NEW YORK – What I love about New York is that having lived there for 17 years and visited probably 12-15 times since then, there is always something new and different to see.
I came to savor the unexpected.
On my last visit, the unexpected began the moment I took off, when I discovered that JetBlue – which added daily nonstop services to JFK and Boston from Milwaukee in March and invited me to try the new service – doesn’t charge its on board Wi-Fi broadband.
With that bonus connectivity, multiple device charging options, above-average space, and a great selection of entertainment options on the seatback screen in front of me, the trip, ahem, flew by. Add in flights that departed on time, easy check-in on the app (I did it while walking) and great email communication and the trip was a breeze.
So unexpected? New York Airport. Arriving at JFK airport is something I haven’t done on a domestic flight in years.
Like many, I used to fly to LaGuardia, but JetBlue now offers nonstop flights to JFK from Milwaukee, so I was greeted with a different side of Queens when I arrived.
Once there, take a moment to cross the space-age red and white walkway from Terminal 5’s baggage claim area to the TWA Hotel, located in the architect’s 1960s TWA Terminal Eero Saarinen, an icon of modernist architecture.
Admire its clean, white curves and mid-century modern furnishings, and also reflect on how this work by Milwaukee’s War Memorial Center designer influenced Santiago Calatrava.
If you haven’t flown to JFK, getting into the city is easier than you think. The more relaxed route, of course, is to take a cab or carpool. It’s also probably the most expensive.
The cheapest is to take the subway near Jamaica station or Howard Beach. But for just a few dollars more than the subway – and MUCH less than a taxi or Uber – take the Long Island Railroad commuter train and you’ll be at Penn Station in less than 30 minutes.
One place I’ve never been to in New York is the Financial District, but Downtown Manhattan 2022 isn’t like it used to be.
After enjoying my stays at AC Hotels in Columbus and Dublin, Ohio, I checked into the AC Hotel by Marriott New York Downtown, 151 Maiden Lane, which was as comfortable and welcoming as its Midwest counterparts, but also offers a view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River.
It’s also walkable to the bridge (and to Brooklyn, if you wish), Wall Street, South Street Seaport, the 9/11 Memorial, Calatrava’s Oculus, One World Trade Center, Battery Park, and more.
The days of downtown being an after-hours dead zone are over, and you can enjoy amazing bakery and coffee at Patoro Brazilian Cafe – get the brigadeiro chocolate croissant – on Front Street, nearby Dorlan’s Tavern for oysters and the best burgers and be prepared to queue for bagels at Leo’s on Hanover Square.
All of this was a revelation to me.
I upped the unexpected ante by allowing my tween – an already seasoned female traveler, who explored all of the on-screen options on flights – to plot out most of the weekend trip so she could experience my hometown through his own lens.
It took me to places I haven’t seen or haven’t seen in years and probably wouldn’t have visited on my own.
In the latter category was the historic Trinity Church — a 10-minute walk from the hotel — to see Alexander Hamilton’s grave. As you can imagine it has become a popular tourist attraction and when we arrived the guard at the gate asked if we were there for Easter services or “for the grave”.
We then walked through the Oculus (“it’s like a giant wing of the art museum,” my kid said), paid homage to the fountains at Ground Zero, and went shopping for clothes (if you tell me know, so…UNEXPECTED!), before crossing the insanely crowded Brooklyn Bridge for a stroll through the DUMBO neighborhood, where we ogled some funky retro 70s $500 shoes and made a few stops for dad.
I caught a flight of lagers and ales, including a good kolsch and a spelled beer, at Evil Twin Brewing, 43 Main St., in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge – yes, my kid demanded THIS shot of Washington Street – before crossing some weekend markets to the Kings County Distillery bar in the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard gatehouse.
There I drank an Old Fashioned Whiskey and took photos of the Urban Spelunking Tasting Room. Alas, the distillery was closed to the public while we were there, but it was still nice to stop for a drink at the Navy Yard, where I remember as a child visiting my grandfather, who was Navy cook.
Back in Manhattan, we crossed two things off the kid’s list: Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Edge at Hudson Yards.
Although I was of a “certain age”, I had never visited a wax museum and was skeptical that it would be a bit boring, too hyped. But, honestly, it was a blast. The museum, on 42nd Street just west of Times Square, was packed – with a line of eager visitors outside – and inside was everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Billie Holiday to Hulk, 1970s Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift and beyond.
There was an expansive “Ghostbusters” section, a rumbling Marvel 4-D movie floor, a Hall of Presidents, and in most cases the wax figures were surprisingly realistic. I took a picture of me relaxing over breakfast with Audrey Hepburn, but I have a camera full of pictures of my tween standing next to almost every wax figure in the place.
After a strenuous walk through the sea of humanity and neon lights in Times Square, we went to Hudson Yards to walk the High Line for a bit, snap some photos of the Vessel and the Citrovia exhibit, and ride Edge, the highest outdoor observation deck. in the Western Hemisphere about 100 stories at 30 Hudson Yards.
Although we weren’t strapped to lean to the side, we could see a stunning pink moon in the eastern sky, hanging there like an Instagram-ready prop.
And we stood on the open ground to have a direct view at about 1,200 feet.
While I’m not suggesting you waste your time on this, we also toured my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, where my kid wanted to see the house I grew up in, my schools, and the site of the store. records where I got my first job at 9 years old.
More recommended were our other wanderings, which were also more in line with what you expect of me, if you know me. We went to Coney Island – where ice cream got its start in 1919 – and played games, ate Nathan’s hot dogs and fried clams, collected seashells and where my tween became an honorary Brooklynite in riding the Cyclone.
We had Italian cookies and pastries at Pasticceria Monteleone and Court Street Pastry Shop in Carroll Gardens, gargantuan sandwiches at Defonte Italian Sandwich Shop in Red Hook and more Italian pastries at Rocco’s on Bleecker Street while touring the former grounds of family game in the West and South Village.
There was time for a walk in Central Park and photos at Strawberry Fields, Bow Bridge and on Umpire Rock, as well as Rockefeller Center and a peek inside Grand Central (alas, my happy place, the Oyster Bar, was closed).
Of course, we also attended a Mets game. It was opening weekend at Citi Field and at least in the sun it was warm and the win was ours.
We had a little time before reaching another unexpected stop – the Color Factory, 251 Spring Street, SoHo – so we wandered around SoHo and took a spin through Chinatown and Little Italy (OK, we also had pastries in Ferrara. Don’t judge!).
Again, I wasn’t sure what to expect at Color Factory, which describes itself as “an interactive art museum”, but doesn’t really specify what to expect.
We threw confetti, drew portraits of each other, danced to Madonna’s “Borderline,” played in a soft blue ball pit — and other color-themed activities — and got rewarded along the way. with small treats. We had an absolute blast.
And we did it all in one long weekend, thanks to a pair of direct, fast, nonstop JetBlue flights from MKE to JFK.
JetBlue, new to Milwaukee, offers one daily nonstop flight in each direction between Milwaukee and Kennedy.
“Adding Milwaukee to our roadmap will help us diversify our markets, support our northeast growth strategy, and provide our customers with more travel options,” said Andrea Lusso, vice-president. president of network planning at JetBlue last month.
“We are excited to offer our guests traveling for business or pleasure the opportunity to explore Milwaukee and connect Milwaukee residents to our hub city networks of New York and Boston.”