new york city – day two

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s been a busy start to twenty-seventeen. So, here’s very late recap of day two of our trip to New York City:

I awoke in New York City on our second day like a kid on Christmas morning; I was incredibly eager to see more of the city. We had a whirlwind day ahead of us, and after a quick breakfast at the hotel we set out to explore the city.

For the city that never sleeps, I was rather shocked at the relative morning quiet as we drove down Broadway. Before leaving Dallas, we made reservations for an early trip to the Empire State Building to start the second day. We made pleasant small talk with our Uber driver and as we approached our destination along 5th Avenue, he retracted the motorized screen on the panoramic sunroof in his SUV to reveal the Empire State Building standing proud in it’s glory over the city. He thought we were joking when I asked if he would be our driver for the whole week because of the impressive sunroof.

Our 8am reservations for the Empire State Building meant that there were zero lines as we excitedly raced to the observation deck – the early wake-up call was one-hundred percent worth it. I’m a sucker for art-deco architecture, and the Empire State Building – designed by William F. Lamb – is a beautiful example. The lobby for the elevators and escalators that take you to the observation areas is filled with beautiful stone and intricately detailed aluminum reliefs of the building itself. Once on top of the building, the observation deck was calm and we didn’t have to push people away to approach the edge of the building. I was simply awestruck at not just standing on top of the city, being out in the open. Unlike other observation decks that I’ve been to at the Hancock Tower and the Sears Tower, the deck at the Empire State Building is open air. You’re above the city, but not removed from the hustle & bustle. It was sensory overload from 1,000 feet in the air.

The next adventure was to Times Square to get tickets to a Broadway show later in the afternoon. We waited in line at the TKTS booth and got half-price tickets to see the afternoon show of Matilda. Times Square was incredible; complete and utter sensory overload, even first thing in the morning. We walked down 6th Avenue towards the historic NY Public Library. The landmark library branch at Bryant Park is an exquisite example of Beaux Arts architecture in the United States designed by John Merven Carrère of the New York architecture firm Carrère & Hastings. I was disappointed to discover that the Rose Main Reading Room at was closed for renovations, but we enjoyed the breathtaking lobby and intricately detailed staircases. One of things that makes an urban environment like NYC work so well is the abundance of parks. Each densely packed neighborhood has their own park filled with a flurry of activity. And Bryant Park was no different. We ate lunch outside overlooking the park and enjoyed the unusual beautiful weather that graced us for our summer trip to Manhattan.

I’ve admired the Chrysler Building for many years, and it is my favorite skyscraper – if not building – in New York City. I love the attention to detail that architect William Van Allen paid to every aspect of the impressive art-deco tower: from the glimmering stainless-steel crown that rises from the white brick exterior, to the inconspicuous banding of the brick, to the intricate Chrysler automobile styled gargoyles at the corners of the building. We were only able to appreciate the building from E 42nd Street and didn’t have time to wander through the interior lobbies.

During our walk toward the Theater District for our afternoon show, we walked back through Bryant Park and saw the American Radiator building designed by architects John Howells and Raymond Hood. The building was designed as a combination of the Gothic and Modern architectural styles with black and gold bricks. This stop was recommended by one of the partners at work, and I’m glad we stopped. It reminded me of the Carbide & Carbon Building in downtown Chicago. We also ventured to see the new home for The New York Times designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano. The mass of the 52-story tower was expertly scaled down to not feel overwhelming from the street and the building is filled with intricate modern details.

We had a pleasant respite from walking and sightseeing as we took-in the Broadway production of Matilda at the Shubert Theater. Our seats were on the second row and I felt like I was part of the performance. The young girl who played Matilda was spectacular and even had a hard time breaking character during the standing ovation at the end of the show. One of my favorite memories during our time in NYC came when we escaped to a side-street and waited for our ride to the next destination after the show. Feeling very much like a tourist, I was approached by someone who asked “If I keep walking this way, will I get to 11th Avenue?” I kindly told her I wasn’t from New York and had only been here for 36 hours. I guess I looked more like a local than I thought.

One of Nicola’s must-see stops was a visit to the Kate Spade flagship store on Madison Avenue. Feeling rather exhausted from a day of sightseeing, I was relieved that the store was basically empty. As we browsed, we were kindly met by one of the sales associates and she quickly gave us her undivided attention after learning we were from Dallas. We got a personal tour of the four floors of the store. At the top floor – filled with items exclusive to the Madison Avenue store – we conversed with another sales associate who was very sympathetic to the police shootings that occurred in Dallas the week before. She remembered being in NYC during September 11th and was inspired by watching the city rally around itself to recover and rebuild. To celebrate our trip to NYC, she opened a bottle of champagne for us and led us to the VIP lounge so that Nicola could try on some dresses. She even went as far to get Nicola a pair of heels to achieve the full-effect of the dress. Upon checking out with our new champagne glasses and new purse for Nicola, we received a personalized list of restaurants and bars for the rest of our trip.

After a quick nap and shower at the hotel, we set out on our evening adventures. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at Francesco’s Pizza – a quiet neighborhood pizzeria that was away from the busy tourist areas. Here, we dined among locals who were simply dropping in to their regular pizza place for dinner. The change of pace was nice and allowed us a chance to experience something other than the sight-seeing world of New York City.

Our evening included watching the sunset over Manhattan from the top of Rockefeller Center followed by drinks with one of my college friends who now lives in NYC. Rockefeller Center is an incredible complex of art-deco buildings designed by Raymond Hood with impressive art and sculpture throughout the site. Honestly, I could have spent an entire day exploring the huge complex. The views from the “Top of the Rock” observation deck were similar to those from the Empire State Building, but at Rockefeller Center you’re several stories lower and immersed in the density of Midtown. Later, we met my friend Nancy at the Archer Hotel to enjoy drinks on the rooftop bar with incredible views of the Empire State Building. After a whirlwind-day, we had a pleasant evening catching up and hearing about the intricacies of life in Manhattan.

Our busy day came full-circle: starting and ending with the Empire State Building. Simply reflecting on the second day was exhausting, but I got to experience so many different aspects of New York City and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

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