Summer New York/Chicago Trip

Chris and I have been very blessed to get the opportunity to travel as much as we do. We typically travel with family, but in July we took our first trip alone since our honeymoon :) We both love New York City and I had never been to Chicago so that made our decision of where to go quite easy.

Day 1 (7/28): We arrived in New York and decided to grab a bite at Gray's Papaya before hitting up Times Square and doing all of the tourist-y things we had planned to do. Random fact, I have wanted to try a Gray's Papaya hot dog since watching "Fools Rush In" when I was a kid. You can imagine my relief to find that I hadn't dragged us halfway across town for crappy hot dogs, they were delish!

Satisfied and happy we embarked on our journey for the day. After a few hours wandering around Times Square we decided that we were getting thirsty. It just so happened that Chris knew exactly where we could find some local craft beer, Heartland Brewery. 

Some might think that choosing a place to eat dinner in New York City could be stressful; there being so many options and all. Fortunately (for me) Chris had already done the research and planned where were would eat each day. Our first night we went to an awesome little Indian restaurant called Tadka. This place was supertiny but way cool and the food was incredible.

Day 2 (7/29): After a quick bite in Rockefeller Center we went ahead and decided to see the best view of the city at the Top of the Rock.  We spent some time there before heading over to the MoMA to get our art on :)
We had lunch in Little Italy at Humberto's Clam House which is apparently a place where some famous mob bossed was "whacked." Not the most appetizing of thoughts, but the food was really good. After lunch we headed over to Chinatown and walked off all that yummy Italian food. While getting back on the subway to head over to the Upper East Side I had a minor subway incident. Someone snatched my subway pass (7 day unlimited metro pass) from my back pocket! It was quite the ordeal for about 5 minutes, but after acquiring a new metro pass all was well with the world.

That evening we went to go see "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" starring none other than DANIEL RADCLIFF. It was weird watching Harry Potter sing and dance on a Broadway stage, but we really enjoyed the show overall.

No Broadway experience is complete without a visit to John's Pizzeria. I would put their pizza up against any pizza in the nation, hands down This would also be a good place to say that since we were visiting both New York and Chicago in a short period of time we decided that we would try to settle the big "New York Pizza" vs "Chicago Pizza debate.

Day 3 (7/30): The plan for the day was to go to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We knew we would spend most of the day away from the city so figured it would be a good idea to have a nice big breakfast before we headed to Battery Park. While walking around in NYC we had seen this cool cafe called Pershing Square so we decided to start our day there. Once breakfast was done we made our way over to Battery Park where we found a 4 hour line to get on the ferry that went to the Statue of Liberty. We said "no thanks" and decided we would go back a different day. Since we were only a couple blocks away we went to the financial district to visit Trinity Church, Ground Zero, and the New York Stock Exchange. At some point that afternoon we started getting hungry and headed over to one of Chris' favorite NYC staples, Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington gave the farewell address to his officers.  There, we enjoyed a wonderful meal of crab cakes and local brews.

While at the Broadway show the night before we saw an ad that said that the Book of Mormon sold a limited number of standing room tickets and would give away set number of tickets in a lottery. I decided that getting into the show through one of these methods would be my mission during the trip. Once we were through with everything in the financial district we headed over to line up for Book of Mormon standing room tickets. This first try proved to be unsuccessful, but I was not defeated. 

7/31 (Day 4): Museum day. We started at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and spent the morning there perusing the different exhibits. Lunch was the "Man vs. Food" experience of the trip. The Reuben sandwich at Carnegie Deli is humongous. Chris and I shared one sandwich and still had a crazy amount of leftovers. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Museum of Natural History.

Since we had some time to kill and still hadn't managed to get tickets to The Book of Mormon we decided to head over to try our luck with the ticket lottery. Fail again.

We were still on our mission to figure out whether New York or Chicago pizza was best. So we began our trek to our dinner destination, Lombardi's Pizzeria, the "best pizza on the planet" (according to Zagat) and the oldest pizzeria in America (they still have the original coal fire oven in use). For the record, I still prefer John's :) On our way to Lombardi's we ended up getting all kinds of twisted around on the subway. We spent a long time heading in the wrong direction and then kept missing our trains and discovering that some routes only ran at certain times. We were very relieved when we finally got to the pizzeria and ordered some Sixpoint (local Brooklyn brewery) beers immediately. We deserved them!


8/1 (Day 5):  We had postponed our plans to visit the Statue of Liberty and figured that midweek would be best (not as many tourists), so we made our way to Battery Park to get on the ferry to see Lady Liberty and Ellis Island.

At Ellis Island we only confirmed what we already knew. A whole slew of Keller's came through there and my people...well...didn't.

We finished our history/ancestry lesson and went to lunch at Barbuto in Greenwich Village. The chef, Jonathan Waxman, happens to be our absolute favorite Top Chef Master and we were super pumped because we actually got to meet him! I am a huge proponent of being "one of the people" when traveling so it was awesome to just spend a few hours walking around the Village; going into shops, checking out the brownstones, etc.

Chris has some family in NYC and we were able to meet up with them at Spiga, a fantastic little Italian place near Central Park. It was a beautiful evening (and not too dark) so we thought a walk through Central Park would be a perfect ending to our day.

8/2 (Day 6): Last full day in NYC. Susan had told us about an awesome park in the Meatpacking District called the Highline. They had taken an unused train track and built a park/green space along it about 20 feet up in the air. Supercool.

We had done everything that we had wanted to do on our trip so we decided that we would make a concerted effort to get tickets to the Book of Mormon. We had tried entering our names into the lottery every day at this point, so we knew there was only one way that we could guarantee that we would get to see them show... wait in the standing tickets line. Since we had been going by the theater nearly every day that week we knew that only 22-25 standing tickets were sold. As long as we could be the 10th or 11th person in line we could definitely get in. We got to the theater at around 1:00 PM  and were the 10th/11th people in line. We took turns waiting; walking around Times Square and buying souvenirs when we weren't sitting and waiting in line. We waited until 5:30 PM when the ticket window opened and ... WE GOT TICKETS!!!! (For $27.00 too, holla)

8/3 (Day 7): We said goodbye to NYC with a quick walk through Times Square and Madison Avenue, just to get the hustle and bustle of the city out of our systems. We made our way to LaGuardia where we would fly to Chicago to continue our adventures :) We arrived in the afternoon and spent a little while shopping along the Magnificent Mile after checking in at our hotel. Once shopping was done we went to Goose Island brew pub to have some local craft brews (although now they are owned by Anheuser Busch). The beer was good but we were hungry so we headed over to Giordano's to begin our Chicago pizza leg of the great pizza debate.

8/4 (Day 8): Our first full day in Chicago started off fairly early with a Wendella river and architecture boat tour of the city.

Once the boat tour was over we spent a couple of hours walking around Millenium Park and people watching. For lunch we went to Frontera Grill, a restaurant owned by another one of our favorite Top Chef Masters, Rick Bayless.

In the late afternoon we took the long cab ride to Buffalo Grove to spend the next 2 days in the suburbs of Chicago celebrating the impending nuptials of our good friends, Carli and Cory.

Oh, and as for the resolution of the pizza dilemma... After trying John's (multiple times) and Lombardi's in NYC and Giordano's and Lou Malnati's in Chicago the vote is split. Chris prefer's Chicago and I prefer New York. Very helpful, I know ;)