I love Jay-Z and Alicia Key's passionate tribute to New York, with "Empire State of Mind", but despite having been to New York previously, hadn't made the trip up the famous building where a giant monkey is said to have fended off aeroplanes.
And I honestly can't fathom why I didn't.
So on July 4th last year, Brad and I woke up and walked two blocks to the Empire State Building. Although we had planned to get there early, we ended up sleeping in and didn't get to the building at around 10:15am…and blessed we be…there was literally no queue!
Within minutes we were zipped up elevators, paying for tickets (a little hefty at around $25 a person), scanned through security and sent up more elevators.
The observation deck was already pretty packed, but that doesn't take away from the breathtaking views when you're up there. You really appreciate the concrete jungle from so high up, it's layers, the levels, it's texture.
My favourite view was easily down south, which finished with the newly constructed Freedom Tower at the end, next to where the twin towers used to stand.
So don't be a dummy like me and assume it's an overhyped tourist attraction, because it's certainly not, and if you can get in early, or on a public holiday, you're bound to have a pretty pleasant time.
We then made our way down to Coney Island, for none other than Nathan's Famous hot dog eating competition.
Although the concept of an eating competition is rather grotesque to both Brad and I, it's also one of those things we felt we had to at least see while in America, so why not one of the biggest?
Set up right outside the subway station, 45 minutes prior to the event beginning, it was already packed out, and super duper hot. Phew!
It was such a bizarre phenomenon to be a part of. The throng of people cheering, yelling, hollering at their favourite participants, counting down until the start of the bread balling, hot dog munching event.
In the 10 minutes of furious eating, score girls flipping cards to keep track of how many hot dogs each person ate, I learnt that the competitive eating of hot dogs is a pretty gnarly and grotesque affair. Competitors generally separate the hot dog from the bun, balling up the bun and dunking it in a glass of water, while scoffing the hot dog down, followed by this soggy mess of bread…which just results in a very not attractive look.
And although it's all a bit of a hot mess, like a car crash, you just can't help but watch once you're there.
The winner, Joey Chestnut, beat his own world record this year by hot dog, consuming a total of 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes. 7 hot dogs and buns per minute (roughly). Judge as you will.
Although you might think you would be put off from eating hot dogs after watching the competitors go at it…for whatever disturbing reason, we weren't, so went to try Nathan's Famous hot dogs, along with everyone else. Although the hot dog itself didn't really impress me, I was kind of all about those cheesy fries. So good yet so bad.
Between the two of us we also got the biggest serve of lemonade, just out of curiosity more than anything, and we only managed to get through half of it before admitting defeat. I can't imagine how anyone manages one whole one on their own!
The rides at Coney Island happened to be closed on this particular day, due to one of the rides having issues with the high winds, so we meandered down the boardwalk, watching the people play on the sand, leaving the little empty shops on the boardwalk completely abandoned. In a way it was quite nice, as I can only imagine how busy it might have been if the fair was actually open!
We spent the latter part of the afternoon recovering, before heading back out to the Hudson River to the public viewing areas for the Fourth of July fireworks.
We probably head out a bit too early, getting our spot by about 6:30pm or so, but also heard a bit closer to the fireworks going off at 9pm that they had closed off the entry we had gone into.
After a couple of hours of waiting around, the fireworks were nothing but spectacular, lasting far longer than I could have ever imagined. All colours, with bursts bigger than the trees, and a couple of fun novelty ones that popped out rings from them to look like Saturn.
It was a great vibe, a lot of fun and I was quite surprised how well behaved everyone was, particularly as everyone walked out together after the fireworks finished, a migration of people in search of sustenance and more fun. We wrapped our night relatively early, with a ginormous slice of pizza, about the size of Brad's face, and a couple of hoppy beers in a sweet little pub nearby our hotel.