A few weeks ago, I headed to New York City for the first of three trips there in 2015. I have probably visited the Big Apple more than any other city in the world and I have often said I love to visit, but I would never want to live there. But as I visited for the umpteenth time (I really have lost count), I couldn’t help but think how all of the things I love about New York tend to outweigh the things I don’t.
I love the subway system. It is easy to figure out like Chicago’s and it uses a simple fare system, unlike the zone-based fares in DC. Even though the cars have the inward-facing seats that I hate in Chicago, the cars are wider, so somehow it doesn’t seem as annoying. Ironically, while I have always felt that the subway runs much more frequently than the el in Chicago, on this most recent trip I experienced significant delays for the first time as I tried to take the train just three stops out to Queens from Midtown. My only other complaint? I generally can’t understand a word that comes out of the conductor’s mouth, so I can’t even imagine how confused foreign visitors may feel.
On the other hand, I absolutely hate that the subway doesn’t run to LaGuardia. I typically fly Southwest, so I almost always fly in and out of LaGuardia and I am left choosing between an uber-expensive cab ride into the city or the ultra-slow (but cheap) SuperShuttle. Not to mention the traffic is always horrible – far more congested than Chicago. I’ve decided on my next trip, I’m just going to take a taxi to the Flushing stop on the 7 line and take the subway the rest of the way. We’ll see how that works out.
I love that New York loves breakfast. In Chicago, we’re all about brunch and many restaurants don’t really get going until 10 or 11 a.m. on the weekends. But in New York, I feel like no matter how early you rise (and I am a morning person!), you can find a café or diner to get your fill of bacon and eggs.
Along the same lines, I love that New York is basically open for business 24/7. No matter what you need and no matter what hour it is, chances are you won’t have to go far to find it. And the city is always full of energy – there are people on the sidewalks when I leave the bar at 2 a.m. and there are people out and about when I head out for a run at 6 a.m. (although that probably doesn’t happen when I’ve been out the night before!).
Likewise, I love that there are Duane Reades on almost every corner (Duane Reade is basically the same as Walgreen’s). On my visit last fall, I stayed at Broadway and 54th. There was a Duane Reade at Broadway and 50th, Broadway and 52nd, Broadway and 56th and 8th Avenue and 56th.
I love Central Park (although perhaps not as much as I love San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park). As much as I love running along the lakefront in Chicago, running in Central Park has one big perk over Chicago – no bikes on the path! It felt weird to be able to run in peace, not being constantly worried about a biker behind or ahead of me suddenly swerving and knocking me over. I also love that I can pretty much run a different route through the park every day – it doesn’t get old.
And of course, I love New York for the US Open – by far one of my favorite sporting events to attend in person. Nothing compares to watching the best names in tennis at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing. Some of my best sports memories have come at the US Open – seeing Andre Agassi battle Roger Federer in the 2005 final, sitting courtside for Agassi’s last match ever in 2006 and watching Serena Williams battle Victoria Azarenka for Grand Slam number 17 in 2013. I definitely plan to be on hand again in September to see more history in the making.
Once upon a time, I acted like a typical tourist when I came to New York: I saw Broadway shows, I visited museums and I tried to get into the trendiest nightclubs. But aside from visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum last fall, I haven’t done anything touristy in years. Now, my visits revolve around catching up with friends, speaking at travel events or watching tennis. I feel like I know my way around the subway system and I’ve ventured beyond the touristy area of Midtown to more residential neighborhoods. And on my latest visit, I even started to change my mind about never wanting to live in New York. While I doubt I’d ever be able to afford it, I actually could see myself calling it home.
But for now, I’m just counting the days until I return – for the US Open in September and then to run the New York City Marathon in November! (I’m running to raise money for buildOn – donations are always appreciated!)