Wednesday, December 21, 2022

2022 New York City Trip - Day 1

We had the most magical trip to New York City last week, and I’m so SO excited to start recapping it today!  All of you long-time followers probably know by now that I’m a details girl, so settle in… these posts are going to be loooong!  I love being able to look back on these posts and relive the whole experience, and I love that the kids will be able to look back on these posts and do the same one day, so I try to provide as many details as I can when typing them out.  It also comes in handy to have all of the details available for future vacation planning.  ;o)

Because these are going to be long-winded, and verrrry picture heavy, I’ve decided to dedicate one post to each day.  So, grab your cup of coffee, cup of tea, glass of wine, or bottle of ice cold water and settle in, friends… here we go!

Saturday, December 10

Saturday morning, we were up bright and early at 5 AM to catch our flight.  We were out of the house by 6 AM, and on the road to Atlanta long before the sun started to rise.  Our flight wasn’t until 10 AM on the dot, but we wanted to make sure that we got there with plenty of time to spare since a) neither Brian nor I had flown post-Covid and we weren’t sure what to expect, b) we had never flown with the kids so we wanted to have plenty of time to be able to give them a comfortable experience so as to not set a bad tone for future flights, c) because it was verrrry close to Christmas, and we all know how airports are at Christmastime, and d) because all four of us carried on and we wanted to make sure we were on the plane as soon as possible so we didn’t miss out on getting our suitcases in the overhead bins since our flight was full. 

Each of us had a suitcase (small enough to comply with TSA carry-on regulations) and a personal item.  B and the kids each brought a backpack as their personal item, and I used my Barrington Bag (which was fabulous, by the way… it holds so much stuff!).  The kids looked like little pros wheeling their backpacks through the airport with their little backpacks on.  I was so proud of my little travelers.

Anyhoo, we arrived at the Atlanta airport with plenty of time to spare, and we entered the parking garage to park, but ended up driving around foreverrrr looking for a spot only to find out the garage was full.  For some reason, there was no sign indicating that the lot was full, so tons of cars were driving around forever unable to find anything.  Eventually, we had to exit and move to plan B – the park and ride. 

Finding the park and ride was another challenge due to all of the construction going on currently at the airport and the fact that the Atlanta airport is so HUGE, so by the time we parked, got on the shuttle, and made it to the main terminal, we were starting to whittle away at all of the extra cushion that we’d given ourselves.

Thankfully, the security line was short, and we got through without issue.  After that, we had to take the airport train to our terminal, and by the time we reached our gate, we only had to wait about 20 minutes before it was time to board.  We used that time to go to the restroom, and B also bought bottles of water for all of us to bring on the plane. 

The planes for both of our flights were six seats across with an aisle down the middle, so we booked three seats on one side plus the seat across the aisle.  We knew the kiddos would want to sit together, so we didn’t want to split up two and two, and we also knew that they’d want a window to see what was going on outside.  And I also wanted to have an aisle seat, so we didn’t have to disturb anyone if we had to go to the bathroom. 

On the flight there, Jacob took the window seat, Olivia sat next to him in the middle, I sat next to her in the aisle seat, and Brian took the aisle seat across the aisle from us.  It worked out perfectly.  Jacob was cool as a cucumber the entire time.  He was never nervous, never anxious, never worried… you would have never known it was his first flight.

We got our bags settled, got the kiddos buckled in, got their headphones out and ready for the flight, and I got their Earplanes in their ears.  Have y’all heard of Earplanes?!  They are the best things ever!  Since the kids had never flown, we were worried about their ears hurting since they don’t really know how to pop their ears yet.  Olivia’s ENT doctor told us about Earplanes – they are these little silicone ear plugs that you screw into your ears prior to taking off or landing, and they help regulate the pressure in your ears, so you don’t have popping and pain.  They make them for adults and kids, so we bought some for the kids, and I also bought some for myself out of curiosity.  I can confirm that they work exactly as advertised!  They are awesome!

Right before takeoff, Olivia told me that she was scared, so she snuggled her Sheepie and held onto my arm as soon as we started moving.  Once we were in the air she said, “That was easy!” and then she was fine for the rest of the flight and for all of our flight home.

Delta, of course, has in-flight entertainment, so the kiddos were in heaven with all of the movie, TV show, and game selections right at their fingertips.  Jacob opted to watch a movie, and Olivia ended up playing a seek and find game for most of her flight, so I was completely free to read and listen to music.  Nobody even had to take a bathroom break.  Praise!

Our flight was on-time and smooth aside from about three minutes of turbulence that freaked me out a little bit, but neither of the kids were phased, and we landed in New York on time just a little past noon.  We also chose the perfect seats because we were able to see the skyline before landing.  The kids were able to get their first glance of One World Trade Center!

Once off the plane, we took a bathroom break, pulled our jackets out of our suitcases, and we headed to find the taxi queue.  When we left home, it had been unseasonably warm all week, but the temps never got out of the 30’s the whole time we were in New York City, so it was a rude awakening.  Haha.

The taxi queue was short, so we were in a cab within 10 minutes, and thus began the long, wild drive from JFK to Manhattan.  Our taxi was small, so poor B had to sit up front with the driver, and the kids and I sat in the back.  The driver took off super-fast after we got in, so we were already down the street by the time I realized that two of the seatbelts weren’t working.  I switched seats with Olivia so she could be in the seatbelt, and then I worked nonstop to get Jacob’s and my seatbelts to work.  I was just about to tell the guy to pull over so we could get another cab – I wasn’t about to have a kid not in a seatbelt in that crazy traffic – when I was finally able to get them buckled.  I had to switch our two buckles, and I also had to twist them backwards to get them in because they were all messed up.  I was so relieved once I got us buckled because our cab driver drove like a freaking maniac the whole time per usual.

The drive into Manhattan was rough because the traffic was horrendous, and Olivia was hangry so she was verrrry whiny.  It took us over an hour and a half to get to our hotel from JFK, which is waaaay longer than it should take, so that didn’t help either.

Thankfully, we were greeted by the best bellhop everrrr at our hotel, and Olivia was cheered up instantly by his shenanigans.  He kept both kids entertained while B got us checked in, and the kiddos were enamored by his riddles and jokes.

Once we were all checked in, he recommended a great place for us to grab lunch.  We told him we were starving and that we wanted something close that wouldn’t have a wait, and he told us to go to Famous Amadeus Pizza… it was about a two-minute walk right down the street from our hotel, and sure enough, there was no wait!

We each grabbed a slice of pizza and some garlic knots, and my gosh, those garlic knots were incredible.  It was all so, so good.  While we were there, we told the kids how New Yorkers fold their pizza in half to eat it since it’s so big, and Olivia wanted to eat hers like a true New Yorker.  ;o) 

After lunch, we had some time to kill before our room was going to be ready, so we figured we should take the kids to Times Square since it was right around the block.  It was JAM PACKED and loud, and honestly, it wasn’t my favorite thing from our trip.  B and I have been three other times prior to this, and on this trip, it seemed dirtier and more obnoxious than it used to be.  There were lots of people dressed up as characters everywhere and it was just weird.  Those were around the last time we went in 2012, but the sheer volume of characters there now is just ridiculous.  You can’t move without some creepy Elmo or Minnie Mouse trying to take a picture with you.  And obviously, they expect you to pay them, so we made sure to tell the kids to not engage with them.  Lol.  There were also a bunch of people with loudspeakers shouting stuff, and the whole situation was just odd. 

We pointed out the New Year’s Eve ball to the kids, took a couple of pictures, let them soak it up for a few minutes, and then we decided to hit up some of the stores.  First up, the Disney Store.  They had a line about a mile long, and the line didn’t move at all for about 15 minutes, so I was thinking it was going to take forever to get in.  Thankfully, we realized that instead of letting a few in a time, they would wait until most of the store cleared out, and then they would let the entire line inside.  So, we really only waited about 15 minutes, and it was the longest we had to wait in any line on the whole trip. 

The kids each bought a stuffy – Baymax for Jacob and a pod of peas for Olivia – and then we headed to the M&M Store that was at the other end of Times Square.  They also had a line to get in, but that one was constantly moving, and it probably only took about 3-4 minutes before we were inside. 

That place is HUGE, so we hit up all of the different levels, and took pictures at the picture-taking spots, and then we let the kids get bags of M&Ms… the most expensive M&Ms we have ever purchased of all-time.  Lol.  OMG, y’all, the prices were astronomical.  I about fainted when I saw the total for some basic M&Ms.  Haha.

By the time we were done there, our hotel room was ready, so we walked back to our hotel, grabbed our luggage, and got our things settled into our room.  For this trip, we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn on Eighth Avenue.  We loved the location because it was central to a lot of things… just on the other side of the block from Times Square, and only a few short blocks from Rockefeller Center. 

We got a basic room with two queen beds, so it wasn’t very big, but it was just what we needed since we barely spent any time in there anyway.  The hotel was nice and clean, and the staff was soooo friendly, and they also had a continental breakfast every morning, which was uber convenient.  We’re not big continental breakfast people at all, but their food options were soooo good, and it ended up being awesome to have that free breakfast every morning.  The prices for the hotel were very reasonable, too, considering how expensive everything is in New York City.  I highly recommend it if you’re looking to plan a trip!

Once we were all checked in, we headed back out to find something fun to do.  We decided to head to Rockfeller Center first, and on the way, we stopped outside Radio City Music Hall to take some pictures because it is just so picturesque!  I think this spot is one of my favorites in all of New York City.  We found a super kind couple that offered to take our picture, too, and he took a ton!  And they all turned out so good!  I’ll definitely cherish these pictures forever and ever! 

Side note – these were taken at 4:45 in the afternoon and look how dark it is… just wild to us since we live on the far west side of the Eastern Time Zone, and it doesn’t get this dark here until 6 PM this time of year. 

First up, we attempted to go to FAO Schwarz as that was #1 on the kids’ list, but Rockefeller Center was PURE INSANITY.  Note to self, do not attempt Rockefeller Center on a Saturday at 5 PM.  They had half of the streets on that block completely shut down so pedestrians could have more room to walk, and we still couldn’t move through there.  We were packed in like sardines, elbow to elbow the entire time, not even kidding.  The poor kiddos kept getting squished, and one time, I even had to say something to the lady behind Jacob because she was so impatient that she kept pushing him hard into Brian’s back.  It was ridiculous. 

We knew we weren’t going to be able to get to FAO Schwarz or close to see the tree, so we waved to the tree from afar and kept on going.  St. Patrick’s Cathedral is there on that corner, so we walked over there next to take the kiddos inside.  We’re Catholic, as most of you know, so I wanted them to be able to visit and see the inside. 

I’ve been in there a couple of other times, but I swear, nothing can prepare you for its vastness and beauty.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  I had tears in my eyes as we walked in.  It never gets old.

We arrived a few minutes after 5 PM, and there were many people inside touring around, and many inside getting seated for 5:30 PM Mass.  We walked all the way down one of the sides to the front of the church so the kids could see all of the details and then we headed back to the back of the church where you enter.  While we were at the front of the church, we noticed the massive organ at the back of the church, and all I wanted to do from that point forward was hear that organ.  I couldn’t leave without hearing the organ.  And the kids agreed. 

We knew Mass was going to start at 5:30 PM, but we knew we didn’t have time to stay for the whole thing, and we weren’t sure if they would let tourists stay inside during the Mass, so we weren’t sure how to proceed.  Ultimately, we decided to take a seat in one of the outer pews in the back so we could stay for the beginning of the Mass and then slip out quietly. 

It turns out that they let tourists continue to walk around all during the entire Mass (which is just wild to me!), but they ask that everyone be quiet and respectful during the Mass.  We were able to hear that amazing organ (again – TEARS!), and then after the first prayer, we slipped back outside quietly.  I would have loved to stay for the whole Mass, but we had a million things to squeeze in before bedtime, so we opted not to.  Next time, for sure, though! 

When we exited the church, we walked by Saks Fifth Avenue, and watched their Christmas lights show on the side of their building.  The Lego Store is right across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so we crossed over to get in line to get in there.  The line was insanely long for the Lego Store, and I was worried we’d be waiting forever, but miraculously we only waited about ten minutes.  If you’re ever in New York City and you see a long line to get into a store, just do it!  There was not a single line that took a long time!  They all move super-fast! 

I wasn’t super stoked about spending some of our precious time waiting in line for the Lego Store since we’ve been to so many of them, but they are Jacob’s favorite things ever, so I knew we needed to get in there for him.  I was soooo glad we did go inside, because a) we ended up barely waiting, and b) it was, by far, the best Lego Store we’ve ever been in!  They had SO MANY great New York themed Lego displays, and it was just so cool.  (Side note, if you want an unobstructed view of St. Patrick's Cathedral, take the picture right outside of the doors of the Lego Store.  Just look at that!

My favorite thing was the rainbow tree right as you walk in, and the taxi-cab that you can sit in was also really awesome.  The kids wanted me to take their picture inside, and y’all, I CANNOT with Jacob’s face.  Lol.  He put on his toughest face, and I died laughing.  Life with a middle schooler, y’all.  Haha.

We also got to see the New York City skyline, Ghostbusters, Times Square, and a whole bunch of other fun builds while we were there.  Each of the kids picked out a small set to buy, and then we were on our way!

Once we were done there, we knew it was time to start thinking about dinner.  Serendipity was at the top of my list for food (lunch or dinner, it didn’t matter to me), so we decided to walk that way.  It’s not anywhere near Rockefeller Center, so it was quite a long walk getting down there.  We did stop along the way to have some fun, though!

Serendipity is near The Plaza Hotel, though, so we knew we could go ahead and knock that out, too.  Y’all know that was high on the kids’ list of things to see, too! 

We were hoping to be able to go inside the lobby, but they had people guarding the doors and they were only letting hotel guests in… BOOOO.  We did get to see some pigeons outside it, though, so it was a very Home Alone 2 moment.  IYKYK.  Hahahaha. 

After that, we headed towards Serendipity 3.  It’s a very small restaurant that was made famous after the movie Serendipity, and there’s always a wait to get in no matter what time of day you go.  When we arrived, there was a line out the door, so we hopped in line.  I realized shortly after that, that all of those people already had their name on a waiting list, so I walked up to the host when he popped his head out the door to call another party to be seated.

I asked him how long the wait was for four people, and he said, “Do you have a reservation?” 



So, he told me to go inside to the hostess stand and see if we could put our name on a waiting list.  When I walked in, I asked the other hostess the same question, and she asked me the same question right back, “Do you have a reservation?”



She took a minute to look over her stuff, and she said, “Well, we actually just had a party of four cancel, so we can seat you now.”


I have no clue why they seated us before all of the people outside (maybe their parties were too large to put at our small table?!), but I couldn’t believe our luck. 

The hostess couldn’t either… as she was seating us, she said, “I’ve never seen anyone with such perfect timing.”

Haha.  So, we waited zero minutes to get into Serendipity on a Saturday night at 7 PM.  Truly astonishing. 

And the icing on the cake – our table was perfection… perhaps, the best table in the whole restaurant.  Or, at least, downstairs, anyway.  I’ve never been upstairs there before, so I’m not sure what it looks like there.  That’s where they sat in the movie, though, so I’d love to be able to see it sometime.

Our table was in the far back corner, furthest from the door, in the most festive room you’ve ever laid your eyes on.  The walls are all pink – YES – and there are tons of disco balls hanging from the ceiling – YES.  Haha.  It’s the absolute cutest place.

Once we were seated, we looked over their massive menu.  I opted for The Ultimate BLT (it was ah-mazing… maybe the best BLT I’ve ever had), Jacob opted for the mini hamburgers, Olivia opted for the chicken fingers, and B opted for the… Banana Nutella Waffles. 

Oh.  My.  Word. 


Those things were incredible. 

While we waited for our food, we took a million pictures because it’s just the cutest dang restaurant on planet Earth!!  And then after dinner, we got dessert.  I mean, you pretty much have to since that’s what they’re known for.  ;o)

Brian and I shared one of their famous Frozen Hot Chocolates (SO DELICIOUS), and Jacob and Olivia each got a sundae from the kids’ menu. 

All of it was just so dang delicious.  It was my favorite meal of the whole trip!

By the time we were done there, everyone was well rested and getting a second wind, so we decided to attempt seeing the tree in Rockfeller Center again. 

On our long walk back, we did some more sightseeing, and we also dipped into a Duane Reade to grab a couple of things we needed for the hotel.

By the time we reached the tree, it was after 9 PM, and the crowds had thinned out considerably, although, it was still bonkers.  Haha.  I truly don’t think there’s ever a time when it’s not.

We managed to make our way all the way up to the front, though, and we had some kind strangers who offered to take our picture when they saw we were struggling to get a selfie.  Haha.

The kids were in awe.  We’d been telling them how big the tree was, and I think Olivia thought we’d been exaggerating, because she ended up being very impressed.  I thought for sure she’d say, “It’s not that big.”  Haha. 

After spending a few minutes there, we watched the Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas light show again, and then we finally made our way around the building to FAO Schwarz.  They had closed at 9 PM, so we weren’t able to go inside.  The kids were so disappointed, but we promised them we’d go back the next day, and then we walked back to our hotel.

We made it back to our room a little after 10, and we were all exhausted, so the kiddos took very quick showers, and then we all headed straight to bed so we’d be well-rested for Sunday morning.

And that was DAY ONE!  Still so much fun to come, and I hope to recap the rest the first week of January!  Stay tuned!

Happy Wednesday, y’all!


  1. To see the big Apple Christmas magic and your smiling faces makes me so happy.

  2. Looks amazing! I had to laugh at your description of the creepy characters in Times Square. It probably depends when you are there how many of them are around!

  3. I have never had a desire to go to New York City, until watching your instastories and now reading your post.

    1. Well I hope you can make it there one day! It is truly magical at Christmastime!

  4. The Atlanta airport is the worst! It's just so huge. Were you trying to park in the new garage? That's where the kids parked for Thanksgiving, and I'm so thankful it wasn't full then. We stayed in a Doubletree in that general area and loved it. The Lego store looks incredible!

  5. Wow! You sold me on New York at Christmas! I'm looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip. That church is so beautiful. Just seeing it in pictures made me emotional. They brought back memories of my grandparents.

    1. Aw, I love that, Stacy! I teared up walking in. It's overwhelming and so beautiful. I hope you can go see it in person one day. New York City at Christmastime is truly magical!

  6. You packed so much into your first day! What perfect timing for dinner... almost serendipitous, no? LOL.

  7. New York is on our bucket list! Love all the fun you guys had!

    1. I hope you make it there! It is so much fun! Especially at Christmas time!


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