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I thought today would be a good day to share the story of my recent birthday trip to New York City! So many of you have asked to see photos and hear about our trip, so instead of telling and re-telling the story over and over again, I thought I would just blog about it! I’m going to tell you this story as if we’re friends sitting down over coffee… :)

*Disclaimer, this is obviously a personal blog telling all about my trip and the random adventures we had, so it may get long… but hopefully not boring ;-)  It’s also a blog containing only iPhone photos and videos, so please excuse image quality. I hope you don’t mind just one “terrible quality photos” blog every once in awhile ;-) 

It was an adventure before the trip even started…  About 3 months ago, as I was sitting on the couch watching TV with Will, I had the random idea to take a trip to New York City with my sister on the weekend of our birthdays in January (her birthday is the day before mine). I have been to NYC once before in 2011 and it was a wonderful dream of a trip! Ever since that trip, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that wonderful city and how I’d desperately love to go back!

Anyways, that night, while I sat on the couch, I did some research on prices, noted that I didn’t have any weddings or photoshoots around that time, then texted my sister about my idea for a weekend trip. It was just a silly dream at the time, but in the back of my mind, I hoped that maybe we could figure out a way to make it happen. Knowing right away that it would probably be out of both of our budgets, I suggested perhaps even asking for contributions to the trip instead of Christmas and birthday gifts :)

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(Side note: I quickly typed that text as I thought of it and hit send before reading what I wrote. I know it’s a weirdly constructed text. Haha!)

Fast forward to January, after a bit of budgeting/planning, we had our birthday trip planned… and even added an extra sister to the trip! :) Our plans were to get a train from my hometown in northern Virginia up to NYC on Friday morning (my sister’s birthday), go to see The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, then spend the next day (my birthday) exploring the city then going to see my all time favorite musical, Les Miserables (this also happens to be a bucket list dream of mine I’ve had for years now). The morning after my birthday, we would leave the city on a train back to my hometown in Virginia. Easy peasy!  — HA!

Finally, our birthday week was here and I was heading up to see my family in Virginia for a few days before me and my sisters would take the train up to NYC. Two small issues though… I came down with a bad cold/sinus sickness the day before we were suppose to leave AND the weather forecast was calling for snow up north. And not just snow — a blizzard… a record-breaking, nor’easter blizzard :-/ For awhile there, it started looking like we were going to have to cancel our trip. And I’ll be honest, I was so very sad and disappointed :(  I honestly couldn’t just give up like that. Yes, it seemed like canceling was our only option and made the most sense, but I didn’t see it that way and I was not going to just give up without a fight! So we asked some NYC friends if the city ever “closed down” during blizzards or if it kept going. We even called Amtrak to ask them if the trains still travelled during snow storms/blizzards or if they typically cancelled when there was a blizzard. Everyone said it would be fine. New York wouldn’t close down, trains wouldn’t cancel. So we decided to proceed with our trip plans. I decided to purchase $8 train ticket insurance juuuuust in case though. That $8 turned out to be the best $8 I’ve ever spent ;-)


We hopped on the train to New York City late the night before my sister Marisa’s birthday. (Side note: I LOVE train travel! It is just the best!!) We arrived in NYC in the middle of the night and crashed in our beds at our hotel in Times Square. We woke up on Friday morning to a nice view of Times Square from our window as well as some people raising up a billboard banner for Les Miserables right outside our window! Pretty cool!  I was still sick with a cold/sinus crap, so I was popping cough drops like they were candy, using an ungodly amount of tissues, and drinking cold and flu medicine every chance I could. I was semi-miserable, but nothing could stop me from having fun on this trip!!


We waltzed around the city, did some shopping, visited St. Patricks Cathedral, ate some lunch…


…then it was time to go see Jimmy Fallon!


We signed up to get tickets to the show back in December and found out that we got the tickets about 1.5 weeks before the trip. We had an absolute blast at the show and I even got a handshake from Jimmy at the end! :-D What an adventure! This was a phrase I could not stop saying throughout the entire trip.

Click here to watch my 5 seconds of “Jimmy Shaking My Hand” fame :)


We finished our first official night taking the advice of my dear former bride, Mckenna, and went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner for Marisa’s birthday dinner. Best. Place. Ever!!! The waitstaff are all aspiring Broadway singers. They all sang the entire night and provided the most entertaining, fun restaurant experience we’ve ever had! The food was delicious and we felt like we were getting a bunch of free mini-Broadway shows along the way! Awesome!!


Click here to watch some of the talented servers singing their hearts out!

We hung out in Times Square late that night just as the snow (blizzard) was starting to fall. Again, what an adventure!!


When we got back to our hotel room, we found out that our train back home on Sunday had been cancelled due to the blizzard. A few phone calls later, we had secured tickets back home for that Monday. And here’s where that $8 insurance was the best thing ever… That $8 train insurance I bought for us covered the cost of our hotel and food for each delayed day should our train cancel for any reason. So basically, that meant that we got an extra day in NYC all expenses paid! Sweet!

We woke up on my birthday morning to snow everywhere! Beautiful, blizzard-y snow! It was so cool! Fun Fact: I was born during a blizzard in the D.C. area back in 1987. 


Well, then we found out that all of NYC was on a travel ban because of the dangerous blizzard conditions. No one was allowed to drive or travel after 2pm (or else they would be arrested… true story!) which meant that most restaurants and potential activities we could do were closed. And not only that, but all Broadway shows were also cancelled for that day, including Les Miserables :( We were bummed. But even still, we made the most of the situation and tried to have fun that day regardless. We got to see and take photos with Matthew Morrison (from Glee) as he left his Broadway theatre to head home and then we walked around Times Square during this historic blizzard event. We had a blast!

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We made amazing memories that I will never forget. My NYC birthday dinner was at none other than McDonalds because that was the only restaurant that we could find that was still open. Haha! What an adventure!

That afternoon, my sister saw this sign outside our hotel window… “The story isn’t over yet.”  :)  That seemed to be the theme of this trip even before it began!


We spent my birthday evening walking around the streets of Times Square. No cars, no taxis, just people wandering the streets. It was the coolest thing. And the city had been plowing the streets and shoveling the sidewalks non-stop since that morning, so the roads and sidewalks actually didn’t look that bad. They were walkable because of that work they did up front.

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After walking the streets that night, we spent the remainder of my birthday evening cooped up in our hotel room, eating our leftover cake from Marisa’s birthday the night before, and doing somersaults on our hotel bed. It was so much fun and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. Most unique and memorable birthday I’ve ever had, hands down! :)

The next morning (our bonus, all-expenses-paid-for day thanks to our $8 insurance), the snow had stopped falling and we woke up to beautiful sunshine!


Snow mountain!


We were able to snag some super cheap tickets to Finding Neverland matinee on Broadway starring Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer (it was also Matthew Morrison’s last day at the show, so that was cool that we got to be there for that). It was an amazing show!


After that show, we went to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant per the recommendation of a local New Yorker. Thanks to the $8 insurance, our fancy dinner was totally paid for! It was delicious and a much nicer dinner than we would have done on our own without insurance paying for it ;-)


We were able to switch our cancelled Les Miserables tickets from the night before for tickets to this night’s show AND our seats were MUCH better than our original seats would have been (we were 5 rows from the stage!) Les Miserables was incredible. Mind-blowning. The dreamy, amazing, perfect show I had always hoped for. It’s been a bucket-list dream of mine for many years for a reason. And yes, there were tears shed. Happy tears. “I can’t believe I’m actually here” tears. “Oh my goodness, Fantine just died” tears. Tears during the final song. It was amazing. I want to cry (happy tears) just thinking about it!

We even got some autographs and photos with some of the cast. That was our Jean Valjean in the bottom righthand photo. He was amazing!  What an adventure!!!


That night, after Les Miserables, we got back to our room and found out that our train back home the following morning was cancelled again due to ice on the tracks near our hometown. But this time, we had a real problem with the cancellation. My sister, a nurse at the hospital, absolutely HAD to get back into town for her shift the next day. There is no “I can’t come into work because we’re stuck in a snow storm up in NYC.” So getting delayed another day was not a good thing this time around. We stayed up until 3am on hold with Amtrak for 3 hours before we finally got in touch with someone to switch our train ticket. The new train would take us as far south towards Virginia as possible, which ended up being D.C., and we would find a ride from D.C. further south to our hometown on our own. Which we did. The new train left at 6am and it was currently after 3am which meant that we needed to be at the train station in less than 2 hours which meant that we were going to get about 1 hour of sleep (if we were lucky) before we needed to get up and head to the station. Another adventure to add to the list!


We made it onto the train, slept the whole ride, made it to D.C. around lunchtime, had a friend come pick us up from an hour and a half away, and all was well. We made it back home before my sister’s shift at the hospital began!

WHAT AN ADVENTURE! Everything seemed to be going wrong in the moment, but it all ended up working out and the hiccups really ended up being blessings in disguise! Truly! If our train on Sunday had not been cancelled, we would have left NYC on Sunday without having seen Les Miserables — which was a big reason why I wanted to go to NYC in the first place! Because our train was cancelled, we were forced to stay an extra day, which meant that we would get to see Les Mis after all! And again, that extra day was paid for by our insurance, so it didn’t break our budgets. Yay!

I’ve gotten a few “I’m so sorry!” messages from people who had originally told us “New York City never shuts down! You’ll be fine.” Those people felt bad that they told us that and that the city actually did end up closing down. To those people, I have to say THANK YOU for telling us that! If you guys had not told us that it would be fine, we would have cancelled the trip. We never would have gone. It all worked out in the end and ended up being an even more amazing, memorable trip than I could’ve hoped for! So thank you!!

So, in closing, I have to share some morals of this story…

–  Dream up new adventures and then do whatever you can to make them happen.

Don’t give up just because you hit some roadblocks. If it’s something you really want/believe in, press on and exhaust every option before thinking about calling it quits.

Smile, have fun, and make the most of every situation even when things seem to be going wrong.

And finally, always buy $8 train ticket insurance ;-)





One Response

  1. Reply Linda Jones

    Erin, I so enjoyed taking this trip with you in “live time” but this narrative was even much more fun to read.

    I had no idea about your train insurance and I kept worrying about how much extra you must be having to spend because of the blizzard. What a blessing to hear how God provided for you in that.

    Thanks again for sharing your life and ADVENTURE with us!