welcome to new york: a three day travel itinerary
You know that moment when you’re presented with an opportunity, and your initial thought is to say no? To tell yourself, I couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t just up and do something like that—it wouldn’t be practical, and it wouldn’t be the most efficient or effective use of my time and resources. Yeah, that moment. Know what I’ve found? I’ve found, the very best experiences in life tend to happen when you look that moment square in the eye and instead of saying no, you simply ask yourself, why not?
Doing so is what led me to study abroad in London my senior year of college, and it’s what led me to attend the Storyline Conference in Chicago November of 2015—and both of these experiences significantly shaped the trajectory of my life in a positive way (more to come soon on why they were so pivotal). Doing so is also what led me to enjoy a spontaneous trip to NYC last weekend—the indelible mark of which is still impressed upon my tired eyes and oh-so-full, happy heart.
Funny thing, I was supposed to be in the city that never sleeps mid-April for work. I was scheduled to speak at a conference in New Jersey and of course, was planning on extending the trip for a few personal days across the river. Last minute, the trip was nixed due to budget cuts and I was bummed—my hope of a spring visit to see the Big Apple and Alexis, one of my very best friends who calls it home, was nixed along with it.
Until my cousin Lisa called. Turns out, she had bought her mom, my aunt, tickets to the Hillsong Colour Conference for her birthday but because of work schedule changes, my aunt was unable to go.
“Do you want to join me?” came Lisa’s voice at the other end of the line, as I walked quickly away from my cubicle to a quiet spot.
“Where is it?” I asked.
My mind went quickly to all the reasons I shouldn’t. It was only a week away, it was all the way across the country, and I already had every weekend in April ambitiously scheduled to work toward certain goals. On the other hand, it would be an incredible opportunity—three days in the city with Alexis and Lisa apart from the conference, and since we’d be staying in Alexis’ apartment, all for the cost of a last minute plane ticket via Cheap-O Air.
“I’m in.” I squealed to Lisa.
As someone who’s very driven and goal-oriented, I’m learning it’s sometimes best to toss aside the planner for a few days to simply live life and play—rather than playing a game of coulda, shoulda, woulda.
On our red-eye out to JFK, Lisa and I laughed at our complete lack of any sort of itinerary. On our flight home to Oakland a few days later, we laughed at the realization that we couldn’t have planned it any better if we tried. Take, for instance, the fact that the day I had to work for a chunk of the day from the apartment, was the same day there was a torrential downpour. Yet later that night when we took in Times Square, the rainy glare of the streets reflected the brilliant neon billboards so magically, we couldn’t have thought it up on our own. Two days later as we strolled Central Park and took in city views from Top of the Rock, it was sunny and blue skies for miles.
I’m not saying planning is bad—it’s woven into my DNA. If anything, I simply sensed God whispering over me this trip, that sometimes it’s okay to let go. If I’m always trying to write the story, and so laser-focused on the most minute detail, I might miss the one God is wanting to write. And I'm not fooling myself, here—He’s a better author than I’ll ever be.
Some words God is speaking over me this season are possibility, potential, and play. Maybe He’s speaking the same thing of you. Maybe He’s wanting to remind you that life can be full of wonder, even if it's felt like the same 'ole thing for a while. This weekend certainly was—take a peek below into what it held.
The ever thoughtful and loving Alexis welcomed us with this sign, along with chocolates on our pillows. Better than any 5-star hotel if you ask me. This was my first time seeing her new apartment in Astoria, Queens, and it was CAYUUUTE. Lisa and I were running on one hour of sleep, so our first stop was to take the subway on over to the East Village for some coffee and grub at Cafe Mogador. I'm still dreaming of those Middle Eastern Eggs. YUM. 😋 Crazy thing, en route to brunch, Lisa had been telling us about her obsession with a new favorite TV show, Blacklist. As we walked up to the restaurant, we saw that a film crew was working directly outside its front window. Who is it? We asked Alexis and her boyfriend Simone, both actors. None other than the cast and crew of Blacklist. Breakfast, and a show.
After our tummies were full, it was time for some fresh air in Washington Square Park, located in Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan. Here, we enjoyed a taste of the culture, some street musicians, and a plethora of pigeons.
Next it was time for a walk through West Village, home to the famous Friends building, and the most adorable brownstone walk-ups. Here, we had a Gossip Girl moment. Spotted: California girl pretending to be a fancy Upper-East-Sider while her bestie snaps photos and shouts, YAS QUEEN. 💁🏼👑 (Because, what else was our trip catch phrase going to be, seeing that we were staying in Queens? It was too good 😉 ). You know you love me, XOXO. FYI, if you take a photo pretending to hail a taxi, it might actually stop. Whoops.
From there, we took the subway to the sobering 9/11 Memorial. Standing there, looking at all the names engraved into the perimeter of what used to be the Twin Towers, it's hard to take in the magnitude of it all. It was especially eerie watching planes fly into the nearby airport through the reflection of the glass building that stands in its predecessors' place—the One World Trade center, otherwise known as the Freedom Tower.
Next, we visited the Oculus at the World Trade Center, a shopping mall and transportation hub connecting New Jersey's PATH trains with NYC's subway system. This structure opened in summer of 2016, and it's striking. We enjoyed taking it all in and meandering its stores—nothing like a little makeup refresh at Sephora to finish out the day strong. 💄💋
We finished out our first day with a glimpse of Lady Liberty herself. Though you can buy tickets to Liberty Island directly, we knew we weren't planning to go inside the Statue of Liberty, so we opted for the Staten Island Ferry instead, as it offers better views from the water. It did not disappoint.
Many may have been bummed for the rain to start as they walked across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, but I was not one of those people. If you know me, you know I LOVE rain, and it only made the experience more magical. In the past, when Alexis lived in Brooklyn, we've started on the Brooklyn side and ended up in Manhattan. This time, we did it the other way around, and walked about halfway across until our shoes started to soak and our frostbitten fingers chased us safely back to a Starbucks in the city. Dancing in the rain all #wethairdontcare was one of my favorite moments from the trip. Come Sunday two days later, it was sunny and 70. I guess I share that to say, sometimes we forget the weather can change in an instant. On cloudy days, the sun seems so far away. But if we keep walking through it, and even learn to dance in the rain every now and then, it just might appear sooner than we think. ☀️💛
Just off the Manhattan side of the bridge is the Financial District, home to the New York Stock Exchange, along with many other beautiful, historic buildings.
After doing some werk werk werk werk werk, we hopped up the Met steps to enjoy some art from all areas and ages of history. I saw on Instagram stories that one of my favorite bloggers, Julia Hengel of Gal Meets Glam was here hours earlier—we just missed her! Anyway, is my cousin Lisa not stunning? Dat contour though. 😍
Cue happy dance! We closed out day two with a trip to Times Square which is ALWAYS awe-inspiring, but in the rain? While the wet pavement reflects the dazzling lights? Talk about magical. Though, my last visit to Times Square was pretty magical, too. It involved a bunch of blue hats, some confetti, and a big crystal ball. Read about that here.
We kicked off our last day in New York with an impromptu shoreline photoshoot in Long Island City. Alexis was so eager to get behind the camera and snap shots for this blog—incredibly thankful for friends who get excited about your dreams and breathe life into them.
Next up was Central Park. Sunny and 70, canoers canoeing, and blossoms just starting to burst forth from their branches. Need I say more? 🌸 🌼🌷
After Central Park, Alexis and Simone had to go to work, but Lisa and I took a stroll down Fifth Avenue along the fancy stores, and the breathtaking St. Patrick's Cathedral.
No better way to end the trip than on a literal high, gazing out at the city from the beautiful view offered atop Rockefeller Center, aka Top of the Rock. Another great view of NYC can be found from the Empire State Building, but we opted for this one because it includes the Empire State Building in its view. Talk about heart eyes.
There you have it, our fun-filled three days in NYC—thank you so much for reading! Have you ever been? What was your favorite part? Any must-sees I missed or questions about the places I listed? Let me know in the comments below—I'd LOVE to hear! 😊
P.S. The backpack I'm wearing in these photos is from Atlas Supply Co., and it's absolutely perfect for travel or everyday use. If you're interested in purchasing one, use code KACINICOLE for 20% off.