We were faced with one major problem when we began planning our honeymoon. Ashley is an elementary school teacher, and we were getting married Labor Day weekend - just after the first week of school! There was no way she could leave for a honeymoon at that time. She would have spent the entire trip worrying about “her kids”. The only solution was to wait.
The next available vacation time was three months later, over the winter break. When we posed the question of where our destination should be, we realized there were two options: we could go someplace tropical to escape the cold and crowds of the holiday season…or we could throw ourselves headlong into it. As soon as James uttered “New York City,” we knew it had been decided. While many people choose far away, exotic place they have never been to, we love New York City. It is a place that is very special to us and we hope to go to again and again throughout our life together.
We first met during rehearsals for a musical in college and have always been involved in drama. Ashley has a bachelor’s degree in theatre, and we regularly attend events at our local venues. Although we have visited NYC several times, each trip has been special. The first time James told Ashley he loved her was on a horse-drawn carriage ride through a snow covered Central Park. Going to New York City on our honeymoon would allow us to do all the activities we have always loved, and a few more that we had never tried before. Our guests also knew how meaningful this trip would be, because we have always shared pictures and stories from our past visits.
Our decision seemed more important once Hurricane Sandy struck. That area of the country seemed to be hit hard; we felt it was important to continue with our travel plans. After all, we would be contributing to the local economy throughout our trip.
Our travel dates were set from December 27th, 2012 to January 1st, 2013 (we joked that our honeymoon would last two years.) Before we left, we said goodbye to our dog. She would be spoiled rotten while we were away, thanks to our wedding guests and Traveler’s Joy. Taking the train from Baltimore to Penn Station was so relaxing compared to flying and was the best choice for honeymoon travel.
We were gifted a room at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square through our honeymoon registry. The location was perfect! We were within walking distance of so many theatres, restaurants, and shops; we could look out the window to see Times Square on one side, and the East River on the other.
Our first evening was spent over a delicious dinner with friends who happened to be in the city at the same time. We had wonderful conversation as we lingered over glasses of red wind and dessert. Our friends graciously settled the bill as we rushed out to our first scheduled activity of the honeymoon: seeing Ricky Martin in Evita! We had a great time discussing the musical as we walked back to our hotel and crashed for the evening. We were exhausted after a day full of travel, friends, and theatre!
We spent the next morning and early afternoon in a cozy Italian restaurant, enjoying each other’s company, holding hands, and stealing kisses. Since we were on our honeymoon, we broke all the rules and began our lunch with dessert and worked backwards! The late afternoon featured a walk through Manhattan. We visited the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza, watched the ice skaters, and enjoyed the holiday decorations that lined the streets. The famous holiday windows of Saks Fifth Avenue and the lovely crèche at St. Patrick’s Cathedral delighted us.
After dinner at a funky Cuban restaurant, another gift from our honeymoon registry, we walked leisurely through the crowded streets to the final Broadway show of our trip: Glengarry Glenn Ross, staring Al Pacino. One of our close friends and wedding guests knew how much theatre means to us and purchased these tickets through Traveler’s Joy as a wedding gift.
Seeing Al Pacino live was a once in a lifetime experience. He was the highlight of a stellar, star-studded cast. They created such a rich stage life and made the 90-minute performance feel like the blink of an eye. Every evening of the performance’s limited run was sold-out. How lucky were we to be in the audience?! We shared our thoughts with one another as we walked back to our hotel, but we felt too energetic to sleep.
As we neared the Crowne Plaza, our problem was solved. There are so many local comedy clubs in New York City, and they all have late night shows. Once the cast member heard we were on our honeymoon, he sold us tickets at half price! We spent the evening laughing over drinks with strangers from all over the world. Finally spent, we drifted off to sleep giggling, and whispering the jokes we had heard from the hilarious comics.
The third day of our honeymoon was very busy and very exciting! We began our day at the Central Park Zoo. We arrived early enough to walk through the Tropical Zone before the sea lion feeding. They put on quite a show! We were expecting a few tricks, but the sea lions played fetch, clapped, danced, and gave their trainers high fives! During their charming performance, it began to snow. It was falling lightly at first, but by the feeding was over it was falling fast and thick. After visiting the last few exhibits we began our walk through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
By this time, the ground was covered in a thick blanket of pristine snow. The dropping temperature had driven most people inside, so we were almost completely alone. The park was quiet and tranquil as we walked with our arms around each other, stealing kisses along the way. We stopped halfway to share a cup of hot chocolate and a warm knish to bring some warmth back to our hands as the snow continued to fall. Although we did not talk much, we think this was the most romantic moment of our honeymoon. After all, how many couples are so lucky?
After enjoying the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including a fascinating exhibit on the manipulation of photography (before and after the invention of Photoshop), we took a cab back to the hotel to change for the ballet. Since we were given cab fare through our honeymoon registry, we did not have to walk to the Lincoln Center, where the New York City Ballet performs. Ashley was a dancer for many years before she became a teacher, and was thrilled by seeing the highest caliber dancers performing the original choreography by Balanchine. While James does not have as deep an appreciation for ballet, he was enchanted by the charming story and famous Tchaikovsky score. The ballet was something we had never seen during all our trips to the city, due to the expense. These tickets were one of the first gifts purchased from our registry.
We awoke early the next morning to enjoy ice-skating at Rockefeller Plaza under the famous Christmas tree. After enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee, we went to the top of the Rockefeller Center building, also known as Top of the Rock. It was amazing to see New York City from this new perspective. We could see all of Central Park, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building. We could even see the Statue of Liberty, which is sadly closed due to Hurricane Sandy.
We returned to Top of the Rock in the evening to see the city lit up. Being able to compare both views is an experience we would recommend to anyone visiting Top of the Rock. The vista was awe-inspiring, and it was shocking to realize just how bright Times Square is!
Our last full day in New York City was New Year’s Eve. We had decided when we began planning to spend the holiday in Times Square. This had been on our “bucket list” for some time, and we teased that if we could survive 10 hours waiting in the cold, we could survive 50 years of marriage. What does one do for 10 hours? We made friends! There were families near us from Chattanooga, where James grew up; Baltimore, where we currently live; and Brazil. We played cards, cracked jokes, and even had a celebrity sighting!
The highlight of our honeymoon was sharing our first New Year’s kiss as a married couple surrounded by thousands of people cheering as confetti drifted through the air. That was more than worth the cold and the waiting. It is a moment that is unique to our life that can never be recreated. All the building excitement got the best of us the next day, and we slept through most of the train ride back to Baltimore.
Between our Traveler’s Joy registry, careful planning, and our casual savings, we were able to have a dream honeymoon for under $2,000. Being a schoolteacher and Ph.D. candidate doesn’t pay as well as we would like, but we were able to have everything we wanted. We had a wonderful time and could not have imagined a more perfect way to begin our lives together. Anyone who looks at our pictures and souvenirs from our trip knows we would suggest New York City as a destination for couples like us.