Best. (Travel.) Day. Ever.

Intense planning has provided me with opportunities to traverse and see things I had once only imagined.  In the monotony of everyday life I sometimes reflect back on those experiences and consider what my absolute best travel day ever has been.  I love having my feet in the sand but a beach surprisingly wasn’t involved in my top pick.

First, the history.  I was born around lunch time on Thanksgiving Day, so the holiday has always had sort of a double meaning – and enjoyment – for me.  Growing up as my mom worked on preparing a delicious turkey in the kitchen I never failed to watch the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade in the adjoining den.  In particular I remember a year where my parade watching included a float with an active roller coaster with children swooping up and down amid beautiful decor.  I was mesmerized and wanted to see one of those big time parades.

And nary a holiday season has  dotted through our calendar without a viewing of the Rockettes on television at Christmas time.  They emerged as an iconic marker for me.  The Rockettes exemplified an exciting holiday.

I wanted to experience all of those activities in New York City during the holiday season but it all seemed so … unreachable.  The expense seemed overwhelming and the planning seemed untouchable since I had very limited knowledge of the Big Apple.

Macy's Parade
Tall Family at the Macy’s Day Parade (2014)- Bundled but still very cold!
Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall – Home of the Rockettes

After cautiously planning, however, I decided to make the dream come true and I put together a Thanksgiving in New York City agenda.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” -John Steinbeck

Steinbeck called it.  Tall Family overslept on Thanksgiving Day 2014.  That’s not at all like us but touring New York City the previous day had been overwhelmingly tiresome.  Though we had planned to get out early and hunker down in a spot along the parade route, we awoke late and given the investment of time and effort that I had made to get us to the city, in a bit of a panic.

Tall Family dressed quickly in multiple layers for a very cold day and headed out to the bus stop just beyond the parking lot of the Sheraton Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, New Jersey.  (As an aside, I love that particular Sheraton and the respite it provides from NYC at the end of the day.  It’s a great value!  And don’t forget about the link to sign up for the SPG credit card and earn free nights:  SPG Referral Link)  Along with some other folks we waited patiently at the stop overlooking the Hudson River and after a while realized that the bus wasn’t coming.  We hadn’t considered that the bus would be running on a different schedule due to the holiday.  And so once again, the plan was foiled.

Enter Valerie.  We met Alabama Valerie and her parents at the bus stop that morning.  And what a sweetheart she was.  She had moved to the area a brief time before and her visiting parents, like us, wanted to see the parade.  So in tourist desperation we quickly linked up with the good Southern folks and Valerie as our official tour guide.  Quick on the draw, Valerie herded us all a block or so over to the New Jersey transit system and we took a train into the city.

By the time we arrived I knew we were too late to get a good spot for viewing the parade but at the very least I wanted to be able to view at least something.  Something.

Insert the next miracle.  Tall Dad asked a few questions in the parade crowd, made a few connections and within minutes our group was in the front row of the parade at an intersection right at the Macy’s store.  Even though there were some rude people who arrived later and squeezed in front of us, stepped on our feet, and were just generally difficult, I still know divine intervention must have been involved in that morning parade scene.

We were bundled heavily but the cold weather was a bit much after a few hours standing outdoors.  Snow started and it was picturesque – like a moment from a holiday movie.  Tall Family endured as long as we could (and sweet Valerie and her parents had already moved on), and so as we grew hungry for lunch we found a nearby authentic New York City corner diner.  The food was warm and the conversation with the locals even warmer.

After lunch Tall Family made their way over to Radio City Music Hall to take in a long-awaited holiday performance by the Rockettes.  After careful study I had purchased afternoon tickets for a good deal over at Goldstar though other sites like Living Social frequently offer deals as well.  Our seats via Goldstar were near the stage and at the aisle (tall people need their leg space) and our view was perfect.  The dancers were as impressive as anticipated and the hall itself was a spectacle.  Two childhood dreams had been accomplished in a single day.

Evening arrived and after an eventful day Tall Family made their way back over to New Jersey.  We loved the quiet of Weehawken and the view of the busy city across the river.  Our Thanksgiving meal was spent at Houlihan’s overlooking the Hudson (just down the street from neighbors Ice T and Coco).  (At the time of publishing, Houlihan’s is offering a free meal for email sign up.)  Houlihan’s has a diverse menu and our Thanksgiving there was delicious.  We have since returned to Houlihan’s many times and it has become our “go to” on trips to the city as the restaurant and its employees never fail.

I can’t imagine that I’ll ever have a travel day that ends up more perfectly – in spite of some obstacles – but I’m certainly open to the adventure.

So I’m curious.  What’s your best travel day ever?

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