Picture it: The Monday before finals week. I’m in my dorm studying because I have finals in two of my five classes Friday. My friend Jazmyn tells me to call her ASAP.
Being a worrywart, I assumed the worst. I called her expecting dramatic tears and a big story about what had happened and why I needed to call her urgently. But no. She wanted me to go to New York City with her for the upcoming weekend. Her cousin’s boyfriend couldn’t go at the last minute, leaving them with a spare ticket. With a love for the city and a longing to leave Small Town, USA for a bit, of course I said yes! After talking with my professors and them allowing me to take my finals on Thursday and Monday, I packed my bags for the weekend in New York City.
Our trip was with local bus tours Jett Tours (linking their page here). We traveled all day to a hotel in Pennsylvania, making a stop for lunch in Huntington, WV and a stop for sweets at the Hershey Factory in PA. Once we arrived at the hotel, we crossed the street to eat dinner at a mom and pop diner. With a full stomach, we went to sleep in preparation for our 6 a.m. ride to NYC!
The next day, they dropped us off in Times Square around 8. Our first stop was Carlos Bakery. I started my day off with the most nutritious breakfast: a gingerbread latte and chocolate chip cookie. 10/10 recommend both. While at the bakery, we mapped out a general idea of what places everyone wanted to see while we were there. We all agreed that we wanted to do more sightseeing than shopping, so we headed down 42nd Street towards Grand Central Station.
I had never been to Grand Central Station! After stopping for a group photo op, we backtracked to 5th avenue and walked past high end stores such as Tiffany’s and Versace, as well as the St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Rockefeller Center.
We walked up 5th avenue to Central Park, which was another place I hadn’t visited before! I feel like it’s a shame to say you’ve been to NYC and not stopped by Central Park. Many people were lined along the streets offering horse drawn carriages through the park (half of our crew did that) but my friend Jazz, her mom Denise, and I opted to take a fairly inexpensive bicycle tour. Our tour guide was also very friendly AND he gave us a blanket to keep warm!
I kept telling him I didn’t care what stops we made — although the stops included the ‘Friends’ fountain, along with set locations from ‘Enchanted’ and ‘The Avengers’ — I just wanted to see Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon memorial. We finally arrived at the famous area designed by Yoko Ono. I was so ready to get my perfect picture for Instagram of me beside the “Imagine” mosaic. I got frustrated when there was a loud crowd gathered around it, blocking the perfect photo op. Flowers were arranged beautifully in a peace sign and a band was playing some of his most memorable tunes. I figured this was just a daily thing, but to my surprise, I later learned that we were visiting on the 38th anniversary of Lennon’s death.
From here, we walked through the Plaza Hotel featured in Home Alone 2. I am assuming they were decorating for a wedding because we accidentally took the elevator to the second floor where they were setting up extravagant floral arrangements. Between running around trying to find the group that went on a carriage ride and trying to find our way out of the building, it’s safe to say we got lost in here a few times.
We hopped on a subway to the lower end of the island where it felt a million degrees colder because of the breeze blowing in from the Hudson. Rather than riding a ferry across the bay to Ellis Island, we watched the sun set over the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty. The wise words of President Kennedy were something I thought heavily about as I reflected on the current, and future, state of immigration in America.
After nonstop sightseeing most of the day, we were hungry. Being in the southernmost end of the Financial District, we were afraid we wouldn’t have many options to choose from within walking distance. Luckily, close to the subway entrance was a hole in the wall called White Horse Tavern. Maybe I was just hungry, but I have to say it was some of the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had. (And I’m a pretty frequent chicken tender consumer.)
By this time, the sun had set on Manhattan and we took a subway from the Financial District back to Times Square. We took pictures underneath the bright city lights and stopped at a few tourist shops to buy cliche “I ♡ NY” shirts. Before boarding our bus back to Pennsylvania, we dropped by a Starbucks to get something that would warm us up.
A lot of what I experienced on this trip this trip happened by chance. Even the fact that I even got to go on the trip itself happened by chance. So when I say that as an 18 year old I learned to travel any time you’re given the opportunity to, I mean it. This trip with my best friend to a city I love was one of my most memorable adventures! Yet, a week before I left I had no idea that this was even in store for me.
My time in NYC taught me the value of warm gloves, Google Maps, and good friendship. I can’t wait to do it all over again one day.