The first time I came to New York City, I was 14 years old. My grandmother died the day before I left. Still, my mom urged me to go, knowing how excited my grandma had been for me to see this grand city. So, I went. I explored the city with my friends and classmates. I saw all the biggest sights the city had to offer. During that trip, I stood on top of the Twin Towers, a landmark that would be stolen from the city a mere 5 months later. The most important thing about that trip was that it changed my life forever.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, or what road was going to lead me there, but I knew, someday, I would call this city home.
Throughout high school, my mom and I toyed with the idea of taking a mother/daughter trip to New York. We’d spend a few days in the city exploring, shopping, and most importantly, we’d go to a Broadway show. Unfortunately, time and circumstance never allowed for that trip to happen.
The next time I was able to return to New York City was in 2012. I was living in Cincinnati, and unhappy with my current situation, but on a whim, I took control of the course of my life and I was weeks away from moving to Savannah, GA, for Graduate School. When I visited New York, it was only weeks after Hurricane Sandy had hit, and the city was once again rising out of disaster, and the pride New Yorkers felt for the damaged city stayed with me. I wanted to know that kind of pride for the place I called home.
What stood out to me most on this trip, was that I still had the same feeling about the city that I did when I was 14. I felt comfortable and at ease. This was an unfamiliar feeling that I’d never experienced in Kentucky, where I always felt lost and out of place. On this trip, I remember listening to Keith Richard’s audiobook “Life”. He said, “If you don’t make bold moves, you don’t get fuckin’ anywhere.” Those words never left me. And I knew that in order to one day call New York City home, I was going to have to make some bold moves. Still, I wasn’t sure how to do it, but I knew, in the depths of myself that can recognize pure truths, that one day, this would be home.
A year and a half later it was.
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I’ve been living in New York City for over three years now, and my love of this city hasn’t diminished. I still find myself amazed by the magnitude of it, every single day. For me, the hardest part of living in New York City has been being away from my family. To live this life, sacrifice is required, and what I sacrifice is the joy of seeing my family on a regular basis. I no longer get to spend Oscar Sunday throwing an over-the-top party with my mom. I don’t get to see my niece and nephews on their birthday’s and in swim meets and school plays. That’s my sacrifice. But one thing I can provide them with is the wonderful experience of exploring my city.
This past summer, I was talking on the phone with my mom, and I asked what she’d like for her upcoming birthday and her response was, “I want nothing more this year than to come to New York and see you and your city.” Not only did that sound like a great present for us both, but I knew it was the best gift I could ever give her, the trip we’d always dreamed of. I was lucky enough to be in a position where I could provide that gift. My mom had given me everything she could my entire life, the least I could do was dig into my savings and bring her to New York City. So, I did. Not only would my mom be visiting, but she’d also be bringing my niece, Morgan, and my nephew, Dylan with her.
It wasn’t just the thrill of getting to spend some uninterrupted quality time with each of them that excited me, but mostly I was excited to show them this amazing city and offer them the opportunity to fall in love with it just as I did as a child. Somewhat selfishly, I was also excited for the opportunity to be a tourist in my own city and explore some of the most visited attractions that New Yorkers so often tend to take for granted.
Believe it or not, there are many of the city’s biggest attractions that I’ve never experienced. I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to many New Yorkers who’ve lived in or around the area their entire lives that have never been to the Statue of Liberty or gone to the top of the Empire State Building. When New York City is your backyard you tend to take it for granted. You don’t feel the need to see the sights that people come from all around the globe to experience. What’s the point? It’ll still be there tomorrow. Maybe. But will you still be here tomorrow?
Life happens in a New York Minute, why take your city and yourself for granted? On this adventure with my family, I promised myself to take the time to stop and appreciate the city that I’d so long been in love with.
Being the week between Christmas and New Year’s, we were one of a million (plus) tourist families in New York City. There’s never really a downtime for tourists in New York, except for maybe the summer Holidays, but the rest of the time New York is overloaded with tourists. Add in the Christmas and New Year’s crowds, and it’s like the city has been overtaken by people walking around with flashing cameras and visiting all of the tourist’s sights. I get it though. There’s nothing quite like New York City at Christmas time. The decorations, the Rockefeller tree, the shows, Time Square, the window displays, and if you’re lucky, a beautiful white blanket of snow, come together and give New York a magical feel at the holidays.
In preparation for my families visit, I researched and asked around for recommendations of the best New York tourist spots. I wanted to get everything right for my families first visit. I wanted them to love this city as much as I did. Not only did this week of being a tourist help me to better appreciate my amazing city, but it allowed me to build memories with my family that would last a lifetime.
If you’re looking to be a tourist in New York City, here were some of my favorite adventures we experienced:
Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been watching The Radio City Rockettes on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. They were always my favorite part. There was something about the way they could kick their legs, so high in unison, that continued inspiring my own dancing soul. Even after I stopped participating on dance teams, I was still drawn to the beauty of The Rockettes dancing. As much as I loved their dancing, I’d still never made it down to Radio City Music Hall to see one of their live performances, until now. There is a reason the Rockettes have been a staple of the New York City holiday season since 1932 simply because they’re spectacular! I was so impressed with Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes
From the storyline, to the set designs, to the costumes, and of course, the dance routines.
Museum of Natural History
History is fascinating and it’s a fun learning experience for all ages. It’s a wonderful and humbling experience to walk through the many exhibits of The Museum of Natural History and to realize how minute we, as human beings, are in relation to the magnitude of the earth. Also, show me a person: adult or child, who is not blown away by the dinosaur exhibit.
Statue of Liberty
You’d be surprised by how many New Yorkers have never taken the time to visit this incredible statue that represents our Freedom as Americans. The Statue of Liberty has always been and always will be a symbol of hope. Getting to explain the importance of this statue to my niece and to see her reaction as she took it all in was one of my favorite memories of the entire trip. Everyone, young and old, should be reminded that we were a country built on the hope of a better tomorrow, and we’re lucky enough in New York City to have a beautiful woman to remind us of that.
American Girl Doll Store
There are parts of myself that will never grow up, and I kind of like it that way. I still feel the same level of excitement entering the American Girl Doll store at 30 as I would’ve felt at 8. I was so excited to get to spend an afternoon in this store with my niece who is in the height of her American Girl Doll craze, my mom who introduced me to the American Girl Dolls when I was a young child, and with my boyfriend’s mom, who had raised three boys and hadn’t ever experienced the enthusiasm of dolls with a daughter. We had a wonderful time together taking in this American tradition that continues to be passed down by generations.
You can see plays all over the world, but there is something special about seeing a play on Broadway. Maybe it’s the historic venues, or the lights shining around the many marquees, or perhaps, it’s the level of expertise that goes into the performances and stage production that sets the experience apart. With that said, Broadway is expensive, but there are ways to find more affordable tickets. You can head to Time Square the day of the show and often find ½ prices tickets. Or, you can take my approach, and buy several months in advance for a weeknight, which tend to be much more reasonable in price. Regardless, if you come to New York try and take in a show. I’ll never forget when the lights came up at the end of the performance, my mom was crying over the experience. That was worth every penny spent.
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During my week of being a tourist in New York, we had many other standout experiences that ranged from walking the Highline, to seeing the lights of Time Square, and first-time subway riders. Everything we did was a new experience and felt special. But tourist attractions aside, what I’ll remember most about this week was the time I got to spend with my family.
Forever I’ll cherish the nights of playing board games and building puzzles. I’ll hold close the memory of playing in the snow and making snow angels. Time can never take away the tickle fights and sounds of laughter. I’ll remember the long conversations shared with my nephew about his own desires to see and know the entire world. I’ll take with me the moments my mother and I shared over a couple beers at one of my favorite local pubs. Never will I forget the conversations and advice she gave me on navigating life, motherhood, and love. These moments are ours forever. And the fact that they all happened with my favorite city as the backdrop make them even more special.
Below is a collection of some of my favorite memories from the week❤