If you recall, the weather didn't look so good across Pennsylvania just before Turkey Day as two storm systems headed towards each other. We kept to our plans, though, and hit the road on Turkey Eve for the 6 1/2 hour trek across Interstate 80. Amazingly, we made great time and never hit any weather despite the dooms-day predictions. Arrived: Edgewater, NJ...and the illuminated Empire State Building in view across the river.
Thanksgiving morning arrived via alarm as we heard about the need for arriving along the parade route early. We caught the New Jersey transit just a few blocks down the road that took us to the Port Authority at Times Square. This right here is THE way to do NYC with kids. We stayed at the Homewood Suites in Edgewater, NJ that gave us a mini-kitchen, private bedroom, pull-out sofa bed for our kids, free parking, free hot breakfast, and a view of the NYC skyline. That bus stop is the icing on the cake.
Arriving in Times Square, we began our trek north towards Central Park to find a place to view the 87-year-old parade watched by America. The estimates predicted that 3.5 million people were expected to crowd NYC this morning. As we got close and navigated through rude crowds, we found a spot one block south of Central Park...a TIGHT spot. Thanks to the winds and tunneling effect between the buildings, we expected the huge balloons to be kept low...and they were. This was perfect as it gave us a front-n-center view of it all. Despite some very bitter and angry people around us, we had a great time...a frozen great time but a fantastic time, regardless. One Bucket List item checked off the list for my wife. :) Here are some great photos I took which will show you the parade in a whole new light. Enjoy them! https://www.facebook.
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Afterwards and the crowd dissipated, we navigated back to the USO which is located inside the Port Authority. Any military family visiting NYC should keep them in their back pocket when visiting. Discounted tickets, advice, and free snacks to load up with. Priceless, really. One thing they told me a few weeks ago was of a free traditional Thanksgiving dinner from 12:30-3:30 for all veterans at the Soldier, Sailor, Marine, and Airman Club on Lexington Ave., a good walk from the USO. Once we got there, we were so glad we did. Imagine a very old, historic building in NYC with relics covering decades and generations...and a sit-down, traditional Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, rolls, and pumpkin pie. Oh yea...red and white wine, too. I sat next to a Korean War veteran who, like many older veterans I come across, want to talk, talk, talk about their time serving Uncle Sam.
I sat there looking at my wife and girls...so thankful. They are truly what I am thankful for. Thanksgiving is not defined by where I am nor what I do...but whom I share it with and what I am thankful for. On this Thanksgiving, it really couldn't have been more perfect. They are all I have!
Not too much later, we had walked through Grand Central Station en route to Radio City Music Hall where we had tickets for the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes. Of course, we strolled slowly up Fifth Avenue to check out the many decorated windows for Christmas...the best being Saks Fifth Avenue near Rockefeller Center. The show was amazing and we had perfect, centrally-located seats on the 2nd mezzanine which gave us a view to see it all and miss nothing. Zero regrets and highly recommend! The live nativity and celebration of Christ's birth at the end was the cherry on top. Not too long after the show, we headed back across the Hudson...still full from that turkey feast.
Day 2, aka: Black Friday, also started early as we wanted to photo-bomb the Today Show at Rockefeller Center. Well...we did!!! Friends from home took photos of their TVs and I got on camera twice in the background. Honestly, I looked much more like a freaky creeper than a Today Show fan. (Pictures on Facebook) We even got a photo op with the real Santa...I think. His beard sure was real.
We made our way north towards Central Park with a stop at FAO Schwartz and me drueling as we passed on by the Apple Store...or glass cube. Coolest.store.ever. In Central Park, we all ran about 20 feet then I proclaimed "We all just ran in Central Park!!!"...you see, Central Park is a runners' mecca so we just "had" to run. "Check!" Fun times.
One of the highlights of our trip followed: ice skating in Central Park. While unplanned and unknown, we decided to let the girls skate under sunny skies on Trump's Ice Rink for an hour. There was an intangible joy to watching the girls laugh together, hold hands, and just love on each other out there. Had it just been my bride and me, I would've taken her hand for an hour myself and gone all "Sleepless in Seattle" on her!! (Or was it "Elf"???)
After skating, we took our one and only subway trip all the way south to the Financial District with plans to take the Staten Island Ferry around the Statue of Liberty for free. However, it was early afternoon and we still had to walk through Chinatown and 40-some blocks all the way back to Times Square so we decided to skip it and start walking. Walking we did!!! We found Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo, and eventually Union Square where a Holiday Market was super busy with lots of vendors of every flavor. No doubt, the girls' legs were aching and cold, but we kept on hustling, risking our lives now and then across intersections, and never letting go of each others' hands. I threw in a few acapella solos and dance moves along the way to keep them thoroughly amused and embarrassed. "Seriously, Dad? SERIOUSLY?!?!?!" :)
Back at 42nd St and Times Square, we took our Times Square family photo and headed back to the Port Authority and our bus stop. Back at the hotel 30min later, we relaxed at a great new restaurant we found called BareBurger. SO good! With no alarms set and no plans for when we'd be departing the area on Saturday, we all were sound asleep by 10.
We had a lot of fun on this trip. While I have been raised around the traditional Thanksgiving dinner table at home, things change as do relationships and what brings joy to my family and happiness. We don't know what next Thanksgiving will bring but we will be sure to keep each other in mind and keep creating memories with each other. So what am I thankful for? I am thankful for the breath in me to live each day for my Lord, my wife, and my girls. I am thankful for the strength to keep doing it and for the guidance He gives to help me navigate the ever-changing path. That is just a snippet of what I'm thankful for....there is SOOOOOO much more!
So there you have it...my first full length blog post typed entirely with my thumbs while cruising west across a frozen Pennsylvania. Happy belated Thanksgiving, friends!