NYC 3 – Times Square, the Flower District, Matilda, and defeating the scary subway

Where we left off: NYC 2

We had just taken in The Empire State Building, rested up at Big Daddy’s vintage diner, and found Macy’s infamous wooden escalator.

But the next day promised to be a big day… we were changing hotels, and by golly, I HAD to brave the scary subway so we could make it to Times Square… HAD TO!

The flower district in New York City /
NYC 3 – Times Square, the Flower District, Matilda, and defeating the scary subway

Today was hotel change day, which rattled me a little. What does one do with the luggage from 11 am check out to 4pm check in… in NYC? Sit with it on the sidewalk? Hope there’s a coffee shop nearby…

We were about to find out. Attempting to hail a cab, I quickly thought differently. Traffic was locked tight and there was no way I was willing to pay to stand still in gridlock.

So I went to the hotel desk, and asked just how far our next hotel was.

“It’s right behind us.”


This is the thing. Don’t go by google or online maps. Ask the front desk.

So we took our luggage for a walk. For all of up to 10 minutes tops, and that included waiting for lights.

And what I found waiting in front of us made me GIDDY!

Gorgeous moss display in a storefront window in the Flower District, in Chelsea, New York City /

The streets of the flower district in New York City /
Turns out just one road over landed us in the Flower District. And what a difference this was vs. looking at bare pavement dotted with the odd garbage bag!

Succuent city! - The streets of the flower district in New York City /
gorgeous red and yellow blooms! - The streets of the flower district in New York City /
plants lining the sidewalks - The streets of the flower district in New York City /
paper floral art in a shop window - The streets of the flower district in New York City /
For those not in the know, NYC is sectioned by districts. I hadn’t even realized that when I booked this next hotel.

And this hotel AND district was amazing.

The flower district is where everyone sells florist and greenhouse supplies. Each AM, they positively load the streets until there are only narrow pathways left. And each night, it all gets taken inside again.

At first I thought the city was undergoing some major park type renos. But nope… this is every day.

Industrial city view from the Hilton Garden Inn, Chelsea, New York City /
Our hotel (above was part of our view)

As for our 2nd hotel, I HIGHLY recommend The Hilton Garden Inn, located in Chelsea. (not a sponsored post… I wish!) Greeted with a lovely sitting area complete with flickering fireplace, the lobby always has fruit infused water on ice all day, and a massive platter of cookies in the evening. Very nice touch!

The rooms also have a Keurig coffee maker (bring your own stronger brew), fridge, and microwave. A true bonus if you wish to stay for a few days.

Hotels in NYC are like ‘What’s behind door #1?” All you can make out are the front doors. The rest of it appears to be smothered up by other tall buildings. Strangest thing. You just don’t feel the presence of them until you walk through the doors.

And there’s that plant thing again.. I felt VERY safe with plants surrounding us. This was a good move! How can you be afraid of plant owners and flowers? 

We also requested a city view a little higher up. I mean, if you’re paying the bucks anyway, may as well see something! Goodness we were high. Just don’t look down.

Tip: price check around. I quoted the hotel direct an Alaska Airlines price, which they matched. So grateful!

Historic building in Chelsea, New York City /
Historic buildings with grafitti in Chelsea, New York City /
I just loved the historic buildings surrounding us. So charming. So NYC.

Mailbox painted in grafitti in Chelsea, New York City /
After we settled in, it was time to face reality. If we wanted to go see cool stuff, the looming subway was apparently the only way. After witnessing gridlock traffic in the AM, I forced myself to approach the front desk with a subway map in hand.

Unfortunately, I returned to my room shortly after, crawled into bed, feeling completely deflated and dread. I didn’t understand any of the instructions that were rattled off, so I just left.

After my pity party, I realized I had to beat this fear of getting lost. See, I visioned shooting across the ocean all the way to China without realizing it. Everyone swore the subway was easy. Why didn’t I get it? The maps may as well have been a plate of spaghetti. No sense of direction at all. No two were even alike. And I didn’t even understand the two apps I uploaded to my phone.

So I went online, jotted down where we wished to go, started to draw another map, when I crumpled it up and head back to the lobby, DETERMINED to understand from someone that knew the score.

And that’s when I met my NYC subway angel. She took me by the hand, and wrote each and every step I needed to take to get to Times Square. BLESS HER!

Fearing for my life, So we packed a backpack and head out. Just in case. You know… China is a long way away. 

My son felt my fear, and really REALLY wanted a cab. So did I, son… like never before. But I had to do this… 

Subway station black and white sign from street level, in Chelsea, New York City /
I’m such a NYC nerd. I took pictures of the inside of the subway. Is that weird? It was a first for me! Maybe someone else needs to see this too… you know… to get more comfortable about it all.

I’m sure google search will find these handy if no one else does…

Subway station from street level, in Chelsea, New York City /
The scary steps leading deep down into the Valley of the Getting Lost segment. I was certain. 

Subway station stairway, in Chelsea, New York City /
Oh… ok, not so many stairs. We aren’t that deep down then?

Subway station tiled station numbers on the walls, in Chelsea, New York City /
See that tiled 28? Every station has that written on the wall. So when you slide into a station, you just had to look out the window to ensure you’re at the right stop.

Sometimes they announce it too, but not always.

Subway station pay machines, in Chelsea, New York City /
Subway station pay machines, in Chelsea, New York City /
The scary subway pay up machines.

The easiest way is to load a card with several trips worth, so you don’t have to use the machines each time.

It only costs $3 for one direction, as long as you stay on!

In front of the entry gates of a subway passing by, in Chelsea, New York City /
Yikes… We had to get on that thing. Will the doors close on us? How do they know we’re on? Why is there no one to ask my 2 million questions?!

There actually is a booth in each subway where you can ask questions. Thank goodness! They got their workout from me.

Stepping onto the subway, inside a subway station in Chelsea, New York City /
See that fella to the right with the vest? They DO make sure you get inside the doors before they close them on you. Whew!

Once the doors closed, I was like a deer in headlights, watching for the numbers on the walls. Very Harry Potterish if you ask me. Fearing they’d be going in the wrong order, they ended up being correct.

Oh my gosh… we were subwaying!

Tips for taking the subway

Bring a paper map with you wherever you go. (I had a death grip on mine.)

You may like the downloaded apps. We didn’t use one though.

Bring some cash. Sometimes the machines cough back your credit card.

Buy one card, keep loading it, and share it with others with you. Less to lose.

If you need help, you may not get it. Just take your time, and read the signs.

Avoid rush hour if you can, to avoid the sardine can squeeze.

Subways ARE safe. Remember.. you are around lots of people.

Some sing in subways, just like on YouTube! Another reason to bring cash.

We got comfortable with the #1 red line, before we attempted to transfer to other subways. Never did master the transfer part very well. #1 seems to reach most major destinations, so we chose to walk a few blocks instead.

And teach your child early that he doesn’t have to pay everyone that asks. Oy….

Music Hall Radio Station in New York City /
Music Hall Radio Station in New York City /
NBC Rainbow Room sign in New York City /
Oh my goodness… it was like we landed in another world! Everything looked so crisp and clean. They really do take care of the main areas. Interesting. We should get out more…

Being that the day was completely fogged in, we passed attempting The Rock, but I do recommend doing that if your day ends up being nice. It’s said to have an AMAZING view of Central Park. Next time!

So off to Times Square we went! 

Where the New Years ball drops - The massive billboards lit up at night at Times Square, in New York City /
The massive billboards lit up at night at Times Square, in New York City /
The massive billboards lit up at night at Times Square, in New York City /
The massive billboards lit up at night at Times Square, in New York City /
The massive billboards lit up at night at Times Square, in New York City /
Super crazy, busy, flashing, vibrant area. It was smaller than I anticipated, but still pretty impressive.

It was hard to take pictures of because of so many people. But it was a sight to see and worthwhile, even if for a quick glance.

Then during my glancing, my jaw dropped.

The outside signs and building of Matilda, playing at the Shubert Theatre, in New York City /
Matilda was the show I had wanted to see, but I had NO IDEA how to go about all this. Apparently you were to go to some place that sells cheap tickets, THEN make it back here? I think not. I just learned the subway and that felt like too much anxiety work.

But then it was right there, in front of us. I yelled to my son, “BE RIGHT BACK!” and BLASTED across the street, towards the doors to see when the show would start, and if we could possibly get in. Long shot I know. We weren’t even paying attention to the time…

The outside signs and building of Matilda, playing at the Shubert Theatre, in New York City /
Not only did we get in within minutes of the show starting, we got the best seats in the house. No. Way. Not cheap, but I didn’t care. I wanted GOOD! About $200 for both of us together.

Ohmywordguys… it was soooo enjoyable! Adored every moment! Just missed the popcorn. There is no popcorn in this theatre. Popcorn would have made it perfection. Popcorn AND coffee. Shubert Theatre, did you hear that request?

I’ll never forget it. My son wasn’t all that impressed to go to a show, so I was a little concerned I blew a buncha money for nothing. But when he suddenly said, “I know this show!” I knew he was locked in. The show was hilarious, and kept getting better and better. We BOTH adored it!

After Matilda, we head to Bubba Gumps for a late dinner. We love it there, but were pleasantly surprised to find our seats faced the massive flashing billboards of Times Square. Wow. WOW!

What a day this was. So many dreamy things on my bucket list were finally crossed off. 

Times Square subway station escalators and historic tile sign, in New York City /
GIDDY! It says Times Square! I need PROOF. I’m so proud… 

Times Square subway station in New York City /
And here’s a tip for subway newbies….

When you exit a subway, you may feel disoriented. This is because you need a different hole in the ground upon exit. Exiting completely threw me off… imagine getting lost on your OWN hotel street at night.Yes. That.

After we paced and spun around several times, we finally crossed the street where we were suppose to go, grabbed some cookies and water from the lobby, and head up.

And this time, I crawled under the covers, with the BIGGEST smile ever on my face EVER… we did it!  We mastered the subway! And now we could see ANYTHING we wished!

The next day promised to be soooo cooooool! We were meeting up with a very dear junker friend of mine, someone I’ve wanted to meet for a very long time. So, think JUNK, and Grand Central Station.

AND I’m also going to throw in meeting another dear friend who led us around the 9-11 memorial.

Tour guides! What a way to travel. That’s all next!

Read ALL NYC instalments to date HERE

And here’s a short video seeing the hot spots in NYC in 4 minutes!

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27 thoughts on “NYC 3 – Times Square, the Flower District, Matilda, and defeating the scary subway

  1. I take the subway everyday and never had a problem loading my metrocard with a credit card. You must have had some bad luck.

    Also you do not need to carry a map. You probably didn’t notice but there is a full subway map in every single car and in every subway station. No harm in having one in your purse but it’s definitely not a must.

    The flower district is great but I find the surrounding area kind of dreary. I hope you made it to the more lovely parts of NYC and far out of the tourist traps.

    • It may have been a glitch, but my credit card got rejected at several stations. It scared me enough to get cash back in my pocket. LOL It may have something to do with being a Canadian card. I’ve had strange things happen at gas stations due to that fact as well.

      I didn’t notice maps inside the subway cars! Nice to know. But we mostly used the map while walking the streets, which proved to be really helpful to find the stations… for a newbie, anyway!

      I agree on the dreary theory. That’s the part that deflated me when we first arrived. “Where are the cute coffee shops?” etc. It’s as if the hotels are tucked into these dark funnels, and you have to find your way out to see what else is there. That part is never written about.

      I’m not sure we made it to the places you describe, but the prettiest day was when we took in Central Park. That will be the first place we return should we ever come back!

      Thanks for chiming in! Loved hearing from a local!

  2. I loved my trip to NYC but the fear of the subways was also there! We never actually rode the subway because the one day we decided to brave it, there was nobody down there but some seedy looking, very large men. We did an about face and hauled it back up the stairs and never went back. We walked and cabbed everywhere….Such a fun trip! I am loving your journal of your trip! karen…

    • Hey Karen!

      Some of the stations felt more intimidating that others, depending what time of day, but I honestly felt safe at most. The volume of people alone is good security! Try rush hour sometime… just be prepared for the sardine can car… haha

      Glad you’re enjoying the series!

  3. I am loving this experience that you are having and I am living vicariously through your trip. Thank you for doing this for us. I can’t get enough. Thank you again and again. Don’t stop.

    • Glad you are enjoying the journal aspect, Carol! It’s a first, but I wanted to try.

      There were just way too many feelings around this adventure that would have been missed, had just done a 10 top tips on NYC type of post! 🙂

      I think when someone visits somewhere iconic for the first time, these emotions feel really prominent. I’m sure if there’s a 2nd time, this’ll all feel same ‘ol… (doubtful!)

  4. Wow! What fun to read. You are one of 3 blogs I check out each day and have never sent a comment to anyone. Wow! I just had to let you know I have never wanted to go to NY until now. NY should pay you for this diary you are that fun. I wish you lived next door ( and I have great neighbors). You are so down to earth, real, talented & fun. Rare bird I love you, Ruth

  5. I got such a kick out of this post because I know exactly how you felt! It reminded me of the first time I flew on an airplane when I was 21. I wanted to act like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t know where to look for the seat numbers until a kind person helped me out. Glad you conquered your fear of the subways and look how were rewarded! GOOD for you, plus you were a great example to your son!

    • Ohmygoodness… every time I go to the airport STILL, I mess up on something! We seriously are always on the wrong end of a given terminal for a variety of reasons. LOL

      I’ve found the key to travel is, go early, allow for plenty of time between flights, then you can take your time, and ask LOTS of questions. Panic (ie: running from gate to gate) can dramatically erase the fun adventure aspect! 🙂

      Asking is really the key. There are so many good people willing to help. You just have to be a little brave with your questions. You have no idea how thrilled I was that I (ME!) could help someone read THEIR subway map! haha

  6. Oh my! I totally feel your anxiety about the subway. Being a landlocked country bumpkin from Texas, my greatest vacation worry is how to get around in a big city. It always seems to work out. Just got back from Seattle where we used both the train and overhead tram system. But I confess. We also hailed a cab on several occasions just to get back to the underground train station. Ooooo way too many steep hills! We’ve even conquered the London tube! Public transportation is the way to go in a big city!

    • So true! I’m not a city girl by any leaps and bounds, we don’t even frequent the local bus. In fact, I have no idea how to even take it! 🙂

      But visiting NYC and adapting to their way of travel really opened my eyes to my own given area. I find myself questioning all the different ways I have never travelled to my own big city nearby and am entertaining searching that all up.

      Seriously… I didn’t even know how to hail a cab until I visited Las Vegas! haha

  7. I loved this post! I would have felt exactly the same fears and apprehensions. And I loved how you came to grips with your Self and knew that you just Had to conquer the subway. The thought of it creeps me out.
    Too many movies, small town girl. Mass transit has never been a favorite.
    Thanks for the tour and it is great you got to see Matilda. Just in time with great seats, too.

    • Haha, yes, my son likes to recite movie scenes while we frequent various public transit, which I shut him down quickly!

      Matilda SEALED THE DEAL that day! You just can’t go to NYC without taking in a show!

  8. SO glad you went into the Brave New World of the subway! Kudos Donna! See? It wasn’t so bad. But I know that feeling when you come out from underground and have no idea what direction is north. I look forward to looking and reading about your other adventures in NYC. I can’t wait to get back there.

    • Glad you’re enjoying it, Lisa! I’m nearly done with this one… and with any luck, there will be another adventure to write about soon!

      p.s. I think every road sign should have a North South East West aspect to it in NYC! haha

  9. Your post brought back memories of my daughter Victoria and I. Brought her to NYC when she turned 16 for her birthday. We stayed in a descent part of Brooklyn but one night while we were downtown taking pictures we knew that we were going to take a taxi directly to the hotel over the bridge etc. The traffic was so bad that the taxi driver refused and dropped us off in soho district. From there we had to navigate the subway over to Brooklyn. I’m from Montreal our metro is user friendly but much smaller. Some lines work at certain times of the day we found out and as you did I tried to keep my panic hidden. We made it over and got off at the first stop walked to a hotel and took a taxi from there to our HOTEL. Only to have the taxi driver tell me that we were staying in a very tough area. I thought my daughter was going to faint. We later found out that JAY-Z GREW UP IN THE PROJECTS WHICH WE PASSED EVERYDAY TO TAKE THE SUBWAY. HOLY …. Anyway we survived and now laugh about it.

  10. Donna I am enjoying this so much, Your writing is wonderful and I laughed out loud, not once or twice but several times.
    I can’t wait to read more. Thanks for the wonderful lift today.

  11. Hi Donna,

    Loved the post, very exciting and a little daunting at the same time.
    I took my daughter to see Matilda here is Sydney just before Christmas and had prime seats as well. It was easy for us to negotiate our way to the theatre. And just before entering I said a big “Hello Mr Rush” with Geoffrey Rush walking past. But I love all the things you do on this blog, so inspiring, keep it up. Thanks Kellie.

    • Wow, I would have been totally star struck if I ran into anyone I knew. Apparently it’s very common in Chelsea. Australia is also on my bucket list… I’d better get busy! 🙂

  12. Donna, I am soooo enjoying your posts on New York! You are so brave! From your photos I can truly see that it is the city that never sleeps. I’m looking forward to your next post where you can tell us about your visit with your very dear junker friend. Oh, and might I add the places you had food to eat at were awesome! Thanks and have a great day.

    • Oh Joanne, you are so right about the city that never sleeps! Actually, the shops near the hotels eventually close down, but seeing the buildings lit up at night never gets old. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about NYC is the fact that, at night, you get the feeling you should stay put for safety reasons, but who wants to spend time in their hotel room? For that reason, I think every NYC hotel should have a pool… 🙂 But we did wander some and found lots of fun food places late at night so there’s that… haha

  13. You are so funny. I love looking at the city through your eyes, Donna! The subway as the beast. I spent so many years riding that thing up and down. When I was in college I got a lot of studying done while traveling one hour each way to go to school and work. It’s much nicer now and less scary, and a lot cleaner – at least some of the lines. I think the #1 still has that rusty smell to it. I used to work right next to the #1 subway for a number of years across from the Fashion Institute. Good memories. Looking forward to the next installment.

    • Mary, it boggles my mind that you know this city inside and out! I didn’t smell rust myself, but then again, I didn’t compare any other lines with my beloved red #1. Haha… By the time we got comfortable with one, it was time to leave. I still miss the pizza every single day!

  14. Matilda is one of my all-time favorite movies; congrats on seeing it in NYC. You are so brave…that subway would intimidate me for sure. I love this account of a first-timer’s visit.

  15. I’m enjoying reading of your NYC adventures but I wish I had paid enough attention to know you were going ahead of time.
    I lived in NY for 14 years and loved it. New Yorkers (and former New Yorkers) are always excited to share tips and insights about the city. I wish I could have allayed some of your concerns. But I’m so glad you had such a great trip!

  16. Hi Donna

    I am so enjoying your post on New York. I love your experience, especially images are the lovely and superb article. I am waiting for your next post. Have a beautiful day.

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