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Summer storms delayed our flight home from New York City this week. That left me plenty of time to contemplate a question: was this a sign that I should stay? I really wouldn’t mind getting stuck in New York for an extra day. Or week. Or year. I don’t know. Maybe a lifetime wouldn’t be long enough.

I fell hard for New York City after a four-day whirlwind tour, sponsored in full by my mother-in-law. Forever and always, I’ve wanted to go. Lucky for all of us, my mother-in-law’s bucket list included a junket with all her girls. All but two of the women in my husband’s family—three if you count a new baby girl—accompanied her to New York in celebration of her 86th birthday.

Our family circle was incomplete, but nothing else was missing from this otherwise perfect introduction to New York, meticulously planned by my husband’s sister. My only regret is that I’ve acquired yet another expensive taste, or should I say habit? I can see this becoming an annual pilgrimage, ergo a new line item in my budget. I’ve been to Chicago and imagined it as New York’s nearest kin, but now I know it’s nothing like that.

If you’re considering a girl’s trip, here are seven ways to get the most out of New York City in just a few days.

Stay in Midtown. You can easily traipse from one end of Manhattan to the other because everything is reasonably close. The Midtown Hilton is just a few blocks from Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. If you’re lucky, you might stay on a significant awards night like the Tony’s, and catch a glimpse of people in the entertainment business, schlepping from the hotel to the ceremonies in their gowns and tuxes. A good fashion blogger might have carried her camera and snapped the evidence, but when have I every claimed to be good?

That girlOnly after I realized how pathetic my timing was, did I finally catch a fashion-focused shot just outside our hotel. My subject was a young beauty whose companion (her agent or her mother?) said they didn’t have time. Fortunately, my subject was game.

See a show or two. It’s true that you can enjoy a Broadway show practically anywhere these days, but seeing Broadway shows performed ON Broadway is an otherworldly, incomparable experience. Yes, it’s expensive. My best advice for that: 1) stay home until you can afford it or 2) buy your tickets for half-price in Times Square. The theaters are smaller and more intimate. The performances (dance/sound/acting/costumes) are honed to perfection. And you’re so close to the work that you feel part of it. An eccentric theatre critic, seated just in front of my mother-in-law, nearly ruined Mama Mia by bouncing around frantically throughout the first half. At the start of intermission, he informed us that we’d have a much better second half because he was leaving. I wanted to applaud. The end of the second half came too soon, marked by my typically weird reaction to a perfect performance: tears. I dug through my purse for a hankie, embarrassed to be crying in front of the notoriously restrained Hammons.

Seventh avenueSeek’s Garment District Tour. If you love fashion, don’t miss the two-hour walking tours of the Garment District, expertly given by a fashion insider from Seek New York LLC, a company that specializes in art and fashion tours.

Undergarment photosMine started at the corner of 27th and 7th, just in front of the Fashion Institute of Technology, where we ogled the FIT Museum’s current exhibit, The History of Undergarments, while waiting for the tour to start.

LizOur guide Liz was a bonafide designer who was clearly stoked about sharing the evolution of New York’s fashion industry. Liz delivered an insider’s intimate knowledge of the industry, showing as much genuine interest in us as we had for exploring the business and history of fashion. Since she polled the group about our interests, she knew that two of us were keen on fabric and sewing, and two more were interested in making jewelry. That allowed her to steer us toward the right shopping haunts. I don’t want to give away the best parts of the tour, so I’ll just say this: New York has had a fashion industry since the Civil War, when the city was responsible for making most of the war’s military uniforms. That means there’s a lot of history. Seek gives you all the highlights from then on.

Use Uber to get around. If it’s your first trip and you’re traveling alone or don’t feel adventurous enough to use the subways, there’s a new alternative to the traditional taxi. It’s called Uber. To use it, download the Uber app for your phone. For a small premium, you can request a ride using the app and watch your driver navigate toward you on your smartphone. Since you’re registered ahead, no money changes hands, making it swift and efficient. Without exception, every driver was courteous and professional. Uber cars are driven by freelance drivers who own their immaculately-kept cars, all of which are all black. Rather than feeling like you need a shower after every ride, you’ll step out of an Uber feeling like a movie star. No wonder Uber is causing a worldwide uproar in the taxi industry.

Lady LibertyDo a Statue of Liberty Cruise of the New York Harbor. It’s the perfect vantage-point for viewing this national treasure, gifted to the United States by France in 1886. Nothing prepared me for how I would feel when I met Lady Liberty. There she was, wearing one of the oldest and most glorious dresses I’ve ever seen. She’s stunning from every angle. If you aren’t moved by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, it’s possible that you don’t have a pulse. I felt weepy, picturing all the families I know whose ancestors arrived in New York Harbor and caught their first sight of America. Can you imagine coming here with only $5 in your pocket and little knowledge of English? That’s John W. Nordstrom’s story. Yes, THE John Nordstrom, founder of Nordstrom, which is now a Fortune 500 company. Almost 40 percent of Americans can trace our histories to Ellis Island, which opened in 1892 and closed in 1954. These were just some of the nuggets on a well-guided cruise of New York Harbor for only $27 when purchased through the Hop On Hop Off website.

Dine elegantly. I have two elegant suggestions, both of which are insanely expensive—but then everything is in New York. If at all possible, find ways to economize on food during your stay so you can budget these two treats into your trip.

Sunday Brunch in the member dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a recommendation from a friend. I joined the Met as an out of state member just so we could enjoy this. It was the perfect antidote to an emotionally-draining visit to the National September 11 Memorial Museum on our first day in New York. You’ll want to be close to someone you love after you visit the memorial.

Michelle Martocci, a financial executive working in the World Trade Center, wore these four-inch stilettos while helping her entire office evacuate. She was still wearing them as she ran down the stairs to safety from the 62nd floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower.

Michelle Martocci, a financial executive working in the World Trade Center, wore these four-inch stilettos while helping her entire office evacuate. She was still wearing them as she ran down the stairs to safety from the 62nd floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower.

The museum is a funeral of sights, sounds and objects in remembrance of an unbearable loss. The Met’s bright, comfortable surroundings overlooking Central Park and an exquisite brunch will lift your spirits. Ask for a table near the window.

Tea at the PlazaThe next day we returned to the Met for a thrilling walk through the Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit, followed by high tea at The Plaza. After salivating over all those structural masterpieces designed by the fashion genius, we were ready for the truly special high tea experience (read: expensive) offered by The Plaza.

Birthday cake at the PlazaThey recognized our birthday girl with an extra spread, which we carried away as takeout. My thrifty niece had a fit over the waiter’s suggestion that we add a glass of champagne or sherry to our $55 per person tea. The added cost was $22. “That’s not right,” she protested, in reference to the price. No one imbibed.

View from up topThe Empire State Building at night. No trip would be complete without visiting the Empire State Building. On my mother-in-law’s dime, we got the express tickets, which kept us from waiting in long lines to go all the way to the tippy top. There’s a premium for that, but it was worth it, especially if you go at night. From the 102nd observatory, there’s an eerie quiet with the faintest sounds of the city below. You can almost fathom how God might feel, gazing down on His world.

Of course, the city has far more to seduce you than I’ve mentioned here. These were just some of my favorite things, all of which we easily squeezed into four days and five nights. We’re all still reeling from our trip and the generosity of my mother-in-law’s remarkable gift.

What’s your advice for enjoying New York City on a budget? The next time I go, I doubt I’ll be able to go in such a grand style, so I need your thrifty tips!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.