I visited New York City for the first time ever last week, and boy, do I have a recap for you. This trip was nonstop from the time I landed around 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning to the time I returned to LaGuardia to head home on Thursday afternoon. Buckle up.
The more I thought about things I wanted to do in New York, the more I realized just how many things I’d like to do in New York. I don’t think I quite comprehended how much is in New York until I actually sat down and thought about it. Eventually, an itinerary came together and somehow, despite waking up at 3:45 on Wednesday morning to make my flight, I managed to get through everything.
First up: Hamilton Grange. I suppose Hamilton is to blame for my newfound obsession with everything current on Broadway, so it was appropriate to start this trip at Hamilton’s home.
When “the Hamiltons move uptown,” this is the home to which they moved. It was originally located a few blocks away, but has been moved twice since it was built, once in 1899 and once in 2008. The home now rests in St. Nicholas Park, which was part of the Hamilton’s 30+ acre estate (which gives you an idea of how sparsely populated this part of New York was in 1802, if there was room for anyone to have 30+ acres to their name here). Despite the two moves, the home is 75 percent original, including some of the windows! I happened to arrive 15 minutes before a tour of the upstairs, where we learned about the house’s two moves (the second move required hoisting it 30 feet into the air to get it up and over the church next door) and saw the living room, dining room, entryway, and Hamilton’s workspace. Most of the furnishings were period pieces, though a few of the chairs in the living room, a couple of items in the dining room, and the books displayed in the workspace were owned by Hamilton (!!!).
The whole reason why this trip happened in the first place was to see Dear Evan Hansen, the show that won Best Musical at the Tonys this year (see: newfound obsession with everything current on Broadway). I desperately wanted to see the show with its original cast, and since Ben Platt, who plays Evan Hansen, will leave the show on Nov. 19, I needed to get there before that happened. I bought my tickets for the Oct. 18 matinee in June, and when I was home sick with food poisoning during the summer, wallowing in self-pity, I received an email letting me know that Ben Platt would no longer be playing the role of Evan Hansen in any future matinee. Fabulous. So I dropped an embarrassing amount of money on tickets to not see the one actor I paid that cash to see, but my flights were already booked and evening tickets were impossible to come by, so I went anyway and instead saw Michael Lee Brown, the Evan Hansen understudy, play the role instead.
When I got to the show, I was equally dismayed to see that the role of Zoe, arguably the main female in the show, was also being played by her understudy *seethes*. The rest of the cast was original, though, so at least it wasn’t a total bust.
The show was wonderful! I haven’t seen Ben Platt as Evan Hansen outside of times he’s performed in the role on talk shows or at the Tonys, so I can’t really compare Michael Lee Brown to Ben Platt in terms of Evan Hansen portrayals, but I thought Michael Lee Brown did just fine at capturing Evan’s quirks, awkwardness, and anxiousness, which is really the heart of the character anyway. As for Zoe’s understudy, I thought she did fine as well, but things did get a little weird during Requiem. That song is one of the few songs that features Zoe as the lead vocalist, and as the song started, Olivia Puckett, the understudy, seemed…not right. She kept putting her fist in front of her mouth like you would when you cough, poking her left side, and eventually, maybe halfway through the song, she just ran off stage and didn’t come back O.O The other two actors on stage kept singing their parts (which was mostly just harmonies and “Ahhs” at that point) and the band kept playing, but it was certainly bizarre to have the song go on without the lead singer. After the song ended, they stopped the show for probably 10 minutes or so, and then picked back up like nothing had happened. We never found out what happened to Olivia, but I figure it must’ve been something she could at the very least power through, since she finished off the rest of the show without any issues (that the audience could see, at least).
After the show, I waited by the stage door (not my original plan, but when I saw everyone lined up, I had to, too! #herdmentality) and got Kristolyn Lloyd, who plays Alana, and Michael Lee Brown to sign my Playbill! That was SUPER exciting, and I particularly loved that Michael Lee Brown signed the cast, since Evan is the one wearing the cast in the show.
From Dear Evan Hansen, the most painfully slow walk of all time down Broadway brought me to the Empire State Building just in time for sunset! (SERIOUSLY, THOUGH. I understand that I was in a touristy section of town and that perhaps it is not fair to assume everyone else in the world wants to walk as fast as I want to walk, but disregarding all of that, why are all of the lights at crosswalks in New York timed so frustratingly?! Every. single. intersection. was red by the time I got there, which is particularly frustrating when the blocks are so teeny tiny and you have to cross TWENTY of them to get through one mile, as opposed to eight, or, at worst, sixteen, in Chicago.)
The views, as they say, did not suck.
From there, a walk (mostly) up Fifth Avenue brought me back to McGee’s Pub, the bar that MacClaren’s in How I Met Your Mother was based on, for dinner.
The walk up Fifth Avenue conveniently took me right by the Rockefeller Center, which, as a ride or die Today show fan, was very high on my list of must sees (even if the show wouldn’t be filming for another 12 hours.)
Of course, there was a lot more to see than just the Today show studios at the Rockefeller Center, including the building itself, NBC Studios, and Radio City Music Hall.
Thoroughly exhausted from all of the day’s activities, I crashed super hard before a somewhat early wakeup call the next morning. I like to run on vacation when possible to add to my list of Places I’ve Run, and I certainly didn’t want to miss the opportunity to run in Central Park!
Oh MAN, did I love Central Park. It was so beautiful. I suppose the Lakefront Trail is our substitute in Chicago (and I suppose we also don’t need a gigantic section of the city dedicated to nature quite like New York does, because Chicago is so much less overwhelming from a concrete jungle standpoint than Manhattan is), but I really wish we had something like this in Chicago! Lincoln Park definitely doesn’t hold a candle to Central Park.
(Sidenote: I was on Facebook on Saturday and saw that OneRepublic had reposted this picture that Ryan Tedder posted on Oct. 19:
UMMMMM can we please discuss how it looks like Ryan Tedder and I were running in the exact same spot at, based on the clouds and the lighting, almost the exact same time on Thursday?! *dies*)
Thursday was dedicated to Lower Manhattan. Continuing on the home-exterior-TV-themed tourism I started in San Francisco, the first stop for the day was the exterior of the Friends apartment building.
From there, I walked farther downtown to visit the 9/11 Memorial, which was a powerful and moving place to see.
A couple blocks away from the 9/11 Memorial is Trinity Church, where Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, and Angelica Schuyler Church are buried.
Although the whole “she is buried in Trinity Church near you,” line turned out to be a bit misleading. Angelica’s grave, pictured at the bottom of the collage, is on the complete other side of the church building, never mind the church yard, but whatever.
Next on the list for the day was Battery Park. The easiest way to get there from Trinity Church required walking right past the Charging Bull, but getting a picture of that proved to be a fool’s errand:
Ridiculous. The Fearless Girl statue is still there as well, which I was quite happy to see.
Battery Park had some wonderful views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, neither of which I had time to see (but some day! My great-grandpa immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands through Ellis Island, so I’d love to go there some day.)
Speaking of the Netherlands, I’d have to say that my favorite part of Battery Park, in what should come as a surprise to no one, was the Netherland Monument:
Though I was bummed that I couldn’t even really get the gist of what this said until I read the English translation on the other side. Come on, Duolingo! I haven’t been faithfully using you to learn Dutch for nearly two years only to have you let me down like this!
I also thought that The Immigrants, a sculpture closer to the water, was absolutely stunning.
And then, last but not least, a quick swing by Wall Street to see the New York Stock Exchange, conveniently dramatically lit by the sun.
It was an absolute whirlwind of a trip, but certainly worth it!