Wednesday, February 6, 2013

NYC - Day 2

Back to New York...

One of the top items on my list for our NYC trip was visiting the 9/11 Memorial.  The previous two times I'd been to the city, I'd visited Ground Zero to see remnants (and visited Century 21; a deal lover's dream), so to see the changes was something I looked forward to.

It's free to visit the memorial (although a donation is suggested). It's also recommended to reserve tickets in advance, which you can do here.  The reservation is for a specific date and time.  Not knowing how our Saturday night would play out, we reserved tickets for 11:00am Sunday (which, obviously, was 10am CT for our body clocks).  I reserved the tickets a few days in advance (Thursday), with no issue.

Sunday morning we slept in as long as possible, whoops, which left time for a quick Starbucks breakfast (I know, boring!) before hopping on the subway to get to lower Manhattan. Luckily, the time reservation has a 30 minute window, otherwise we would have been in trouble since we walked up at 11:20am.

As one would imagine, there were several security checks (including an x-ray scanner for our bags/coats/etc). After following the herds of people and passing through various security guards, we arrived at the memorial.

Even in January, it's breathtaking.  It's clean, it's peaceful and it's beautiful. You can't help but be overcome with emotion to look at the footprints of the towers and see, feel, the names inscribed along the perimeters.

There's also The Survivor Tree, which is a tree that was found in the rumble, cut down to it's trunk, but still living.  The tree was uprooted and taken to a nursery to be brought back to health until it could be replanted.  While at the nursery, it was uprooted again (by a storm), but continued to live. Now that it's been planted, it's grown more than 30 feet.

The construction of seven new towers is planned and underway, as well as a Museum and Performing Arts Center. 

Freedom Tower
Museum is in background

After spending an hour or so at the memorial, we decided to walk to Battery Park to see The Statue of Liberty.  We checked the schedule of the Staten Island Ferry (which typically departs once an hour) and found that we could make the 12:30 ride. 

It was a bit chilly!

It's pretty amazing that the city can afford to operate this free of charge.  It also makes you feel bad for all of the idiots people who falled into the tourist trap to pay for a closer view of the Statue of Liberty.

The ride to Staten Island takes about 30 minutes.  Once you arrive, you must depart the ship.  We simply departed and followed the crowd to the next ship over, which was departing to come back to Manhattan in five minutes.  It was a fun this to do and absolutely free!
After departing, we walked up the street for Ben to see the Wall Street Bull, which really wasn't all that exciting.  Especially because there was a line of people waiting to take pictures.

We walked throughout Wall Street area on our way to the Brooklyn Bridge. We can across several generators, which was a lasting reminder of Hurricane Sandy and her detriment.
An entire block of generators

Walking Brooklyn Bridge was another task on my list of things I'd never done and wanted to do with Ben.  The walk there from Wall Street was longer than we'd anticipated, but once we got there, it was worth it!

 A lot of the websites and guidebooks say that the way to walk the bridge is to start in Brooklyn and walk towards the skyline of Manhattan, but  disagree.  Once on the bridge, we looked back to a close view and as we continued to walk towards Brooklyn, the view of Manhattan grew more and more, until we were about 3/4 way across. Then you realize where you've come from and just how sprawling Mahattan's skyline is.

So, that was really were my planning for the day ended and I let Ben's interests (although admittedly mine too, more and more) take over.  Therefore, Brooklyn meant beer.  Our plan had been that we'd get to the end of the bridge, grab a cab and head over to Brooklyn Brewery (public transit wasn't really an option as it would have been a zig-zag mess).  The only problem was that it took us another 20+ minutes of walking to actually hail a cab.

Part of the interest to visit Brooklyn Brewery was that their website advertised a SmorgasBrewery in their tasting room.  Essentially, it seemed like a Sunday Funday type party with food vendors, free tours and of course, beer.  We arrived around 3:30pm and were shocked to see the place was crowded (now we're wondering if it's always like this on Sundays or if because the following day was Martin Luther King Day).

After buying tokens, standing in line, and hunting for a spot to sit, we ended up fitting a small stand up table for the two of us.  Starved and thirsty, we inhaled our nachos and sandwich as we enjoyed our beer. Brooklyn Brewery is known for their lager, which is pretty much your typical Miller Lite type beer.  We didn't order that (Brooklyn beers are available in Chicago), but really liked the Brooklyn Blast, something I don't think I'd had before. 
As 4pm approached, we decided we weren't interested in sticking around for the tour.  Ben's gotten to the point where he's visited enough small breweries that unless they're known for something unique in their process, it's all the same to him. Instead, we walked to the end of the street, to a little park/coast that looked across as Manhattan.  It was gorgeous!
Our next stop was Barcade, which is the original beer-arcade and the inspiration for both Emporium and Headquarters.  Being that Headquarters is a new-favorite hang out, we had to seek out it's mother.

The beer selection (and prices) were great.  The games were a decent selection, and much like the local bars, line the perimeter of the bar. Each game cost a quarter. The overall atmosphere was relaxed and cool, but we decided that we prefer Headquarters, probably because their games are free (although their beers are more expensive to make up for it).

Next stop was what I was most excited for, Spuyten Duyvil. Any time you google NYC Craft Beer Bar, etc, this place pops up as the best beer bar in NYC. I have to say, we agreed. Note, it's also apparently the name of a neighborhood subsection in The Bronx. Don't confuse the two.

The ambiance itself is so intriguing and comfortable.  Mismatched chairs and tables combined with soft lighting gave way to a cozy feeling.  We choose two seats at the end of the bar, which made way for easy ordering and help from the bartender to decide our beverages.
Since the only thing we'd eaten all day was a Starbucks breakfast sandwich, nachos and half a sandwich (not a good idea when drinking), we indulged in some bleu cheese and summer sausage, which were amazing. The whole place was amazing. We honestly could have stayed here all night.  But we opted for a few beers each before moving on.

Next on the list was taking the subway back to Manhattan.

Looking north from Williamburg Bridge
Ben had been anxious about this stop all day, Top Hops.  He found out about them on the internet. It was the same general ideas as City Swiggers, the night before.  A beer shop and bar in one.
At this point, we really should have ate something because Ben's mind must have been a bit foggy when he decided to spend $100 on craft beer bottles to take with us, except that he'd forgotten that it costs $30 to check bags on American Airlines. Thus he enjoyed a beer or two every night in his hotel room after work later in the week.

We hopped a cab and headed over to Bleecker Street, which has great boutique shopping mixed in with food and bars.  We decided to keep our tradition of Sunday-night Pizza-night alive and ordered a medium pepperoni and sausage at John's Pizza. I'd read about John's Pizza on a friend blog and wanted to try it; however, I think it's similar to Ray's Pizza, in that there are several "knock-offs". None the less, John's Pizza on Bleecker is fantastic! (and FYI, cash only)
We had one more craft beer bar on the list the check out, Blind Tiger, which was conveniently located across the street from Johns.  At this point, we both decided it was time to call it a night. However, I could not be on Bleecker St and not go to Magnolia Bakery.  The Bleecker St location is the first Magnolia I visited my first time in NYC and also happens to be the original Magnolia Bakery location.  My roommate and I were nannying and every night when the kids were in bed and the parents came home, we took a cab to the bakery for a late night cupcake.  It's a cozy corner store with much more personality than the bigger and newer locations like 6th Avenue (and Chicago).

After that, we cabbed it back to the hotel to call it a night!


  1. Wow, you guys packed a lot of sightseeing in a day- thanks for sharing your story. Mmm, that pizza looks delicious.


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