I wrote about it here), so I thought you just might be interested to know how things went.
The secret of the trip was kept - my niece knew nothing about the trip until she had been whisked out of a last-period test to go to the airport - and I arrived at the airport just a few minutes after the rest of the crew, who shall now be known simply as Sister, Niece, and Mom. Niece was about to shimmy with excitement at the mere thought of going to New York. I still had a reservation or two, but I was resolved. I took my iPad, but not my computer, determined to vacation and not work. My classes would be fine. (I will admit that I repeated that a few times over the next few days.) Sister had planned things very carefully, while still allowing for last-minute changes of plan. Niece had made up her list of things she really wanted to do whilst in New York, knowing that the trip would happen someday - I'm proud to say we hit every one of them, or at least came close enough to make her mark it as a hit.
So what did we do? Walked a lot, that I can tell you! We stayed out by LaGuardia (Queens) and got to know the bus and subway system - which really isn't (a) hard or (b) dangerous. While I'm on that note, let me sing the praises of New Yorkers. Keep in mind that we took our trip not two weeks after Superstorm Sandy had tap-danced all over the Tri-State area (the Statue of Liberty is still closed from Sandy - we took the free Staten Island Ferry to get our harbor view). Garbage was piled up, since city sanitation trucks had been diverted from usual "pick up bagged trash" duty to "pick up house-sized heaps of what had been houses." The tourist areas of Manhattan were up and running, but our hotel was full of FEMA types making appointments to see homeowners who had lost everything - especially hard hit areas included Staten Island and parts of Long Island. Yet - and this is very important - everyone went out of their way to help us. (Well, the lone exception might be the guy cadging change from us on a street corner in Flushing who compared me to Sharon Osbourne. It was our first night in the city and we missed our stop and had to wait a good long while for the bus. Safe to say, we stuck out a bit to the after midnight crowd. No one hassled us, but it was clear that we were Not From Around Here.) Seriously - all the bunk about New Yorkers being rude, short-tempered, and having no time for anyone else - disregard. People helped us figure out which way we needed to go to get to the museum, how to put more money on a subway pass, how to USE a subway pass, etc., etc. New York - it's a great city and go see it!
And don't be shy about playing tourist! New York is one of the greatest cities in the world - dive into it! We took a carriage ride in Central Park (pulled by a horse named "Charley" - get the joke?), we took one of those hop-on/hop-off bus tours to get an overall feel for at least part of Manhattan, and we gawked. We gawked at the view from "Top of the Rock," we gawked at the twinkly Christmas lights strung up in Saks Fifth Avenue, we gawked at the sheer mass of humanity in (the now Disneyfied and perfectly safe) Times Square, we even stepped into the Gilded Age glory of the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria to gawk. We took in the Broadway production of Wicked and even cynical backstage me got lost in the magic and the wonder. We saw progress on the Freedom Tower which is being built on the site of the vanished Twin Towers and made an unexpected stop by St. Paul's, the oldest church in Manhattan which became a staging site for recovery efforts following 9/11. (Make a point of going there.) We took in both the Museum of Modern Art (sigh - "Starry Night" and a early version of Munch's "The Scream") and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (really - there just wasn't enough time.) We took in the Lindt chocolate store (I joined the club) which is next door to the Swarovski crystal store (where I bought a pair of sparkly earrings that I will probably wear nearly every single day to justify how much I spent!) Niece also spent hours in the American Girl doll store, blissed out of her gourd. And all of us discovered how much fun a wax museum can be. History, culture, and commerce - we hit it all!
Yeah, I missed a day of work.
But I didn't miss this trip and, by any scale you care to use, I believe I made the right call when it mattered.