Author Archives: Zach Garcia

Project: A Mass-ive Summer

St. Peter’s on Staten Island

Entering this summer, one of the factors of New York City I was most excited for was the plethora of beautiful Catholic churches just waiting to be visited. Instead of finding one and habitually becoming comfortable with that church by attending Mass there each week, as I do with my ‘home’ churches in Missouri and Colorado, I knew I wanted to see as many different, beautiful churches as possible. I had 10 Sundays in total – which ultimately led to a great, enlightening journey across all ends and to each corner of the Big Apple.

St. Francis of Assisi in Midtown

In the end, I learned quite a bit about my faith and the historical ties of the Catholic religion to this history-driven city. From the quaint parish around the corner to the revered Cathedral, you can download and view the path of my journey and details of it all by clicking here: My Catholic Summer. (Clicking the link will download a .pdf file, which contains the project in its entirety)

Zach Garcia


New York Artistic

Thanks to more discount deals, I was able to see two of New York’s most reputable art museums this past weekend. I was very excited to finally connect with the city’s renowned art culture, something I’d marked as a must-see prior to coming to NYC for the summer. Looks like I just barely fit it in.

I started out at the Museum of Modern Art on Friday afternoon, or MoMA, as everyone calls it. MoMA was exhilarating. I was amazed on a few levels during my quick visit, the first of which being the sheer size of the giant museum. Floor after floor, each of which could undoubtedly take an hour to fully explore, culminated into a wide collection of wonders. I enjoyed and was really quite stricken by MoMA’s style of art – a category of which I considered to be abstract but in a real-life, every day sense. Perhaps this image of a MoMA-displayed work to the left can better explain what I’m trying to say. I became enamored with MoMA in my brief visit, and didn’t want to leave when the museum announced that it was closing for the night.

The next day, I tried my hand at visiting the famous Guggenheim Museum along the “Museum Mile” portion of 5th Avenue. Guggenheim is the crazy, swirl shaped building across from Central Park – which is quite a work of art itself as a structure. Aside from being absolutely crammed inside the museum with fellow frugally minded artgoers, Guggenheim differed from MoMA in the sense that it decidedly featured a much more traditional style of art. And this is definitely not a knock – as I found myself entranced by some of the brilliant, complex abstract works that Guggenheim displays.

All in all, I learned that you can’t really lose with these two legendary art havens, or even more any location that houses New York’s vibrant art.

Zach Garcia

An Aquarium Escapade

Yesterday afternoon I took advantage of one of many of the New York’s pay-what-you-wish specials for the city’s parks and museums and visited the New York Aquarium.

I enjoyed my visit quite a bit, seeing all sorts of colorful fish and even some penguins and a very tired walrus (pictured). I was far from the only one to take of the PWYW deal (the recommended amount is $5 from 3-6pm on Friday afternoons), as the park was packed to the gills… see what I did there?

Lame jokes aside, the aquarium provided a light-hearted, fun experience that is a little alternative when considering its categorical distance from the rest of New York’s sights to see. Take the unique experience and combine it with the cheap price, and the aquarium is a winner when it comes to activities to check off of the list during a summer in New York.

Zach Garcia

The (Adventurous) Other Four: Queens

I feel like what makes New York City so mighty and inspiring on a global scale is its certification as a place where many cultures make up one great big star on the map. Perhaps the most evident borough of this characteristic is the huge,

A view of Queens from the Astoria Blvd. subway stop

eastern-lying Queens.

Personally, I feel like I’ve attained an entirely different experience every time my path has led into Queens this summer. On a large handful of occasions, I’ve sought a particular destination in the borough that seems worlds away when compared to the other landmarks that Queens is also known for. Here are the quick hits outlining a few of my travels:

– There were the numerous Mets games at Citi Field up in Flushing – a town that also features its own bustling Chinatown.

Citi Field – home of the MLB’s New York Mets

– Also among the list is Rockaway – an outer peninsula that houses a popular, yet pretty beach where I enjoyed ringing in July with a lazy day in the sun.

– As part of my multimedia project, I also found myself in Queens to explore St. John’s University

Rockaway Beach on the first day of July

– a highly renowned Catholic university in the Jamaica area of the borough. While a bit more intimate

A breath of fresh air on the campus of St. John’s University

that our own and only Mizzou, St. John’s boasts a gorgeous and

very real campus setting.

I’m not sure these three visits could’ve been much more contrasting from each other, but it is this great diversity in settings that give Queens its unique and fulfilling character in my mind. Enjoying such different experiences, and being able to do so all in a relatively near environment, made Queens a frequently visited area for me. For New York City, Queens conveys all of the diversity and variance that gives the city its worldwide wonder.

Zach Garcia

A Day in Philadelphia

Last Saturday, I was suddenly presented with the opportunity to check out another East Coast city – so I jumped on a bus and experienced Philadelphia. My initial motivation was a cheap baseball ticket I stumbled upon online for that afternoon, but I decided to follow through on the trip to add another memorable entry to a list already packed with adventure for the summer.

The trip literally started and ended with the two-hour bus trek between the two

The Historic Liberty Bell

cities. Thanks to Megabus, I booked the first bus out in the morning and last bus back that night for super cheap ($30 total, for those of you keeping score). Luckily enough, my double-decker bus dropped me off three blocks from Independence National Historical Park, which I had roughly drawn out as the start to my exploration. The park was awesome to check out, with a downright fun interactive American history museum that also houses the Constitution and, of course, the one and only Liberty Bell across the property.

After a few hours taking in the national park, I began to walk towards my lunch destination. I knew that if I only had one meal in Philadelphia (which is what I was attempting to pull off), I had

Philly-Famous Geno’s Steaks

to make it an authentic Philly Cheesesteak. Through a bit of modest research, I learned that Geno’s Steaks served up some of the best eats that Philadelphia has to offer – and the big, messy cheesesteak I devoured certainly didn’t disappoint.

Following Geno’s, even more walking through some of Philadelphia’s charismatic (and wide-open… and clean…) neighborhoods led me to the Phillies game. I love baseball, so I can’t comment on my great experience that afternoon at Citizen’s Bank Park without a bit of a slanted bias, but the purpose of the trip definitely delivered a classic experience.

By the time the final out was recorded, it was already about time for me to make the longest walk of the day back up to the bus station and then back onto “home”

City Hall in downtown Philadelphia

in New York. It was during this leg that I jaunted through downtown Philadelphia – a quaint setting when compared to the Big Apple, but also beholding quite a bit of charm.

My day in Philly was a bit crazy and fast-paced (and gave way to a deep night’s sleep once I hit my bed back here at the dorm), but was every bit worth the series of surprisingly minor expenses it took to make the trip a possibility. Spending this summer in New York has provided an unforgettable experience, but I also enjoyed the opportunity to briefly see another Northeast city while in the area.

Zach Garcia

Play Ball!

I know what you’re thinking… is he really about to post a third consecutive post to the blog regarding baseball? The answer, my friends, is yes – and it is because it is the best sport in the world and also holds a myriad of awesome experiences to partake in throughout this city during the summer. See? I selfishly write about baseball because I care.

For real though, I’ve made my love for America’s Pastime no secret. When it comes to an evening at the ballpark, I’m a big fan. I also feel like I’ve indulged in enough baseball action throughout this summer to outline some of my findings. Check it out and swing away:

Leading off: The basic necessity of a Mets game (“Homer”)

As we all know, this city isn’t the cheapest… so when you have an opportunity to enjoy a fun event that’ll fill a good half-day, take it! That’s what’s being offered up over in Flushing (Queens), where

Mets, Mets, Mets!

major league action is accessible for $10 if you’re a student. Seriously. $10 would be a discount in any major league ballpark, much less the Big Apple itself (which actually resides in Citi Field – see image to the left). The Mets are no laughing stock of a club, either, leading their division and currently giving the Yanks a run for their money as top dog of the town this season. Besides competitive play, Citi Field is a fun new park with plenty to enjoy, including foot-long Nathan’s hot dogs. I’ve been to two games in Flushing this summer, unfortunately seeing my Padres fall in May and also taking in an exciting Mets walk-off win last week, and have relished both experiences.

Now batting: The glory of Yankee Stadium (“Grand Slam”)

It is hard not to feel in awe of the history and pomp that surrounds an afternoon spent at Yankee Stadium, even if this current new park replaced the classic a few years back. The Yankees areNew York, and

The Steeped Yanks

all the evidence you need is provided through the atmosphere encompassing the Bronx on game day. The Yankees will not be as cheap as the Mets, as tickets are even just hard to come by (the only reason that I was privileged enough to go was by virtue of a visiting friend’s local family, who are season ticket holders), but breaking the bank just a bit is worth it for the chance to say you have lived  among the superstardom surrounding Yankees in New York.

Hitting clean-up: The true NYC rivalry (“Out of the Park”)

Raw New York Ball in Amazing Surroundings

In my humble and non-expert opinion, the truest form of classic ball available in this great baseball-heavy city can be found in a match between the big boys’ lesser-known Minor League affiliates. I’m speaking of the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees, who are teams that compete in the New York-Penn League and are farm clubs for the Mets and big-league Yankees, respectively. Teams are made up of 19-23 year-old budding stars playing at the low-A level – four levels under the Major Leagues – but high in talent and out there for the love of the game. The best part: the fans of these teams despise each other in the same form as is evident in the Subway Series, but this rivalry is much more up-close and intense. I got to enjoy my first experience within the Staten Island-Brooklyn showdown last night… and a showdown it was. The game was scoreless up until the 15th inning, where Brooklyn finally pushed across one run and then barely held on to win following a collision at the plate where Staten Island’s runner was called out. 1-0 was the final in 15 innings, and it was a classic. Even for the non-hardcore of fans, Staten Island and Brooklyn play in pristine, intimate ballparks that are simply enjoyable to be in. The Cyclones play next to Coney Island, in view of the beach and the team’s namesake, famous coaster. Staten Island, on the other hand, was the scene of last night’s game, and is the location of perhaps one of the most gorgeous ballparks in the world. My image here doesn’t do it justice, but the park sits on the very northern tip of the island, overlooking the bay and the skylines of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City. The best part: its right next to the Manhattan Ferry. You have to see it for yourself! Go now!

I know you’ve all had enough of my rambling, but I’ve got one last category…

Extra bases: Baseball beyond New York

If you’re really into the pursuit and looking for more, great baseball cities (which would also be fun to tour around) are scattered across the East Coast, not as far as you might think. Great games and stadiums can be visited in D.C., Boston and Philadelphia – all a fairly brief bus or train ride away. I’ll be in transit to Philly tomorrow to experience yet another summer afternoon at the ballpark.

With so many options abound, add baseball to your list of things to do for the summer. Good times will be soon to follow.

Zach Garcia

Simpler Times in FAO Schwarz

This past weekend, my visiting friends and I reverted back to younger years with a trip to FAO Schwarz – the famous toy store in the upper Eastside. One of my friends had made a trip to the store during his first and only other visit to New York with his family 10 years ago, and wanted to see if the store was as amazing as he remembered.

The entrance to FAO Schwarz on 5th Street

His suggestion turned out to be a good one, as we were innocently filled with joy while walking through the giant, over-sized candy section and wowed by coming across classic toys we loved as young boys.

My time-machine moment came in the store’s large Star Wars section, where I crossed an aisle and instantly felt a nostalgic rush at seeing the plastic, light-up lightsabers that were so popular when the newer movies were being released about a decade ago. My brother and I used to spend hours playing with the noise-triggered toys on the deck of our old house throughout our shared childhood, and the discovery supplied me a big smile and a fun picture message to send to my now 18-year-old brother.

You should check out the giant toy store full of wonders as well, I’m willing to bet that you’ll make a similar memory-filled find.