New York, New York: Start Spreading the News!

The Wyndham New Yorker was our choice for both location and price.  Located on 8th and 34th, it was walking distance to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route (Bucket List Item), yet still at a reasonable price, and across from Penn Station so we don’t have to carry our packs very far. Since we will walk most places and we are only here until Saturday, we just purchase a reloadable Metro Pass for $10/each. We have been to NYC before, so aside from the Parade tomorrow and the Inflation Celebration tonight, we have no plans while here this time. We head down to Time Square where there is a place you can purchase same day tickets at half price to see what plays are available today. Matinee tickets go on sale at 10 am and evening tickets go on sale at 3 pm. People typically line up 45 minutes before the booth opens to get the better seats. Honestly, most theatres are small and there are really no bad seats, so we are not in any hurry.

At the TKTS booth, there are several plays available for today’s 2:00 pm matinee performance. The newest, big production is Anastasia and it is available! I love the storyline – the tragedy, the longing, and the mystery, so I knew I would enjoy the play.  I must say the set, the costumes, the music, the humor in the right places, was all great and exceeded expectations.

After the play, we head to the metro and to the Inflation Celebration. This is where, the night before the parade, the balloons are on display by Central Park between 77th and 81st, with a controlled/designated path going past each one. The balloons are inflated and remain tethered to the ground in the order they will appear in the parade tomorrow.  In front of each balloon is a sign with its name and the year it made its debut in the parade. There are several new balloons this year – the most popular is Olaf from Frozen.  The line to enter begins on 73rd and Columbus and is 50+ people wide and we are body-to-body. I’m going to guess that I am currently in line with a million or more people. By the time we have passed through security and enter the park to see the balloons it is after 9:00 pm and it is almost 10:00 pm when we finish.  It is 39 degrees out, but we are entertained by the reactions of others. There are thousands of police officers throughout the streets and along the route and in the subways and every officer we moved past was courteous and we wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving morning 7:15 am, we are headed to the parade route later than we had hoped to. I think I am moving slower because I am still frozen from last night.  It is 32 degrees today, but I’m hoping there will be lots of body heat lining the street while watching the 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Just outside our hotel, we get a taste of the parade because the buses to shuttle the participants to the staging area are here. Also, we may be the only two staying in our hotel who are not IN the parade. We find a spot on 6th and 39th where we can stand against the building (lean on it…lol) and leave ourselves an escape route, if necessary.  At the curbs, it is already 5 or 6 people deep waiting. The parade starts at 9 am about two miles away.  At this point, we have at least three hours to kill before the parade reaches us and the sidewalks are filled on both sides as far as we can see with people still filing in. Kirk and I are humored at people’s desparation to find the perfect place and their optimism that, if they keep walking, a spot on tbe curb will miraculously open for them. Most of the people on the curb have been here since 5 or 6 this morning, but you folks coming 10 minutes before the start of the parade keep hoping…and walking. We strike up conversations with the people around us. Wendy and David are here from upstate New York to see their daughter and her boyfriend who are balloon handlers; one for Olaf and one for Charlie Brown. We talked with another couple who used to live in the city and retired to Florida and this was their first time to see the parade. We enjoyed sharing travel experiences and eventually, shared our story.  As the parade finally reaches us, it is exciting! People are still coming and looking for a spot.  It has grown to 9 or 10 deep in front of us and the walkway in front of us is only about two feet now…and more humerous to us. It is really cool to look up the street and see the line of balloons heading our way. We all yell for Jenna, Wendy and David’s daughter, as she passes by with Charlie Brown. In between the balloons are floats with celebrities performing, groups of people in costume, and huge marching bands from schools across the country. The parade comes to an end with an energetic Santa passing by.  Now…to get out of here. Navigating our way back, we see them taking the balloons down, packing up the floats, etc. I photo bombed a band. It is estimated that 3.5 million people lined the parade route today, but it was a great, fun experience!

After the parade, I soaked in a streaming, hot bath to thaw out before dinner. Tick Toc, the 50’s style diner in our hotel, is offering a Thanksgiving Day menu which includes turkey, gravy, stuffing, yams and cranberry sauce, along with choice of soup or salad, and pumpkin pie. Sold! While we miss being with our family and friends this holiday, we are so thankful for this adventure, for all the kind people we have met along the way, and for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon us by the good Lord above!  We sit here humbled and grateful with hearts and bellies filled, in a warm room, with a roof above our heads.

Black Friday, we are usually up before 5 am and out amongst the crowds looking for the “deals.” Two things have changed for us: 1) Since merchants opened on Thanksgiving day last year, the excitement of the Friday morning frenzy is gone. Last year, it was out and out boring; No fights, no pushing, no yelling…always a GREAT way to bring on the Christmas spirit…lol, and 2) We have spent a year disposing of everything we own and are living out of backpacks. Yes, we could ship stuff to our family, but why? We are out for coffee and a bagel and decide to head back to Time Square to see if TKTS is offering discounted tickets to see the Rockettes. Along the way, we see Wendy, who we met at the parade yesterday. THAT is amazing! There are millions of people out on the streets and in the stores and we run into someone we know by coincidence…or is it?!

We got tickets to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at 1:00 pm and are able to go right in, which gives us enough time to check out the beautiful theatre before the show starts. Our seats are up on the third floor, but we can see perfectly and the seats and leg room here are good. OMG!!! The show is amazing! It is so much more than just the Rockettes, who are awesome…but there is a cute production that explains how Santa can be in multiple places at one time and there was a nativity scene featuring the three kings, complete with live animals! They also do a 3D ride along with Santa in his sleigh. If you are ever in the city and have an opportunity to see this show…DO IT!!!

After the show, we walk to Rockefeller Center to check out the tree, which will be lit on Wednesday (we won’t be here) and the skating rink. The Salvation Army Bell Ringers are all around and they must have a competition of the most clever way to get your attention (and $$$). One group was singing karaoke, one group was line dancing, etc; They are all very engaging. Everything is decorated for Christmas around this area. The front of Sachs Fifth Avenue looks like Disney’s It’s a Small World ride and the windows are celebrating Snow White’s 80th Anniversary.

We head to the metro and on to Central Park to watch the sunset. The fall foliage here is spectacular. As the sun sets and the lights come on in the buildings in the background, it makes for a lovely walk to top off a great day. We also have worked up an appetite.

We decide to grab a slice of pizza from NY Pizza Suprema, located just up the street from our hotel.  It was opened over 50 years ago by an Italian immigrant and has remained family owned in this same location. You can buy pizza by the slice or whole, eat in, take out or delivery. When we arrive, there is a line of people out the door, all wearing Ranger jerseys. The Rangers are at home (Madison Square Gardens is across the street) against the Detroit Red Wings. We may be the only two here NOT going to the game. The wait was worth it! So good!

After exploring the streets and watching people continue to shop Black Friday specials, we head back to our hotel to pack up.  We head out at noon tomorrow to Washington DC by train. We entered the lobby to find a 15 foot tree and the entire lobby decorated for Christmas! What? None of this was here when we left this morning!

In closing this post, we have to compliment the people of New York City. Whether we were in a subway looking at a map to plot our route, or standing in line for a play, pizza or a parade, there was ALWAYS someone extending help, guidance, a kind word or a smile. It was heart warming and greatly appreciated! It really is “up to you, New York, New York!” We will be back!