Work and play(s) in NYC

I know – we were just in New York a couple of months ago. With that trip, our primary focus was seeing close friends. This time, we started with tickets and built the trip from there.


We had an early flight from O’Hare to LaGuardia, so we were out the door before dawn. The bus-to-train ride worked out really well (5-10 minutes faster than usual) and we had plenty of time to pick up coffee to take on the plane.

I had decided that this would be a good “part work, part vacation” trip. New York is full of museums, and I’m still learning how exhibits are designed and developed. So when we arrived, we took the bus out to Queens for our first stop: the New York Hall of Science. It had been founded as part of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, which is when the Great Hall was built. They’ve since expanded the building to provide plenty of exhibit space. I was especially struck by the amount of room put aside for “maker space” where kids and adults could do science. We also really liked the “Connected Worlds” exhibit in the Great Hall. It’s an exceptional digital interactive that communicates the importance of interconnectedness in a local ecology while also being fun and engaging.

After a couple of hours there, we took the train to our hotel in midtown Manhattan. By then, it was about 3pm and we were very hungry. So we took a quick look at Yelp and decided on Spice Symphony around the corner. It was a wonderful find, and we very much enjoyed the Dhingri Makai Aur Palak Bhaji (stir-fried spinach, corn, and mushrooms), Tellicherri Pepper Chicken, and Gajar Halva (carrot pudding with pistachios).

We’d each been looking at specific shops in Manhattan that aren’t in Chicago: Everlane and Allbirds. It turns out they’re about a block apart where Nolita borders Soho. So we took the subway down and were able to get the items we’d been considering. We then wandered a bit, stopping by the Apple Store in Soho to look at iPad keyboards before heading back north.

As I said, we had tickets. Tonight was Hello, Dolly! with Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber, two of Virginia‘s favorite actors. It’s a fantastic production — very well staged and acted. We also really like great comedies, and this certainly qualifies. Peters, Garber, and everyone simply shined.

Because the show started at 7:00pm, we decided on a late dinner at Orso, a classic Italian restaurant near the theater. I’m pretty sure we ran into Andrew Garfield, who’s getting ready for a run of Angels in America, at the door before being ushered to our table. We then shared beef carpaccio and gnocchi with burrata and tomato basil sauce before our mains of quail stuffed with sausage (Virginia) and skirt steak with polenta and broccoli rabe (me). We paired everything with a ½ liter of their house red, a fruity Primitivo, before declaring ourselves stuffed and taking a taxi through the drizzling rain back to the hotel.


I planned on this being a work day. So we got going fairly early, starting with a quick breakfast at Irving Farm Coffee Roasters — eggs with bacon and toast (Virginia), eggs with cheddar and avocado and a bagel (me). The coffee is very good and we’d have stayed longer except that they have no WiFi and I needed to be connected to work. So we went back to the hotel and I worked from there while Virginia relaxed.

Around 10:30am, I took the subway up to the American Museum of Natural History for my first of two appointments. My colleague, a long-time museum professional, had connected me with a senior technology leader focusing on visitor-facing experiences. We talked for over an hour before walking to the Hayden Planetarium. He provided me with a ticket to their dome show, Dark Universe, which was visually stunning. (It turns out two of my colleagues contributed to the show!)

After the show concluded, I left AMNH and walked across Central Park to the Upper East Side. It was cold, but relatively calm (at least for me, accustomed to the wind in Chicago). I made it to Noglu, a French bakery on Madison, and sat down with food and coffee just in time for a conference call. After that, I worked for another half hour before packing up and walking around the corner to the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, my second appointment. For this meeting, we walked through the museum and talked about how the exhibits were designed and made use of their technology platform (The Pen and a series of touch tables throughout the museum) to engage the visitor. Both visits were extremely informative and insightful, and I left thinking, “this was a great day.”

At that point, I was ready to transition to the non-work part of the day. So I walked a few blocks down to meet Virginia at the Neue Galerie, where she’d had lunch and explored the gallery. We took the subway back to the hotel so I could drop off my work backpack and walked across to Marseille, a French restaurant near Times Square, to meet our friend Jordan for cocktails, wine (white and red Burgundy), and ultimately dinner (frites, duck liver mousse, goat cheese croquette, and shrimp beignets). We spent almost three hours there before realizing we had to run to the theater to make it on time.

Tonight: Springsteen on Broadway! This was a bucket list show for me: Bruce Springsteen, an acoustic guitar, a piano, and his stories in a small venue. You can check out the setlist to see what he plays in each performance. We were both struck by some of the reinterpretations, especially “Born in the USA” and “Born to Run.” With an acoustic guitar, the first became a Guthrie-era protest song, and the second closed out the performance with greater poignancy than the more bombastic recording. In between, he had plenty of stories and perspectives to share from the past fifty years. We’re fortunate to have had the opportunity to see him in this setting. Thanks go completely to Virginia for getting the tickets — this is possibly the hardest ticket she’s ever gotten.

We walked back to the hotel to stretch our legs and stopped in the lobby bar for a nightcap before calling it a night.


Our flight home was deliberately scheduled for early afternoon, so we had plenty of time in the morning to mostly move slowly. We eventually got out of the hotel for breakfast at New York Luncheonette on 50th. It was a perfect greasy spoon, where delicious breakfasts show up quickly after ordering. We had corned beef hash with poached eggs (Virginia), pastrami/Swiss omelet with a bagel (me), and coffee, all in about half an hour. We stopped by our room one last time to pick up our bags and headed to the airport via train and bus. (As an aside, I’m not sure I’ll go back to taking taxis to and from LGA. It takes about the same amount of time as bus/train and costs about twelve times as much.)


Our flight home was blissfully quiet and uneventful. I was able to finish my book and take some final notes from my meetings, wrapping up the trip.

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