There are some perks in the Travel Industry and one of them is WINNING holidays at Industry Trade Nights. That’s exactly what I did at the VISIT USA night and I won an ATI East Coast Cities Tour. So it is, Ian & I have found ourselves on the other side of the world.
Today we ‘ubered’ to the airport. Thank you to Liz. Pick up at 4am to catch our QANTAS Flight to Sydney, then connecting in Sydney with our American Airlines flight to LAX, connecting to American Airlines flight from LAX – NYC.
Flights were relatively on time and smooth sailing. By the time we arrived in NYC at around 7pm we were super tired with around 5 hours sleep captured on our flights. Seats were comfy and clean. Service was wonderful, and we were well fed. Apart from the inconvenience of having to go via Sydney I would highly recommend American Airlines to travel to the USA.
We taxied to our Hotel – The Dylan Hotel – which is in a nice little spot in Manhattan away from the ‘noise’ but close enough to all the action of Times Square.
Wanting to embrace our time away as much as possible we ventured out into Manhattan at night. We found ourselves in Times Square, and on top of the world at the top of the Empire State Building on a beautiful clear night with amazing views of Manhattan. Wil Greenstreet aka Billy Green was entertaining with his saxophone. We had a good old chat to him as he is Australian but has lived in New York since the 70s. We walked into Grand Central Station and enjoyed a late dinner at Annie Moores Irish Pub & Restaurant – bar style – just near our hotel. Nice food and great service.
Good morning New York!
No time to be wasted. We ventured out once again into The Big Apple and embraced the city that New York is. First stop was lining up for ‘Rush Hour’ tickets to see Broadway Show, TOOTSIE. MY FAULT, tickets went on sale at 10am and we got there at 10:08am. By then the queue was growing. We missed out on Rush Hour tickets but ended up paying full price and got VERY good seats to the 8pm show. For brunch we tried a Hot Dog from a street seller. It was “meh!” – a bit on the small side. Everything is SO expensive in New York. In Times Square we found a promo group for “Court TV” and we may well feature in their advertisement as they recorder us. FAMOUS.
We found a market at Bryant Park, a perfectly situated park with lots of white tulips. It was a perfect day to meander around the Makers Market with many unique items on offer. Of course, we made a few select purchases. Next stop was The New York City Library where we found the original ‘real’ Winnie the Pooh and friends once owned by Christopher Robin. The building is massive and pretty amazing architecture and History. We looked at the major rooms of interest. I had heard so much about the Rockefeller Center I really thought we must visit this famous site.
The Rockefeller Center is a series of shops and commercial buildings. My absolute favourite was F.A.O. Schwarz which is a massive Toy Store and the most exciting part for me is that it features the piano from the movie BIG. This is where Tom Hanks filmed the scene for the movie and the Wishing Genie machine was there too. Being an 80s kid, this was definitely a highlight for me, but I wish I had practised chopsticks before my visit as I really wasn’t very good on the piano when it was my turn. The queue to play the piano was surprisingly short so Ian, myself and Mr Chocolate had a great time practising our piano skills. Being such an amazing day, we found ourselves eating a late lunch at the Rock Café which in Winter is an ice-skating rink.
Central Park New York was also on our list for today so we walked down to the park, hired a driver to stop at some of the major sites at the famous Central Park New York sites. With The Wiggles song going through my head we enjoyed seeing famous landmarks and the history. The day was AMAZING. Sun shining, blue sky and people everywhere. Opera Singers, Break-dancers, Homeless, Tourists, Horses & Carriage, newlyweds, locals walking their pooches, street stalls, Trump protestors and MANY people selling something. Of course, we visited Strawberry Fields where the ‘Imagine’ plaque is situated, donated by Yoko Ono who happens to still live right by Central Park.
Sore feet and feeling a little weary we had a quick rest at our Hotel and walked to The Marquis Theatre and enjoyed seeing TOOTSIE on Broadway. Such a good show with some laughs and great actors.
For dinner we bought Pizza on the way back to our Hotel.
Yesterday was the official first day of our ‘tour’, but that was just ‘check-in’ day. Today is the official first ‘tour’ day. The bus was waiting for us at 8:30am. Today was a total contrast weather wise. It was raining and overcast. Quite a miserable day. The bus took us through Manhattan, Central Park, Wall Street and some of the major sites all the way to the 9/11 memorial. We went for a walk in Central Park in the rain and chanced upon a ‘Fun Run’ and had another quick photo stop in the Strawberry Fields. Near 9/11 Ian & I were super hungry and spent the time eating at a place called Eataly overlooking the 9/11 memorials.
Back on the bus and to our accommodation we decided to book tickets to ANOTHER Broadway Show – PRETTY WOMAN, another quality Broadway show with very good seats at the Nederland Theatre. One thing about Broadway is that the Playbill is given for ‘free’ when you are seated. Wish that happened in Melbourne……
I must say our theatres in Melbourne are pretty amazing though….
We have one last quick shop at the NBA store. Get excited kids!
Feeling tired but wanting to try out the Benjamin’s Steak House, we discovered the perfect compromise – room service FROM Benjamin’s Steak House. It was expensive but SO worth it. Close to the best steak I have EVER had. A perfect way to finish our final day in New York City.
This morning we left New York early and drove for 12 hours, with 4 stops along the way, to Niagara and stayed on the Canadian side.
The stops along the way were not overly exciting. We stopped at a winery which had a lovely outlook but the highlight of the day was our destination which is Niagara Falls.
We arrived after 8pm. Our accommodation at the Best Western Plus was suitable and perfect for Ian & I to venture out into the night to the WEGO Bus which drove us to the amazing Niagara Falls. We stopped at Table Rock and walked to see Niagara Falls at night. So, so pretty. The falls were lit up and really were so pretty.
To complete the night-time Niagara experience we got on the Niagara SkyWheel for another view of the falls at night.
Feeling a bit peckish we dined on the Bar Menu at Doc Magilligan’s Restaurant & Irish Pub which adjoins our accommodation.
Today we experienced the falls from a different perspective. We drove to the Whirlpools and had another walk around Table Rock. The Falls really are very captivating. I keep thinking of the scene in Superman where Lois Lane is ‘rescued’.
We enjoyed a dining experience in the revolving restaurant at the Skylon Tower which gave us some more views and another perspective of the Falls.
After lunch we enjoyed some time in the ‘Clifton Hill’ precinct which is FUN FOR KIDS. Sensory overload with a whole street of ‘museums’ and fun stuff for kids. We opted to go to the Guinness World Records Museum. We would definitely NOT recommend this museum. Very tacky and would most likely get more value out of just reading one of the books.
We shopped, then it was time to go back to the USA and start our journey to our next stop, Williamsport. We waited at the Canadian / USA border for around 1 hour. Eventually we got through the border and journeyed for around 4 hours to Williamsport.
At Williamsport we arrived rather late and had time for a quick dinner at the Hotel restaurant, acquainted with some of our travel buddies and enjoyed the quaint vintage décor associated with our accommodation.
Tomorrow we will be travelling through Amish Country through to Washington DC where we will stay for the next 2 nights.
This morning we managed to get up early and go for our morning run. For around 40 minutes we ran around the sites of Williamsport, stopping at random interesting buildings and shopfronts. We could definitely come back here and spend more time in the quaint little town. Williamsport is the home of Little League and has a museum dedicated to Little League and once a year hosts the Little League World Series Grand Slam parade.
As part of the tour group we had another early start and today we are excited to be venturing through Amish Country, Gettysburg and finally Washington DC.
We stop in an area that is ‘Mennonite’ / ‘Amish’ country and shop for handicrafts, food at the bakery and drive through the streets of the Mennonite town. We interacted with the women in the shops and had a wave or 2 from people in the town but no horse and carriages today.
Next stop was Gettysburg – the location of the great Civil War. We drove out to where the war took place and viewed monuments and cannons. Given more time we would have hired a bike and viewed the monuments and landmarks. This land is massive.
Moving on from our History lesson we arrive in Washington DC, have a quick look at the JFK Theatre, enjoy a delicious dinner and go for a night bus tour to see the Washington DC monuments lit up at night time.
BIG day – we are exhausted!
WOW! Washington DC – where to start and what to do?
Our tour this morning starts at 8am which takes us out to the Arlington Cemetery where the military is buried as well as JFK. Next stop is the Lincoln Memorial, Korean Memorial and Vietname War Memorial. At the Vietnam War Memorial we meet ‘Chuck’. ‘Chuck’ is looking for people to talk to so I start a conversation. Turns out Chuck is a Vietnam War Veteran with prosthetic legs and a tattoo to prove it. Chuck is more than happy to pose for a picture and talk about his time at war. Chuck lives in a Motorhome and visits travels around the States. He visits this memorial about once every 3 months.
Next stop is The White House. We stand outside the back of the White House where we could spend all day just people watching. There are protestors, there are preachers, there are musicians. The Secret Service takes guard. Then we are dropped off in the Smithsonian area where there are many, many, many museums. We could spend a week here. All museums are FREE and with tight security to enter. There are many, many, many school children. It is nearing Memorial Day AND it is coming up to Summer Break and graduation. School kids everywhere!
As there is only limited time we have chosen to go to the American Indian History Museum and the American Museum. Both museums were well worth going to. The American Indian Museum had many artefacts from over a century ago and explained the situation of the American Indians and their way of life then and now. The American Museum had lots of fun stuff like the ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz, the Chef in the Muppets, the gowns of all the ‘first women’ of the White House, Wonder Woman’s outfit as worn by Linda Carter, the history of motor vehicles and so much more.
All afternoon we notice people riding on bikes and scooters they have hired. It takes us a while to work out how the system works. We decide that we want a scooter too as we are covering a lot of area in a short time but by the time we work out which Apps we need to download and how it works we find scooters and they have ‘low batteries’. We gave up on that idea and end up keeping on walking.
The tour bus left earlier and as we wanted to stay we had to find our own way home. We knew we could catch a ferry to our accommodation so walked to the wharf. After taking a wrong turn and realising how much further we had to walk to the ferry we kept checking the scooters along the way for battery power – all low battery! Eventually we found some bikes to hire – so for $2 per bike we rode to the ferry / water taxi, JUST caught the last ferry over to National Harbor near our accommodation.
The ride over to National Harbor was very entertaining as we chatted with the locals who pointed out that Donald Trump had only minutes before flown over in his private helicopter. We saw where his private helicopters are kept and where GPS was invented. VERY entertaining journey!
Dinner with some of our Australian and English travel companions was fun, then time for bed as we have another early morning tomorrow to Philadelphia.
More driving today as we head to the streets of Philadelphia. In Philadelphia we go the Old Post Office, visit the ‘house’ of Abraham Lincoln which was torn down many years ago, visit the famous Reading Terminal Market which is super crowded but certainly has atmosphere, view Abraham Lincoln’s gravesite, run up the Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and visit the Rocky statue near the famous steps.
Of course we ran up the steps as Rocky did.
Eventually we find our accommodation at Sheraton University and go out for dinner at the historic City Tavern. Ian & I breakaway from the group post Dinner and attend the Lantern Festival which cost us $10 each entry and we saw lots of pretty lanterns and mingled with the locals.
Today we drove from Philadelphia and back to New York. Also time to say our goodbyes to our new found friends on the tour. Today was about dropping everyone at their destinations which was cruise terminals, airports and hotels. We opted to get dropped off at the Lexington Hotel where the majority of the group was being dropped off. Our flight wasn’t until 6:30pm so we wanted to hang out in New York for a few hours – so we did!
At ‘The Lexington Hotel’ we stored our luggage for $3 per bag and found our way to the Manhattan Food Festival in the Hells Kitchen area. Another sunny perfect day in crazy New York City.
At 2:30pm we caught a taxi out to JFK and preparing for our long journey home.
JFK – LAX – SYD – MEL