New York City is a place I have always wanted to visit for so many years. I have long desired to travel there but even just as recently, I expected such a trip would still be many years away from becoming a reality.
This last week, that dream finally came true and much sooner than I had ever expected.
That dream turned into reality the moment the Virgin America flight I was on landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on Jan. 11. After getting off the plane and later finding myself in the actual streets of New York City, I thought to myself what I’m experiencing and seeing at the moment can’t be real and that I must be dreaming. I eventually came to the conclusion that if I was dreaming all this, it would certainly be one hell of a dream and that this is all really real.
The fun really began on the day after I arrived.
Temperatures in New York City ranged in the 20s and 30s at the most and the Northeast was still recovering from some of the worst snowstorms yet. Despite the extremely cold weather and navigating through treacherous snow-covered streets, it did not deter me from wanting to explore the city and to visit my first restaurant there.
Recommended by a good friend of mine from middle school, I visited Junior’s near Times Square, a place known for its amazing cheesecakes. For lunch, I ordered the Southern chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables topped with gravy. The meal was absolutely delicious but what I really looked forward to was the cheesecake for dessert. I tried the chocolate swirl cheesecake. I liked it although my only problem was that there was too much
of the cheese part. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in New York City that I have ever visited. I liked it so much that I decided to stop by for lunch once again shortly before I flew back home a few days later.
After lunch, I took a walk around Times Square. I was amazed by the bustling nature of this area as well as the pedestrian-friendly culture of the city. The area suffered no shortage of vitality and there was so much activity going on that it really helps bring the place to life.
Later that night, I attended the taping of The Colbert Report, the first of two television show tapings I attended during my trip. Most people know that I frequently attend television show tapings in Los Angeles but this was my first time going to a show taped in New York City, the
other big market in the country. It was much like the tapings I normally attend in Los Angeles where there is lots of fun and excitement as well as an endless supply of laughter. I certainly had fun watching Stephen Colbert doing what he does best, especially being there in person to see the show come to life as it happens.
For dinner that night, I hopped on the subway to Chinatown to try out a hole-in-the-wall place there called Old Sichuan Cuisine. I had the Hunan spicy pork fried rice dish, which wasn’t really as spicy as I had expected but was nevertheless still good. The place only had a few other customers at the time but the service was excellent with friendly waiters and a very warm, comfortable environment inside.
The next day on Jan. 13, I started my day early by taking the Amtrak Northeast Regional train from New York Penn Station to Stamford, Connecticut for the taping of Maury. I often watch this show at home during the day and despite the dubious nature of the show, I always love the wild drama that goes on in the show. It was even more exciting to cheer and jeer with fellow audience members as paternity test results bring out the worst in the guests on the stage for our entertainment.
Continuing with the theme of media on this particular day, I came back to New York City in the afternoon to take a tour of the studios for two major networks: NBC and ABC.
I first took a tour of the NBC studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. During this brief tour, the NBC pages treated our tour group with a welcome video from Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira of the Today Show in a small theatre, talking about the history of NBC. We later visited the studio for the Dr. Oz Show, formerly the same studio Conan O’Brien once taped his show during his run as the host of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and another studio where Saturday Night Live is currently taped from. Following the tour, I took a walk around the Rockefeller Plaza area to observe the incredible sights of the skating rink, the holiday decorations still left up there and the amazing abundance of lights that made this place really sparkle at night.
A few hours later, I rendezvoused with a friend of mine, Peter Martinez, who now works for ABC News. Thanks to his generosity, he was able to give me and another friend of his a personal tour of the ABC News studios. When we came in, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer was already in progress and we watched from the control room how the live newscast is directed and managed. He later showed us other parts of the news department including the digital media center and the actual set itself where ABC News newscasts
broadcast out of. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to meet Diane Sawyer that night. We all later went out for some fantastic New York-style pizza and stopped by the Manhattan Bakery for dessert.
On Friday, I visited the three most important places in New York City that this trip would not
be complete without — Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Ground Zero. I took the ferry first to the Statue of Liberty. From the ferry and from the island, it was breathtaking to see the skyline of New York City, New Jersey and everything else in between. Once arriving at Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is, I accessed the pedestal area inside the statue where there is a museum and exhibition area that details the entire history of how this landmark came to be. The exhibitions include the timeline, how the statue was built, what its intended meaning is meant to be and so much more.
I later hopped back on the ferry to visit Ellis Island. Much like the Statue of Liberty, the area inside also was a museum. I walked through the actual areas where immigrants that came through this place checked in, evaluated and processed by authorities. The exhibits include the luggages people brought in when they arrived, photographs of the people that came through and the personal items immigrants brought with them along their journey such as foreign currency, family heirlooms and many other items.
Upon getting back to the city, I visited Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Aside from a bronze plaque on the wall of the fire station near the site where it commemorates the victims in the attack, there really was not much else to see other than a giant and partially snow-covered site. Construction on the new towers are apparently underway, proving that progress really is being made to rebuild the site from one of the most deadliest terrorist attacks in our nation’s history.
On my last day in the city on Jan. 15, I took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning as the last place I would visit before catching my flight back home later in the day. It was amazing to walk through the entire bridge to and from, getting a glimpse of everything from the New York City skyscrapers to the nearby Manhattan Bridge to the Statue of Liberty in the distance. This was a fantastic way to conclude this trip by taking a walk through an historic landmark and viewing all of the great things that makes the city so wonderful.
A few hours before my flight, I decided to go back to Junior’s near Time Square for a second time as the last restaurant I would visit before heading back home. The same waitress from Wednesday served me again on this day during the lunch hour. She suggested earlier in the week that I try the chocolate mousse cheesecake instead of what I originally got. During this second visit, I decided to follow her suggestion this time around by getting that cheesecake and that chocolate mousse cheesecake turned out to be way better than what I got on Wednesday. I made the right decision by coming back and giving it another chance where the second time was certainly the sweetest!
On the Virgin America flight back home, I reminisced about all of the memorable highlights from the trip. What I certainly miss most is the transit accessibility in the city. The New York City subway is one of the most busiest, heavily used rapid transit systems in the world and I found it so convenient to get around the city on the subways. I managed to avoid taking buses and taxis throughout my trip and solely relied on rail transport of some kind. Almost every place I visited in New York City was within walking distance of a subway station, which made getting around very easy.
I enjoyed my first-ever trip to New York City. I miss just about everything that New York City has to offer from the food, entertainment, historic landmarks, transit systems, unique pedestrian culture and even the bitterly cold weather I had to endure while I was there. It has certainly been my passion to travel more after spending much of my life being unable to travel anywhere at all. This trip to the Big Apple was a dream come true — a dream that came true sooner than I expected.