Happy Labor Day, NYC-Style!

Don’t worry, I’m still here! Sometimes you just don’t get a blog post written every day, you know?? And now you get a bonus, 2-for-1 post. Lucky you!

The big reason why I didn’t get around to writing a post about Sunday here in NYC is because we didn’t do whole lot! We had brunch planned at a local Indian restaurant and plans to meet up with one of Scott’s friends in the afternoon, but that’s about all we did. I will say that our Indian brunch at Sona (just a few blocks away from our hotel) was REALLY tasty. On Saturday, I was looking at the menu to see what was in store for us and realized they don’t serve their normal menu on Sundays, instead opting for an Indian spin on brunch food for Sundays at Sona. Scott was really craving dinner-style Indian food, so wasn’t sure about it, but the brunch options looked good, so we decided to go for it (it was too late to cancel the reservation anyway). We’re both glad we stuck with it because it was so tasty! Scott got a spicy fried chicken sandwich (with some really delish masala fries) and I got masala eggs (an omelet with Indian seasonings and flavors), plus we shared an order of vada pao (potato patty sliders that were SO GOOD). Ooooh, it was all so tasty! Neither of us had even seen brunch options at any of our local Indian restaurants before, but we’ll be looking for them in the future.

The weather was kind of grey and a little bit rainy (random sprinkles) throughout the day, so we did some walking around, up to the southern edge of Central Park, and then decided to go back to the hotel before meeting up with Scott’s friend. I probably should have spent some of the time back at the hotel writing this post, but I didn’t. Oops! Before too long though, it was time to head to Monarch, a rooftop bar in Midtown. That’s literally all it is – rooftop! There are some covered spaces, but it’s generally a place to hang out and drink. So that’s what we did! Sadly, although they have all sorts of tasty-looking fancy drinks on their menu, they don’t serve any of them on Sundays (it’s also the one day they don’t take reservations, which is why we timed our arrival to be there right when they opened). But we still got some tasty, decently-strong drinks and had a good time catching up with Scott’s friend and meeting a few of his friends, too. It was the kind of place that had really LOUD music, a DJ, and even some drag queens, but Scott’s friend said it’s a lot more chill most other days of the week. Either way, the views were great, the drinks were good, and the company was fun. So we had a good time!

And really, that was it for our Sunday! We ended up having dinner at the hotel’s Italian restaurant, Cotto, because we didn’t have anything planned anyway. Scott’s pasta and my pizza were both good, if a little overpriced (again, it’s an NYC hotel restaurant, so that’s to be expected). We had to make an early start for our Monday plans (hang tight for the deets on that), so it was probably good that we had an early night.

A few Sunday photos below!

Catching a glimpse of the Flatiron Building on our way to Sona.
We randomly walked by the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt!
The delicious meal we had at Sona.
I’ve taken photos of the New York Public Library before, but it’s such a photogenic building!
Weird to see Rockefeller Plaza not decked out for Christmas.
We haven’t taken enough selfies on this trip!
Ding. Dang. Dong. Need I say more???
Checking out the views from Monarch.
We had a perfect view of the Empire State Building with our drinks!

And then it was Sunday! Today was the only day of the trip that required us to set an alarm. That’s always a bummer on vacation (especially when the alarm is set for 6:30 AM – ugh!), but I don’t mind doing it for a good reason. And our tour of Harlem, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Coney Island was a good reason! Scott booked this tour through our go-to day-trip locator, Viator, and it definitely didn’t disappoint! Honestly, I was probably a little apprehensive because it was a bus tour, which I assumed wouldn’t be easy to maneuver through NYC (thus making for an annoying day in traffic), but it was a lot of fun! Our guide, Antonio, was very well-informed and did a great job of sharing pertinent details with us so we would know what we were looking at, why those things were important, etc. We only had a group of 16-17 people on the tour, which was a huge help because the bus wasn’t crowded and there weren’t tons of people asking inane questions. 🙂 We did wear masks on the bus, so I appreciated that from a COVID standpoint.

As for the tour, it was really good! It was a full day, starting at 8:30 AM and returning back to the starting point at 3 PM, with several stops along the way (along with a healthy dose of traffic). Here’s the rundown of where we went:

  • Harlem – we did a drive-by of the Cotton Club, along with a photo stop to see the Apollo Theater and the Spirit of Harlem mural.
  • Bronx – the only placed we stopped here was Yankee Stadium, for a quick photo op. Oh, plus one more mural!
  • Queens – we drove through the Malba neighborhood (full of large, detached homes) and also stopped in Long Island City, where we got some great views of some of the NYC skyline. Fun fact – did you know that Queens is the largest borough and that it’s home to around four million graves?
  • Brooklyn – I feel like we learned a lot of fun stuff about Brooklyn on the bus, like interesting info about some of the neighborhoods there. We did stop for photos underneath the Brooklyn Bridge (again, with some great views of Manhattan). Then we hit our last stop of the day, Coney Island. I don’t think I ever knew that was even in Brooklyn!

Considering neither of us had ever really ventured out of Manhattan before, this was the perfect way to get a flavor for the other boroughs. I know it’s SUPER touristy to sit on a bus and listen to a tour guide talk to you about…well, anything really, but as I’ve said before, there really can be value in taking advantage of tourist favorites because you get to see and hear about the most famous stuff. Antonio really was full of interesting information, so he made the trip enjoyable. And our driver, Julian, worked magic with our bus, getting it around Manhattan traffic with ease (I can’t imagine driving a CAR here, let alone a huge bus!).

Starting off in Brooklyn, it was neat to see the Apollo – so many great stars have performed there! I was sad to learn it was going to be demolished at one point, but the community and government leaders rallied together to get it declared a city and federal landmark and it has since undergone preservation and restoration work, so it will hopefully be here for decades to come.

Not part of our tour, but this is Grand Central Terminal, our starting (and ending) point.
After seeing clouds and fog when we woke up, it was nice to have blue skies and sun by the time we hit our first stop!
Antonio described this as the Apollo’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Lots of great musicians here!
A better shot of the building from across the street.
This mural is called Spirit of Harlem.

The next stop on our day trip was the Bronx. Again, lots of good information from Antonio, like how the name Bronx came from a Dutch immigrant, Jonas Bronck, who settled in the area in the 1600s. With only two quick stops here, I don’t know that we saw a lot, but at least we got to see the landmark that is Yankee Stadium. I didn’t know this stadium was just built about ten years ago! I also didn’t know it cost over $2 BILLION to build – yikes!

The only other stop we made was to another mural, featuring a very Bronx-positive message. Fun to see local art!

It sure is a big stadium!
Antonio told us there was a piece of original stadium wall in the park across from the stadium. I’m not sure if this was it, but I took a photo anyway. 🙂

Our next stop was Queens, the largest of all the boroughs. It felt like we were in the bus a little bit longer between Bronx and Queens, so we had more time to learn more info from Antonio (I even managed to get a few photos from the bus that didn’t look terrible). I had fun learning about Malba, an exclusive neighborhood in Queens that’s full of detached houses (rather than rowhomes/brownstones), yards, and even garages. Definitely not the types of amenities you expect to find in NYC, but that’s why they’re so expensive. Antonio told us there are sometimes police at the entrance to the Malba (to “protect” it, apparently), so they can’t always take the bus into the neighborhood, so I’m glad that wasn’t an issue today. There’s no subway access or city bus service into Malba (to keep it “exclusive”), so we probably would never have gotten around to seeing it without being on this tour.

The two actual stops we made were both to get some cool views of the NYC skyline. Did you know Queens is on Long Island? Our first stop was in Long Island City and our second was basically right below the Brooklyn Bridge – very cool to see it from that angle! And I always love a good skyline view, so both stops were perfect for me. The NYC skyline is SO big that it can look totally different depending on which section of it you can see. That’s another benefit of this tour – seeing more of the city!

Speaking of skylines, I love that I was able to capture this photo of just how looooong it is
One of the houses in Malba.
Perhaps a little morbid, but look at how many tombstones are in this cemetery. It was huge!
I don’t take nearly as many panoramic photos as I used to, but this view was crying out for it.
Checking out the Brooklyn Bridge.
The view of the skyline next to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Hey, another selfie!

We were then heading to our final stop, Coney Island. Since we were going there on Labor Day, we were prepared to encounter really big crowds, especially since the weather was gorgeous – sunny and warm. Thankfully, that didn’t happen! There were plenty of people there, but it wasn’t like elbowing our way through Times Square the other day. Although this was our longest stop (just over an hour), it was also the time we had for lunch (the whole tour was seven hours, so we had to eat at some point!), so we knew we wouldn’t be riding any of the attractions, but rather enjoying some tasty food and people-watching on the boardwalk.

We were free to eat wherever we wanted, but THE place to go is Nathan’s Famous. Famous for what, you may ask? Hot dogs, of course! I was surprised at how much other food they have (burgers, seafood, shakes, etc.), but hot dogs were the way to go for us. Antonio warned us that the line could be pretty long, but it wasn’t terrible, so we only had to wait maybe 10-15 minutes to get our delicious, calorie-free (ha!) chili dogs and onion rings. Were they tasty? Sure! Was it the height of culinary bliss? Of course not, but that’s not what you would expect from a hot dog stand anyway.

After polishing off those hot dogs, we had some time to wander around the boardwalk, enjoy the sun, and grab some ice cream before heading back to the bus. It was fun to enjoy the nice weather and sun, even if it was right on the border of too hot for me. Thankfully, the AC on the bus worked just fine. 🙂

I had to get at least one picture on the bus!
The original Nathan’s Famous!
The line wasn’t too long, thankfully.
Chili-cheese dog with onions? Yes, please!
I really liked the look of the Nathan’s side on the side of the building.
Walking down the boardwalk.
We didn’t walk all the way down to the water, but the beach looked nice.
I just loved all the colors in this picture!
The Cyclone is a wooden rollercoaster that opened to the public in 1927. Wow!
Ice cream? Don’t mind if I do!

And that was kind of it! It took us the better part of an hour to get back to Grand Central Terminal, where we bid farewell to Antonio and our tour group. If you’re like us and you’d like to see more of NYC than just Manhattan, I highly recommend this tour. Yes, you have to get up early and yes you have to dedicate seven hours of your day, but I think you’ll find it’s worth it. If you go on it (or if you’ve already been on it), leave a comment and let me know what you think! Don’t forget to tip your tour guide and driver. 🙂

I did get one final picture on the bus, looking towards Long Island City, which we visited earlier in the day.

Wow, this has really become quite the long post! It’s now Tuesday morning, but I’m just about wrapped up, so hang with me. 🙂

After walking back to our hotel and chilling for a bit, we made a last-minute decision to visit Fonda for dinner. Their original location is in Park Slope, but there’s a second one about ten minutes from our hotel. We didn’t have reservations anywhere and Mexican sounded pretty good, so I did a quick Google search and found that Fonda was not only close, but also that they had tables open. Perfect! We opted for a couple of margaritas plus three smaller plates (all from the happy hour menu) and it was all really tasty. The prices were good and the portions were decent, plus I really liked the spice level of what we got. The only thing missing was a basket of chips and salsa, but we managed okay without it.

Give Fonda a visit if you’re craving Mexican food in NYC!

As if I needed to mention ONE MORE THING in this post, but I’m going to. We did have plans for the evening! Scott had found us a fun rooftop movie to watch through The Green Room 42, which seems to use a hotel/restaurant space to do movie showings (presumably just during the summer). They happened to be showing Sister Act, which is one of my favorite 90s flicks, so I was excited!

The space was good, though it wasn’t technically a rooftop, but rather an outdoor space on the fourth floor of a hotel. Either way, the weather was perfect for an outdoor evening movie and we had a lot of fun. We assumed there would be food/drink options and it turns out the entire restaurant menu (I think) was available for us to order. While this was a few hours after our dinner at Fonda, we weren’t really hungry, but we did decide to get the chips and guac we DIDN’T get at Fonda, so it all worked out. And about 2/3 of the way through the movie, the server brought around popcorn to all the tables. And it was REALLY good popcorn! Definitely a fun experience. Check out their other options and book a old favorite!

The perfect setting for a classic flick!

And THAT brings me to the end of our Sunday and Monday. Thanks for sticking with me through this long post! It’s now Tuesday morning and we’re about to head out for the day. We’re already flying home tomorrow (what?!), but look for another post or two as we wrap this trip up.

4 thoughts on “Happy Labor Day, NYC-Style!

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About thejeffelston

Based in St. Paul, MN and love to blog about travel. Comment, follow, and join me on my journey!