The iconic Brooklyn Bridge. No shame in being a tourist when it involves sights like these. (Stock photo)
New York City comes with enough nicknames that no matter how you spin it, you sound like a cliche.
I lived in the city for a brief period post-college and wanted to return to sightsee and check in on some old spots, such as Margon, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Midtown that always fed my soul with inexpensive, brimming plates of fish, fried plantains, rice and beans. Or McSorley’s, known as the oldest tavern in NYC, where they give you mugs two at a time with a light or dark variety of ale. When you order the cheese plate, think Saltines, Swiss and spicy mustard.
Manhattan is a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You can travel to the city a hundred times and have a different experience every time you go. I like to tag myself a “permanent tourist” because there‘s no shame in exploring something you’ve never seen, even if a billion people have already experienced it.
NYC -> Cooperstown
This trip’s main adventure: Cooperstown. In between chowing down on dirty-water dogs and the “original” Ray’s Pizza, not to mention subway-riding to both the Bronx and Queens to watch the Yankees and Mets, respectively, we planned a 24-hour trip to Upstate New York.
Following a day game to see Jeter playing his last year while eating an ice cream sundae out of a mini Yankees helmet, my fiance and I rented a car to drive from Manhattan. All credit goes to him, as we arrived at every destination with not a car scratch to be found and all vertebrae intact. We drove part way to Albany for a short six-hour sleep.
Cooperstown, the village
An hour and a half on the road early the next morning led us into a humid day for the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction. Cooperstown is a village of less than 2,000 people who put lemonade stands in their front yard and offer baked goods for under a dollar. There’s a trolley that shuttles visitors from a larger parking lot on the outskirts of town to Main Street, since there is limited parking on the streets. It reminded me a bit of my hometown in Kansas, where events are announced on the bank sign and church fundraisers are hosted at the VFW.
Extra large hand or extra small mitt? You decide. Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY.
The induction was held at a park a little less than a mile away from the Baseball Hall of Fame, and you could opt to walk it or wait the long line for the shuttle bus. Not wanting to miss any of the action after coming so far, we hoofed it with hundreds of others to join the crowd of thousands. When you find yourself surrounded by so many people, the trick is to just keep moving. Switch direction, slow your pace if necessary, but never stop moving.
While Manhattan is hazy, smelly, and fantastically full of life, head further north and things significantly slow down and clear up. If you’re traveling there in the summer, it’s like driving into a screensaver of serene, green hillsides and lush, leafy trees. The break from the city chaos was a welcome one – the baseball pilgrimage well worth it.
NYC travel tips
Prior to our direct flight cross country, we researched hotel deals, checked baseball schedules, made a list of must-sees, and managed to fit everything into a five-day span. Here are my tips:
Book a hotel near a subway station, ideally in a central part of the city.
Take advantage of free hotel breakfasts and free Wi-Fi and keep in mind that a cab from JFK is a set fare; budget accordingly.
Carry Band-Aids and a fully charged cell phone every time you step foot outside the hotel door Above all, drink copious amounts of water.
When traveling to New York, it’s nice to have a local to guide you to their favorite spots as we did – but embrace the beauty of being a tourist. We covered four boroughs in one day, visiting all five by the time our trip was over. We ran into Bane and Batman in Times Square and got photobombed by Elmo. We ate lobster rolls aboard a boat that floats diners around the Hudson for free. We ate frozen desserts at Serendipity3 and stopped for the requisite selfies along the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked so much my blisters popped and reformed without me missing a step.
Whether it’s a day trip upstate, double-fisting beers at McSorley’s, or taking a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge, embrace New York in all its glory. Manhattan will grind you into the ground, but somehow make you yearn for more. Every street has something interesting, every neighborhood its own personality. It’s truly my city soulmate, and cliche or no cliche, we had the time of our lives.