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Trip Report Our Family’s Four Fab Days in NYC!

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We just returned from a long-overdue visit to New York with my husband and two teenagers (girl, 14 and boy, 15); it was the kids’ first time there. Being from suburban Denver, I was looking forward to not-so-subtle dose of “this isn’t Kansas anymore!” We enjoyed ourselves tremendously, wore ourselves out in a good way and found lots of things I’d recommend to others, particularly families.

We’d already spent a week with dear friends on Cape Hatteras, reveling in the perfect weather and ocean. We then drove to D.C. and spent the first part of week two doing the obligatory Nation’s Capital sights and monuments. To end our vacation, we arrived on Wednesday night and checked into the Best Western Hospitality House on 49th and Lexington. Two big thumbs up to this hotel! We got a 1BR suite with full kitchen, spacious living room with a pullout sofa for the kids, then a nice queen bedroom and roomy bathroom. Clean, well positioned, super friendly staff, free breakfast and internet; I don’t know what more you would want. Not super cheap, but with kids, if you get two bedrooms, it’s got to cost more I’d think.

We were directly off to Top of the Rock, after purchasing tickets online ($22 including the kids). Rockefeller Plaza was about a 10-minute walk right up 49th. It was a hazy and very hot night, the start of a beastly heat wave in the city. We first made a stop in the nirvana that every 15-year-old boy seeks: Nintendo World! He had saved some money specifically to shop here, and he came away with a new game and new Mario t-shirt. The TOTR was very crowded, with everyone jockeying for position on the west side as the sun went down in a blaze of hazy red. It was a great intro into the vastness of the city as the lights come up and stretch ahead forever. A quick pub dinner (it was the closest air-conditioned place!) then off to an attempted stroll in Times Square. Pure chaos at 11:00 pm, total sensory overload visually and sound-wise. What visit would be complete without someone being dragged off in handcuffs, then a swarm of Harleys blasting through in slow motion! We made it up one end, then back without incident but with a $15 I Heart NY hoodie.

The next day was predicted to produce record-breaking heat, somewhere around 99 degrees, with a thousand percent humidity. We Coloradans enjoy a nice, dry heat, and I was dying. But we had a tour schedule to keep. Off we went to the World Trade Center site, and viewed the showroom of plans for the new development and memorial. Not much to see outside except construction. Next stop, the Staten Island ferry. A slightly cooler breeze was detected on the open water, but the Statue of Liberty was not at its most photogenic in the thick grey atmosphere. We turned around and waited for the next return ferry. In the late afternoon, we met up with a good friend who’s a hair stylist at a hip salon on lower 5th Avenue. She generously cut my husband’s hair and gave my daughter her first highlights for just the cost of materials. I went ahead and had a $50 pedicure (what the hay) while I was waiting; how often would I be back to the 5th Avenue salon? We then had dinner at John’s, a great old-school Italian restaurant in the East Village where my friend lives. Cash only for scrumptious traditional dishes, served by waiters who are reputed to have worked as extras on The Sopranos. Despite the heat, St. Mark’s St. was hopping, and we strolled some of the shops, including a basement comics store my husband spent way too much time in!

Not quite as hot the next day, but still super muggy. Strawberry Fields was high on my “to see” list, so we started there and found a lot of nice shade wandering through Central Park down to the zoo. There was a funny, talented group of young men entertaining and soliciting donations for their breakdance and acrobatic routine. Plenty of other performers of all styles around every corner as well. We took a break at the Chess and Checkers house so my husband could throw down some chess with my son. I don’t know the game, but the people watching there is fascinating. We had some time to kill later in the afternoon, so I thought a nice air-conditioned venue would be perfect. We trudged over to the Whitney Museum, about a 10 minute walk from the 72nd St. exit. My son was not too happy over the prospect, but he couldn’t believe the huge, weird video game exhibit occupying one floor. That ignited a great debate about “what is art.” I was very pleased that even though the museum is a bit pricey for adults ($18), kids under 18 are free. Well worth it!

We were heading up to the Bronx for a long-awaited Red Sox-Yankees game, eyes on the skies that were darkening up ominously all afternoon. Sure enough, just about 15 minutes before the game was to start, it poured furiously, lightning cracking all around. Arrgggh. I am from Boston and proudly displayed my B cap, but the rain delay was sooo long. After two hours of munching on bad, way-too-expensive-food-even-for-New-York, they announced that the game might begin in another hour. Fugghetaboutit. We left on the subway back to Manhattan. I later learned the game started closer to 11:00 pm and didn’t end until 1:45 am. At least the Red Sox won, but what a waste of money and what a disappointment.

At last, the weather broke for good and on Saturday, it was totally overcast and almost, dare I say, cool enough to wear a jacket? We embarked on the lengthy subway journey to Coney Island. It was actually pretty deserted, much to my surprise. We were a little early with most of the rides not open yet, but Nathan’s beckoned and we had hot dogs as a late morning snack. We braved the cold wind on the boardwalk and got a feel for the classic beach vibe, complete with a number of musicians, a few crazy folks and lots of friendly cops. We did wait to ride the Cyclone (all rides require separate tickets, but you can buy credits in just the right amount). Ooof, why did I think I still liked that – it was very bumpy and I felt like I was going to get whiplash! But old Mom had to keep up with the kids, who just laughed me back to the subway!

We went somewhere into mid-Brooklyn to meet an old college buddy of mine who’s a native. We met up at DiFaro’s Pizza at Avenue J and 15th. I was warned that the wait can be endless for a slice, but we lucked out and got our whole pie order in about 20 minutes. A square or a round is the usual order, and it was exactly what I wanted in a traditional, dripping hot slice. Yum. Later in our Tour de Brooklyn, my friend took us to another pizza place near the Cortelyou Road stop. You gotta compare when you can. I’ll have a hard time with any other pizza places back home after that! We had planned to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan, but a steady rain started by then, and a nice afternoon nap back at the hotel was in order.

For our last night’s dinner, we figured staying close to the hotel would be in order. Smith and Wollensky’s was around the corner, and we turned out to have an excellent meal and experience there. The S&W Grill is an offshoot of the main dining room and has a more economical menu, with tables inside an enclosed sidewalk patio. The kids, and us, loved our meals with both steak and other items the kids preferred. The two waiters for the patio were most entertaining and hospitable, especially to the kids. They even comped my husband’s after dinner drink and gave us enormous portions of dessert. It was such a nice ending to our whole trip.

A very quick Sunday morning cab ride to LaGuardia, and I can’t believe we’re back home! I was watching the Tonys just now, wanting so much to have been able to take the kids to a show. Man, I’ve already filled an itinerary with stuff for “the next trip.” I’m ready to go back tomorrow!

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