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Trip Report 8 Days in NYC with Small Kids, Pizza, Playgrounds & Gelato

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I'm in the process of planning our family's summer vacation and have been once again using Fodor's religiously. Just realized that I never posted my trip report from our August 2010 trip to NYC. Decided to go ahead and post it as there may be beneficial information for other families planning similar trips. Here goes...

Our family of 4 (mom, dad, 3 year old and 5 month old) just returned last night from a wonderful 8 night stay in the Big Apple. I've spent almost a year planning our trip and Fodor's has been an invaluable resource. I've asked a few questions, used the archives and been a daily reader of the current topics. Thanks to all who so graciously volunteer their time to answer questions and share information.

My husband works in the hotel industry and one of the (few) perks is the great deal we get on hotel rates if booked far enough out which is why I've been planning this trip for so long. We decided to stay at the Embassy Suites in Battery Park City (now the Conrad) since we were going to be staying 8 nights. It worked out beautifully for us. It was nice to have the extra room and be able to put our girls to bed in one room and not have to worry about waking them. We loved being by the water and having multiple playgrounds within walking distance.

Our itinerary was heavy on kid-friendly activities, included some of the typical tourist fare and didn't include fine dining or theatre. We enjoy walking and people watching and I was reminded yet again that children are the great equalizer. I bought the City Walks for Kids cards and found them to be really helpful in addition to this foru. I tried to have a playground (or 2) picked out ahead of time in whichever area we were going to be so that we could stop and let my daughter use up some of her endless energy. NYC has some great playgrounds! Many of them had splash pads too so we made it a point to carry her swimsuit so that we could do a quick change if necessary.

One week Metro cards for $27 were a great buy and we used the subway to get just about everywhere we needed to go. We did use some buses, but they tended to be more difficult as they were oftentimes crowded and required us to fold up our stroller. The station nearest our hotel, Chambers Street, had an elevator, but most of the others did not. Our general strategy was to have the 3 year old walk up and down stair with me and then my husband carried the stroller (with the baby in it). I definitely had the better end of that deal!

As far as food goes, we took full advantage of the (included) cooked-to-order breakfast at the hotel and made sure to carry fruit and trail mix during the day to avoid any messy hungry kid fits (if you have kids, you know what I'm talking about). My husband loves ice cream so we sampled lots of different places over the course of our trip (Ciao Bella, L'Arte de Gelato, Cones, Grom, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Il Laboratorio de Gelato, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory). We also at lots of pizza (John's on Bleeker, Arturo's in Soho, Totonno at Coney Island, Keste, Pizza Bolla) - let's face it, pizza is yummy and kid-friendly. My daughter's probably going to go through withdrawal now that we're back home and back to eating our green vegetables!

To be continued...

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    Day 1 - Friday, July 30th

    We arrived at LGA from DFW right on time at 11:30. I'd pre-booked a car with Dial7 and called them after we picked up our luggage as per the booking instructions. The dispatcher told us the car make, color and number and said that the driver would be there in 5 minutes. After waiting 15 minutes, I called again and was told there was a mixup, but they were sending another car and it would be there in 5 minutes. We waited 10 minutes and still didn't see the car so we decided to hop in the taxi line as the little ones were getting restless. As we were getting into our taxi I saw the Dial7 car pull up. Not sure what the problem was...maybe we caught them on a bad day.

    The ride into Manhattan was uneventful and before we knew it we were pulling up in front of the Embassy Suites at North End Avenue. Not sure if we'd be able to check-in so early, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that not only could we check-in, but we'd also been upgraded to a harbor view room on the 12th floor. Dropped our bags off, fed the baby and then we were off.

    It was only a 10 minute or so walk from the hotel to the Cortlandt Street station where we purchased our 7 day Metro card and from there hopped the R train uptown to 57th Street. Our destination was the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien hotel. Not hard to miss the line once inside the hotel, but we were a little surprised to find 30-40 people ahead of us at 2:00 in the afternoon. We'd been warned that strollers wouldn't be welcomed so we collapsed ours in line which was a good call considering how small the actual restaurant is. The burgers were good (not great) and the folks working the counter were kind of funny..alternating between cooing at the baby and yelling at people for taking the wrong order.

    After lunch we walked to the Central Park Zoo. We're big zoo people and have a membership for ours here at home and as such I'd gone back and forth about which zoo(s) to see while we were there. We ended up deciding to do the Central Park Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo and save the Bronx Zoo until the kids are a little older. This was a good call for us. The Central Park Zoo was a nice size and even better for a 3 year old was the Tisch Children's Zoo - my daughter loved it. We also stopped to watch the Delacorte Musical Clock chime the hour which we found to be charming.

    After the zoo, I made the mistake of telling my daughter that we were going ride the carousel, only to walk up to a closed carousel. Bummer..and a few preschooler tears were shed. From the carousel we walked back down to the really great Heckscher Playground. It encompasses almost 3 acres and set the bar pretty high for our NYC playground expectations!

    After letting my daughter play for awhile, we walked back down to 59th Street and headed east where we made a stop at The Plaza. Working in the hotel industry has made my husband a little bit of a hotel nerd, so you'll find us stopping at various hotels throughout our trip just to walk around. Our tradition is to buy a children's book when we travel that reflects the place we visited...it seemed only fitting that we should buy Eloise at that stop.

    After leaving the The Plaza we made our way across the street to FAO Schwartz. My daughter's face lit up when we walked inside and watching her and my husband "jam" on the Big keyboard was a sweet sight to watch. We love Barefoot Books and particularly enjoyed their section within the store. From FAO Schwartz we walked down to Serendipity with plans for a sweet treat, but left after finding out there was a 2 hour wait. Two hour waits and small children do not a pleasant vacation make. After a quick stop at Dylan's Candy Bar we hopped on the subway back downtown.

    Once downtown we walked through the World Financial Center, stopping at the Winter Garden for a view of the current construction and then enjoyed sorbet from Ciao Bella out on the waterfront. It was really nice to just sit outside, watch the boats go by and enjoy the breeze. A perfect end to our first day in the City. From there we went back to the hotel and put our girls to bed and my husband and I ordered a pizza from the Pizza Bolla downstairs. We thought it was good, but came to realize later in the week that it was just average compared to some of the other pies we tried.

    To Come: Day 2 - Union Square Park, Madison Square Park, The Highline & Washington Square Park...did I mention that we like parks?

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    Day 2 - Saturday, July 31st

    The day started with a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Afterward we hopped on the subway to the Union Square Greenmarket. What a treat! We enjoyed browsing and picked up jam to bring home as well as some items for a picnic lunch in the park. From the greenmarket we headed to where else, but the playground. My daughter loved playing in the water and my husband and I enjoyed visiting with some of the other parents there. After she was thoroughly worn out we sat in the park and ate our lunch.

    From Union Square we walked down to the Strand...the oldest independent bookstore in the US and a booklover's dream! DH and I took turns reading to the little miss in the children's department while the other browsed. When the girls started to get impatient we headed out walking up to the Flatiron Building. Both kids quickly fell asleep in the stroller so I popped in Fish Eddy's and we enjoyed looking for the Gormley statues in Madison Square Park.

    Next we headed west down 23rd Street towards the High Line with a stop at the Chelsea Hotel & Billy's Bakery on 9th Ave for cupcakes. Since the kiddos were still asleep at this point we opted to enter the High Line using the 16th Street elevator so as not to wake them up. They both woke up shortly after we got up there so we stopped for a snack and baby feeding before proceeding to walk up and down the High Line, finally exiting using the 14th Street elevator. At the risk of sound like a prude, I do have to say that I was surprised by the number of scantily clad people up there getting sun.

    Chelsea Market was up next with a stop at L'Arte de Gelato for ...you guessed it, gelato. At this point it was getting pretty hot and our girls were getting a little fussy so we decided to head back to the hotel for a break and hopefully a nap. It worked out well because we got to see the Tom Otterness "Life Underground" installation at the 14th St/8th Ave subway stop on our way back.

    Thankfully the break was just what everyone needed and a couple of hours later we were refreshed and ready to head back out. This time we took the subway to Greenwich Village and stopped at a little playground off of Downing & Bleeker before picking up a pie at John's on Bleeker and taking it to Washington Square Park to eat. My husband is a percussionist and really enjoyed the various musicians that we encountered at Washington Square and my daughter really enjoyed the playground after we finished our dinner. It did appear that a good part of the park is under construction and the playground that was open was geared more to younger kids, but I'm guessing there will be another playground once the construction is finished.

    It was a great day, but boy howdy were our feet feeling it by the time we got back to the hotel!

    To come...Day 3 - Brooklyn Bound!

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    Day 3 - August 1st

    Our plan this morning was to meet friends for brunch at Petite Abeille on West Broadway not far from the hotel, but when we got there they did not have any electricity so we ended up eating at a nondescript place next door. We enjoyed visiting with our friends, but were sure looking forward to Belgian waffles :)

    Immediately after brunch we hopped on the subway to Brooklyn - our destination was the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Now here's where we got a little turned around and confused by the weekend closings and re-routings. After missing our stop, we got off at Utica and were looking at our map trying to figure out what to do when a kind woman asked if she could help. She proceeded to tell us which 2 buses to take from the subway stop and then went on her way. Once we finally got outside we were surprised to find her waiting for us. She told us that she'd been thinking about it and realized that there was a different bus that we could take that would drop us off within a block of the museum. How sweet was that?

    No problems following her directions and before we knew it we were pulling up to the museum. We enjoy visiting children's museums whenever we travel and have a membership to our museum back home that offers reciprocal privileges to museums all over the country including this one. My understanding is that it is the oldest children's museum in the US and they recently finished a multi-year major renovation. It really was a neat museum. My daughter loved the Totally Tots area for kids under 5 and we all enjoyed the the Children of Hangzhou special exhibit.

    Because it ended up taking us longer to get there we were running behind at lunchtime and decided just to eat in the cafe at the museum. Not the greatest choice, but kept everyone happy :) After lunch, we got back on the bus right outside of the museum (B43 I think) and it took to the last stop which was just across from Prospect Park. We walked into the park and headed straight to the carousel with fingers crossed that it would be open. It was...and what a fabulous carousel!!!

    From the carousel we made a brief stop at the Lefferts Historic House, but my daughter was itching for the zoo so off we went. If one were to choose between the Central Zoo and the Prospect Zoo I would probably recommend the Prospect Park Zoo. It had several hands on activities, but was still a nice, manageable size and easily experienced in under 2 hours.

    After leaving the zoo we made a stop at the Lincoln Road to playground so one child could play and the other could eat. It was a nice playground and my only regret about our time in Brooklyn is that we did not visit any of the other 6 playgrounds in Prospect Park.

    Next stop was ice cream under the Brooklyn Bridge. Here we again ran into some subway problems and ended up getting off at Hoyt St and walking down to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. In all honesty it was a little too much walking so late in the day, but made the sweet treat and Pier 1 all the more appreciated when we finally sat down to rest our tired feet and let the little miss run. Our original plan had been to walk back to Manhattan across the bridge, but both quickly agreed that there was no shame in taking a cab back to the hotel. The $10.40 cab fare was money well spent!

    That evening we grabbed a couple of cocktails at the hotel's evening reception and then my husband took the 3 year old over to the World Financial Center waterfront plaza to grab dinner while I took the baby upstairs to go to bed. They brought me back a hot dog and while I'm normally not a fan of hot dogs,this one was darn good! Another great day spent with my family in a city I love!

    To Come: Day 4 - Midtown Mayhem

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    This was to be our day in midtown, the most touristy day I had planned. After breakfast we hopped on the subway to Times Square and found ourselves in the thick of things upon exiting the subway station. My husband commented that he could tell we were in tourist central by the number of "I Heart NYC" shirts we saw. We'd planned on riding the ferris wheel at Toys 'R Us first thing, but got there a little after 9 and they didn't open until 10.

    So, from there we walked over to Rockefeller Center to go to the Top of The Rock observation deck. We used a coupon from theatremania.com for $3 off of admission. There were no lines at 9:30 and after viewing the exhibit on the history of Rockefeller Center we got right on the elevator up. It really is nice up there - great views in every direction and we particularly enjoyed seeing Central Park from that angle. After having done both TOTR and the Empire State Building I think that TOTR is the one I would do again. I wasn't too keen on taking 2 little ones to the very top so my husband went up there without us and when he was done we all got back on the elevator to go down. We chuckled at the guy filming the elevator ceiling as we descended - yes, it's cool, but not really something your friends are going to want to sit around and watch when you get home :)

    After getting off on the concourse level we did notice that a line had formed for tickets so I'm guessing that 9:30 was a good time to have gone. We walked around the concourse level and then went up to the street level to check out the various pieces of art including the sculptures of Atlas & Prometheus and the Noguchi bas-relief "News."

    Next stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral. I had been to NYC several times before, but never inside of St. Patrick's. I'm so glad we did this time. It is beautiful and seems much older that it's 130 years.

    My daughter hadn't forgotton about the promise of the ferris wheel so we decided to walk back over to Toys 'R Us. I think this should be a must for trips including young kids. All 4 of us rode and it was only $4 per ticket. What fun! It was a decidedly longer ride than I'd anticipated as well. We walked around the store a bit, but toys stores aren't a lot of fun to a 3 year old when you're not planning on buying anything!

    We were all starting to get hungry so we made our way down 42nd Street to Grand Central Terminal - our lunchtime destination. The dining concourse was great, lots of options and a fun, busy energy. My husband and I both opted for an oyster po'boy from the Oyster Bay takeaway window and we picked up a turkey dog for my daughter from one of the vendors whose name I can't remember. Dessert came in the form of a slice of cheesecake from Juniors and a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery. Yum! After lunch we enjoyed walking around the Terminal and used the self-guided walking tour from their website. My daughter thought the whispering gallery was particularly cool.

    Back down 42nd Street we went, next stop was the carousel at Bryant Park. This was a small, sweet carousel which was, of course, a hit! We managed to catch the tail end of the piano concert in the park and thought it would be fun to come back another time sans kids for the Monday night movie in the park. That night's movie was Rosemary's Baby.

    After leaving Bryant Park we walked next door to the NY Library whose front was almost completed covered by construction scaffolding. We did get to see the lions though. The accessible (or in our case, stroller) entrance was around on 42nd Street so ended up almost circling the building before going in. Our plans included preschool storytime at 4:00 which left some time to check out the rest of the building. The reading rooms were a grand sight to behold! Once we headed back down to the children's section we checked out the Winnie the Pooh inspiration stuffed animals on display and then my husband and daughter did storytime while the baby and I waited in the park.

    We were all tired and some of use were starting to get grouchy so we went back to the hotel for a nice air conditioned break before meeting some friends for dinner at Arturo's in Soho. This was their pick and we really enjoyed it. As I think I mentioned before, my husband is a percussionist and he appreciated the jazz combo that was playing. The waitstuff was nice to my daughter and brought her a couple of children's books, colors and coloring sheets and best of all, the pizza was really good!

    A quick taxi ride back to the hotel and I think all 4 of us were asleep as soon as our heads hit the sheets! Another fun day and some more super tired feet!

    To Come: Day 5 - The View (for mom), Shake Shack & CMOM

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    Day 5 - Tuesday, August 3rd

    I had tickets for The View this morning, but found out just before we left that my girlfriend who was supposed to go with me wouldn't be able to go. I went back and forth about whether or not to go by myself and finally decided to go and meet up with my husband and girls afterwards. The tickets said to be there by 9:30 at the latest and I got there at 9:15 to find about 180 people already in line. The folks around me were friendly and the free drinks and breakfast from the Chock Full O Nuts truck was nice. I ended up being glad that I got there when I did as a bunch of the people behind were turned away as 189 is the limit. The show itself was kind of lame this day - "The View Goes Viral", but I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the show and Whoopi and Sherri were funny and friendly during breaks.

    After the show was over I grabbed a cookie for later at Levain Bakery and then met the fam at Shake Shack right behind the AMNH. It was 12:45, but the line wasn't anything like the line we'd seen at Madison Square Park earlier in the week. The burgers were yummy and a nice (not too big) size. My husband got a concrete while my daughter and I shared the gigantic Levain cookie.

    Our plan after lunch was to visit the Museum of Natural History, but we could tell very quickly that the three year old was not going to be content to "sit and look" for a couple of hours and needed something more hands on. We'd planned to go to the Children's Museum of Manahattan on Wednesday, but since it was just a couple of blocks away that we'd head over there. Good choice - and also free using the reciprocal benefits from our museum at home.

    A couple of hours later she was all played out so we loaded the stroller up and took the subway down to Columbus Circle where we walked around the Time Warner building and went up to the Mandarin Oriental lobby on the 35th floor. Once again, hotel nerd hubby wanted to look around and I wanted to see the Chihuly piece in the lobby. I'd love to go back sans kids and have a drink in the lobby bar with it's beautiful views of Central Park.

    Not caring that he'd already had one frozen treat for the day, my husband made a beeline across the street for Grom and enjoyed what turned out to be his favorite gelato of the trip...and he was kind enough to share with us :)

    We jumped on the subway at Columbus Circle and headed back downtown to the hotel stopping at the Nelson Rockefeller Playground located just on the other side of the Irish Hunger Memorial from the hotel. Hubby and kids had played there that morning while mom was gone and my daughter was eager to show me everything she'd discovered. It is a really nice playground and sitting there with the breeze from the Hudson felt like a perfect end to the day. We were all still full from the gelato so simply had some fruit for dinner and a couple of cocktails for mom and dad at the manager's reception before turning in.

    To follow: Day 6 - Fort Tryon Park OR Are We Really Still in Manhattan?

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    Day 6 - Wednesday, August 4th

    We woke up this morning dragging our feet and feeling pretty tired from the (relatively) fast pace of the previous 5 days so we slept in (as much as you can with a 3 year old and 5 month old), had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and then walked over to the fantastic Teardrop Playground just a block from the hotel and tucked in between 4 residential towers.

    A friend told me about this playground last year and mentioned that it was one of her favorites. Wikipedia says that at Teardrop "play elements are integrated into the landscape with the intention of providing city children with play experiences that encourage sensory imagination through interaction with natural materials including water, plants, rock, and sand." It is super cool and we were glad to have it so close!

    After playing and splashing around for awhile we got on the A train at Chambers Street for the rather lengthy ride up to 190th Street with our destination being Fort Tryon Park or more specifically The Cloisters. Now I know that the Met's medieval collection might seem an odd choice for our little family and honestly it wasn't even on our original itinerary, but the friends that we had brunch with on Sunday told us that it was their favorite place in the city and we should try to make time for it.

    I'm so glad we did! It ended up being probably my favorite stop of the trip. We stepped out of the subway station incredulous that we were still in Manhattan. The park itself is beautiful and the Cloisters collection and building is really something special. Our family enjoyed the walk through the park to the museum and my daughter actually enjoyed the unicorn tapestries. When the kiddos started to get restless one of us stepped outside with them and then we traded off so that both of the adults got to see everything.

    For lunch (on the recommendation of our friends) we visited the New Leaf Restaurant which is housed in an old cobblestone building actually in the park. We sat outside on the idyllic patio and enjoyed a lovely lunch. The don't have a "kid's menu" per se, but the server was happy to voluntarily offer some off-menu items that were smaller portions and might be more kid-friendly as well as offer to bring my daughter's out first (which as the parent of a hungry preschool I certainly appreciated). I would enthusiastically recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting the park.

    After our lunch we stopped at the playground on the southern end of the park and across from the subway station - I think it's called the Ann Loftus Playground. It was a nice, but not particularly special, playground and once again we enjoyed visiting with some of the local parents while our daughter played.

    From the playground we all jumped back on the train and my daughter and I got off (after one train change) at the 81st Street stop at the AMNH while my husband and the baby stayed on until Columbus Circle. We had tickets for the 2:00 marionette show at the Swedish Cottage in Central Park which was maybe a 5 minute walk from the subway station. The shows here are geared towards ages 3-7 and since my little girl was turning 3 on our trip we decided that it would be a fun birthday present/activity. She loved it! The tickets are really reasonable at $8/$5 (adult/child).

    While we were at the show hubby and baby went to the Nesuhi Ertugun Jazz Hall of Fame at Jazz at Lincoln Center. It is up on the 5th floor of the Time Warner Center and is free, but my husband said he was disappointed by the exhibit or maybe had expectations that were too high. After he was done looking around they came back to meet us in Central Park where we walked over to the Diana Ross Playground just inside the park at 81st Street for some more playtime.

    This was the night that my musician hubby was going to go listen to some music so we decided to head back to the hotel so that he could take a shower before the heading back uptown to catch a couple of shows. We all had a drink (cocktails for the grown ups and a Shirley Temple for the little miss) before sending him on his way.

    The kids and I walked over to the Rockefeller Playground for a bit and then grabbed dinner at Le Pain Quotidien which is between the playground and the hotel. It was great for an inexpensive, light dinner.

    I guess because we there in August, which from what I understand is the month that lots of locals are out of town, there weren't any big names playing at any of the jazz clubs, but hubby didn't let that deter him from going out to hear some good music. He did the pre-fixe dinner show at Smoke at 8:00 and then took the subway down to Greenwich Village for the 11:00 show at the Village Vanguard. He was in his element and especially loved getting to go to the Vanguard, one of the most iconic jazz clubs there is! I was long asleep when he returned close to 2AM.

    Another great day with my 3 favorite people in one of my favorite cities!

    To Come: Day 7 - Coney Island OR It Sure Is Hot...Even to these Texans!

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    Day 7 - Thursday, August 5th

    We decided to split up for the morning on this day since hubby was tired from his late night out. He and the baby would stay back at the hotel while 3 year old and I would head to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn and then meet up after and all go to Coney Island together.

    Before heading out daughter and I walked across the street to check out the Irish Hunger Memorial. We'd been looking at it from our suite above all week long, but hadn't visited yet. It is a touching tribute and beautifully put together...certainly worth a visit.

    Since we didn't have the stroller to worry about we hopped on the M22 bus right across from the hotel and rode it over to Chambers Street and saved our feet a couple of blocks. From there it was a quick ride to the Borough Hall stop in Downtown Brooklyn and then a 3 block walk to the New York Transit Museum.

    This Museum was once again free using the reciprocal benefits from our museum back home and is housed in an old subway station. The exhibits were interesting for mom and child alike, but I will warn that on a hot day (which this day was) it gets pretty uncomfortable down there in the areas without A/C. My daughter loved getting to run around all of the different subway cars on the lower level and then had fun "driving" a city bus. They also have a nice little gift shop with some unique transportation related items.

    We stayed about an hour and probably would have stayed longer if it weren't already uncomfortably hot at 11:00. My husband and the baby weren't there yet so we walked over to the Barnes & Noble at Court & State and shared a smoothie while we waited for them. When they got there we made a quick stop at Trader Joe's (which we don't have back home) and then caught the F train at Bergen St and enjoyed the mostly above ground ride down to Coney Island.

    Hunger had hit at this point and Totonno's was calling for yet another pizza. Now for some reason I had in my head that they were on the boardwalk which is not the case so we did a little bit of walking before finding it on Neptune. Totonno's has been around since 1924 and is the oldest, continuously operating pizzeria in the US and had our favorite crust of any of the places we tried on our trip.

    Coney Island is fun and seems to have an air of nostalgia about it. I love amusement parks, but may have had some unrealistic expectations about visiting with 2 small kids. This was also the one day out of our whole trip that seemed really hot (which was amazing considering the heat wave that preceded our visit only a couple of weeks earlier). Anyways, that having been said, my plans of staying all day at Coney Island and then watching a baseball game that night were quickly shot when the kiddos started to get too hot. So, we walked around the boardwalk a little more and then decided to ditch our plans and head back to the hotel to cool off and let the little ones nap. Such is life when traveling with kids - flexibility is the name of the game. All in all, I'm still glad we made the trip out there and look forward to going another time (preferably with children that are older) and fully experiencing Coney Island.

    Post nap found us all rested and ready to hit the town. Would you believe that pizza was on the menu for dinner as well? This time we left the stroller at the hotel, put the baby in the Ergo and hopped on the M20 to Greenwich Village where our destination was an early meal at Keste on Bleeker Street. Excellent pies with great toppings - we got there around 6:30 and didn't have to wait for a table, but noticed that a line had already formed across the street at John's. After dinner we (or should I say my other half) couldn't resist stopping for ice cream at Cones.

    With full stomachs and a restless child, we walked up Bleeker to the playground at Bleeker Park at W 11th St. This park had a really nice playground and my husband noticed a sign saying it was sponsored by Disney. We stayed an hour or so and then caught a cab back to the hotel where we all hit the sack early in anticipation of our early morning call for the Statue of Liberty.

    To Come: Day 8 - Lady Liberty & the LES

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    Day 8 - Friday, August 6th

    We woke up this morning with a hyper-awareness that this was our last full day and a determination to make the most of it. Thanks to the advice on this forum, I'd pre-booked pedestal tickets for the first ferry to the Statue of Liberty at 8am. We caught the M20 bus just outside our hotel at 7:30 and seeing as we were the only passengers, the driver was kind enough to let us off right in front of Castle Clinton. At 7:45 there were already 20 or so people in line and we got through security with no problems, but had to wait in the tent for another 30 minutes before they quickly loaded the ferry and left at 8:30. Daughter thought the boat ride as pretty cool.

    Upon reaching the Statue of Liberty we debarked and went immediately to check our stroller and rent a locker so that we could go up the pedestal before a long line had a chance to form. We weren't sure how the 3 year old would do climbing the 140 some-odd steps to the top of the pedestal, but she was a trooper and seemed very excited about the whole adventure of it. The great views made me glad we'd tackled it and it was neat to look up into the statue from inside. We took some pictures and then went back down to claim our bags and stroller.

    Back to the boat we went, next stop Ellis Island. Now we'd decided in advance that since I'd already visited Ellis Island and my husband hadn't that he would take the sleeping baby and see the museum while I would take the active 3 year old and let her run around the grounds. This worked out well - I can't imagine seeing the Statue without seeing Ellis Island (and vice versa) and I'm glad that he had the chance to really see everything.

    We took the boat back and while I had read that lines would be long later in the day I really wasn't prepared for how long. It was NUTS! I'm so thankful that we booked the earliest ferry. Our plan now was to catch the M15 bus from Broad & Water and take it up to the LES to eat at Katz's Deli. I got a little turned around and asked a policewoman for directions and what should have just been a couple of blocks walk ended up taking us up Broadway all the way to Wall Street before another kind stranger pointed us in the correct direction back down Broad Street. The plus side was that we got to see Trinity Church and NYSE the downside was that we were all hungry! Finally we found the bus stop and enjoyed the ride past the South Street Seaport and through Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

    Katz's was chaotic as expected, but my husband was impressed when I knew exactly what to do: grabbed 2 tickets, had him get drinks and fries and I got sandwiches remembering to tip the guy 2 bucks for more pastrami than either of could us could finish - thanks to the advice here. There was a great energy in there and a seemed to be a fun mix of locals and hapless tourists such as ourselves. We did leave our collapsed stroller at the front as there was hardly even room to walk.

    Now I'll warn you - what happens next does involve some backtracking, but it was done intentionally. We'd heard Tompkins Square Park had great playgrounds so that was our next stop. It was a fantastic park with at least 3 different playgrounds and a splash pad area. So glad we walked up there. Is that still considered LES or is it the East Village? I did get confused about where different areas start and stop.

    After daughter was thoroughly worn out we walked back down Avenue A/Essex with a stop at Economy Candy on Rivington before finally arriving at Il Laboratorio Gelato on Orchard. Oh my - their gelato was so, so good. I had the Thai Chili Chocolate & Coconut and my husband had Honey Lavender and Blueberry. Would have loved to have tried some of the other unqiue flavors, but that will have to wait for another visit :)

    We were all worn out at this point and managed to get back to the hotel after a couple of confusing subway changes. It's funny, but a this point was the first time that I'd thought "ok, I'm ready to go home now." That night we walked back over to the World Financial Center and ate dinner (hot dogs & lobster rolls) outside and reminisced about our favorite experiences from the past 8 days. What a fun filled week it had been!

    To Come: Last Day OR Let's see what else we can squeeze in - Chinatown, St. Paul's and Century 21

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    Day 9 - Saturday, August 9th

    Oops - look like I mislabeled my post seeing as I'm now on Day 9. Oh well, it was only a partial day so I guess it's okay. Our last day in NYC also happened to be my daughter's 3rd birthday. She was quite excited to go down to breakfast and find a balloon artist who also did face painting. She left with a birthday balloon and a birthday cake painted on her hand. The day was off to a good start!

    We came back and backed our bags and the dropped them off with the bellman to hold for a cost of $2 per bag. Next up was one last stop at Teardrop Park before we took the M22 bus over to Chinatown where we planned to celebrate said birthday with Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn. Daughter is a fairly adventurous eater and she loves getting to pick out food for all of us off of the carts. Everything we had was good and I appreciated that each cart had English translations and pictures as I can never remember what's what. We had an abundant lunch with lots of leftovers for $30. We'd gotten there early and didn't wait for a table, but when we left at 12:30 there were 30-40 people waiting downstairs for a table.

    Next up was a leisurely walk around Chinatown with a stop at Columbus Park and one last playground to add to our list of conquests. We couldn't really walk down Bayard without a stop at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, now could we? Almond Cookie for me and Lychee for my hubby - they had a fun mix of interesting flavors and were probably the least expensive of all the places we visited through the week.

    After finishing our ice cream we caught the M22 back over to Church Street and walked down to St. Paul's Chapel. The 9/11 exhibit there was so, so moving.

    We left St. Paul's walked down a block to Century 21. It proved to be a little overstimulating and chaotic for my kiddos so unfortunately we didn't stay long, but that was okay since it was in fact time for us to get back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to LGA. The taxi ride to the airport was uneventful and thanks to a kind AA gate agent we were able to pre-board which is always helpful in getting everyone settled before the plane fills up. Thanks to it being a Saturday and light traffic at both ends we actually got into DFW 45 minutes early. Woohoo - home sweet home!

    To Come: Final Thoughts on a Fantastic Trip!

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    Love your report! I love the details you put in that will appeal to people with kids of many ages. I'm also wondering, was there anything else at Central Park your family particularly enjoyed? My 11-year-old wants to see Balto, and I've heard there's a castle to check out.

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    What a great report, you managed to do so much, and sounds as though your three year old had a fantastic time. Definitely a report to read if you have young children and are planning a trip to NYC.

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