My First Trip to Madison Square Garden

Whenever I say, “Madison Square Garden,” in my head, I can’t help but say it in the gravitas of a ring announcer: MADISON … SQUARE … GAAAAAAARDEN!

I recently posted about my awful LaGuardia Airport experience, which was awful due to my inexperience, but I wanted to elaborate on what exactly I was doing in New York City and Stamford, Connecticut this past weekend.

For the first time ever, I attended the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden on Saturday night to see professional wrestling. WWE was hosting a “house show,” which means that it’s an untelevised show, which also means that it tends to be more loose than a television show, i.e., the wrestlers are a bit freer to do whatever they want in their matches and with their characters. Historically for me, for that reason, house shows have been some of the most fun pro wrestling shows I’ve attended.

It was a fitting return as well because it was my first WWE show since the pandemic began, and interestingly, the last one was WrestleMania 35 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

I previously bought tickets to MSG a couple years back when The Undertaker was doing his retirement tour and was going to MSG for the last time. Then, I baulked at trying to get to NYC, figuring out how to get to MSG, and the price therein, so I sold them.

Gosh, I love wrestling, although WWE teased me by putting my boy Big E on the marquee when he’s hardly a featured act at this point, unfortunately.

My journey started with a typically breezy affair at my regional airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, or CVG. I don’t think I’ve ever had an issue with CVG; I love our little airport. From the time I parked at the Economy Lot and was picked up by an airport shuttle, to the time I was sitting at my gate after going through the TSA, was about 25 minutes? Maybe 30 minutes? Considering at least eight or so of those minutes was just walking time, that’s not too shabby!

Take a look at my view upon take-off:

I don’t care how many times I fly, I will always be stunned by the fact of flying. It’s a marvelous human achievement.

As I mentioned, too, it was my first time flying Delta and I was surprised there was no middle seat! This flight was more packed than my return flight, which makes sense because it was Friday and it was going to NYC.

After landing at LGA, that’s where the fun began: How do I get to Stamford, Connecticut, where I’d be bunking until MSG the next night? I don’t know if I get discouraged easily when I’m not finding the answers I like, but surprisingly, there was not a good question to be found via Google or Reddit on: What’s the easiest, cheapest way to get from LGA to Stamford for a newbie?

I checked Uber. Bad idea. Nearly Friday night in New York? And to go to a neighboring state? Get out of here. It was $173.

That said! There was an exciting feature of Uber I didn’t realize existed. It showed a listing for “public transportation.” And for no charge at all, it showed me step-by-step how to use public transportation. That was awesome. So, I knew I needed to take the M60 bus from the airport, but … how do I do that? How do I get a ticket?

Again, folks, if I sound particularly naïve here, it’s because I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, and in particular, the suburbs outside of the city. Public transportation of the sort in a big metropolitan area like NYC is just not a thing here.

Eventually, I realized I had to walk back into LGA and to a ticket booth to purchase a MetroCard from the MTA; I could have purchased it for $2 and some change, but I figured I should be safe and purchased $5 and some change worth.

Thanks to the Uber app, I knew exactly when the bus would be arriving. As I saw the bus pull in, I double checked that it was the M60 bus. When it stopped, everyone and their mother and their mother’s mother appeared to be getting on, so much so that the bus driver even inquired of everyone, “Why not just wait until the next bus? Why do you want to be packed like that?” Probably because nobody wanted to wait for the next bus.

But the weirdest thing is, I just got on the bus. And for the next 30 or so minutes, nobody checked to see if I had a MetroCard. In other words, it sure seemed like I could have gotten on the bus without paying? I wouldn’t do that, of course, but I was surprised!

And it really was packed. I didn’t mind standing, though, particularly so I could watch out the window for when my stop was supposed to be. That’s the biggest downside about riding the bus, more than it being packed, was that you couldn’t hear/understand what the driver was saying about what stop we were at. I was looking for the Harlem 125th Street stop, and cross-referencing it with how many stops Uber was saying the bus would take still didn’t help. So, I trusted my eyes and it was no big deal. I saw the intersection come up and disembarked.

Buying a ticket for the train was far more straightforward. Because there was literally a ticket operation set-up with a live human being. I told him I wanted a ticket for the New Haven line, which would take me to Stamford. Boom. That said, they literally just upped the peak pricing a few days prior, so one ticket was nearly $16.

My view from the Harlem Train Station.

Other than a minor thing where the train switched tracks on me (it was originally slated to come in on Track 3, but switched to Track 1, which meant I merely walked five feet to the other side of the platform), the train experience was great! I don’t think I’d like paying that kind of money that often, but compared to the bus, the train was spacious (even with someone next to me), comfortable and straightforward about when the next stop was, as it flashed on clearly visible LED screen. In addition, an MTA individual did come through to check our tickets.

After about a 40-minute ride to Stamford, I got off and used Apple maps to walk the 25-minutes to where I’d be bunking. I have to say, I loved how walkable Stamford was. It still looks like a city, but it also has a vibe like some of the small towns I’ve covered for the newspaper. Later, when I was researching what to do in Stamford, I learned that they are steeped in European architecture, particularly with their churches. Check out one of the churches:

I love the look of these old school churches!

Interestingly, given what’s going on in the world, Stamford is also known for a Ukrainian Museum & Library, which seems like it’s temporarily closed and doesn’t open on the weekends, anyhow.

Later that night for dinner, I tried another place Stamford is apparently known for: An old-school-looking diner (they even had cute little jukeboxes at each table) called Lucky’s Classic Burger & Malt Shop. There, I got a delicious burger with fried egg on top (the best burger topping!), French fries and a spiked milkshake. I’ve never had a spiked milkshake before. I can’t find their menu, so I can’t tell you what spiked milkshake I had specifically, but I know it had banana in it! Delicious and filling. A great way to treat myself after figuring out public transportation with the help of Uber!

Medium rare, baby!
That whip cream tho.

The next day was another day of public transportation fun. Prior to that, though, I stopped at another Stamford spot to refuel, but hopefully not fuel up too much prior to eating later. The spot was Bobby V’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, which had the biggest TV screens I’ve ever seen, and they had TVs at each individual booth.

I got the nachos with braised short rib (hold the olives, thanks) and my goodness folks. Yes, I’m going to show you a photo of my nachos.

After eating, it was time to walk back to the train station. Then to take the train to Grand Central Terminal, obviously another classic spot within NYC.

From there, I walked to Penn Station through Midtown Manhattan, which amounted to remarking every few moments, “Is that the Empire State Building?” Again, I’m an Ohio boy, so every dang building looks huge to me.

That adventure included obligatory snaps of the unicorn Amazon books store and a store I’d never seen before: Crocs!

My favorite thing about being in the city, and which I only enjoy as a wide-eyed tourist (I wouldn’t want to live/work there), is the ambiance. As soon as you’re “in it,” you hear the honking, the hustle and bustle, the chatter, the different accents, just the sounds of a major city. And it’s beautiful!

Once at Penn Station, I got to try authentic New York City pizza at a little place tucked into the Station. I feel like that’s my first time having actual NYC pizza, but it’s possible in my three other times to the city, I had pizza and have memory-holed that experience. This pizza was delicious and even at one slice, was filling:

I take great food photos.

Finally, it was time for MSG! It’s hard not to be wowed and awed by being around and then walking into MSG because it’s hallowed ground, man! When you see the posters of past events, sports figures and yes, wrestling figures as well, who have performed and played at that arena? Goosebumps.

The seats were fantastic. My favorite positioning in an arena for professional wrestling is to be opposite the entranceway, so you get a clear shot of wrestlers coming out. Check ’em out:

Obviously, the only “downside” to MSG is that the prices are ludicrous, but you expect it going in. I paid $17 for one beer. And I had more than one … Then, of course, once I’m a few beers in, I like to munch and regrettably bought some spicy chicken. I say regrettably because of the cost and because my body doesn’t do well with spicy! That only added to the hell that was my return back home on Sunday, but you know that story.

Oh, and the show was awesome! No surprise there. I love professional wrestling. I love being around professional wrestling fans (for a short time, at least, I’m an introvert) and feeling their energy. And I loved getting to see some of my favorites I haven’t seen in a while, or ones who have become my favorites in the time since my last live event, such as Bianca Belair:

She’s the greatEST.

Overall, I love going to NYC, and I loved my first time seeing Stamford. It was a cute little town. I’d love to go back and check out some of the noted parks, the Avon Theatre (which unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of) and a few other things.

Have you been to NYC before and/or Stamford? Are you smarter than I am with public transportation?

The way back from MSG, first riding the Subway and then the train and then walking back to the destination in Stamford … it’s quite the thing!
Soaring through the clouds on the way back home.

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