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Photo TR: A Cold Birthday Weekend in New York City

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After our previous visit to New York City at the tail end of our Grand European Adventure, we looked at different options for a quick weekend getaway to celebrate my birthday, and we landed on NYC. This time around, our focus would be on shows, shopping and a few food stops.


We managed to splurge a bit and yet somehow found a pretty unreal price for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets, for Parts 1 and 2 in the same same, for a Sunday... Scoring second row right, center seats for the duration of the shows. After years of hype for the show, and both of us being Potter fans (my wife more so than me), we tried pretty desperately to get into the show at a reasonable price in either London or New York on that prior trip but weren't able to pull it off. So when this time around we found the seats at the price we did, we couldn't wait to book the tickets.


So some key details about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for those that have been interested/considering paying for the show. This is not a small commitment when it comes to time or money (though weekdays sometimes can see seats available for as low as $69 per part). Each part of the show consists of two acts with a 20 minute intermission, amounting to about 3 hours per part. You have a choice to see both parts in the same day if you opt for the weekend schedules, or you can split your shows across days, with either option having its pros and cons. We chose to see both parts in the same day, to maximize our free time on our other two days, plus it kept everything fresh in our minds between parts... Though, it amounted to a near full day of Potter, which even for us fans was a bit exhausting.


The show itself is incredibly inventive and well thought out. The show takes liberties with some of the established iconography and characters that you've seen in the films... And thus, JK Rowling chose not to be beholden to what was shown onscreen, rather how she imagined it from the books. That can be a little jarring for fans of the films, but for as long as this show is, it is easy enough to shrug off after the initial introductions of the show begin. The entirety of the show is incredibly well-acted, with the standouts being Albus Potter (Harry Potter's son), Scorpius Malfoy (Draco Malfoy's son) and Harry Potter. The show picks exactly where the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows left off, with Harry's son going off to Hogwarts. Along the way, you meet new faces in Albus' life, but revisit familiar faces from Harry's past. The show spends a good deal of time establishing the story as Albus', but as we get deeper into it, the relationship between him and his father, and the decisions from his father's past fall more into question, with key elements of the prior stories being revisited in a clever way. In lieu of cinematic effects, The bottom line is, if you're familiar with Harry Potter, you'll likely enjoy the show. If you're a Potter fanatic you'll love it. Just know you're in for the long haul between the two parts, even if you space them out across different days.


Outside of our full day at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we spent time noshing around New York, hanging out in the West Village, along with window shopping throughout the city. We even managed to snag some amazingly cheap tickets for front row at Phantom of the Opera (my favorite show)! For a quick weekend, it was an amazing way to celebrate my birthday!


During our previous visit to New York while experiencing Scott's Pizza Tours, we passed the Bantam Bagels storefront in the West Village. It was already closed for the day by the time we were there that time, so we vowed to revisit this location the next time we came to the city.


Most people know Bantam Bagels from Shark Tank, but since their debut on TV, they've blown up to be offered in many Starbucks locations along with selling some of their products as frozen foods in grocery stores. This flagship store was where the company started...


So we made sure to sample as much as possible! We tasted eight different bagel flavors (including a few egg bites) and four of their Bantam Pancakes.


While roaming the city, I spotted this facade in the wild. It was kind of a fun theme park throwback, as this Paramount facade was at the entrance/exit of Kongfrontation at Universal Studios Florida (although the Paramount sign actually says "Paradise" in the park). The building facade and sign is still there for Revenge of the Mummy today.


The Lyric Theatre received many upgrades inside and out to support hosting Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.


On our day not set aside for Harry Potter, we tried our hand at the lottery for Little Shop of Horrors, which while we were there was the last weekend in which Jonathan Groff was performing (Christian Borle was also in the cast at the time). While we didn't win the lottery, getting to experience the process was still kind of neat, even as a snowstorm enveloped us.


With 45 minutes to spare from the start of any other matinees, we ran from the Westside Theatre to TKTS in Times Square to see what was available for the rest of the day (matinee or evening performances). There was no line at this point, so we walked straight up and asked what was available. Of the remaining shows, Phantom of the Opera was the only one that interested us, so we asked what the best we could get was... The attendant advised that he could give us second row right center seats for $81.50 each... My wife jokingly responded by asking, "I wonder what front row costs?" He replied quickly, "the same price." SOLD!


A fantastic cast, with this Phantom having previously played the Phantom in Love Never Dies, the sequel musical to this show.


Nothing beats the scale of permanent staging compared to the traveling show.


The detail is amazing... And so was our view!


Love it!


I didn't even have to lean to see into the orchestra pit!


I love this theater so much!


This cast's Christine and Raoul were both fantastic.


It isn't a trip to New York City without a visit to the Times Square Disney Store.


There are so many hidden details throughout the store.


Frozen II had come out only a month earlier, so the store was still dressed in its Frozen best.


Hidden Mickey!


New to me was the Nintendo New York store!


Such cool merch!


So much plush!


I really appreciate how much effort Nintendo has taken to fill the store with memorabilia and props honoring the legacy of the company and its games.


The giant game screens don't hurt either.


I love this display.


I didn't realize how many Amiibos had been created.


A cool find (with a working screen).


Any fans of Pikachu out there? This store is for you!


The main history case...




I never owned the Virtual Boy, but I had its competitor, the R-Zone as a kid.


I nearly bought all of these.


I thought it was pretty neat that you could earn Nintendo Points just by checking in with your My Nintendo account in the store.


Holy Blue Shell Batman!


After Phantom and Nintendo, we took the subway over to The Plaza Hotel to grab a bite... And I ended up enjoying so lobster from Luke's Lobster while there.


I picked up a Parisian Steak & Cheese sandwich from Epicerie Boulud because I couldn't resist a chance to taste something from Daniel Boulud's food empire. This was a good call.


And I wasn't going to leave The Plaza Food Hall without something from Laduree!


The next morning we woke up and went over to Junior's for a hearty breakfast...


But you don't come here and not get cheesecake!


Where is the giant Jimmy Fallon sign?


How am I going to Race Through New York???


While in the area, we stopped into the new FAO Schwarz location...


Dolittle was a featured film in the store... For what that is worth.


The Funko section was fun.


Weird to see Sharper Image existing in any form...


A famous FAO Schwarz fixture restored.


The Times Square Ball was still in place during our visit!


I love this view!


Ready for a day full of Harry Potter...


Despite showing up nearly 1.5 hours early, this is how far back in the line we were.


The show takes some visual liberties with the established iconography from the films...


The detail work applied to the inside and outside to the Lyric Theatre for the show is really great.


Time to head in!


Quite the foyer.


It would've been strange to not see these for sale in the concessions area.


Minalima, the designers behind many of the elements of the Wizarding World/Harry Potter franchises was involved in the development of the decor for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child venues. Each venue that hosts the show has its own unique designs inside.


The show transforms the theater in surprising ways.


The cast list...


The staging is quite clever... And the way the stage transforms throughout the two shows is surprising.


Quite pretty.


Not going to say what this means or why it is important... But it is important.


Cats Taxi.


During our break between parts of Cursed Child, we ran to a nearby food hall where I grabbed more from Luke's Lobster!


We would end up seeing Aladdin live in Orlando just a few weeks later.


That night I found a hole in the way shop by our hotel that sold katsu curry... It was bliss.


For our final day in the city, we woke up early to visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.


The Oculus is a really neat shopping center right by the museum and the Freedom Tower.




I'm not going to share too many photos from inside, because it really is meant to be experienced in person, but the museum is an incredibly powerful experience.



A breathtaking piece.


The museum is underground and a portion of its wall is an exposed side of the slurry wall retaining the Hudson River.


My second time visiting this breathtaking place.


The Freedom Tower really is incredible.


I love the inside of The Oculus. While here we dropped a decent amount of money on Sugarfina...


We stopped at Ruby's Cafe and had an amazing last bite before heading back to Times Square to wrap up our trip.


I'll never tire of this site.


Always worth a visit.


We realized 30 minutes before it was time to leave for the airport that in the rush of our trip, we somehow managed to totally miss out on getting some classic New York style slices... So I ran around the corner to the closest pizza shop I could find, rushed two hot slices back to our hotel and scarfed them down before our Uber arrived.


Back in Orlando, it was nice to be greeted by some friends...

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Nice! Good food, good theatre, good shopping...all the NY stuff!


I had a friend who had a Virtual Boy. It was kinda cool I guess, the tennis game gave somewhat of a sense of depth, but really it was hard to play for any length of time. The monochrome red screen was just weird. Would love to visit that store, though, the museum type displays are super cool.

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The Occulus building is really cool, don't know if anyone else has ever noticed it but between Tampa and Orlando off of the south side of I-4 there is a huge building at Florida Polytechnic University from the same architect. Very impressive, I saw it several years ago on that drive and had to look the building up, then the Oculus opened a few years later and I knew it had to be the same architect and sure enough it was.


Check it out next time you're driving from I-4 from Orlando to Tampa.



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I love Luke's. I don't remember what they call it, but we had the $40 feast where you get a ton of food on our last trip. Best meal I had in the city.


The memorial and museum really are something everyone should take the time to see. The inner chamber of the memorial exhibition inside the museum is incredible. We stayed in there for over an hour.

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Glad you remembered your all-important PIZZA, lol!


And that Luke's Lobster stuff..... omg omg omg.


Great NY times shared, thanks! I miss Broadway soooo freakin' much.

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Great report, the Nintendo store is one of the few things I actually stop in a lot at because they swap out a lot of the displays depending on what's going on. They are always great.


We saw the Harry Potter shows as well and I definitely consider myself a casual fan, I enjoyed the movies and I like the rides and areas at Universal but I still really enjoyed the shows. Some of the special effects were just fantastic.


You also managed to be here for like the only day of snow we had, I actually haven't had to shovel once all season lol


The 9/11 museum looks very well done but I don't ever see myself going and I actually don't know anyone else that has that's from here. Remembering that day and the sight of smoke and that smell for a long time after was enough for me.

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what an absolutely fantastic report. . *THIS* is almost exactly what our perfect vacation would be - lots of touristy stuff (including FAO Schwartz), a few shows, and lots of food.


Congrats on the universe giving you the perfect Bday gift, in the great seats for Phantom. I've actually never seen it - not the filmed version or the live show, tho it's on my list to eventually see one day. Not sure why I've never seen it. It just hasn't lined up thru this point yet.


I have seen LSoH multiple times tho. How do they do the lottery? is it similar to the way Rent does the cheap seat lottery when that show is touring? Too bad you didn't get in, but as you note, the experience trying is a memory.


as to HP&tCC - I'd TOTALLY drag my spouse to that and wed do the back to back shows. Heck, I made him sit thru "Angels in America" (a local production many years ago), and we did "Millennium Approaches" and "Perestroika" back to back.

That was a good 10 1/2 hours in the theater, so he's grouse about it, but would be ok being dragged to see Harry Potter even if he's not a big fan. I don't think i've actually seen all of the films - but I have read the books multiple times, so I'd not mind any changes at all.


some other random thoughts: Bantam Bagels! i'm only familiar with them from the frozen food aisle (as I don't watch Shark Tank, I had no idea they were on there). Yep, I'd be in to try fresh, rather than frozen versions. Where in NY is the storefront.


Love that placement of the bus in front of the Hard Rock.


Eat at Hard Rock - go to "FlashDancers" gentleman's club (a GREAT name for a strip club),then go to Mt. Sinai - full NY experience all in one picture.








the only thing you did that I wouldn't do? I wouldn't go to the 9/11 memorial/Museum. I just can't handle it, as it's too upsetting. Thanks for sharing the few pics inside that you did, but even those started to get me too emotional.. so I wouldn't have gone near that part of town (last time I was in NY, my Cousin - who lives across from the Fulton St Fish Market & near Wall St, where he works - had to come meet me in the Village, as I didn't want to go near that part of Manhattan. . . too upsetting for me). So we likely would have done the Empire State Building. . . or maybe taken the ferry to get some views of Lady Liberty. Even tho I've done both many times


or maybe even stop by the Vessel. . which seems pointless, but I like the design of it that I've seen on TV.



thanks for sharing.

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'A stranger in a strange land.' That's ME!  It's kinda what I felt like reading your cool account of your birthday weekend in NYC & following you & your wife from show to show, store to store, eatery to eatery.  Tho I live 'bout 2 miles from Times Square, I haven't been there in a few years (except theater related)...and you reminded me how much I've been missing.  Now, I feel like I've lost so much time and need to revisit the good stuff I loved and all the NEW 'odds 'n bits' that I wasn't aware had sprung up!


One thing I TOTALLY identified with is your love affair with Luke's Lobster.  Altho it's a 'chain' - (there are a few in the city) - the lobster is flown in daily from its 'flagship' location in Maine.  I often complain that the Upper West Side is lacking in cool places to eat, BUT -- I am blessed to have a Luke's Lobster Shack just a very few blocks from my home.  Luke's gets the highest ratings and deserves it!  It's literally "shack-sized," -- so people often 'take-out' or get delivery.  (A GREAT little feast to enjoy in nearby Central or Riverside Park!)  They fill up their buttery rolls with such generous pieces of lobster...dang they're way too close to me for my budget! (& now, oi, I'm getting emails from Luke's about its special 'stay-home' shipping offers!! )  Oh! One last "To-Do" at Luke's is its once-a-year Petrossian Caviar Lobster Roll.  Check this out: https://www.lukeslobster.com/caviar-lobster-roll-is-back/ (Alas, I've never been fast enuf to snare one of em!)


Thanks for your pro photos and your food tips.  & Happy BELATED Birthday.



P.S.  When I saw ur pic of the Hard Rock, at first I thought the BUS ad for Mt Sinai was  part of its sign!  'Rock on and enjoy our fave hospital!'  (That was NOT by the way, a NYC bus -- the MTA does NOT advertise "Gentlemen's Clubs!) 

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$82 for front row Phantom last-minute? Lucky.


When I went to the 9/11 memorial back in 2014, it was amazing just how quiet it got in there. Just how much it changed from one side of security to the other was almost surreal. As if the city itself knew it couldn't make a sound. I don't remember much of the actual day, but I could still feel the weight of what had been done there.

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