I’m Glad I Didn’t Say No

How did a Michigander and Marylander end up in NYC? Sometimes I still ask myself this very question.

Ryan and I have lived in 3 different states in the 6 years that we have been married. We started out in Farmington Hills, Michigan, which is where Ryan found his first job after graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree. We lived there for just over 2 years when a new opportunity in Baltimore, Maryland opened up. One big factor in the move to Maryland was that we would be moving to the area where my parents lived. They kindly offered to let us stay with them for a little as we figured out what steps we should take next. After a few months in Maryland, Ryan began to realize that this job was not what was promised to him. He then began exploring other opportunities, and a job in NYC contacted him. Throughout the initial phase of the interviewing process, the location for this job was up in the air. Toward the very end of the interview process, the recruiter told Ryan that the location for this job would be NYC and that it wouldn’t be negotiable. This new information was tough for me to swallow. The thought of moving to NYC was the furthest thing from appealing to me. Frankly, it terrified me.

With each job change, Ryan has valued my input significantly. He has always encouraged me to be honest with him about how I was feeling about each opportunity and took the time to listen to my concerns and fears. He never once has forced a move on me, and for that I am extremely grateful.

This move to NYC was no different than the others. All I had to do was say, “No!” No other explanation would have been needed. However, through a lot of prayer and tears, God made it very clear that this was the next right step for us.

Now after living in NYC for nearly 3 years, I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I would have said no. These last 3 years have been truly unforgettable in more ways than one. I have been stretched to my limit on more than one occasion, yet I continue to find that I am stronger than I thought and can handle more than I thought I could. My confidence has grown leaps and bounds since moving to the city. I am forced to come up with creative solutions to accomplish simple tasks almost on a weekly basis. My life looks nothing like I thought it would and yet I couldn’t be more thankful. There is always something going on here, which means there is always something new to see and explore.

As Ryan and I look ahead to our next adventure and prepare to move away from this city we have called home for the last 3 years, I am struck with the realization that NYC has changed me. I am not the same person that I was when I first arrived in October of 2016. That person was scared, fearful, and unsure of herself. Each new day slowly transformed that girl into someone who was confident, strong, and more dependent on the Lord than ever before.

There are too many lessons to count from our time in NYC, but the one lesson that has really stuck with me is that it is up to you to choose whether you will embrace each new opportunity or fight it.

This is why I’m glad I didn’t say no.

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Decorating for Christmas in Small Spaces

Typically, my decorating style is pretty simple, but I do really enjoy making our home feel festive for the holiday season. When I found out that we were moving to NYC, one of my biggest fears was that we wouldn’t have enough room to store Christmas decorations in our one-bedroom apartment. Needless to say, I spent many hours figuring out the best way to utilize our space in order to spare enough room for our Christmas decorations.

I am excited to share my simple decorating tips with you. I have found that you can make even the smallest space feel festive with just a few simple decorations!

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Christmas Wreath — I love decorating with wreaths! Simply having a festive wreath to welcome me as I come home makes so much of a difference. Wreaths are also a good option of you have big windows or extra wall space. They liven up a space without taking up too much room. I store my wreath in a special container that fits perfectly underneath our bed!

Slim Christmas Tree — Finding a place to store a Christmas tree was the ultimate test. At one point, Ryan told me that we may not be able to have a Christmas tree in our apartment and that gave me all the motivation I needed to purge and come up with creative storage solutions to make it fit! Having a smaller tree is perfect because it doesn’t take up too much space in our already tight living quarters while also not being a bear to store during the rest of the year. Multiple craft and home goods stores sell these pencil trees, and they are usually cheaper than other trees too!

Garland — Adding garland in strategic spots around our apartment makes quite the impact! I like to store the Christmas cards we receive throughout the season on a strand a garland lining the doorway in our kitchen. I got the inspiration for this idea from this post on Pinterest! Garland easily fits into the top of a box of Christmas decorations and comes back to life year after year.

Candles — Burning a holiday scented candle is a simple way to completely change the feel of your small space.

Just because you live in a small space doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on decorating your home for the holidays. These few simple items make our apartment feel cozy while not feeling cluttered — the perfect combination in my book!

Top 10 FREE NYC Sites

Don’t you dare fall into the trap of thinking that the only good things to see in NYC cost you an arm and a leg! One of my favorite things to do is explore new free sites around the city, and today I have decided to share my favorites with you. 🙂

  • 9/11 Memorial — Located in Lower Manhattan, this site is a must see. No matter how many times I visit the memorial, I am struck by how beautiful and sobering it is.
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  • Staten Island Ferry to see Lady Liberty — Ask any New Yorker, and they will tell you that the best way to see the Statue of Liberty is by taking the Staten Island Ferry. All you have to do is grab a good seat and get your camera ready! Besides, who doesn’t love a relaxing boat ride on a nice day?!
  • Brooklyn Bridge — Walking the Brooklyn Bridge was high on my list of things to do after moving to NYC. I take any chance I get to walk across the bridge when family and friends come to visit.
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  • Central Park — I have written about my love for Central Park in the past (check out this post 😉 ), but I seriously can’t get enough. From the Belvedere Castle to the Bethesda Fountain to the miles and miles of green space, Central Park never disappoints.
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  • Chelsea Highline — This old railroad track turned walking trail allows you to walk through a section of Manhattan without having to worry about looking for cars. The Highline’s beautiful landscaping coupled with unique views of the city makes for a one of a kind experience.
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  • Grand Central Station — This is one of my absolute favorite places to visit in the city. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone to Grand Central Station, but somehow it never gets old. The architecture is incredible; I seem to find something new each time I visit. This is also one great spot for people watching, if that is your thing!
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  • Roosevelt Island — If you have been following along for any length of time, I’m sure you have heard me talk about Roosevelt Island multiple times. In addition to having a tranquil park at the southern tip of the Island, Roosevelt Island offers one of the most unique modes of transportation to get on the Island: The Roosevelt Island Tram. If you have never taken the tram, be sure to add that to your list the next time you are in NYC. It is a free subway transfer (or the cost of 1 subway ride if you didn’t take the subway to get to the Island).
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  • Bryant Park — This is my favorite spot in Midtown, Manhattan. Bryant Park is so calming and peaceful even though it is only a quick walk from the insanity of Times Square. My favorite time of year to visit Bryant Park is during Christmastime when they transform it into a winter village.
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  • New York Public Library — This iconic site is conveniently located right next to Bryant Park. If you are a book lover, you have to add this to your list of places to visit in NYC. My favorite place to take friends and family is the main reading room, so be sure to check that out when you visit!
  • Times Square (if you must) — I’ll be honest with you, Times Square is not my favorite place, but it is worth checking out one night after the sun has gone down. The whole place is so bright it actually feels like it is daytime!
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There you have it; my top 10 free NYC sites. Have you made it to all of these yet? Which one is your favorite? Do you have a favorite that isn’t included? If so, leave me a comment so I can add it to my list of places to see! 🙂

NYC Year 2 Reflections

And just like that, another year has passed in NYC. I can still remember the first few days in the city so vividly. Thankfully, life has settled down and become much more “normal” since then.

Year two in NYC has been all about finding our groove and how we fit into city life. You have a better idea of what to expect, yet some circumstances will still catch you off guard. Adjusting to life in NYC takes a long time, and I would be lying if I said we don’t still feel like we are in an adjustment phase.

This year has included greater involvement in our church, deepening friendships and creating new ones, continued exploration of NYC and the areas surrounding the city, learning more about ourselves through the challenges and joys of city life, and so much more.

NYC Year 2 Reflections

  • Getting in and out of the city will always be the cause of great turmoil for us. — Unless you leave before 6 am, getting out of the city will always take longer than the GPS says it will (most likely adding an hour to your trip). To combat this problem, Ryan and I have utilized bus companies (mainly Greyhound) to visit places close by. However, throughout this past year, we have only had problem after problem with the bus. The incident that pushed us both over the edge was when we were traveling to visit my parents in Baltimore at Labor Day. Our bus was on time and sitting at the station at Port Authority (this is a miracle in and of itself). Our driver was a little late, but we all got loaded onto the bus fairly quickly and were on schedule to leave pretty close to the scheduled departure time. Out of the blue, our driver comes over the loud speaker and says that he can’t drive this bus. He didn’t give us any explanation, just that we would have to wait for another bus. We then proceeded to sit on the bus for an hour before action was finally taken to get us another bus. After that experience, we decided that we would consider other options if we are traveling to a place close by.
  • International travel is more affordable and easier to do living in NYC. — At the start of our second year in NYC, we were on a trip to the UK and Ireland that we had been planning for years! (If you are interested in our trip to the UK (London, Edinburgh, and Scotland) and Ireland check out the Tanis Travels section of my blog to see all those posts!) Living so close to JFK made finding international flights a whole lot easier.
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  • Trying new foods is still one of our favorite things to do. — Most of the time, I cook six out of the seven days of the week. That doesn’t leave us much time to try new things and explore new places to eat. However, whenever we get the chance to try something new, we jump on it! One of our favorite discoveries this year was an Israeli place (Pahal Zan) in Forest Hills close to our church. This food is authentic and tastes so good. The only hard part is the restaurant closes early on Friday and is closed on Saturday in observance of Sabbath. — Along those same lines, it is very important to be aware of when the Jewish holidays fall for a few reasons. 1. If you have a favorite Kosher restaurant, they will not be open on Saturdays (Sabbath) and Jewish holidays. 2. A lot of the markets where I get my produce here are Kosher markets, and they close on those holidays and Sabbath as well. Which also means, if you go to the market the day before a Jewish holiday…It. Will. Be. Madness. (trust me, I have made this mistake more than once!)
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  • Discovering brunch in NYC is a game changer. — Back at the beginning of the year, we realized that we weren’t taking advantage of living in such a great place to enjoy brunch. Ryan and I are huge brunch fans and decided that this year we would try out a different brunch place each month. We have been keeping track of the different places we have tried, and I plan to write a blog post about our brunch spots for 2018 as well as our thoughts about each one in just a couple of months!
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  • Navigating the subway has become so normal that it almost seems strange. — Back when we first moved to NYC, the subway was a source of stress for me. I am not very good with directions to begin with and then you throw this confusing subway system at me; I was toast. After learning that my phone could give me step by step instructions, I slowly began to get braver and venture out on my own. Two years later, I can easily go somewhere new and find the trains I need without much thought. At times when I show up to a platform so easily, I get nervous that I must have done something wrong and am at the wrong place. My confidence has grown exponentially as I have slowly become more familiar with the subway system.
  • Christmas is still my favorite time of year to live in NYC. — Although I am still not a fan of the cold weather, nothing beats Christmastime in NYC. There is just something about bundling up to go into the city and see all the lights and window displays. I love it.
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  • Getting a parking space is a big deal. — I will finish with one of the biggest changes this year has brought. Back when we first signed the lease on our apartment here in Queens, we asked to be put on the waiting list for a parking space in our building. Nearly two years went by, and we heard nothing. Ryan and I were beginning to think that this list was a myth. Then at the end of September, Ryan got an email from the management company saying that they had a parking space available. We quickly snatched it up and have been enjoying the luxury of having a parking space instead of struggling to find street parking! (Even though we now have a parking space, we still enjoy walking the majority of the time. From October 26, 2017, to October 26, 2018, I have walked 863 miles!)

Some days I look around and still can’t believe that I am living in NYC. Most days I don’t feel like I belong here. In fact, I have been told by various different people that they can tell that I am not a native New Yorker. But you know what? That is OK with me. Because no matter if I feel like it or not, I am a part of this incredible city, and I am determined to make the most of it for however long God chooses to keep us here.

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Photo by Third Floor North Photography

Thanks for a fun two years, NYC. Looking forward to what you have in store for us next!

NYC Fall Favorites

Here in NYC, the summertime weather has been sticking around a little longer than normal. I, for one, am not upset about it; however, I know that this weather will not last forever, and the cold temperatures will be here before I know it.

After experiencing 1 1/2 fall seasons in NYC, I have a much better idea of what to expect and how to prepare for the changing temperatures.

Comfortable Shoes – I’ve talked about the need for comfortable shoes on the blog before, but I just need to stress that again here. When I first moved to NYC, I was definitely a little more concerned with style than comfort. Let’s just say that changed pretty quickly 😉 I decided to get a neutral pair of tennis shoes about a year ago, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner! (the shoes I have are similar to these ones!) I also like to wear boots during the fall and winter months. There are so many options out now with lower heels to keep the comfort level high!

Vests – This is one of my favorite layering pieces for the fall. Vests are perfect for days when I will be walking a lot and want to ensure that I will stay warm but not too warm. 🙂 I only wish the milder fall temperatures would last longer in NYC so I could wear vests longer!

Rain Jackets – If you live on the East Coast, then you understand the necessity of investing in multiple rain jackets. I got a fleece-lined rain jacket last fall that I used constantly throughout the fall and winter! However, on slightly warmer days, my fleece-lined jacket is too much, and I need to wear something lighter. The bottom line is that the weather is unpredictable here, so it is better to be prepared for whatever may come your way.

A Fleece Jacket – This is my go-to layering piece during this time of year! Whether you need an additional layer under a rain jacket or just need something lighter to throw on before heading out the door, a fleece jacket is the perfect staple for the fall and winter. There are a lot of trendier options on the market right now, but I tend to lean toward a good, neutral fleece since I have limited closet space in my apartment.

Water Bottle – It is important to stay hydrated no matter what season it is. I absolutely love my CamelBak Chute Mag Vacuum water bottle! My favorite features are the wide grip to make it easy to carry around with me and the magnetic top to keep the cap away from my face while drinking out of it.

This list is not exhaustive in the least, but these items are essential to help me survive the ever-changing weather that is fall in NYC.

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NYC Summer: Round 2

Although I do enjoy the change in seasons, summer is my favorite, and I am always a little bit sad to see it go. As I was looking back over the summer, I noticed that this summer varied slightly from our first summer here in NYC.

Last year, we were itching to get out and explore our new city, since we arrived right before the start of a long winter. Also, we had many visitors come to stay with us last year, and we were excited to show our friends and family some of our favorite spots in the city.

However, since both of us had already taken time to see a lot of the major tourist attractions of NYC, we didn’t feel that same need to head into the city and explore every weekend. Instead we chose to spend our weekends discovering places to visit that were a little closer to home. We had such a great time visiting popular spots in Queens and Long Island and getting to know more about the area. Some of our favorites from the summer were:

  1. The Queens International Night Market — Ryan and I love taking a Saturday night to try new foods at the Queens International Night Market. If you want to know more about it check out my post from a few weeks ago!
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  2. Montauk, NY/The Hamptons — Visiting the Hamptons was high on my list of things to do once we moved to NYC. Thankfully we found a perfect Saturday to take a drive out to Montauk (the furthest point on Long Island) and enjoyed checking out the cute, quaint little towns of the Hamptons along the way.
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  3. Jones Beach — We had a goal of getting to the beach more than one time this summer. Unfortunately that did not work out like we would have hoped, but we were still glad we were able to find a good Saturday to relax at the beach. It is hard to let a summer go by without spending a day at the beach, especially when it takes less than an hour to get there!
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  4. Central Park — I take advantage of every chance I get to walk around Central Park. We had a few visitors this summer, and I thoroughly enjoyed showing them some of my favorite sites in the park.
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I am looking forward to enjoying however many warm, summer days we have left. This has been such a relaxing summer, and I can’t wait to see what adventures the next season holds.

Travel the World in Just One Night

The Queens International Night Market is an excellent opportunity to try a variety of different foods, all without leaving NYC. There are more than 150 countries represented in Queens and over 138 languages spoken, and the Queens Night Market does a wonderful job celebrating the beautiful diversity of this borough. One of my favorite parts of the market is that prices are capped at $6, so that means that you get to try more things without completely blowing your budget! *happy dance!!*

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Ryan and I first experienced the night market last year and instantly fell in love. We both love trying new foods, and the setup of the Queens Night Market makes it so simple to taste test a variety of options.

Last Saturday was our first trip to the night market this summer, and it did not disappoint. I am going to share all of the different dishes that we tried on Saturday to help give you an idea of what offerings are available each Saturday night! The vendor list does vary slightly depending on the week, but the majority of the vendors stay the same week after week. You can always check out their website where the list of vendors for each week is posted.

Now let’s get to the good stuff…the FOOD!

First up was Chicken Kachori (India) from Cilantro and Mint. This was a chicken and potato stuffed pastry served with pickled vegetables and a cilantro lime sauce. YUM!

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Ryan had been diligently looking over the vendor list and researching different foods to try all day on Saturday and decided that he needed to give the burger from The Malaysian Project a try. Now this wasn’t any ordinary burger…this was a burger wrapped in a fried egg with curry and a spicy horseradish mayo.

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We decided that our next choice needed to be free of heat and spice since the previous two dishes were full of that, so we ended up at C Bao and ordered a Peking Duck Bao. Bao is a type of Chinese bread that is steamed which gives it a very interesting texture. We both had been wanting to try duck for a while, so we thought, “Why not now?!”

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Finally, we made it to my favorite part of the market…DESSERTS! We went to the market with some of our friends, and they could not stop talking about these Portuguese Tarts (Pasteis de Nata) from Joey Bats Sweets. We decided to give them a try, and we are SO glad we did!

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Last, but certainly not least, is the Twister Cone from TwisterCake (Romanian-Hungarian). The Twister Cone is a Romanian-Hungarian Chimney Cake filled with ice cream. It is heavenly.

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The Queens International Night Market is open every Saturday in the summer from 6pm – Midnight. Make this a part of your plans next time you are in NYC; you won’t be sorry!

NYC Favorites

It can be so easy for me to let myself get caught up with the negative aspects of big city living. But when I take a step back, I realize that there are so many things I have the opportunity and privilege to enjoy! It usually doesn’t take me too long to come up with a list of the things I truly enjoy about city life. Here is a sampling of some of my favorites from NYC so far. There is always so much more to explore, and I can’t wait to keep finding new things I love.

My Favorite Bakery: Taking a trip to Martha’s Country Bakery is a must when family and friends come to visit. We have had many opportunities to try the many different varieties of baked goods that Martha’s sells, and it is pretty safe to say that there isn’t a bad option. If I’m being honest, living within walking distance to Martha’s may have played a big part in choosing our apartment location. 😉

My Favorite Latte: Ryan and I love to visit new coffee shops, and living in NYC gives you so many options to choose from. Stumptown Coffee Roasters has the best latte hands down. I have had my fair share of lattes, and nothing has been able to top Stumptown’s latte.

My Favorite Broadway Show: Another amazing benefit of living in NYC is the entertainment options available. We jump at any chance we get to go to a Broadway show and have taken advantage of the Broadway week two-for-one deal multiple times. (If you are unsure of what Broadway week is, read all about it here!) The first Broadway show we went to after moving to the city was Wicked, and it is easily our favorite show that we have seen. A visit from our friends was what prompted this outing, and we are so glad we were able to experience this incredible show with them!

My Favorite Time of Year: Christmastime in NYC is as beautiful and magical as it seems on TV and in the movies. Ryan and I moved to NYC really close to the holiday season, and I was having an especially hard time adjusting to city life. I will never forget our first night that we spent walking down 5th Avenue looking at the shop windows and taking in the spectacular Christmas trees set up all over Midtown Manhattan. Experiencing Christmastime in NYC helped me to see that living in the city could be enjoyable and fun.

My Favorite Spot to Take Friends & Family: We have had many visitors come and stay with us during the almost 2 years that we have lived in NYC. We love being able to share our little home with friends and family that want to see the city while helping them save a little money, because trips to NYC aren’t necessarily the cheapest. When the weather permits, we love to take visitors to Central Park, specifically the Bethesda Fountain. Another favorite spot is Grand Central Station. Between the stunning architecture and crowds of people, there is always more than enough to see no matter what time of year you visit!

My Favorite Take-out Restaurant: Although I try to cook the majority of our meals at home, there will inevitably be a time when you just need to order out. Finding a good take-out place close to our apartment was definitely a priority. Thanks to a visit from my parents, we found Bellerose Famous Pizza pretty quickly after moving to NYC. Seriously, everything we have had there is good, but our favorites have to be the create your own pasta, chicken shawarma pita, and lamb gyro. (Unfortunately we are not huge New York style pizza fans, but their pizza is the best we have had in the city!)

This list is not exhaustive by any means, but I just wanted to give you a sample of some of the things I have come to enjoy since moving to NYC. Each new experience continues to make me more and more excited for what is next. Living in the city can be hard, but if you can allow yourself to stop focusing on the negative, you may just find that there is more to enjoy than you once thought.

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A Hidden Gem

A few weeks ago Ryan and I decided to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Roosevelt Island. I have mentioned Roosevelt Island in a previous post, but I wanted to take some time to explain a little more about why we find ourselves going back there again and again.

  1. Peace and Quiet — This is probably the biggest draw of the island for us. Roosevelt Island is located in such a unique spot where you can see the city, but you are far enough away not to be bothered by the noise. It is a great option when you need a few hours to escape from the craziness of city life, but you don’t want to have to travel too far.
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  2. Walking Trails and Open Green Space — Roosevelt Island offers plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature from the riverside walk (our personal favorite) to Four Freedoms Park located at the southern tip of the Island and many other options scattered throughout the island. You can actually walk around the whole island, but it requires a lot of steps so be prepared!
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  3. Beautiful Landscape — Ryan and I have been to Roosevelt Island in the spring and the summer, and the landscape is always beautiful. I am sure this little island is beautiful year round and hope we have the chance to explore the island during the fall and winter at some point.
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  4. Public Restrooms and Water Fountains — One of the first things that Ryan and I quickly picked up on after moving to NYC was to take note of where good public restrooms are located. I cannot tell you how much stress is relieved when you know there is a place to fill up your water bottle and go to the restroom if needed!
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  5. Roosevelt Island Tram — This is a unique (and inexpensive) transportation option for getting on and off the island. There is a subway stop on the island, but we love to take the subway into Manhattan just so we can take the tram to the island. (A free transfer is available with your metro card to take the tram to the island! However, if you haven’t ridden the subway yet that day, the fare to get on the island is only the cost of a subway ride.) If you are looking for stunning NYC skyline views, be sure to take the tram from Roosevelt Island back into Manhattan. 😉
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Have I convinced you yet to go and visit Roosevelt Island? Who knows, you may run into us there 😉

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Central Park Is Always a Good Idea

After letting the idea of moving to and living in NYC sink in, there were different aspects that really excited me. One in particular was having the chance to explore the city a little at a time. NYC is such a huge place with so many things to see and do, and we were going to have the chance to explore more than we ever could have on a vacation! Central Park was on the top of my list of places I was itching to take my time to explore.

Central Park is more than just an iconic NYC site; it helps you escape the noise of the city, even for just a few hours, which is probably why Ryan and I have found ourselves visiting the park often. One of the items on our NYC bucket list is to explore the whole park. We have been slowly making our way through the park, but still have a little bit left that we haven’t even seen yet (mainly the northern sections of the park)!

With each month that passes, we adjust more and more to city life. But no matter how long we live here, we will always crave to find those places where we can escape for just a little bit and enjoy some peace and quiet. I guess it is safe to say that we won’t stop visiting Central Park anytime soon.

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Central Park through the seasons

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