This year, after experiencing a not-so-relaxing trip with moveable toddlers, we decided we wouldn’t take any trips or vacations as a family until after the kids are at least two, save quick trips to the burbs to PawPaw Jimmy’s swimming pool or special occasion visits to San Antonio, both less than the maximum three hour drive limit. We’ve simply learned that unless we are staying at Grandma Gloria’s in San Antonio, it is not worth it to attempt to stay overnight anywhere other than our own home. And even then, we have to weigh carefully if the amount of work to pack, plan, and drive is even worth it.

So when Jennifer had the opportunity to go fishing in South Louisiana a few weeks ago, we decided she should go. Alone. She went. Fished for three days. Had a great time doing something she loves. Brought a whole bunch of fish back, most of which we gave to my co-workers, a bag of speckled trout which we kept for a fish fry for when the weather cools off.

Jennifer thought I should take my own trip, too. And hello? I agreed. First chance was Las Vegas for my sister’s 30th birthday, but the airlines wanted too much money for a flight on too little notice. So, no. A few days later, my sister told me she was headed to New York City on business and since I had never been, and had always wanted to go, can I crash in your hotel room, and by the way before you say “no”, I just want you to know I’ve already booked my non-refundable plane ticket.

It worked.

Also. My dad was going to be there. Random! And my sister’s husband. And my sister’s husband’s bromance from DC. But I hardly saw any of them. We each had different agendas and very different paces. Quite honestly, it was the perfect way for me to discover New York City, unbound by anyone else’s preferences or agenda, my nomadic self free to roam and get lost and be fine with it all. I hadn’t felt that adventurous since trying to hitchhike from Gunnison to Creede, Colorado back when I was a granola college student.

All I needed was four things: my MetroCard pass for the subway, my New York City Pass, a credit card, and my iPhone loaded with the following apps:

Safari – preloaded browser on the iPhone. What was the name of that restaurant? That store? I could search on Safari, get an address or phone number, and geolocate.

Open Table – a great resource for restaurant reservations, available both on desktop and as an iPhone app. With foodie friends having recommended dining locations, I was able to make reservations using OpenTable while on the go.

Maps –GPS locator with Google maps rocked. And in New York City, the actual names of museums and buildings show up if you drill down far enough. If there was somewhere I wanted to get to, I could enter the address, click on “directions”, and it would show me how to get there from where I was. Or I could just click on “locate” and it would tell me where I was. Because all those buildings in Manhattan? They kinda start to look the same.

CityTransit ($2.99)– Per the iTunes store, City Transit is a comprehensive guide to the New York City subway system. And it’s the only subway system guide that includes the official MTA licensed maps, line data, and GPS station finder and live service advisories. It freakin’ rocked and I didn’t have to carry a paper map all looking like a tourist.

Compass – While the GPS locator service didn’t work underground, the Compass did. And with all the multiple levels of the subway system, or how 55th street hits 5th avenue and you forget which way was south, the Compass was a nice thing to have.

TweetDeck – Live tweets and picture posts during my trip. And how my sister kept up with my activities while she was trapped in meetings discussing derivatives.

Facebook – mobile app for updating status and posting pictures.

That’s all I needed to navigate New York City. And here’s how it turned out:

08.19.09. HOU-BWI-LGA, arriving at 3:30. South Street Seaport. Taxi to Hilton Millenium. Walk around WTC site. Battery Park. Wave to Statue of Liberty. Subway to Times Square.

Times Square

Pick up New York City Pass at Planet Hollywood. People watch in Times Square. Dinner at Two Times Square with the crew. Marginal food, but nice views. Walk to Grand Central Station. Subway back to hotel. 08.20.09. 8:30a out the door. Subway north to Rockefeller Center. Walk around NBC Studios. GE Building. Top of the Rock observation tower. Pictures of Empire State Building and Central Park.

Looking North over a Hazy Central Park

Sit in Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Taxi to lunch at Balthazar in SoHo. Excellent food. Have the skillet macaroni. Meet dad at a pub for a drink. Chinatown. Little Italy. Part ways with dad. Vintage European threads for the kids. Subway to hotel. Shower. Change. Taxi to dinner at Nobu Japanese on my own. Excellent food. Have the black cod appetizer. Chat up a model and her handsome hedge fund owner. Taxi to pub in Union Station to meet sister. Taxi back to hotel around 11:00p. 08.21.09. Subway north. Brunch at Carnegie Deli. Walk up 7th Avenue to Central Park. Through Central Park to Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mini Masters Board Books for the kids. Walk back through Central Park to the Upper West Side. Meet best friend from elementary school for drinks at 2:00. Catch up on the last 25 years.

Hadn't Seen Each Other In 25 Years

Tour the neighborhood after the thunderstorm. More drinks at The Blue Donkey. Wait for the motley crew to meet us. Dinner at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant in the Upper West Side. Subway to hotel around midnight. 08.22.09. Breakfast at Embassy Suites. Pack up.


LGA-BWI-HOU flights. Two hours of delays. Home in time to see my sweet babies before they went to sleep.

Want to see more photos from my trip? Click here.