She isn’t much for movies, but I knew a swarthy six-year-old with sideburns, a grandmother sleeping with a knife under her pillow, a twin discovered inside a neck lump and some ailment-curing sprays of Windex would win her over.
My fellow “hard-core traveler” and I were so engrossed in My Big Fat Greek Wedding that before we knew it, we were well into our overnight ride on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Armed with an ambitious sightseeing list and a map filled with strategically placed dots marking our plan of attack, we were on our fifth iteration of an adventure that has assumed legendary status among our family and friends — our red-eye motorcoach trip to New York City.
During the next 14 hours, we methodically made our way up, across and down the east, west and midtown sections of Manhattan. Soon, I’ll be posting about the big attractions: the Algonquin Hotel and the New Yorker magazine; Tavern on the Green; the American Museum of Natural History and our very own Theodore Roosevelt walking tour; the Albertine; the Grolier Club; and Tender Buttons. In the meantime, here’s a roundup of a few other places we visited.
When we landed at Rockefeller Center at dawn, we were greeted by a display of Faberge-style Easter eggs, hundreds of Easter lilies and azaleas, and a twirling topiary rabbit balancing a colorful egg fashioned from daisies on his nose.
As we walked to our first stop, we mentally replayed a scene from one of our favorite movies: Rear Window.
“What would you think of starting off with dinner at ‘21’?,” Grace Kelly asks housebound James Stewart. She reaches for the doorknob, turns it and swings open the door. Framed in the doorway is a man wearing a white jacket with a red collar, carrying a portable warming oven, an ice bucket and a bottle of wine. Enter Carl, a waiter from one of the most famous restaurants in the United States: The 21 Club.
Arriving at 21 W. 52nd St., we saw the iconic exterior of The 21 Club. In the 1930s, some patrons of “21” presented the club with cast iron lawn jockey statues painted with the racing colors of the stables they owned. Today, 33 recently restored jockeys are lined up along the wrought-iron balcony railing above the entrance. Inside the former Prohibition-era speakeasy, white-coated bartenders and waiters like Carl serve drinks and meals in a room decorated with 1930s-era toys, sporting goods and other period memorabilia.
New York may be the city that never sleeps, but 8,000 of its earliest risers jump-started their day to the sound of a bagpipe that started the 13th annual Scotland Run, held to celebrate Scotland Week. Some donned kilts, carried Scottish flags and even painted their faces blue and white to resemble Saint Andrew’s Cross, then raced their way through Central Park in pursuit of prizes like Harris Tweed products, Barbour dog jackets, a round of golf at St. Andrews, whiskey and oatcakes. We found ourselves in their midst near the finish line of the Tartan 10K, where a little rain couldn’t dampen their spirits.
Our quest for special souvenirs brought us first to the New-York Historical Society, on the Upper West Side. Dating from 1804, the oldest museum in New York City holds Hudson River School paintings, including works by Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church; paintings by Eastman Johnson, Rembrandt Peale and Gilbert Stuart; glass creations by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s studios; and all 435 of John James Audubon’s preparatory watercolors for his Birds of America.
Life-size bronze figures of Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass stand outside at both entrances to the building. New Yorkers were responsible for Lincoln’s rise to the top of the Republican party in the 1860 election, while Douglass became a free man in New York in 1838. “After an anxious and most perilous but safe journey, I found myself in the big city of New York, a free man—one more added to the mighty throng which, like the confused waves of the troubled sea, surged to and fro between the lofty walls of Broadway,” Douglass wrote in his autobiography about his first experience of freedom.
The gift shop’s first customers emerged with a reproduction of a calico kerchief depicting George Washington thought to have been commissioned by Martha Washington in 1775, as well as two pairs of socks featuring the images of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Crossing Central Park to our next stops on the Upper East Side, we arrived at the place where Santa had called last November to buy a couple of cashmere-and-silk scarves printed with drawings of New York landmarks. There, at Lilly Pulitzer’s Madison Avenue store, we admired window displays and dressing rooms painted with New York scenes in Lilly’s signature style.
Ever since we saw fashion designer Ralph Lauren’s daughter, Dylan, make a candy topiary on the Martha Stewart Show, we’ve wanted to visit Dylan’s Candy Bar. Inspired by Roald Dahl’s book, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Dylan opened her flagship store at 60th Street and 3rd Avenue in 2001. Stocking 7,000 different kinds of candies, it’s said to be the largest unique candy store in the world.
I was partial to the steps and landings on the staircase. You can see more of the store in this video tour.
The elusive “Met in New York” silk neckerchief was finally back in stock at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Rockefeller Center store. In the style of External Affairs Advances where we “celebrate our successes,” we parked for a few minutes in a couple of chairs upstairs and watched skaters take a spin on the rink, still open for its last days for the season.
Our plan to kill a few birds with one stone at St. Patrick’s Cathedral went like clockwork. We attended Mass, saw the place decked out for Easter, and heard Michael Hey, assistant director of music, play the newly restored organ for Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude in C major, BWV 547, “Alleluia! Alleluia! Let the Holy Anthem Rise,” “We Walk by Faith,” “O Sons and Daughters/Aleluya, Aleluya!” and “O Day of Peace” — something we’d been hoping to hear since seeing “Restoring St. Patrick’s Cathedral” on the September 27, 2015 edition of CBS Sunday Morning. All we needed was to have Cardinal Dolan presiding, but Reverend Damian O’Connell’s Irish-themed homily was just fine.
At Scandinavia House, the center for Nordic culture in the United States, we browsed classic Scandinavian-designed products in the shop, sat beside a twinkling birch tree and had dinner at Smörgås Chef, its restaurant specializing in fine Scandinavian cuisine.
Walking back to our meeting place for the trip home, we ticked off 19 of the 21 things we saw on our itinerary. And then we were confronted with a surprise attraction as we passed W. 46th St.
Just before 8:00 PM, police vehicles started coming from all directions. The New York Police Department was evacuating part of Times Square after counter-terrorist officers came upon a suspicious truck. A bomb squad check led to an all-clear just before we left. Read more about it here.
21,931 steps, or 9.2 miles, later, we got back on the motorcoach and drove home overnight through high winds and snow. We wished we could have sprayed some Windex on our feet.
For more, see Dylan’s Candy Bar: Unwrap Your Sweet Life, by Dylan Lauren, and a new book titled St. Patrick’s Cathedral: The Legacy of America’s Parish Church. To read about The 21 Club, check out “21”: The Life and Times of New York’s Favorite Club, by Marilyn Kaytor. Andrew Baseman’s The Scarf details how “21” regulars received collectible silk scarves for Christmas that were decorated with images of the club’s decorative motifs, its jockeys and its famous balcony railing.