2009 Year In Review: Part 2 — Empire (and Boston) State of Mind

Prelude:  2009 was such a great year for me in many ways.  Crap economy not withstanding, 2009 was a year of great development, great triumph and great fun.  I’ll be recapping my year in a few posts.  Here in Part II I discuss our awesome trip to the East Coast featuring our first trips to New  York City and Boston, MA.

With the crap economy it didn’t look like we’d have an opportunity to travel in 2009 but I was very fortunate enough to be sent to conference in Boston for work.  While on the East Coast (which may very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity, at least for now) I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to travel to New York (a lifelong dream) so the Mrs. and I took the opportunity to visit two of America’s greatest cities for this once in a lifetime trip opportunity.

Harvard's Museum of Natural History

Harvard Museum of Natural History, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

My time in Boston was limited due to my work commitments so my sight-seeing was limited. The only major site I had a chance to take in was a trip to the Harvard Museum of Natural History and Peabody Museum on our first full day in town (before my conference).  In the evenings after the conference we had a chance to check out Faneuil Hall.  On our final evening we had dinner at the historic “Ye Olde Union Oyster House.”

Faneuil Hall Marketplace

The Mrs. had more time to sight see and got to take in the New England Aquarium and walk a portion of the Freedom Trail to Paul Revere’s House. Other highlights of our Boston experience included our first time traveling via a mass rail transit system (the ‘T’) and the awesome New England cuisine (we TOTALLY miss the chowda and Irish bangers). While not standard New England faire, one memorable restaurant we ate at was the Tropical Grill in Revere, MA which featured an AWESOME Brazillian rodizio style buffet. It was a first for us and is totally recommended.

Boston's T-System

Boston’s “Red Line T”

Brazillian Grill

Brazilian rodizio at Tropical Cafe, Revere, MA

I didn’t get a chance to do several things I wanted to do while in Boston but hopefully at some point in the future I’ll have an opportunity to return and accomplish them (ie — visiting the JFK Library, MIT and walking the Freedom Trail).

After the conclusion of my conference we hopped a Peter Pan for the long trip to NYC. It was our first time riding long distance anywhere but was an enjoyable experience. From there, we took a whirlwind tour of NYC and got to experience life in America’s most famous city.

Peter Pan Bus

Boarding the Peter Pan at Boston’s North Station

We stayed in Times Square and our first experience of the Big Apple was quite overwhelming. Being buried in a see of people non-stop 24-7 was something else. For myself though, I fell in love with NYC. From being able to grab a hot dog or food off a cart on every street corner, to having umbrella vendors appear out of nowhere anytime it starts to rain to disappearing into the subway, NYC is something else.

Hot Dog and Kebob Vendor

Waiting for my Kebob on a Bun from a street vendor near WTC

14th Station:  E Line

NYC Subway: E Line at 14th

Our NYC trip revolved around paying our respects to the 9/11 victims with a visit to the Ground Zero Museum and a trip to Ground Zero itself, taking in Broadway shows (Rock of Ages and West Side Story), checking out several museums (American Museum of Natural History, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Madame Tussaud’s), one attraction (NBC Studio Tour) and shopping.

For most people before 9/11 I think it could safely be said that no trip to NYC would be complete without the obligatory visit to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. For us, believe it or not, we didn’t do either of those things (not for not wanting, we just ran out of energy/time). In the Post 9/11 world I think it can safely be said no visit to NYC is complete without the obligatory paying of respects by visiting Ground Zero. For the Mrs. and I we visited the Ground Zero Museum workshop and then headed down to the hallowed grounds of the WTC site. If you’ve never been to or heard of the Ground Zero Museum, this place is not to be missed as it is a great tribute to the victims and rescuers of 9/11.

Ground Zero Museum

Ground Zero Museum

Ground Zero/World Trade Center Site

WTC Reconstruction

Our evenings in NYC were dominated by taking in the obligatory shows on Broadway and other great NYC night time entertainment.  Night one in NYC we were roped into taking a show at the Ha! Comedy Club by a persistent street promoter.  Normally we’re good about not giving in to street promoters (ie — Las Vegas) but for us this was our first night in NYC and it was a comedy show (I’m a huge fan of comedy) so we gave it a shot.  The show did NOT disappoint as the Ha! Comedy Club had a great rotation of comics.  Among the most memorable guys performing that night were Kenny Ortega, Shawn Cornelius (one funny brother!) and the awesome Craig Carmean with his hilarious comedic songs.

The Ha! Comedy Club

Craig Carmean at the Ha! Comedy Club, Times Square, NYC.

As far as Broadway went, we wanted some variety so we decided to check out something new as well as something old. For something new, we went with “Rock of Ages” which for my money is the best production I have seen in my whole life (close second would be Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE). The show kicked major ass as it was a jukebox musical featuring 80’s rock/metal hits incorporated into a love story storyline featuring American Idol standout contestant Constantine Maroulis. It don’t get better than that!

Times Square

For something old, we went with the classic “West Side Story.” Sure I knew the story but nothing beats seeing a classic live and the sold out theatre proved the fact. The music, the acting, etc were all spot on. Seeing “West Side Story” on Broadway is a great experience.

Palace Theater:  West Side Story

Our other NYC experiences included visits the American Museum of Natural History and the NYC branches of Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.

It took us a few hours to get to the AMNH due to some “navigational challenges” of the NYC subway system so we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to in the museum (I never made it to the dinosaurs 😦  One day when I get to return to NYC I definitely plan to visit the AMNH again and complete my tour of the museum.

AMNH

The American Museum of Natural History

We took in Ripley’s and Madame Tussaud’s on our last day in NYC (literally right before we boarded the bus to leave). By our last day we were pretty tired from walking everywhere. We’d planned on doing the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building on that day but were too pooped to walk or take the subway. Fortunately Ripley’s and Tussaud’s are in Times Square and are just a few blocks from our hotel so that was more our speed. Both places were a ton of fun and we had a blast. Toussaud’s in particular was awesome 🙂

NYC:  Times Square

Us at Ripley’s

NYC:  Madame Toussaud's

The Mrs. and Jennifer Aniston (aka Rachael Green) at Madame Tussaud’s

NYC:  Madame Toussaud's

Me taking on the Champ at Madame Tussaud’s

The final major aspect of our NYC experience was getting some shopping done. We toured the NBC Studios on our 2nd day in town and shopped at the NBC Universal Store afterwards. The tour experience was neat as you got to learn about NBC history and visit some of the production studios.

NBC Studios

NBC Studios at 30 Rock

Our other major shopping experiences included visiting the Hershey store and M&M World NYC. Being frequent visitors to Vegas we are VERY acquainted with M&M World in Vegas. The NYC store is pretty much the same but has the NYC charm of having a Lady Liberty M&M.

NYC:  Times Square

Hershey Store

M&M World

Lady Liberty M&M at M&M World

Overall, NYC was a major blast as was Boston. NYC is a place I see myself visiting regularly in future years like Vegas (provided I have the means to do so). I fell in love with the town as it’s definitely my type of place. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can return to the Big Apple and get the obligatory visit to Liberty Island and the Empire State Building. Overall, Summer 2K9 was a GREAT summer with an unexpected but pleasant visit to two places I didn’t think I’d get to see. Thank God for work conferences to provide a subsidized trip.

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