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Trip Report Have toddler, will travel - 4 whirlwind days in NYC!

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Just returned home yesterday from a whirlwind trip! It was our first time in NYC and what was supposed to be a kidless foodcation, turned into a family vacation when our babysitting fell though and now our 2 year old was in tow. After weeks of research and planning, I was told we would not do it all and that we were crazy. The verdict is still out on that, but we did do just about everything we set out to do!

Having never wanting to visit NYC before (mainly because of the filth, stench and prices), we planned this trip relatively last minute (for us, which was maybe 2 months in advance) to visit with a friend of mine, see some sights and eat some great food. Said friend lived in Long Island, so we understood this meant the additional 45+ minutes each way of travel to and from the city, but my son could not have been more thrilled with riding the "choo-choos" so many times a day. It was also great to have free lodging, not gonna lie.

In the end, we ate LOTS and LOTS of wonderful food, didn't find the prices to be extremely expensive (we actually came home with money) and didn't encounter a lot of rude people. The smell WAS terrible and it was pretty filthy, but it was not enough to turn me away. Next time, I can only hope that it will not be 80+ degrees everyday and hope that makes a difference in the smell.. at least a little?

I will be sure to include little toddler travel tips as I get down to the details soon. I want to thank everyone who takes the time to post on here and answered some of my previous posts as well. This really helped me to have a great vacation!

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    Yes, prices - food wise - in NY go form cheap to expensive. I live in NYC and rarely spend a lot of money on eating out. Breakfast - eggs, bacon, toast, fires, coffee, can be had for 7 bucks. You just have to know ato go to diners.

    Chicago is stenchless? Chicago doesn't get hot and smell? Or do you live in the suburbs but just claim you live in Chicago? Glad your son liked the choo choo. Bet his diaper smelled.

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    (Having never wanting to visit NYC before (mainly because of the filth, stench and prices),

    Um, ok I always plan to go places that are really expensive and smell,what a small world!!!!!!!

    Not. Stick to Disney, it's probably more your speed with your child.

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    Well, ComeSail with ME, every city has areas that are dirty, grimey and filled with stench. I love NY and Chicago have lived in both of them. Yes, Chicago looks cleaner, but believe me there is "stench" there too. Please elaborate on your stench claim for NYC.. Perhaps a subway platform in high heat and humidity? Do you live in the city center of Chicago?

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    Oh wow, I certainly did not mean to offend anyone. I mention that because those were my preconceived notions from others experiences, having never visited it myself. Due to the absence of alleys, I had it in my head that there was trash and the smell of trash everywhere. I went on to say that I did not find it to be as dirty or smelly as I had it built up in my mind. The direst/smelliest places were the subway and times square.

    I thoroughly enjoyed our trip though.. I only mentioned that as a reference to why I had never desired to visit before.

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    Wednesday - Day 1

    We arrived at LGA at 9 am. We were already tired, but weren't about to let that stop us. Since we were staying in Long Island, we went there first to freshen up and look at the LIRR train schedule. After some parking issues at the train station, we finally arrived in The Village around noon.

    I had planned our own walking food tour, so we were hungry and eager to get started. First stop: Big Gay Ice Cream for a Salty Pimp. It was everything I expected a caramel, salted chocolate dipped ice cream cone to be and more. I had a groupon for Milk & Cookies bakery, so we stopped there for a baker's dozen of cookies that we would spend the next 4 days eating. They had ice cold Roonybrook farm (organic) milk available. I just love how easy it is to get organic milk in this city. The lady was great and told us to check out Bantam Bagels - this is a new spot on Bleeker that does filled bagel bites. Brilliant idea. We crossed the street to go to Murray's Cheese Bar, and was confused when someone in a Murray's shirt told us it was closed after she looked on the door and didn't know the hours. We shook our heads and went into Faicco's Store for an Italian Sandwich and some homemade sopressata to eat at a different time. When we came out, we saw another's Murray's cheese bar, which was actually open. Grabbed some cheeses and walked back across the street to Rocco's bakery for a black and white cookie and a slice of turtle cheesecake. The cookie tasted too lemon-y, so I was not a fan. The turtle cheesecake took us 2 days to get to it, but it was way too sweet and the 4 of us never finished it. Last stop was at Bious Caio for some very expensive, but equally delicious macarons(my first ever!). Since we were already getting full and hadn't even touched half our food, we had decided to skip Joe's Pizzeria around the corner, and glad we did since when we turned the corner, it was closed and under construction for "mandatory upgrades." Ew.

    We crossed the street and happened upon a really cool playground, Minneta playground, and stopped there to let the munchkin run around. We popped into McDonald's (a very interesting place) for something to drink and to attempt to use the bathroom to change my son. This was my first introduction to the no changing table situation. I think we saw maybe 4 our entire trip. I can now change my kid like a pro in his stroller, or even standing up. *pats back*

    We finally made it to Washington Square Park where we sat down to share that amazingly delicious Italian sub, watch the birds and listen to some music being played. I just loved this park, it was everything I'd hoped it would be and more. I still can't get over how crowded everything is at any time of the day/week (and I AM from Chicago), but it was great people watching. The little guy enjoyed chasing after the pigeons and we stopped to enjoy the fountain before continuing on since it was pretty hot and we had one more stop to make.

    We walked over to Union Square for their greenmarket. They had some great produce, flowers and the other typical things you expect to see at a farmer's market. I picked up some amazing blackberry preserves to eat with our cheeses later, and after some people watching, we were hot and exhausted so decided to head back to LI.

    My friend was excited for me to try some "real" pizza, since we have gotten into arguments over this. So another friend of ours stopped over with her daughter so the kids could play and we ordered pizza. I was not impressed, but still willing to give it another try (more on that later).

    We crawled to bed that night, hoping to sleep in the next day since we had no set time to be anywhere.

    Overall thoughts: This was probably my favorite neighborhood. I just loved the architecture and vibe of it, plus the beautiful parks and what they had to offer. Overall, I was very surprised at how comparable NY is to Chicago. The Village reminded me of a blend of Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and Old Towne. I would definitely love to go back, try some more great places to eat and do some shopping.

    Next up: Central Park & Times Square

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    Day 2 – Thursday

    We "slept in" today because it was the one day we didn't have to be anywhere at a specific time. My friend dropped us off at the subway for what was to be our only solo day. We navigated the subway really well. I had done all my research ahead of time so I knew where to go and figured out the layout of the city fairly well. We arrived at Central Park just before noon. We took the C train to 81st Street and got off in front of the American Museum of Natural History. I wanted to see Belevdere Castle first. I found a map right away and saw we were very close, but we had no idea how to navigate through all these hills and forests, so we ended up coming up on a street and ended up on Central Park West, outside of the park. I figured, NBD, we will just walk back in, but it was 5 blocks before another entrance was there. At least we got to see “historic central park west neighborhood” a bit? We reentered the park at Strawberry Fields (also on the itinerary) but now we had to ask for directions and backtrack almost a mile to get to the Castle. It was SO hot and all this uphill was killing us. So we finally got there, and had a sit while I downloaded an app that would give me a map of the park. I truly underestimated the complexity of getting around the park. Now with my map, we were able to get around better. We headed to Conservatory water and a lady was singing" Hotel California" (our official vacation song) in the little outside cafe there. So we sat down and cooled off and listened to her sing some more. No changing table at the bathrooms here, but there was no one sitting in the benches right outside, so I was able to change my son in his stroller without people looking at us. There is also a little sandbox right there too for the kiddos.

    Now dry, cooler and hydrated, we walked through the Mall and stopped to watch some great street performers. We attempted lunch at Le Pain Quitoden, but it was packed and their “to go” menu was not appetizing. We were able to get ice cold organic milk for my son, so we took it and walked toward the carrousel. After that, we were starving and sat down at the Ballplayer’s House café right next to the carrousel. They make you use waiter service and it was a good 45 minutes to receive lemonades, a quesadilla, a hot dog and then the check. The prices were reasonable though and it was nice to sit and relax for a bit. Our last stop was supposed to be the zoo, but by the time we found it, the little guy was knocked out. So since it was already 430and he was sleeping, we felt it was best to skip it. We had planned on having a late lunch inside the Plaza hotel, but since we had just had lunch and not done the zoo, we were not hungry. We went to FAO Schwarz and started on the bottom level hoping he would wake up before we got to the piano, and he did. At least there were changing tables here! We got back in the subway and headed to Times Square.

    Holy crap, Times Square is mayhem, just like you would expect it to be! So much construction, so many tourists walking SO slow, stopping for pictures, throngs of people. It was nice to get off the street and head into Toys R Us to ride the ferris wheel. However, horrible way for us to spend $15. My son hated it, husband had a panic attack and the chick never took our picture. She also missed several other people’s photos as well. And you go around at least 6 times.. there really is no excuse for that. Nothing notable to buy there - it was all the same as every other store, anywhere. They did have a few “NY” type toys, but nothing I was crazy over. The best part was all of the cool setups they have there, so definitely worth a stop for the pictures. Next stop was the Disney store... that was really cool.

    We were exhausted and starving when we left. So we had a walk, saw the naked cowboy and just when I thought we are never going to find any of these restaurants I remember researching IN times square, I looked down the street and there was Junior's. We were able to leave our stroller up front, and seated right away (it was around 7/7:30 pm). The women’s restroom didn’t have a changing table but the handicapped bathroom did. However, it looked like it was about to collapse at any minute. Still worked, though! We each ordered a burger – they were huge, came with some of the biggest onion rings I have ever seen and steak fries. My son had a large bowl of mac and cheese that he didn’t finish until the next day. My husband and I split a chocolate egg cream and the cheesecake (amazing!). All of that and our bill was $57 before tax. Not bad at all!! We had a wonderful waiter who was very attentive (he even charged my phone for me!) but when it came to ordering/getting dessert and our check, he was MIA. So we spent probably 90 minutes there when it maybe would’ve taken us an hour. We got back to Long Island around 10:30, much later than we thought.. so right to bed since we had timed tickets for the morning.

    Next up: 9/11 memorial, Financial District, Lower East Side, The High Line & Chelsea Market

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    Day 3 - Friday

    Today we were really tired. We had 10 am passes to the 9/11 memorial, so we headed out around 8 am to deal with the parking issues and hopefully find something so we got on the 8:30 train. We got there with plenty of time to spare and didn't have to wait in a very long line at all. There is security to go through and it was in the sun, so we were already hot. It was very emotional to be there. It is really beautiful and very sad. We spent about 45 minutes walking around and just sitting down, enjoying being there. It really is nice what they have created there.

    From there, we walked through the Financial District... so we walked passed Trinity Church, over to the Wall Street Bull and then stopped in front of the stock exchange. We got on the subway right across the street and headed to Delancy/Essex Street on the Lower East Side. First stop by Economy Candy – a popular landmark and my friend actually is friends with the owner. Although it is tight in there, we were able to navigate alright with the stroller. After spending too much money on candy, we started walking to Katz’s. The graffiti in this neighborhood is really cool. We arrived at Katz’s and didn’t have to wait in a line outside at all! We easily found seats in the front, but when I went to investigate the bathroom (extremely small and no changing table), I noticed that there were bigger tables around the corner and the high chairs were back there too. My friend and I split a corned beef and the guys split a pastrami. It was big enough that a half sandwich was enough for us for now. We had to try their egg cream, which was very good too. I almost misplaced our tickets, but ended up finding them so we were able to get out of there without having to pay for lost tickets.

    After Katz’s we walked back to Essex Street Market and got back in the subway to head over to Chelsea. Our plans were to enter the High Line at 23rd Street because it was an elevator accessible entrance. We ended up taking a cab from the subway ($9 for the trip) because it was a good 1.2 mile walk and we wanted to save our energy for walking the High Line in this heat. We got to the elevator only to see that it was closed from damage done during Sandy. So up the 30-40 stairs we went. What a cool idea they have here with this park. Great views and I just loved the buildings in this area. I usually prefer more old fashioned architecture and this was very modern, but it was very pretty and I would have loved to see what some of those apartments looked like on the inside. We stopped for a popsicle at a cart along the way and found a bench in the shade to cool off. Before we knew it, we saw Del Posto’s and knew we were at 14th street, our exit, to go to the Chelsea Market. There is a working elevator here!

    After 3 days of high heat and lots of walking, I was nearing the end of my rope. I was feeling dizzy and dehydrated. So, I didn't get to fully enjoy it all the way. We stopped at a couple places though – Los Tacos No 1 (OMG, best tacos ever, they are fairly small though, so I wish we had ordered way more!), Lobster Place for lobster bisque, the Italy store in there that I can’t remember the name for some baguette, breadsticks and salami for later, Sarabeth’s for a chocolate croissant and we sampled vanilla ravioli outside of a new spot too.

    We didn’t have anything else planned for this day, so we headed back to Long Island to enjoy all of the goodies we had collected over the past couple days – cheese, salami, soppersetta, baguette, breadsticks, preserves, cheesecake.. it was a nice way to end the day, eating all of these yummy things in pajamas on the couch!

    Next up: Final day =( Brooklyn bridge park, Smorgasburg, NY Water Taxi, Rockefeller and Top of the Rock

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    Sorry this is so delayed, I was under the weather last week and not near a computer. Here is our 4th and final day!

    Saturday was the only day that didn't quite go the way I would have liked. We had plans to meet up with my cousin from Connecticut for the day. We started in Brooklyn, at the Brooklyn Bridge Park and were supposed to meet him at 1030. After walking that wobbly bridge, getting our first peek of the Statue and looking at lots of construction, we followed the signs the 1-2 blocks to Jane’s carousel. We got to the Carousel at 10:40 and my cousin called to say that there had been problems with the CT trains and they had to drive in and only just arrived in times Square.. not sure why but he did not feel comfortable taking the subway or taxi or ferry to meet up with us, so we told him we would seem them later. The carousel did not open until 11, and right before it did, what appeared to be a wedding party came and went on it to take pictures and there were also 2 birthday parties setting up. We worried we would not be able to ride it, but we did. The sad news is that as I was handing my camera to my friend to take a family photo under the bridge, it got caught on my bracelet and something inside cracked. It continued to work, with the screen partially mangled and getting worse as the day went on.. but the good news is that all of the pictures came out. Any suggestions on where to send it in to be repaired? :)

    Anyway, from the carousel, we walked back to the pier to catch the East River Ferry to North Williamsburg. We bought tickets at the kiosk and were the first people on. 20 minutes later, we were arriving in Williamburg and walking into Smorgasburg. OMG, it was amazing. I could not be more happy with our decision to stop here. We had smoked brisket, chicken and waffles, maple bacon pieces, a homemade ice cream sandwich, tacos, teriayki balls, these little thin bun sandwiches with duck in there and of course pizza (now this pizza I liked!) It was all relatively small bites and the prices were not bad at all.. we only spent $50 there and ate all of that for 3 people.

    We got back on the ferry to go back to the DUMBO pier because now we were headed on the NY Water taxi. We had planned this ahead of time and bought tickets online, since I felt this was the best way for us to "see" the Statue of Liberty up close without getting on the island. Hence, this was before the government shut down. So when we got to the water taxi line, 10 minutes early, it was already full and we had to wait 30 minutes. I was annoyed since we were planning on finally meeting up with my cousin after the taxi ride. It was HOT, so the guys waited in line while we headed over to the little café where they made us use waiter service to sit in the shade. $10, 22 minutes and 3 lemonades to go later, we were getting a call that the taxi was back and to hurry up! This time, we got on.

    I couldn’t be more happy that we chose to do this, since we didn’t use the hop on and hop off option, it was a little pricey for what it actually was, but it was worth. The whole ride took about 30 minutes. We stopped very close to that statue and then flipped around again, while they played frank Sinatra's New York, New York and gave a lot of info. We continued up the Hudson, getting information about Hoboken and Jersey City. I have employees who are living there, so I know the area from doing travel and lease arrangements, so it was interesting to finally “see” it. I had to laugh when the gentleman who worked on the taxi said, “you know that’s New Jersey, right?” LOL.

    Next stop was Pier 84, which they claim to be “near times Square”.. it is 1.5 miles from times Square and we still hadn’t seen Grand Central Terminal, so we hopped in a cab to take us there and meet up with my cousin, finally. It was 4 at this point. We walked through Grand Central, just to see it, and then took the shuttle to Times Square. It was around 5 pm when we were passing by the entrance to the observation deck, so I went inside to redeem my vouchers for a 6 pm ticket. Well, when I got downstairs and saw the board.. my heart sank! The next available times they had were 7:30 & on. I was SO disappointed. I really wanted to be up there for sunset. PLUS, we had dinner reservations at 7:30. So we had to cancel reservations, find a place to get dinner and got 8:05 pm tickets instead. We ended up at a sushi place, HATSUHANA. which they got reservations while I was downstairs getting tickets, and I was kind of annoyed because I knew there was going to be nothing for my son to eat. I am also pregnant, so it’s not like I can eat a whole lot of sushi either. They didn’t even had any cooked options, I ended up ordering chicken teriyaki so we could split it. Those who ate sushi, said it was very good and fresh. Their plates were small, about 2 rolls and 5 pieces of sushi each for around $35 (this also included soup or salad, green tea and dessert). My husband can easily eat 6 rolls and 15 pieces of sashimi, so he was not totally satisfied. It was just nice to sit down, in a quiet place and catch my breath and some air conditioning. Kid tip: There was no changing table, but there was a small ledge that I was able to stand my kid on and change him while he stood up. The restaurant was upstairs, so they made me leave the stroller downstairs in their coat room. I appreciated it being away, but was annoyed when the manager was too busy and ignored us when we came down ahead of our group to grab the stroller and get situated. I had asked a worker if he could grab it, I pointed to it as the curtain was not floor length and you could see in the bottom, but he did not speak English and pointed to the manager at the reservations stand.

    Afterward walked through the Lego store in Rockefeller Plaza (small, crowded and stairs), got a pastry at the fabulous Bouchon and waited for them to allow us in at 8:05. The whole process of getting up to the deck, took maybe 15 minutes.. there was an elevator to the first floor (since we had a stroller) and then security, a line of pictures you could skip, then a “holding” area where they showed videos of the history of the place and then the cue to the elevators up. It was very cool, but it was so foggy that it was not the best view. I was very sad we could not do it during the day. We still did get to see a lot, like times square, where the ball drops, empire state building, freedom tower and a bunch of other stuff, though. Since the process of getting in took longer than we expected, we were going to miss our 9:22 train from Penn back to Long Island. So my son woke up and we spent 20 minutes working up a sweat dancing in that little light up room. The next train wasn’t until 10:22. Around 9:30, we said our goodbye to my cousin and his girlfriend and headed back to Penn to ride the “choo choos” one last time. The waiting room was not the place to be, so we ended up buying something and sat in TGI Fridays until our track number was announced. We didnt get back until almost 1130 and then had to pack and be up at 5:30.

    It was quite the whirlwind and we came back exhausted!

    Next up: final thoughts

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    Wow, you did a LOT! You are pregnant and with a toddler and you went so many places. Glad you put aside the stereotypes and experienced New York City. Reading your report, I wish I could go back.

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    We definitely did! My friend joked about my "itinerary of doom" and I think she was more tired than us (she told me she slept almost all of Sunday away after she dropped us off at the airport AND she missed our biggest walking day when we did Central Park.)

    It was exhausting, lol, but we did everything we set out to do. The only thing we removed from our itinerary when we decided to bring my son was Chinatown/Little Italy on our short day - Friday. SO glad we took that out as that the hottest day and the day I felt the most crappy.

    We are very lucky to have a little guy who is very go with the flow and travels really well. This is our 3rd trip with him in a year (8 day cruise, disney/florida and now NYC) so I guess the key is to get them traveling young!

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    Oh gosh, I can only imagine. Our next trip won't be until Spring 2015 where we do a family reunion of sorts and we have 4 families with 7 kids under 7 total for 4-5 days at Disney and then a week on the beach in Florida. At least we will all have each other for backup!

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