kid when they lose balloons for the first time! 

There was just so much there in that little corner of Central Park that we could have looked at for days. The trees, the paths, the colors, the statues, the architecture, all of it! Tip #6 would have to be, take time just to look and soak it in. Too often I think we try to cram so much into vacations that we don't get time to actually take it all in.

That night was Halloween, and once again Cameron, Darrow, and I were on our own. Our friends were given some tickets to a sold out event, so they very understandably went to that and had a good time. So we got Darrow dressed up and went Trick-or-Treating around their neighborhood. We didn't know if Darrow would get the idea at all or not, but it only took the first house giving him a full size pack of M&M's for him to realize how it all worked. "More Trick-or-Treat?!"

His Buddy the Elf costume my cousin helped me make was a huge hit, and he had a ball. Still today if we ask him what we did in New York he says "Trick-or-Treat! MMs!" That was a pretty awesome thing in his mind!

And that was our vacation! We flew home the next day, bummed we had to leave and bummed to come back to real life. But as soon as we started seeing the mountains in the airplane window, and when we stepped out into the beautiful Southwestern air, we were glad to be back home as well. But, our appetites have been wet. We want more of New York!
Darrow and I "argued" all the way over and all the way home whether that is a wing or a cloud. He has declared it is a cloud and there was no convincing him otherwise. Only 2, and we already know we have our work cut out for us with this one!

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