Sunday, January 02, 2022


There were several reasons for a Family Christmas Vacation in New York City: 

1.) We had credit for flights from a planned Disney World vacation scheduled for June 2020 which, obviously, got canceled; 
2.) Hannah, in particular, is an "experiences instead of things" type of person and has seen several Off-Broadway shows in Chicago/Indianapolis and expressed interest in seeing more shows; 
3.) In September, when we were making these decisions, Broadway shows were planning re-openings for October and Omicron had not yet emerged; 

 We collaborated and negotiated about how many and which shows to see and finally decided on three: 
Christmas Spectacular (feat. Rockettes) at Radio City Music Hall 
Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre 
Blue Man Group at the Astor Place Theatre 

 We knew several days before we left Indiana that "Christmas Spectacular" had decided to end their season a full week early due to COVID cases and protocols. [Strike one.]


Monday was travel day. Our flight out of Indianapolis was to depart at 5:45 am and we allowed plenty of time for checking luggage and TSA security checkpoints. While waiting for a connection flight in Baltimore, we decided to replace "Christmas Spectacular" with another show that was available and fit our schedule. We decided on "Aladdin." In the couple of hours we were waiting at the gate in Baltimore, I booked and paid for these tickets, received confirmations -- and then -- received notification of cancellation and refunds. [Strike two.] Ever the optimists, we made one last effort to replace our canceled "Christmas Spectacular" (and now, "Aladdin") shows and we booked tickets for "Waitress." We arrived at LaGuardia Airport, collected our luggage and got a taxi to our hotel near Times Square. I believe it was during this taxi ride that Hannah affirmed her desire to NEVER be a taxi driver (NYC traffic is no joke)! At this point we were tired and hungry. We found a pizza place close to our hotel and *briefly* visited Times Square and went to Junior's for cheesecake before returning to the hotel to settle in there. We had been in NYC for just a few hours and already checked boxes for NY pizza and NY cheesecake. #priorities
Times Square
Times Square

The view from our hotel room_alt
The view from our hotel room.

Tuesday was Harrison's 15th birthday and show day. Most of the plans of the day were fixed around arriving at the theater at the correct time. The show starts at 7pm and we're supposed to arrive at 6:20, so we need to start walking by 6:05....and so on.

Earlier in the day, we walked to a place in Hell's Kitchen for burritos and visited the exterior of the Majestic Theatre (the NYC home of "The Phantom of the Opera" since 1988, and one of my favorite shows) for a selfie.

During another walk through Times Square, we learned (the hard way) the business model of the assortment of "Times Square Characters" (Elmo, Mickey/Minnie, etc.) which was as close as we came to getting "mugged" in NYC!

It was on Tuesday that we found out that our "Waitress" show had also been canceled. [Strike three]. We looked at a few other shows (Lion King; Six; Hadestown; Music Man; even Phantom, but at this point, the seats that remained available were prohibitively expensive).

But --- "Wicked" one of our original choices, was not canceled, and it was fantastic! We all enjoyed the show and the performances and the energy in the building. We all knew some of the songs but were not well-versed on the entire plot so the twists and turn and surprises hit as they should.

Krispy Kreme on the way back to the hotel served nicely as a confection in lieu of cake for Harrison's Birthday!


It was on Wednesday that we purchased tickets to the TopView Sightseeing Tour bus. We had seen these vehicles on the roads and encountered several of their (aggressive) salespeople on corners. We had mixed experiences using these tour vehicles. More to come on this topic.

Wednesday morning, we found our tour bus near our hotel and rode it to the stop for Rockefeller Center. Here we saw Radio City Music Hall, the giant Christmas tree and ice skating rink at 30 Rock and the Atlas statue.

Across the street are St. Patrick's Cathedral and Saks Fifth Avenue.

After looking at window displays at Saks, we went inside to look around a bit as well. I didn't recognize very many of the brand names I saw, but I did recognize the distinct feeling of "sticker shock" the few times I noticed a price on an item that otherwise looked perfectly normal. We had good food from a street vendor (Hallal Guys), but struggled to find a comfortable place to eat it. We had decent weather during our stay (very little rain/snow), but learned that weather forecasts and air temperatures are virtually meaningless in these urban canyons, especially during these shortest days of the year, where the Sun, if shining, just doesn't get high enough in the sky to eliminate the shadows. In addition, those long rows of tall buildings can either scatter or focus any wind that is blowing, depending on the direction of said wind.

Having said that, it didn't take us long to understand the huge value of Central Park and other green spaces in city centers. We explored a small part of Central Park on foot before seeing a larger part via horse-drawn carriage!

We were hoping to find a tour bus to take us back to the hotel from Central Park, but we ended up walking. Fortunately, we discovered one of our favorite restaurants of the entire trip on the way: Empanada Mama Hell's Kitchen.



First thing Thursday was a trip to the One World Trade Center Observatory. While this skyscraper is currently the seventh tallest building in the world, it is the tallest in the United States and in the Western Hemisphere.

We did not visit the museum on the site, but spent some meaningful time around the reflecting pools memorializing the loss of life on September 11, 2001.

We walked to the Chinatown neighborhood and had some amazing hand-ripped noodles for a late lunch.

We walked back to Broadway and managed to catch our Tour Bus. We were actually within walking distance of the theater for Blue Man Group, but we would have arrived much too early and we hadn't yet completed the tour loop, so we got on the bus with almost two hours to spare on the supposed "one-hour loop." We should *still* have time to spare. For a variety of reasons, the bus we were on was moving slower than expected. At one stop, after waiting for a while, we were instructed to disembark and then board a different bus, where we waited even longer. Finally, after a driver change and safety checks and arguments between other fed-up passengers and Tour employees, we started moving again. At this point, Midtown traffic was as bad as we ever saw it and it was slow-going even after we started moving. We had about 15 minutes before the show was scheduled to begin (5pm) and there was no way we were going to make it on time riding the tour bus. We probably would have made it faster walking, but still would have been late for the show.

We got off the tour bus.

Now, I may have small town roots, but I've seen enough movies and television and cartoons to know that what one does in the big city when facing this problem: one hails a cab. So, I stepped off the sidewalk and put my arm out toward the street and -- Holy Smoke, it worked! -- I'll be darned if a Yellow Cab didn't stop almost immediately, right there on Sixth Avenue! We had taken a very similar vehicle from the airport and, on that ride, I rode in the passenger seat in the front and Christy, Hannah, and Harrison sat on the bench seat in the back. This time, the same three piled into the bench seat in the back and I opened the passenger side door, but was told, in no uncertain terms, that EVERYBODY needed to be in the back. OK. So, I climbed into the space between the front seat and the legs of my family members and the cab started moving. I shouted the name and address of the destination and received no audible acknowledgment. I had to get on my phone to make sure we were even headed in the right direction! Credit where credit is due: we arrived directly in front of the theater only a few moments after the show was scheduled to begin. Fortunately, the show started a few minutes late and we found our seats and Christy and Hannah even had time to use the bathroom and get back to our seats before the show started.

I have always wanted to see Blue Man Group. Just from CDs and DVDs and YouTube videos and performances on late-night television, I enjoy their particular brand of humor and style of music. They did not disappoint. Their classic bits were fun to see in person and their entire show is innovative and immersive, both visually and aurally.

One thing we DID know about our tour bus, was that the "hop-on; hop-off" feature did not extend into the evening hours. The Yellow Cab had worked beautifully earlier in the moment of panic, but the NYC subway system is definitely the most efficient way to get around the city. Besides, if you go to NYC and *don't* ride the subway, did you even go -- really?? So the subway worked nicely to get us back to Times Square and even though we have a few now in the Indianapolis area, we hadn't yet been, so we ate at a Shake Shack for the first time.

One positive about our tour bus was that they were double-decker and the top, um -- decker -- was mostly open air. Cold in December? Well, yes, at times, but ALSO good for unobstructed photos. Another nice thing was that the Night Tour's only pick-up/drop-off spot was right across from our hotel. So, after Shake Shack, we did take the Night Tour Bus.

And that was Thursday.


Thanks to social media, we became aware that our friends from Anderson, Indiana, Michael and Kayla, were also in New York City the same time as us, so we agreed to meet up on Friday. Seeing the Statue of Liberty was definitely on my "list" for NYC, but since we had seen it from the One World Trade Center Observatory, I mostly had that item checked off my list. Michael and Kayla's plans for Friday included taking the Staten Island Ferry as a free way to get a good view of the Statue of Liberty. We decided to join them in the afternoon and I'm glad we did. They are great and we don't make efforts to see them, even though we live in the same town.

Also, I was pleased not only with the views we had of the statue but also of the southern tip of Manhattan from the ferry.

One thing that none of us had taken into consideration was that many restaurants in the financial district were closed because it was Christmas Eve and the markets were closed for the observed Christmas holiday. We ended up finding a grocery/market that had a deli and some other decent food options so we enjoyed catching up with Michael and Kayla over a meal, too! We used our last subway fares to ride from Wall Street back to Times Square.


We became aware on Friday that many airlines were delaying and/or canceling flights approaching the holiday. I was anxious that it would affect us, but we were very fortunate that we did not have any issues and even landed back in Indianapolis a few minutes earlier than expected. Our luggage came through and we even found our car in the airport parking lot without issue. We were happy to have our "Christmas in NYC" adventures, but very grateful to be back home, too!

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