Back in December, I held my very first Discovereighng with Dana group trip to New York City. Even though NYC is totally my jam, I was pretty nervous about it! Luckily, it went off without a hitch, well minus subway passes & a trip in Central Park. But for guiding 15+ people through one of the busiest cities in the world at the busiest time of year, it went great! I couldn’t have asked for a better group of travelers for my first group trip, and will cherish each and every one of those folks!
Our trip was a long weekend, Thursday through Sunday, and was perfect for the first timers and the group setting. I planned out our itineraries ahead of time to get the most out of our time—a must when visiting New York City.
We enjoyed many adventures as a group, and plenty of built in free time to explore on our own. I enjoyed having several people follow along with me here and there, with my dear friends Sam & Dara sticking with me throughout the trip. We all had such fun, I failed to snap a group photo until after we’d return to the airport in Dallas! So, I’ll put a group photo at the top of the list for next time!
We called the beautiful Riu Plaza Times Square home for those 3 nights, and I was more than pleased with the selection! Our rooms were quite spacious for New York, as this is a newly opened hotel, and breakfast was included with our rooms—a great money saver! I now include this hotel in all of my NYC package options.
We ate some amazing meals, including lots of Italian! Of course, I brought my friends to Serendipity for the famous Frozen Hot Chocolate! But this time I had hot chocolate since I was freezing, equally as delicious! We also ventured over to Brooklyn, and had Grimali’s pizza. It was to die for! SO delicious! On a future trip to New York City, a friend and I plan to hit even more yummy restaurants and peruse a few museums.
Of course, Broadway is always a must when in New York! I managed to squeeze in 3 shows this trip, and I LOVED each one! Both brand new, Pretty Woman & The Cher Show were amazing! And Wicked was a show I’ve balked for a long time (not a fan of The Wizard of Oz), but I loved it! I loved them all for different reasons, but musically & costume wise, of course, The Cher Show was bar none! I highly recommend that one to everyone! Those in the group saw Aladdin or The Lion King, and loved their selections!
Being December, we were able to experience all of the Christmas goodness! My favorite being a super early morning to Rockefeller to see the tree before the city woke up. Though the city never sleeps, some times of day are just more “sleepy” than others. Haha! This turned out to be one of my favorite New York moments EVER! I now highly recommend all of my NYC at Christmas goers to wake up early to see the stunning tree without battling the crowds.
We packed in endless exploring during our short time there, and I even experienced some firsts—heading inside the Oculus, visiting Ellis Island, and a more extensive visit to Central Park.
As a large group, we
- went to Rockefeller Plaza & Top of the Rock, seeing the giant Christmas lights & ornaments and Radio City along the way
- ventured to the Empire State Building
- made our way to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
- paid our respects at the 9/11 Memorial and had our hearts broken all over again at the 9/11 Museum
- enjoyed a Broadway Musical
- and so much more!
On our last morning, myself & the few still up for one last adventure, woke up early and headed to Central Park. We enjoyed a preplanned/mapped out walk around the park hitting all of the highlights. I mapped things out ahead since this was our last morning, and we had a flight to catch. It worked out really well, and still gave us time to make it to Serendipity for breakfast. I was also able to pop into Magnolia Bakery for banana pudding–my #1 NYC food must!
My favorite experience of the trip, and actually in my top five New York experiences ever, was an impromptu stop at FDNY Engine 205 Co. Hook & Ladder 118 in Brooklyn Heights. After our delicious pizza lunch in Brooklyn, several of us were on our way to the subway station to head back to Manhattan. One of the families with kids in my group, intended to visit several fire houses while in New York, as 9-year-old Ryan’s dad is a fireman. We are walking along, and I glance to the right, and notice a firehouse with a beautiful red door a block or two away.
We decide to go. Boy, am I glad we did!
The Engine Co. turned out to have a sorrowful story on the fateful day of 9/11. The prominent red door I’d noticed, well the original doors are now in the 9/11 Museum.
You can read more about Ladder 118 here, here, and here.
When we happened upon Engine Co. 205 Ladder 118, they were having their firehouse Christmas party. Family members were in and out, and the fireman donned “ugly” Christmas sweaters. Still, a gentlemanly fireman named Chris spoke to the ever so excited Ryan, and invited him & his mom in for a quick look. He even popped up on the fire truck for a photo op with the fireman.
For me, it was so tearful! It was the simplest act of kindness for that firefighter, but for me, and I’m sure Ryan & his mom too, it was a truly profound experience!
Special thanks to Chris & all of Engine Co. 205 Ladder 118 of the FDNY, and endless thanks to all of our fireman who risk their lives every single day!
I hope you enjoyed this recap of my latest visit to New York City and a bit about my first Discovereighng with Dana New York Group Trip! If you’re interested in visiting NYC with me be sure to follow me on Facebook, I’ll be announcing a second NYC trip soon!