Sightseeing in New York City…
When in Rome, do as the Romans… right? Having lived in Manhattan for a time, I really wanted to show my kids another face of New York and not just the touristy facade. I guess we all got a taste of both and in the end, that’s probably not a bad way to see the Big Apple for the first time. Hooking up with Manhattanites I knew and staying in an apartment instead of a hotel probably went a long way to help achieve our New York State of Mind…
Here’s what we did in our first four days as New Yorkers:
- Sony Wonder Technology Lab – It’s free but you have to call at least three weeks ahead to make a timed entry reservation. Lots of techno-fun from making a footprint of your voice, editing your own video clip to anchoring your own newscast. We were there for about 90 minutes. We then enjoyed sipping some Starbucks in the Sony building atrium while the kids gawked at the gargantuan Spiderman (had to be 15 stories high) mounted on atrium window.
- Walking tour of Central Park – We met my friend Adam, who was born, raised and has lived most of his adult life in Manhattan. We picked up some awesome deli sandwiches at Lenny’s on the Upper West Side, and, along with his wife and their daughter, had a picnic at Turtle Pond in Central Park. I could think of no one better to give my kids a walking tour of Central park. We visited the Pond and all its RC sailboats, explored tons of statues including Balto the Dog and Alice in Wonderland. I still enjoy the Poet’s Walk even if at my age, I still haven’t heard of half of them. A carousel ride, some ice cream and a walk through the Central Park Zoo (although we didn’t actually go in). Saturday in the Park – you’d think it was the Fourth of July. New Yorkers are obviously used to walking. Adam’s two-year old daughter complained the least on this leg of our journey.
- The Cathedral of St. John the Devine – My kids were thoroughly unimpressed to be at church while on vacation, but the fact that the Statue of Liberty can fit inside this immense cathedral interested them enough to stay another – oh – 5 minutes. However, this is a truly spectacular Anglican spectacle in the middle of Harlem… a couple of centuries in the making and still not complete.
- South Street Seaport – this should be a weather-dependent excursion! Though the vendors, eats, shopping and Harbour boat tour satisfied my crew, I would have enjoyed it so much more on a sunny day.
- The Rock (observation deck) at Rockefeller Center – go at night so you don’t have to wait 3 hours in line and the night skyline is extraordinary. The ride up the elevator is half the fun (don’t forget to look up)! The professional picture taking was a little hokey but you’re under no obligation. It’s comparable in price to the Empire State Building. We also got crushed in the crowd waiting to enjoy Leonard Cohen at Carnegie Hall. “Please!” I begged the kids, “Someone ask me how to get to Carnegie Hall!”. They didn’t get it.
- The American Museum of Natural History – Don’t miss it – and take the subway! It’s the best museum in New York hands down. Take in the Discovery Room if going with kids (it’s a hidden gem). It is also one of the many museums in New York which lists “Suggested Admission”. Knowing we had only 3 hours to spend there, I told the clerk I had $30 to spend (I think suggested admission for all five of us would have cost $50 – which I believe is what we spend in their food court).
- Yankee Stadium – We bought our tickets on line before hand. Bleacher seats were all we could find (read: afford). So for $15 a pop, we went early for batting practice, snagged a few free ball caps, caught a few errant fly balls, ate gross stadium food, sat in the bleachers and froze our buns off but the kids never complained except when we decided to leave early in the 8thinning.. The highlight for me? The beer vendor carded me! A great night out though. Yankee fans are hard core and make Hab fans look like saints. But seriously, when looking for tickets my husband misread the “best available’ seats for $29.00 when they were actually $2900. “Who actually sits in these seats?” he wondered aloud. Well, while at ESPN Zone we noted that Donald Trump was actually sitting in those seats.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ( +Guggenheim, 92nd Street Y) – as much of a New York experience as this should be, my kids were not at all into this museum. Once we’d finished touring the Egyptian and Medieval Wings it was time to lunch and lounge in Central Park again. I did walk them past the 92ns Street “Y” which I called home for 8 months back in ’86…unimpressed. En route to the Met I took them past the Guggenheim. Not only were they interested in seeing the museum because it was shown in the movie Men in Black, but also because my friend Adam’s wife and regaled a very funny story about it. Apparently, a friend of hers some twenty years ago had decided to see how far she could get skateboarding down from the upper level (you will only understand this possibility once you see the Guggenheim for yourself). Well, the story goes that she got ¼ of the way down before a security guard nailed her and kicked her out.
- Playing ‘catch’ in the park – just taking in a sunny day in the Park, I showed the kids the Reservoir where I used to jog almost daily.
- Phantom of the Opera – I’m not sure if it’s the best place to get discounted Broadway tickets (apparently some theatres now have lotteries!), but still a sure bet are the TKTS booths offering 50% of same day shows. What I did learn this trip, however, was that the booth at Southstreet Seaport was much more expedient than the one in Time Square. So $300 later, we had 5 orchestra level seats to Phantom of the Opera. “This is great”, my daughter quipped, “but when do they stop singing?”
Here’s what was also on my Agenda and had planned to do but ran out of energy, time and/or money:
- Magic Bus Tour of Manhattan City bus M5 route is a 90-minute loop we could have taken with our Metro card…. Takes you past all the major sites of lower Manhattan. You can pick it up at Columbus Circle.
- The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
- The Shark boat tour of New York harbour (I guess I should say harbor?)
- The Empire State Building
- The Bronx Zoo
…all to do next time…