At the end of last month we had a crazy long multi-part trip. The first part was visiting family in New Jersey, followed by five days in New York and ending at Disneyland in California. Knowing all of the challenges involved both with family and having a preschooler at Disney I had assumed that the middle leg of the trip, visiting my old stomping ground of New York City, would be the easiest. I was totally wrong.
Turns out living in New York, single and in your twenties, is wildly different than being in your thirties, on a budget and having a toddler. Huh.
The hardest part was that Luke was always immediately overwhelmed by the city. The noise, amount of energy, people and activity was too much for him. Part of this, no doubt, is that we were staying in Time Square one of the most lively and bustling places on earth.
Moments after stepping outside of the hotel Luke would curl into our legs and not move until we picked him up and carried him to our destination. He can sometimes be shy in large groups but generally he is a fairly outgoing kid with way too much energy so that fact that he refused to walk anywhere at all was surprising. And really hard on my back.
His terror of the city as well as the physicality of carrying a three-year-old everywhere made it hard to do very much. Luke mostly wanted to stay in our Times Square facing hotel room and watch everything out the window.
My biggest challenge was letting go of attending all of the events and locales of my youth and resigning myself to a trip spent mostly indoors with one or two excursions a day.
(Full disclosure, three days in we went ahead and bought an umbrella stroller as the effort of carrying him and our stuff everywhere became too taxing.)
The good stuff
Parks and and Playgrounds
One thing that was super cool about the slowed down pace was being able to see the city in a way I never was able to before. I honestly had been through Union Square, and Washington Square park a bajillion times but do not think I sat and really explored the parks the same way as before. They are gorgeous.
New York City library interiors were also new to me. I had scoured every bookstore in the city when I was younger but would rarely enter the libraries (in retrospect I really should have as I made so little money then). This trip, when Luke was feeling over stimulated, we would duck into one of the darkly lit temples of books and stone and read some Adele & Simon. We would probably use the bathroom and water fountain too.
Times Square Toy R’ US
Have you seen this thing? There is a Ferris wheel going through the center of the store. A ferris wheel! We mostly stopped in to get the aforementioned stroller. They had bins by the front door. I guess we were not the only ones who mistakenly thought they would not need a stroller in Manhattan.Aside from the ferris wheel, there are a bunch of play areas allowing children to interact with toys and many cool displays including an enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex. It has a roar so loud it shakes the nearby shelves (parent’s of easily frightened kids beware of floor three).
The American Museum of Natural History:
We were lucky enough to spend the last few days in the area with two of our closest friends and their young son that we could not wait to meet. We all met near another close friend’s house in uptown that was just across the the NHM. So after burning energy at the playground for a little while we went.
You really cannot beat NYC’s Natural History Museum. It was one of my faves when I was young and still is. We were worried the kids would be too young, and while the two year old was not as interested, Luke was enamored with the exhibits. Their unparalleled dinosaur collection was the biggest hit. I suspect that is true for all ages. Luke still talks about the Wooly Mammoth, Triceratops and T-Rex.
If you are in new York on that day you should really go.
No more waiting on long lines for our favorite eateries. The eaters I loved that hadn’t closed often had non-kid hours. So even though we did not get to Tea & Sympathy we discovered this awesome local cafe nearby called Nourish.
The restaurant was small but open and sunny with jars of pickles and fresh ingredients on the wall. The friendly staff happily called back to one another as they cut and chopped local seasonal ingredients. The food was fresh and beautiful. We were able to sit at a bar along the kitchen and watch the chef cook. Luke loved that. We chatted up the cook while he worked and learned he and his wife had moved to NYC from SF for him to cook and she to be a stylist.
It was still essential to visit one of our favorite bookstores in the world Stands. We just had to. We took turns reading to Luke in the kids section on the second floor while the other Mom would do some browsing in the stacks.
After leaving the store Luke was totally hungry and needed to crash soon (the time change issues never really went away). We found a french restaurant with no wait nearby that was super good (previously we would have walked over to St. Marks for drink's at Angel’s Share and dinner at Yokocho).
It was only around 5:30, early for city eating which meant our server was attentive and there was no wait. I love a restaurant experience that is transportive. The rich scarlet walls, French decoration and handcrafted cocktails bought me instantly back to our Paris Honeymoon. Except now there was a tiny human next to us begging to play Crossy Road <link> when he finished his entree.
The meal was great and I recommend it to anyone as a Union Square alternative.
Marriott Marquis Breakfast buffet
I usually skip the fancy hotel buffet due to the price (and I don’t usually dig the food at buffets) but Luke really wanted to go. I made a special event of the whole thing — letting him ride down the glass elevator in his PJ’s and pick anything from the many tables of food that he wanted.
The price was totally worth how hassle free and fun this was.
Luke picked fruit loops, chinese dumplings, and french toast for breakfast. As one does when they are three.
We had nice times. We found cool things. It is always great to see old friends. It was challenging.
It did cure my, 'I kinda wish I still lived in NYC’ thing that has always been at the back of my mind. I think I may have changed but I think the city has changed too. It will always be great to visit though. And no matter what age I am New York will always have a piece of my heart. I’m so glad I get to share that with Luke.