In reflecting over the last year, one of the things that stood out to me was a huge surprise I got in February. A simple text landed me on a plane for an impromptu trip to New York City for my very first visit to the Big Apple. Now with all my talk about planning, how is that I would have an impromptu trip to one of the biggest cities in the world?
It all started November 2011 during football season when I was at a USF football game and they broadcast a contest to travel to New York and follow the USF Bulls Basketball team to the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. All you had to do was text to enter, so seeing how I would like a free trip to New York, I did.
Naturally, I didn’t think too much about it when a few weeks later I got a follow-up text asking me to enter my information on the official website. Two months go by and I’ve completely forgotten about the contest when I get a message from someone working at USF Athletics saying I’ve been selected as a winner. Upon listening to the message I racked my brain contemplating what they could be calling about. Even when I remembered entering the contest I still thought, “nah, I didn’t win the grand prize, I probably just won a shirt or something.” So I called back, with only my t-shirt size on my mind.
However, on top of asking me my t-shirt size, he told me that they would be flying me and a guest to New York City! I would be staying at the hotel where the team was staying and I would have two tickets to all of the tournament games from March 6-10. All I would have to pay for was food and transportation around the city.
The one catch, which made this trip very unique, was that I would be flying home with the team, so I would only be in the city as long as they were. If they lost on the first night, basically I would only get one day in the city. He sent me the itinerary so I was able to see that we would be in New York a day before the tournament started, so we would have at least two days minimum.
So with that unique schedule in mind I set off to plan the trip. Obviously, must see sights were first and then we would consider extra days as a bonus to see other things. My wife and I discussed it and concluded that the must sees were The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, World Trade Center Memorial, Times Square, Central Park, Top of the Rock, and The American Museum of Natural History (we love museums). Since this was an unexpected trip and we were still saving money for our planned trip in June we were on a fairly tight budget, so no Broadway Shows, big expenditures, or taxis.
With that we set off on March 4th headed for the Big Apple. Flying JetBlue for the first time was a really nice experience, the flight was smooth, the seats were comfortable, and the flight landed on time!
March 5th was our first day in the city and I was up with the sun, full of excitement. The itinerary for the day included the World Trade Center Memorial and The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We would see other sites downtown as we had time. In one action filled day we saw the World Trade Center, Trinity Church, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Wall Street, and Times Square.
On March 6th we got lucky because USF had earned a bye, so they did not have to play the first day and we were free to hit our other sights. We were fairly exhausted due to the previous day, but we still managed to see the American Museum of Natural History, Top of the Rock, Central Park, New York Public Library, and Grand Central Station.
The next day USF’s game was not until late, so were free for most of the day. We did a lot of walking this day. We walked around the High Line, Chelsea Market, and Greenwich Village.
With an amazing USF win the night before we got an extra day in the city and used it to see the Brooklyn Bridge, Katz Deli, Little Italy, and Chinatown.
That night however, USF lost a very close game and we were set to leave the next day, but not before one more surprise. I was told that we would be traveling on the charter bus with the coaches to the airport. This was exciting for two reasons, one now I did not have to figure out transportation to the airport with our luggage and secondly we didn’t even have to step foot in the airport. The buses just drove straight onto the tarmac and up to the plane. We were screened, but nowhere near as big of a headache as normal airport security. From there we hopped onto the plane, got to pick our seats, and were free to reminisce about our surprise whirlwind tour.