Wander the vibrant streets of the Big Apple with Peggy from MudSpot to Mean Girls and a Park Terrace Hotel After Party!
I’m listening to lounge music in a swanky New York lounge surrounded by fashionable millennials and feeling like I don’t quite fit in. I know I’m not in Kansas when I order a glass of wine that costs $16, not including the tip. But I don’t dwell on these details since I’m in New York City—yes!—arguably the greatest city in the world. Even more exciting, I’m here alone.
Sure, most of us have visited the Big Apple at some point in our lives, but coming here alone is a new experience for me. It’s scary yet thrilling to navigate the train from Newark to Penn Station and then locate my hotel a few blocks from the station. As I pull my carry-on along the gritty sidewalks, I feel empowered with every step. That’s what traveling solo does for you, and there’s no question that a solo trip to New York boosts your self-confidence quotient.
Join me as I wander the streets of New York and become—for a while at least—part of the pulsing energy that makes this city so amazing.
Take in a Broadway Show
Mean Girls by Tina Fey is Eye-Popping Fun
Ok, I’ll admit I’m not going to be alone the entire three days I’m in New York. I’m here to attend a meeting and a conference for travel writers and editors. My morning flight from Norfolk was canceled (thanks, United), so I arrive at Lotte’s Palace for my meeting six hours late. It’s practically over, but I get here just in time for the most important part of the day: the post-meeting cocktail party, where I catch up with a few writers and editors I know.
Later I score a free ticket to the Broadway musical, Mean Girls, with a group of journalists and PR folks. I never saw the movie (hard to believe, right?) and know very little about the plot. But with a title like Mean Girls, I have a good idea.
The show turns out to be a blast from the past. Watching these high schoolers and their cliques brings back memories of pre-teen shenanigans I’d rather forget. I think we’ve all been there. That’s why the show’s such a hit. Its universal and thought-provoking themes resonate, no matter which generation you belong to.
On the light side, the songs are fun, the actors awesome, and the sets colorful and ever-changing. In fact, much of the scene changes rely on massive walls of video screens on which the different scenes instantly change like magic. Furniture on wheels comes and goes quickly—as do costume and wig changes, making the show an eye-popping extravaganza.
A PR gal from Columbus, Ohio, invites us out for drinks afterwards to an Italian restaurant called Tony’s di Napoli, where they serve food family style. Before I know it, the table is filling up with platters of the restaurant’s specialties. It’s nearly 11 p.m., and myriad dishes crowd the table: rustic bread, caprese salad, mussels, fried zucchini slices, sautéed rapini, pasta, more salad—it’s a feast, and even though I’m not hungry, I can’t resist and tuck into this yummy Italian fare.
Temps are in the low 40s, but I walk back to my hotel around midnight. The streets of New York still teem with people. I’m staying at Moxy Time Square, a new brand by Marriott that offers an “immersive social experience.” That translates to small rooms but spacious lounge areas where you can work, read, nibble, imbibe—all in the company of strangers. Lighting, furniture, and décor in the common areas evoke a hipster vibe, and the rooms themselves have an industrial chic ambiance. I like it, and while I’m definitely not part of the hipster generation, I feel right at home.
The next morning, a chartered bus carries me and a few other journalists staying at Moxy to a huge convention center on the Hudson River. The massive structure welcomes multiple shows and events simultaneously. Our conference takes place right before the New York Times Travel Show, and tempting, colorful exhibits are being built in one cavernous hall. In another, hundreds of shiny new boats beckon at the New York Boat Show. I want to see it all, but I have work to do.
Living the Dream Starts with Vision
Creative Visualization Makes the Magic Happen
My day is spent meeting tourist representatives from various destinations. It’s kind of like speed dating. It’s also like a candy store for someone who loves to travel and write about it. I learn about opportunities to cruise the Greek islands, taste wine in Portugal, hike in Yosemite, and more. I feel lucky to be here and think back to what led me to my part-time travel writing avocation.
It was a creative visualization exercise I did in the early 2000s. The exercise asks you to set intentions for what you want to happen in your life and involves writing down a first-person present tense description of how a perfect day might look in the future. You can envision pretty much anything your heart desires. The key is to put it in writing, read it on a regular basis, and start taking baby steps toward achieving what you want your future to be like. In mine, I wrote that I was a travel writer. Soon after I joined an organization for travel journalists, and that’s when the magic started to happen.
Now flash forward 15 years or so and I have had the incredible good fortune to visit cool places near and far. But there’s so much more to see. That’s why I’m attending this event. If you feel like you’re not reaching your goals, try this creative visualization exercise. I’ll add a link at the bottom of the article to the exercise. Try it. The bottom line is: if you dream it, it will come.
The speed dating and networking is exhausting but fun. The meeting ends with another cocktail reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres, and then we head to the swanky Park Terrace Hotel for an after party. I grab a glass of wine, chat with other editors, and even meet a couple travel journalists whose shows run on PBS: Darley Newman (“Travels with Darley”) and Joseph Rosendo (“Travelscope”).
Darley and I talk about our shared love of horses, and I discover she went to St. Catherine’s, a Richmond prep school. I also have a lovely chat with Joseph’s wife, Julie, who produces his show. It’s thrilling and inspiring to meet these successful folks and learn more about how they got to where they are in life. I have a feeling they started with envisioning a future they wanted. Then they made those dreams come true.
A Free Day in New York City
Lunch at MudSpot & Admiring Art at The Frick
I plan a free day in New York, just so I can soak up the city. Breakfast is a fabulous egg sandwich—one of the best ever—from a humble little place called Egghead. I sit in one of Moxy’s cozy spaces, read the New York Times, and relish every bite of my breakfast. After packing my things and checking out, I go meet my niece for lunch.
I decide to walk the 30 blocks or so to the East Village, where Hanna attends school. A brisk wind blows through and among the high-rise buildings, but the sun’s shining bright. I walk along in a stream of humanity, waiting at curbs for lights to change, maneuvering around people who amble along slowly—although to be honest, most New Yorkers walk really fast. They’re on a mission whereas I’m savoring every moment of my journey.
I marvel at the shops and businesses I pass by. Everything you want and more can be found in this vast city. Need a mattress? A body wrap? A novel? A pair of shoes? A taco? Chocolate? Lobster? It’s a cornucopia of mom and pop businesses, chain retail stores, restaurants, and offices.
I love listening to the sounds of the city, too.: the subway rumbles that emanate from below ground, a clanging jackhammer from a nearby construction site, dogs barking, wisps of conversations from passersby, wind whistling through alleyways. It’s symphonic, the pulsing beat of the city.
My destination is a cozy restaurant called Mudspot, where Hanna and I catch up over lunch. She’s graduating in May, and I love seeing that dreamy look in her eyes when she contemplates her plans for the future. Our time together is short, but rewarding, and soon Hanna sees me off at a subway station, where I catch a ride uptown to explore The Frick Collection.
I’ve always wanted to see The Frick. It’s an unusual collection in that the art is displayed in a mansion built in the early 20th century by Pittsburgh steel magnate Henry Clay Frick. The home, built from Indiana limestone, was conceived to showcase Frick’s art collection and to ultimately become a museum. It’s this homey feel that makes The Frick special. As you wander from room to room, viewing amazing art from around the world, it feels more like you’re in someone’s house and not in a stuffy museum.
Whistler, Degas, Monet, Manet, El Greco, Rembrandt—the collection of art astonishes. I love the numerous antique clocks that sit atop the beautiful antique furnishings. The Frick’s current exhibit, Masterpieces of French Faience, features an array of glazed pottery with intricate etchings, brilliant colors, and elaborate designs. As a pottery fan, I admire nearly every one of the 75 pieces.
That’s one of the benefits of enjoying a trip to New York solo. I can take my time and do what I want and see what I want. If hubby Peter were with me, he’d be sitting on a bench somewhere, making me feel guilty about lingering so long.
Across the street from The Frick is Central Park, and since the sun’s still shining, I decide to walk through the park back to Moxy to pick up my bags. As I stroll along, I enjoy my solitariness: just me and my thoughts far from home. It’s fun to imagine living in the city, but I think it’s a lonely place for many. Funny how easy it is to lose yourself in one of the most populated cities on earth.
Speaking of losing myself, I am navigating with my GPS, and at one uncertain turn in Central Park, a friendly busker playing the violin points me in the right direction. He’s a happy soul and doesn’t seem to mind that only a few birds are listening to his tunes.
My solo trip to New York is drawing to an end. Soon I’ll catch the train to Newark and board my plane to fly back home. I think about going to a happy hour I read about it with half-price wine and oysters on the half shell, but I’m feeling kind of lonely and wishing Peter were with me in this thrumming city that never stops.
A solo trip is empowering and does have its advantages, but it doesn’t take long before you realize how wonderful it is to have a home somewhere and people who care about you. Being a stranger in a city full of strangers is fun for a while, but I’m ready to come back home.
What You Need To Know
Here are Tips for Planning Your Own New York Adventure.
New York City & Company’s website, www.nycgo.com, has tons of useful information about lodgings, restaurants, shows, and events.
Looking for chill spot that serves brunch all day and has crazy-good coffee? Try MudSpot in Easy Village.
For New York’s BEST egg sandwich (and it’s right next door to Moxy Times Square), you must try The Classic at Egghead.
Want to change your life? Start with a vision and this creative visualization exercise.