Even though I had traveled to JFK Airport every time I came back to go to college, it was ironic that I had never explored the vast city of New York. It was probably due to the fact that my mom and I aren't fans of big cities, let alone traffic jams and crowds. But when Spring Break came, we were off to NYC.
My mom and I have quite recently found out that the style of 'travel' we like is to stay at one hotel and fully immerse ourselves in the culture/lives of the places we visit instead of hotel-hopping and trying to get to every tourist attraction.
And that's exactly what we did. We stayed at a hotel located in central Manhattan, which made it very easy for us to travel to the places we wanted to explore. I knew my mom was in for a treat since she had intel that there were many art galleries that were small but held great artwork. I was particularly excited about the notion that I might finally get to watch Hamilton live on Broadway!!
We were in New York for about a week or so and did so many things. I didn't want to organize what happened day by day like the last time I posted a travel recount since that would just be utter chaos. Instead, I brought up some highlights of the trip!
1. Broadway Show (Hamilton)
Of course, in 1st place, we have Hamilton (though I'm not actually ranking the experiences). I wasn't sure if we'd be able to get tickets since I only thought of living my dreams when we got to New York instead of before. But it must have been destiny that I got to see Hamilton since there were two seats available in the 'VIP' section (or whatever you call it)! I snatched those without a moment of hesitation and BOOM, we were set to go watch the epic musical that I've -- quite literally -- been singing about!
AND IT WAS AWESOME. Better than anything I had ever imagined. I watched the Disney+ recorded version of Hamilton and was happy, but this was something else. The moment the lights went down, and the first phrase of the opening song played, I got goosebumps all over me. It wasn't the original Broadway cast with Lin Manuel Miranda, but it was, dare I say, better, in some parts. I was trying so hard to take in every melody, every dance move, and every plotline. I could understand some parts of the story better now that I was seeing things in person. I had to really press down the urge to start singing along and dancing. I think at some points when the music was loud, I did sing along quietly.
Oh, and it was cool to see a Korean American actress playing Eliza! She had a beautiful voice and could deliver the emotions in the songs she sang. Unsurprisingly, I cried during the 'Stay Alive (reprise)', 'It's Quiet Uptown', and 'Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story'. The emotions felt by the characters just got to me, and I couldn't stop the tears! Even as I'm writing this, I can feel my eyes getting watery.
At the end of the show, the actress who played Angelica (amazing in every way, by the way) brought up all the female staff onto the stage to celebrate International Women's Day. I liked that they did that because it made the whole thing more special. And while my mom and I were waiting for the taxi to arrive to take us back home, I saw the actress who played Peggy go out from the back. She was so beautiful!
I slept pretty late that night because I kept on reenacting the scenes and singing and dancing. I don't know how my mom pulled through that. But could you really contain your excitement after seeing your favorite Broadway musical? I think not. 😂
2. Art Galleries (MoMA and other niche places)
If you haven't guessed already, my mom loves to go to art museums and galleries. One of the biggest reasons why we picked the hotel we picked was because the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) was right across the street.
I've been to the MoMA in San Fransisco, and I remember not being very impressed. Obviously, it's a great place, but it didn't have anything that drew my attention. So despite my mother's excitement, I was less enthusiastic. When we started exploring the different exhibitions, I realized how big this place was. From Salvador Dali's weird imagination to Vincent Van Gogh's style that you could recognize from anywhere, the MoMA New York had a lot of famous paintings and artwork by artists I read from books when I was younger. It was actually quite surreal (pun intended) to see those works of art in front of my eyes instead of on pages.
We ended up seeing almost all the exhibits, which took us more than three hours. My favorite, if I had to choose, would be the Special Exhibition: Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio. I was able to experience the hard work, attention to detail, and patience that everyone working on the movie would have had to have. My mom, who was not particularly excited to go to this exhibit came back to see it again for the second time once I told her that from start to finish, the filmmakers would have had to adjust the set and characters little by little for every frame. To do this for a full-length film? Well, let's just say director del Toro's patience and love for this movie were copious. When my mom and I came back to the hotel, the first thing we did was watch the movie since we were feeling so inspired.
For a few days after our visit to the MoMA, my mom and I strolled around parts of the city where the whole block hosted a number of different art galleries. Some were by budding artists, and some were by quite famous ones; I took it all in as inspiration. I should've remembered to take photos of who the artist was every time I went to a new one, but just seeing it all compiled like this also gives it a special meaning. They're all very different, but under the name of 'art', they come together as creative means to express the artists' vision.
The collage above is all the artwork that I was in awe of, some because of the subject of their artwork, some because of the medium they used, and some because of the color and atmosphere they created. My new vintage digital camera, Canon Elph 520 took it all in, probably better than my phone would have.
3. Vanderbilt SUMMIT One
One other highlight of the trip was going to a skyscraper to see the skyline of New York. I've been to a number of skyscrapers in my life, and except for the initial excitement of being so high up in the sky, the skyscrapers themselves were not very interesting.
That changed when I went to SUMMIT One, where there were different 'themed rooms' that enhanced the experience of being so close to the sky. The first room was a mirror room, where the floor, walls, and ceilings were all mirrors instead of plain glass. This made it seem like the crowd and their reflections were also a part of the skyline that was reflected all around us.
The second room was a room filled with shiny, inflated balls. People would throw them around, kick them, squeeze them, unfortunately, pop them, and take photos of the reflections that were cast on these giant silver beach balls. It was a lot of fun just playing with these and also quite funny watching other people shriek and laugh like they were little kids.
Then it was time for sundown. A crowd had formed where you could see the sun making its way down most clearly, but even without being at that sweet spot, I think I took a pretty wow-worthy photo (third row, right-most photo). To be up here and to see man-made buildings and nature rest in harmony was a good sight to see.
4. Ice Cream Museum
This was kind of an impulsive decision made by me on the day we were leaving New York, but I had so much fun! My history with Ice Cream Museums goes way back to my Stanford Summer Camp days, so when I found out there was a New York version of it, I had to see what it was like.
When I stepped inside, everything was very... pink! I think this one was slightly smaller than the one in San Fransisco, but there were still many venues to explore. There weren't that many people since it was a weekday, and it was pretty early in the morning, so it felt like I had the whole place to myself. No pressure to take photos quickly and leave before getting to see everything!
The beauty of the Ice Cream Museum is that for every 'new place' you visit within the museum, they offer a new set of desserts (usually ice cream) to sample. No lie, I was sugar-high by the third room even though I shared all the samples with my mom. The black cherry sorbet, brownie ice cream, and pink cotton candy were my favorite. The rooms had cute little activities and photo spots, and I made sure I tried out each and every one of them.
At the end of the grand tour, I jumped into the 'sprinkle pool'. This was much better than the one at San Fransisco since the 'sprinkles' weren't just solid, hard plastic. Instead, it felt like they were the same materials as a ball pit, just that the 'balls' were in the shape of sprinkles. Once again, visiting the Ice Cream Museum is a memory that I'll cherish :)
Besides these four highlights, I also had amazing meals and saw other wonderful things like the Times Square. My trip to New York City was one of the best trips I had so far!