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Travel

Travel Guide: 2 Days in NYC on a Budget

History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world!

– Lin Manuel Miranda (LMM), Hamilton

Join me on a whirlwind 2 day trip to the greatest city in the world!

Almost a year ago, Ticketmaster identified me as a Verified Fan of the musical Hamilton, and I was selected to get early access to tickets in NYC! The catch? I had to be at my computer at the exact moment the tickets went on sale to be able to purchase before they sold out. So what did I do? Obviously I told my boss and coworkers and rearranged my work day to be able to purchase these tickets. I figured I could get the tickets about 9 months in advance, surprise my mom with them, then plan a quick trip to NYC around the show.

So, since I am ever the Type-A personality, I logged into my account early just to get a feel for the page so that I could be extra-prepared to click that “Purchase” button when the time was right. When I went in to do my prep work, it seemed I had access before the time I was supposed to! With my heart racing and adrenaline pumping, I couldn’t believe it. This must be a glitch, but I am going to take advantage! So, I purchased my tickets, and the confirmation screen popped up saying “Congratulations! You are going to see Hamilton tomorrow!”…… Wait….. TOMORROW!?!?!? I meant to purchase the tickets for sometime next year! Uh oh! I’ve made a huge mistake.

I called Ticketmaster immediately, but since I apparently purchased someone’s resale tickets, there was nothing they could do to help me. Shit. Luckily, Hamilton’s popularity seems to know no bounds and I was able to resell them myself for the same amount I accidentally purchased them for within minutes. During this entire fiasco the clock has been ticking toward the time the actual tickets go on sale. Now, instead of feeling calm, serene, and prepared to buy my tickets, I was sweaty and stressed and totally frazzled. Fortunately, it all still worked out and I bought my tickets…. I was going to see Hamilton! In NYC!!!!

You can be a new man in New York, New York -LMM

Arrival:

Our plan was to take the first flight out Thursday morning, watch the show and stay one night, take the last flight out Friday evening, cram as much as possible into that time frame. I was able to secure super cheap flights following my Secret Tips and Tricks So YOU Can Buy Cheap Flights! On Thursday morning we woke up at 3:15 am and flew into the city. We took a cab to DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass). DUMBO has such a cool vibe. Unlike Manhattan, which is swirling with obvious tourists, everyone in DUMBO seems like they belong there. You can see the ownership the Brooklyn residents feel over this hip neighborhood. After a quick tour of DUMBO, we headed up the stairs to the Brooklyn Bridge.

We walked the 1.2 miles of the bridge with our rolling suitcases in tow, allowing the energy of the city to fill our veins. Walking from one end of the bridge to the next feels like one is travelling through time. We began as midwestern tourists, with our familiar home in our minds, and by the time we reached the end of the bridge, we had transformed into New Yorkers, if only for the next 48 hours. We were two small stitches weaved into the fabric of the city.

I’m just like my country; I’m young, scrappy, and hungry -LMM

Next stop:

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria in NoHo. I ate breakfast here two years ago after a thorough internet search for the best breakfast sandwich in NYC (Did I mention that I am Type-A?). And, boy did Il Buco deliver. I had to return for this magical sandwich. You know how memories can sometimes grow in our minds to surpass reality? Well, this is not one of those instances. The food was just as incredible, maybe even better than I had remembered.

I ordered the breakfast sandwich sans Salame. The menu describes this as “#13 Breakfast Sandwich fried egg, Fontina, Salame Rosa”. That is like describing The Sistine Chapel as “pretty”. The bread is like a cloud, slightly crispy and soft and dense at the same time, with the perfect balance of buttery and salty. It is the closest I have ever gotten to the pizza bread I sampled in Frascati, Italy that was cooked in a 600 year-old wood burning oven. In between the bread, the fried eggs mingle with the warm, melty cheese to create a creamy, savory experience in each bite. The sandwich is served with a side of simple greens with thinly sliced radishes.

travel guide nyc on a budget 2 days weekend leah little travel & fashion sandwich

We asked the waiter what the greens were dressed with, and he responded “lemon juice and olive oil”. “That’s it?!?” my mom and I shouted in unison. He confirmed, but I still think he is lying to protect some secret ingredient guarded by dragons in the kitchen. I could try and recreate that simple dish at home, but I know it wouldn’t compare. Not only is the food out-of-this-world, but the decor and ambiance of this quaint and charming cafe will make you fall in love… Until next time, Il Buco…

Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now –LMM

Checking in and a quick museum trip:

After thoroughly stuffing ourselves at breakfast, we leisurely made our way to the hotel situated between Times Square and the Theater District. We stopped along the way to observe the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park, among other unexpected delights. By this time, it was pretty steadily raining (Damn you, NYC, why must you always do this to me??). So, we decided to peruse the nearest art museum. We walked over to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), and saw a long line to buy tickets then enter the museum.

travel guide nyc on a budget 2 days weekend leah little travel & fashion hope

Pro tip: Just go on your smart phone and purchase the tickets to skip the line!

We hadn’t looked into this museum’s collection beforehand, so we had no expectations. We started looking at the exhibition of Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams. It was cute, and whimsical, but to my untrained eye, it largely had the effect of an elementary school diorama competition (albeit well executed!). After this, we headed to the fifth floor. As the escalator ascended, to our right became visible Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. One of my mom’s favorite paintings! She has a print in her home, and she has always felt a personal connection to the woman in the painting dreaming of and striving for something better that has yet remained just out-of-reach. Around the corner were several paintings by Claude Monet, including Water Lillies, a large mural wrapped around the wall in three sections. The large scale of this mural helps transport one into the soft pastel color palette and the dreamy feel of his world.

Around the corner from Monet, we first saw a crowd of people around a fairly small painting on its own wall. As we walked closer, we saw that it was Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpiece, Starry Night. There is nothing I could add that hasn’t already been said about this spectacular work of art. It just felt like such an honor to be standing in the same room as this famous painting.

Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait, just you wait… –LMM

Dinner in the theater district:

We could have spent all day drinking in the visual feast of art at MOMA, but it was time to get dressed then head to dinner before the show. I chose to wear a Shoshanna dress borrowed from Rent the Runway. It was black lace with just a hint of sparkle, halter with an open back, and POCKETS! I accessorized with my Olivia Burton watch and a pair of Kate Spade earrings. I wore a pair of Kelly and Katie ankle strap heels with a black and pink floral pattern, and carried a vintage pink beaded clutch. I rarely wear black, being such a fan of color, but I felt like a million dollars in this dress.

We had dinner at Cafe Un Deux Trois, a charming little french restaurant int he theater district. I had the farfalle maison, a glass of sauvignon blanc, and an embarrassing amount of bread and butter.

travel guide nyc on a budget 2 days weekend leah little travel & fashion theater district un deux trois

The Main Event, Hamilton the Musical:

After dinner, it was finally time to head over to the Richard Roger’s Theater! Finally seeing the Hamilton marquis was a dream come true. I have been a fan of this musical for years, and thought for quite some time that seeing this show in NYC was just a pipe dream, but here we were! We were seated in the front row of the Mezzanine. Fairly far away from the stage, but the theater’s seating is steep, so we had a clear and unobstructed view of the entire stage (which is important being two shorties!).

travel guide nyc on a budget 2 days weekend leah little travel & fashion theater district broadway hamilton musical

Unlike other musicals, which often grow into a climax, Hamilton hits you full on in the face from the first song. I am in such awe of Lin Manuel Miranda’s talent. I think that his work in this musical is on par of the genius of the Monet, Picasso, Matisse, and Van Gogh works we saw earlier that day. How else can one explain the storytelling perfection, original creativity of blending hip hop with Broadway show tunes, the weaving of historical and present-day themes, and the unabashed effort to grab the audience’s emotions?

During the show (and after) I have had so many feels. Hearing the actors sing about the power of New York City over two hundred years ago, while sitting in that very place in present-day gave me the chills. Seeing these Black actors sing about ending slavery and wondering if this really means freedom (not yet…) made me feel sad that although we no longer have legal slavery, it is 2018 and Black Americans still lack the same freedom White Americans enjoy.

Thinking about how the world turned upside down after the Revolutionary War, and attempting to comprehend the magnitude of that outcome. Trying to understand the internal motivations, fears, intentions, and hopes of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Elizabeth Schuyler, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and others is such a practice in curiosity and compassion.

Aside from the cerebral implications of this show, the experience itself was so much fun! The show has so much humor, we laughed as much as we cried. It was also clear that the audience was full of dedicated fans almost laughing before the punchlines were delivered, cheering as certain characters entered the stage, and clapping with barely contained enthusiasm after every number. I already loved King George’s songs from the soundtrack, but I was not prepared for the show-stealing performance of Euan Morton! His voice was incredible, and he was so funny! I am sill giggling every time I think of his performance.

After the show, we waited at the stage door, and Lexi Lawson, who plays Eliza and the man himself, Michael Luwoye as Alexander Hamilton signed our playbills and posed for photos. I had built this night up in my head for years, and it could not have been any better (well, save for running into Lin Manuel Miranda, but I’ll settle for what I got).

Raise a glass to freedom, something they can never take away –LMM

A Central Park Stroll:

travel guide nyc on a budget 2 days weekend leah little travel & fashion central park

The next day we spent the morning roaming around Central Park. I never get tired of the natural beauty situated in the heart of the city. The birds were singing and catching their morning worms, and I could sit and watch the dogs of Central Park all day long. When we were walking around a bend in the path, we heard beautiful violin music, but could not tell from where it was coming. Then a few feet ahead, we could tell that there was a violinist under a bridge. Once we stepped underneath the bridge, the acoustics filled the air like an amphitheater! We stood and listened to him play for some time, including Pachelbel’s Canon in D and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. When he took a break, we gave him a tip (always tip your talented street performers!) and continued on our way.

travel guide nyc on a budget 2 days weekend leah little travel & fashion flower shop

On the way to lunch, we stopped at the flower shops lining 7th avenue. I love these Manhattan staples! Our lunch destination was Refinery Rooftop, at the top of the Refinery Hotel in Midtown next to Bryant Park. Refinery Rooftop is an industrial style rooftop bar and restaurant with string lights, exposed duct work, a retractable glass ceiling, and vine-covered brick walls. Sitting  in the sun (it finally came out for us!), sipping on rose, and snacking on warm olives is pretty close to my idea of a perfect afternoon.

travel guide nyc on a budget 2 days weekend leah little travel & fashion rooftop cocktail

Time to go:

After we wrapped up lunch, it was sadly time to head back to the hotel for our luggage, then make our way to the airport to return home. The taxi ride back to LaGuardia almost killed us (well, we couldn’t leave NYC without at least one terrifying taxi ride, right?), but we made it all in one piece. The entire flight home we were still talking about how spectacular the Hamilton performances were and our thoughts on the story in general. It was brief, but a truly memorable trip!

New York, Oh, I can’t wait to see you again. Its only a matter of time –LMM (and me!)

cropped-me flowers Leah Little has a full time job as a social worker, and has managed to travel the world while wearing beautiful clothes by knowing how to score deals in travel and fashion. Learn more about her journey here.  Join the Leah Little Travel and Fashion tribe by entering your email to subscribe to be the first to learn new ways to enjoy the best in travel and fashion for less. Say hi and send her a message! Contact

Related Links:

NYC hostels

Ways to enjoy NYC on a budget

A Travel Guide for NYC on a budget

Insider tips for NYC on a budget

Hamilton Musical

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1 Comment

  1. Erin Garbarino says:

    “Guarded by the dragons in the kitchen” 🤣 I love and will be stealing all the pro tips and suggestions! Great read of your adventure!

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