New York City, NY: A First Timer's Guide

Updated: Nov 3, 2019

Friday, January 11th, marked me turning 25 years old. The day before, I booked a solo trip to NYC. Here's how it all happened with a first timer's perspective on tackling The Big Apple.

How it happened:

1. I don't do birthdays. Other people's? Absolutely. I do my best to make them special for each person. Just not my own. I don't even tell anyone my birthday is coming up. Needless to say, I was kind of dreading this one.

2. I'm the only 20-something I've ever heard of that watches The Today Show. When I was living in the sorority house, I would sit in the common area in between classes with the big TV watching Hoda and Kathie Lee. Uh yeah, by myself too. When I started watching the show at age 19 with my mom, I informed her how much I love Hoda Woman. I've read her books, comment on every Instagram post, etc. etc. Fun fact: Bucket List item #24 is to Be a Guest on The Today Show.

Turning a quarter of a century had me equal parts like, "yay I can rent a car!" and, "woah! the days are long but the years are short." My intention for the big birthday was to work, go to yoga or on a long training run, and then go to bed.

That was until the day before.

My current morning routine has me waking up early to sit on my couch and preheat while I watch The Today Show before work. As I was doing so and minding my own business I was particularly drawn to the group of people standing by the anchors. "I want to do that one day." And after a back and forth mental conversation I concluded that I didn't make any other plans for the birthday, so why not?!, I never take days off of work, I can go to the Today Show, and it's SO UNLIKE ME. By the time I got to work, hotel and flight information were confirmed and I'd just figure out the rest. Now, my parents are great but they're also parents, so I knew they wouldn't love the idea of their 25-year-old daughter traveling NYC solo. I sent them a nice little text that started with me reminding them not to forget how much they love me, and then letting them know what what I was doing. Within an hour, I received a call from my mom saying my sister wanted to join. Ha! I told her it was totally fine under one condition: She knows she's waking up at 5am to walk to Rockefeller Center for a debut on The Today Show. Morgan hopped on my flight in Dallas headed to NYC and got a departing flight an hour before mine.

Trip Details and Tips/Tidbits:

Stay: Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott - Manhattan/Central Park. I'd recommend. The concierge was so fun and the location was not too far out of the way from everything we wanted to do.

Eat: Disclaimer: Having been a waitress myself and working in the food industry for 6 years, I judge a place off of it's customer service/employees over the food.

Little Italy Pizza - I've been craving pizza, but it's like my mouth started watering as soon as I touched down on NY soil. Being up and at 'em early Friday morning had us ready for lunch at 9:30am. We found Little Italy to be just about the only place open that early, specifically selling pizza.

Sarabeth's - The food was tasty (shoutout to the truffle fries), but I wouldn't recommend. The service was HORRIBLE. If I'm paying that kind of money for the food, I want the return on investment. They got us seated at 4:45pm with both the late lunch and dinner menu, letting us know we could pick either. We were one of five other tables. First, they charge you for water (?!). We placed an order from the late lunch menu and the server came back to our table at 5:04pm, stating the chef refused to make it because it's after 5:00. I questioned this and he said, "Yeah the chef is a douche" - exact words. We changed our order and after receiving our food, the waiter proceeded to come back to our table every 2 minutes asking if we were done. I was still chewing and he was trying to get the food off the table. What really sent me over the edge was him trying to get me to sign the check and give it back to him ASAP. He actually tried to take it out of my hand at one point.

The Smith: We hit brunch Saturday morning at The Smith and it was worth every penny. I'd recommend. Our waitress was the cutest thing. The food was phenomenal. Be prepared- the tables are way too close together and you're basically sitting on your neighbor.

My favorite part: There was a Starbucks on every block at every corner. Literally.

My least favorite part: It was darn cooollllddddd.

Random Things:

1. New Yorkers do NOT like the Cowboys. I can't even tell you how many people looked at me, pointed at my beanie, and said "The Cowboys suck."

2. A lot of New Yorkers really are mean.


1. See Mean Girls on Broadway

2. Stay somewhere central to your activities - walk everywhere. Ubering/driving is pointless.

3. Plan for at least two full days there so you have enough time for everything

Let's Recap:

Austin, TX hardly ever has direct flights anywhere, so my outbound flight had me connecting in Dallas, which was the perfect place, as that's where Morgan then hopped on my flight into LaGuardia. A delayed flight had us drinking wine, catching up, and me working while she snapped this cute lil pic.

Fun fact: I never dress weather appropriate; it's something I really need to work on. Maybe when I'm 26. So, we sent this to my dad because I never wear crop top shirts, and said, "please venmo Molly money for clothes." He didn't think it was as funny as I.

8:15pm, and we've touched down in NYC! We checked into our hotel, changed clothes, and hit Hell's Kitchen for a drink. Long story short, we ended up at The Distillery at 11:45pm, and a friend we had just made literally paid every single person money to sing Happy Birthday to me at midnight. Haha, how can a complete stranger be such a good friend?! Another fun fact: I've never been awake at midnight on my birthday. Ever. Not even my 21st. This is 25.

We got back to the hotel and Morgan crashed ASAP, but I was wired. Finally forcing myself to sleep at 4am, I woke back up at 5am to tackle my birthday and ROCKEFELLER, which I am still paying for. 5:42am selfie, check!

On our way to The Today Show, you already know this girl stopped for her BIRTHDAY Starbucks drink. The barista laughed at me for this pic, and I said, "Bro, it's my 25th, you gotta do what you gotta do," and he said I was right. (Insert hair flip emoji). If you know me at all, you know I despise hot coffee and swear by iced coffee. Every person we saw commented on this but when theirs was cold within 5 minutes from the weather, I happily continued to sip on mine.

I made sure to let all these New Yorkers know it was my birthday, because that seemed like the right thing to do. But nobody cared.

We made it to Rockefeller by 6am, made posters, chatted with the folks near us, and received a FREE button and FREE NFL beanie of our choice for each of the teams in the playoffs. Friday, the 11th, they had prepared a little pep rally for the upcoming NFL playoffs. At 6:30am, I watched Hoda and Savannah Guthrie enter the studio and get prepared for their 7am go time! Here's the quick video I sent my mom fan-girling.

THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN. Look, if you're a Today Show fan, you have to do this. It was magical in every. single. way.

Al Roker came out a little before 8am and shook everyone's hand, and here's a video of me saying hi and simultaneously swooning at the same time. He was so wonderful. He stopped and took selfies for those who asked and shook hands with each person. And if this didn't solidify my goal to still be a guest on the show, I don't know what will.

At 8:30, the whole crew comes outside for their segment on the plaza. I WAS WITHIN A FOOT FROM HODA KOTB and will now die a happy woman. I regret not begging for a picture or picking up the Saints beanie because she looked at Morgan, pointed, and said "WHO DAT?!".

After they went inside, we hobbled with (literal) numb feet to Starbucks to defrost and plan out the rest of the day. It was about 9:30am at this point, and we were both in the mood for pizza. We got a slice of buffalo chicken and their most popular one.

We walked the streets,

soaked in the city, and walked by the New York Public Library...

on our way to the Empire State Building.

We traveled up to the 86th floor and overlooked the The Big Apple.

Next we hit Times Square, and I channeled my inner Marilyn Monroe while Morgan marveled at all the fancy lights and signs. I wrote, "spend NYE in NYC," on my bucket list, but after being here on a random January Friday, I think I'm taking that off!

At this point it was 2:00 and time for us to warm up at the hotel, charge phones, and for Morgan to take a nap. Central Park was close and we wanted to get there before the sunset so at 4:00 we headed that way. I managed to awkwardly re-create all 4 corners of this gigantic statue.