I just returned from an exhilarating long weekend in New York City and as usual I was not disappointed. In my opinion, New York City is one of the most amazing, electrifying cities in the world and every time I leave I long to go back.
My whirlwind weekend in New York began on a Friday night with a full, nine-hour day of sightseeing on Saturday, followed by two jam-packed days as a participant in the fifth annual Social Good Summit at 92nd Street Y in the Upper East Side. I crammed in as much as humanly possible and arrived home Monday night completely exhausted, so worn out that I left my laptop and camera in the back seat of the taxi cab and didn’t realize until the following morning (I got it back, thank goodness!).
My flight left early afternoon on a Friday and I landed in La Guardia (LGA) airport around six o’clock. I was so excited about the weekend ahead that I could hardly stand it. I had been to the Social Good Summit for the past three years and I knew what to expect. It would be one of the most exciting, inspiring, exhilarating two days of the year. It is always amazing.
What I love about LGA is its proximity to the city and its ease of use. My small suitcase was already waiting when I arrived at the baggage claim and I grabbed a cab that swiftly brought me to my hotel near 92nd and Lexington. There was no traffic and I was at my hotel within thirty minutes.
I checked in, unpacked and headed out on my own to grab a bit to eat. I had the entire next 24 hours all to myself before the madness of the conference started and I would be on mental and social stimulation overload. I had planned it this way so I could be a tourist and explore NYC on my own, something I had never done.
Within two blocks of leaving my hotel, I had my first amazing moment. I met my first star! My friends all laugh because most of the people I hold high on my admiration list are philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates or Jeffrey Sachs or Nick Kristof. However, I do love music and running into Lenny Kravitz and having him sign my New York City Map (the only piece of paper I had on me) was amazing!
Exhilarated I of course had to call my husband and kids to tell them the exciting news and then I wondered around the Upper East Side to find a place to eat. There were so many choices it was hard to choose. Would I have pizza, Peruvian, American, gourmet, Sushi, Indian or Thai? Everything looked delicious and there were people everywhere. I felt so insanely invigorated that I kept walking until I found the perfect venue with a prime seat outside on the sidewalk for people watching. My night just kept getting better and better!
I woke up early Saturday morning with big plans of some major sightseeing. It had been years since I’d actually been in New York for pleasure so it was time to do some fun touristy things before my conference began that evening. I decided to hit three main sites: The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and I was going to do this all in one super long day.
I grabbed a quick coffee and pastry at one of the many delightful cafes and with map, camera and subway ticket in hand, took off for my day of adventure. Taking the subway is a great way to comprehend just how incredibly big New York city is. I got on around 96th street and took the subway the all the way to the end of the line at near Battery Park. I was amazed how long the subway took. I had to have been on it for a least an hour. Yet I was consumed with people-watching and seeing how incredibly rich and diverse New York’s humanity is.
What I love best of all about New York is the immense diversity. Riding the subway, I looked around me and saw that I was the only blond-haired blue-eyed forty-something woman in the car. People surrounded me from every walk of life and every shade of skin. In that one subway car, I heard at least a dozen different languages and I sat there mesmerized in awe. I felt part of the world not just part of the usual bubble I feel when I’m at my home in Southwest Minneapolis.
I arrived with not much time to spare before my 11 am ferry out to the Statue of Liberty. I had booked the tickets about a month in advance and the “crown” tickets to climb up all the way to Liberty’s crown were all ready sold out. Apparently they sell out months in advance during the high season.
When I saw the enormous swarm of tourists I nearly fainted. I detest crowds. But I knew I would have to just deal with the mass of people if I wanted to see one of the top attractions in the city. I had never seen the Statue of Liberty up close before and was determined to get there regardless of how annoying it would be.
The line went relatively fast and everyone had to pass through airport-style security. Given the recent ISIL terrorist threats, security was particularly tight and I got a rather nervous feeling when I saw the military surveillance planes circle over and over again around us above. How ironic seeing the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of freedom, while the Coastguard Swat team watched over the crowd wearing face masks and military planes hovered over my head.
As I snapped away on my camera, I was utterly excited about the gorgeous views of Manhattan. I took a ton of photos which I am saving for a special post exclusively on my visit to Liberty so stay tuned. In the meantime, here is a sneak preview of this amazing sight.
When I first saw Liberty I got tears in my eyes. She is so beautiful and her meaning is so near and dear to my heart. Freedom. I thought about the thousands of emigrants who passed by Liberty on their way to Ellis Island, and wondered what they thought when they saw her soaring majestically in the sky. It all felt so surreal to be in New York City seeing some of the most emotionally intense sights at the height of the gathering of world leaders during United Nations Week. I reflected on the craziness of the world, the lack of peace, the fighting for freedom and it stuck me how little has actually changed since my ancestors boarded the boat from Europe and made the long journey to America hundreds of years ago.
It was going to be an emotionally eventful day and weekend. I could hardly wait.