Day 4: New York
After an excellent stay in Chicago, it was time to head to our next city - New York. We had a morning flight so we had to get up pretty early. Luckily, since we had a $60 credit to spend on breakfast, we could order room service delivered straight to our door by 7am. This was my first time ordering room service (because it was free) and a pretty great experience, especially since the restaurant wasn’t open yet and we needed to leave early.
Traffic wasn’t as bad as we thought, so we got to O’Hare Airport with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, there weren’t any Priority Pass lounges in the domestic terminal so we just waited by the gate.
The two hour hop passed by pretty quickly and soon we had arrived at the infamous New York La Guardia Airport. LGA was undergoing signifiant renovations so Uber and Taxi pickups were located far away. There was a bus that connected to the subway station which seemed promising so we took that. It was quite crowded, but, fortunately, the ride wasn’t too long. We then took the subway from Queens into Manhattan. It was a hot and sunny day outside, but the heat underground was significantly amplified. The trains weren’t very crowded though and had A/C. Soon, we had arrived at our hotel - Marriott’s Vacation Club Pulse in Midtown Manhattan.
Earlier in the year, I had stayed at a Marriott Vacation Club property in Las Vegas. While you can book these as normal hotel rooms, they are also used as part of Marriott’s timeshare program. As a relatively frequent traveller who does tons of research into extracting every ounce of value from credit card and hotel rewards programs, the word timeshare immediately raises red flags. However, the offer I had was to put down a deposit of $100 and have the option of staying at any Marriott Vacation Club in the US over the next 18 months for a fixed rate. There was an additional 20000 points awarded as well, which I value at $150. Since I was planning a trip to New York later in the year, this option seemed viable. The New York Package was $499 for 3 nights (or $399 plus the deposit). This ended up being an incredible deal since hotels in Manhattan are crazy expensive, especially during the peak summer travel season. This exact hotel would cost $350/night, with just about every comparable option in Manhattan being significantly more expensive than the fixed rate. There was a catch though - I would need to attend a 90 minute timeshare information session during my stay. I trusted myself enough to hold my ground so I wasn’t too concerned.
The room itself was well appointed, but unsurprisingly, very small. We didn’t plan on spending much time here besides sleeping so we were okay with it. After settling in, we headed out to explore the Big Apple. We first stopped by Chick-Fil-A which was just around the corner for a snack. Yes, this isn’t a very New York thing, but I live near a Shake Shack in Seattle so this was more of a treat.
We were located on 37th and 5th Ave - just a few blocks from the Empire State Building in Midtown. Manhattan is laid out in a very well organized grid system of numbered streets and avenues. For this first day, we walked north along 5th Ave, towards Central Park. We first passed by the central branch of the New York Public Library. Unfortunately, we were still carrying the soda from Chick-Fil-A so we couldn’t go inside.
New York’s Fifth Avenue is one of the most famous shopping streets in the world. We popped into several flagship stores along the way, both to explore and to take a break from the heat. I was very happy to visit the NBA store.
Next, we passed by St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. The cathedral definitely stood out next to the modern skyscrapers.
The flagship Nike store was pretty cool, and it had an area to design your own shoe.
I also had a glimpse of the original St Regis hotel from 1904. The St Regis brand is now a global chain, sitting at the top of Marriott’s luxury portfolio.
Of course, we passed by Trump Tower, which literally had armed guards at the entrance and security all around the perimeter. Our last stop on Fifth Avenue for the day was the Apple Store. Unfortunately, the iconic glass cube was undergoing a major renovation at the time, so they set up a temporary store in the nearby building. Along 58th St, we could see Billionaires Row, which was a series of super tall residential buildings overlooking Central Park, with some of the most expensive apartments in the world.
We then started heading back, this time moving inside the Rockefeller Center complex that span Fifth and Sixth Avenue. There was a large central courtyard, surrounded by skyscrapers that almost wall itself from the rest of Manhattan.
NBC Studios and their many famous television shows are filmed here, such as Saturday Night Live and the Tonight Show.
We continued heading west towards Seventh Avenue and Times Square. I’ve been to a lot of big cities around the world, but there’s nothing quite like the hustle and bustle of Times Square.
As the sun started to set, it was time for dinner. My girlfriend loves Japanese ramen, and while I try to avoid it when traveling, I have always wanted to try Ippudo Ramen. This was the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had. I devoured it in less than 15 minutes. I know Ippudo is very famous and a lot of people like it, but it’s not everyone’s favorite. After trying countless ramen places, including its Japanese rival Ichiran, which I also love, I can safely say this one is my favorite.
After dinner, we strolled back down Fifth Avenue to our hotel. As we turned on 37th Street, we got a look at the iconic Empire State Building lit up. There’s just something so exciting about seeing all these places I’ve heard so much about, in person. Good night from New York.