We arrived late morning to Newark airport and took a car service into Manhattan. Our hotel was the Sheraton at Times Square, which was in an easy walking distance of the majority of the things we wanted to do and see. Although we could have found some place cheaper, the trade-off of cutting down on taxi and Uber rides made the extra expense worth it to us.
I like to have a plan, so I’d created a detailed itinerary of things we could do while we were in New York City and first on the list was Central Park. Both of us were pretty hungry, so we quickly dropped our bags at the hotel and booked it to the park to look for snack vendors. While we were there, we walked by the zoo, took pics at a couple of bridges and a playground.
I was so shocked at how peaceful the park was. I know that’s how parks typically our, but my preconceived idea was that since we were in such a crowded city, there would be a crowd of people everywhere we went. We spent most of our time on the south end of the park and aside from the randoms groups of children that came through, the park was very quiet.
Central Park is also so much larger than I’d imagined. Even though I looked at it on a map beforehand, it wasn’t until we walked through it for half an hour and realized we hadn’t even made a dent in it, when I realized how big this place was and how nice it must be for people that are all essentially living in a concrete jungle to have this place to escape all of the hustle and bustle.
We stopped at a hot dog cart for a quick snack, but after nearly an hour and a half of walking around in the heat, we needed a REAL meal. So, we went looking for some authentic New York style pizza. We figured that there was pizza all over the place here, so we took the first street out of the park we saw, expecting to just stumble upon a place. Well, we must have been in a rare section of the city that is anti-pizza, because we didn’t see any pizza places after walking about 20 minutes.
Finally, we saw an upscale-looking restaurant that had brick oven pizza — Pazza Notte. It wasn’t the “authentic” experience I had been looking for, but by this point, I was just happy to have an air conditioned place to sit for while and in we went. We ordered a margherita pizza to split and it turned out to be the best-tasting pizza I’ve ever put in my mouth! Our pizza was gigantic, and by the end of finishing my half, I was forcing it down just because I didn’t want to waste any of the deliciousness. After being disappointed in the taste and quality of American food once I returned from Europe, this amazing food experience gave me hope that there was food here that was on-par with European fare — you just have to travel a thousand miles from home to find it.
The rest of the afternoon going to the Top of the Rock, shopping in Rockefeller Plaza and just generally walking around just getting our bearings in the city. My friend had already visited countless times, but it was my first time, and I was amazed to see all of these places — Rockefeller Plaza, Times Square, Central Park — that I’d seen in movies and on tv, but now I was seeing them for real. It’s almost like these places were just a figment of someone’s imagination before, and now that fantasy had suddenly become reality.
The evening started with dinner at Tao Downtown. The whole vibe of the restaurant was amazing, and I was very excited to see if the food was as good as the decor. There’s a gigantic Quan Yin statue that has moving graphic projected on it, and it was pretty spectacular. Both the food we ordered and the service were top-notch. I won’t write paragraphs more on how awesome this place was, but for more information, see my Yelp review for Tao Downtown.
The night was still young after we finished dinner, so we headed to Times Square to see what was going on there. It was obviously going to be busy, but I wasn’t prepared for how much more crowded it was there after midnight than during the middle of the day! I was also surprised that the people there weren’t the type of shady people and chronic partiers I’d have run into if I was running around in the middle of the night in downtown Indy — it was mostly people like us who were just there to do what we’d do there if we were there during the day: shopping, people-watching and wandering around.
Our first stop that night was the M&M store. I didn’t end up buying anything there, but it’s worth a visit if you’re already there anyway. The only special item I was intrigued by was the engraved M&Ms, and the line was ridiculous to get those, so I passed on getting anything.
We also stopped by multiple souvenir shops just to grab some small gifts to take to people back home and ended up getting some nice lightweight New York City sweatshirts for ourselves. After a little shopping, we headed back to get a few hours of sleep before an extra-early start the next day.