This past Labor Day weekend, I met my parents and two brothers in New York City for a family vacation there. Our main purpose for choosing this city on this particular weekend was to hit up the U.S. Open, take in a game at the new Yankee Stadium, and attend a Broadway show - The Jersey Boys.
We all arrived via Jet Blue airline on Thursday, Sept 2. My brother Tony flew in from Orlando and my parents and brother Manny flew in from West Palm Beach. I arrived about two hours behind them, flying in from Jacksonville. I really enjoyed flying Jet Blue (this was my first time doing so). I loved the little televisions they have at every seat, with 36 different channels via DirectTV. I watched a lot of the US Open on the way up and back.
After arriving into JFK airport, I took a cab ride over to Manhattan to meet my parents and brothers at our midtown hotel, the Wingate Wyndham, located on 35th street, between 7th and 8th avenues. A perfect location, a block from Penn Station, about 7 blocks from Times Square, where they had been walking around before I arrived.
Once I got to the hotel, we then got on the subway and headed downtown. Our first stop was Battery Park, where we looked across the water to see the Statue of Liberty. We then walked over to the Skyscraper Museum. Admission was $5, but it really wasn’t worth it. We then walked another 5 blocks or so to Ground Zero. There’s been some progress there (much more than the last time I visited the site in September 2002). There were also some memorials, especially a few dedicated to the firefighters who lost their lives to save other’s lives. A sacred ground indeed.
From there, we walked a few blocks over to Wall Street, where we walked by the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall, the site of our nation’s first capitol and where our first President, George Washington, took his first oath of office. It’s the heart of our nation’s political and financial history.
Well, it was finally time for dinner. And let’s just say that was a challenge as we didn’t have a real plan in mind, but I was planning to meet up with a few friends in the East Village area after dinner, so we didn’t want to go back to midtown just yet. We eventually made our way to small cafe style restaurant called Jerry’s Cafe. It wasn’t bad. After dinner, they headed back to the hotel and I went and joined my friends for a few drinks at Pete’s Tavern, which is the oldest continuous restaurant and bar in the city (so they claim). They’ve been there since 1864 and I tried their Pete’s 1864 Ale. Not bad either. It was a nice warm evening.
A few of my friends and I stayed out a bit later and hit up a few more establishments a block away from Pete’s. One was the Black Bear Lodge (I no longer felt like I was in NYC - it was a small bar that looked like a ski lodge on the inside - “are we in Montana?,” I thought.) Then we went down the street to another bar that has a live cover band. From there, we took a cab closer to midtown to a southern-feeling establishment, Brother Jimmy’s. It was a lot of fun. Luckily my friend James was able to give me a ride back to my hotel. It was nearly 2am! Where did the time go?
The next morning, we were hoping and praying that it would not rain. Hurricane Earl was skirting the east coast and the day before the weather report said there was a 90% chance of rain. But for how long? Luckily - not long!
We spent all day at the US Open over in Flushing Meadows. We started the day watching Tommy Robredo out on Court 11. Then, we watched 18-year old American Ryan Harrison. He had beaten the #15 seed Ljubic. In this match he took on Stakhovskey. It was a 4 hour plus match out on the Grandstand, with one 30-minute rain delay. It was the match of the day. Not a seat left in the Grandstand (the third biggest court). Harrison lost the match 8-6 in the 5th set tiebreaker, after being up 6-3 in the breaker with 3 match points. It was disappointing for the fans, but hey, this kid is 18 years old! Not a bad showing, after having to qualify for the U.S. Open. I think he’ll be back.
Later, we watched John Isner close out his second round match and my parents and brothers circulated the grounds to see a few other matches. I missed seeing Andy Murray’s match (he was off the court fast). Luckily his match wasn’t enough for him - as just 15 minutes after he was done, I caught him practicing out on the practice courts. Pretty neat to see him in action out there, so close up. We had a great day at the US Open.
We headed back to our hotel in Manhattan and then headed down to Times Square, where we ate dinner at the Hard Rock. A great meal and high quality family time. We all walked back to the hotel and then my brother Tony and I headed out and found a good comedy club at the Times Square Art Center, where about 8 comedians performed for about two hours total. In total we spent $40 - that included admission and two drinks, but all our tax and tip. Not a bad night out.
On Saturday, we all headed to the Bronx to take in a game at the new $1.2 billion Yankee Stadium. We witnessed the Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-5 to extend their winning streak to 8 games - highest of the season. And they ended up losing their game on Sunday, so we saw the final game of their longest win streak of the season. In the stadium, we took in some great food (NY pizza for me!), saw a Yankees museum, and just were in awe over all the amenities this stadium had to offer, including a giant high definition tv screen in the outfield.
After the game, we went back into Manhattan via the subway (same way we got to the Bronx). We then ate dinner at a good Italian restaurant in a more residential area a few blocks away. Then later, Tony and I went back down to the East Village/Union Square area and hit up a few bars. But we didn’t stay out terribly late - just enough to get a bit more of a feel of the town.
On Sunday morning, I went to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with my mom and two brothers. It was a beautiful mass - and as large as that place is - it was PACKED with fellow Catholics. After mass we toured the cathedral, walked around Rockefeller Center, visited the NBC Store (where I marveled at merchandise from shows like Seinfeld and The Office). We then walked by Radio City Music Hall, the NYC hq of Fox News, and strolled right into a Brazilian festival and flea market that took up many city blocks, where they had the street closed. After grabbing some lunch and heading back to the hotel, we then rested up and headed out the door again.
We were on our way to the historic August Wilson Theatre, where we caught a 3pm viewing of the play “Jersey Boys.” This was my first ever show on Broadway - and it was absolutely FANTASTIC! After the show, we grabbed dinner across the street at Victor’s Cafe, a Cuban restaurant that has been there for more than 47 years. After dinner, we walked about 17 blocks back to the hotel - but after that fantastic dinner, we needed the walk and we strolled back through Times Square and in and out of a number of shops and just took in the sites on a beautiful evening, which felt like fall as the temperatures dipped into the lower 60s.
After resting up for an hour or so at our hotel, my brothers and I headed out on the town. Thanks to some tips from some friends, we ended up at the Gin Mill, where the drinks were $3 from 8pm til close. Finally! A reasonable drink in NYC. We were in the Upper West Side, near 81st and Amsterdam and not terribly far from Columbia University, so definitely a mix of young professionals and college kids. We then ended up at Sutton Place, a rooftop bar on the Upper East Side and made it back to our hotel late - about 3am. We were just having too much fun. A great night on the town for three brothers - lots family bonding this weekend!
On Monday, after waking up (which felt like too early after that late night!) I gave my parents and brothers our last few hugs and headed out the door. My flight was a good 5 hours ahead of theirs - so I left the hotel about 11:30am and took the cab back to JFK for my 2:35pm flight. They headed out to see a final attraction or two in the city before they headed back to the airport as well. What a great weekend with the family in the Big Apple! We really had the ideal New York City experience - and we did so much, all in a matter of about 4 days. As Frank Sinatra sang, “I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.” We surely were!