Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Big Apple, with a curious 7 year old

When L was 6 1/2 and my mom was 60, I took them to NYC. My mom had just gotten the cancer re-diagnosis and her super endo suggested she not put anything off. So a bit earlier than I had anticipated, I was packing L off to NYC. It was Christmas time and we did the Rockettes, China town, the Holiday Market in Bryant Park and naturally the tree at Rockefeller Plaza.

I was surprised last spring when E announced -- "hey, I am six now and L got to go to NYC when she was 6!" Large crowds and noise are just not E's thing, but he was right, it was only fair. E however did not want to go when it was cold and last fall, well there was no going anywhere. ( I ended up taking him out of school for two days, but I think hands down he learned so much in NYC that it was totally worth it.)

This past weekend, E and I set off for NYC. It was a trip like nothing I have ever planned before. E wanted to ride the subway, a bus, a taxi and "look around." He vetoed shopping, China town, the art museum, the natural history museum and the Statue of Liberty. He also was not totally on board with the idea of the Empire State building either. I mentioned seeing a show and he just shook his head solemnly.

One of the few bonuses of H's job is he and his immediate family can fly for free -- on a space available basis. This is a nice perk that isn't that easy to take advantage of. We can only go if there are unsold seats available. One of the few places that we seldom have trouble getting to is NYC. I have never not made it to NYC. Getting home on the flight of my choice has been an issue, but getting there has never been a problem.

This time around was no exception. E and I cruised in style last Thursday, in first class.

We took the city bus from LGA to Flushing/Jackson Heights and then caught the subway into Manhattan. From Grand Central we took the 6 two stops downtown to 28th Street.

I cannot say enough good things about our hotel. It was right by the subway station, between Lexington and 28th Street on Park Avenue South. The staff was amazing and the room just right. Was everything brand new, no, but it was clean and neat and served a continental breakfast that was wonderful and just perfect for us. Included were breakfast, newspapers and WiFi, in the day and age that many hotels are going out of their way to charge you for even opening the door was refreshing.

The best thing? The view. Well maybe not for the average person, but for my 7 year old transportation junkie, the view could not be beat.

E sat and looked out the window and watched the car stacker every chance he got. That made this view priceless.

If you are going to NYC and do not need to be right on top of the action and want comfortable, cozy and reasonable, I think the Park Avenue South is a great bet. I certainly plan to go back.

After checking in, we decided to head to Peanut Butter & Co. We love their peanut butter and we were not disappointed. Our peanut butter, banana smoothie was yumm-o. I loved my ant's on a log and E tried a fluffernutter and decided that it was just ok. Getting there was easy and we might have spent a bit of time exploring the neighborhood, but alas it was raining and we were tired, so we headed straight back to the hotel and went to bed.

(I must confess that I really wanted to check out The Fat Black Pussycat. However, even in NYC, 7 year olds in bars just won't fly.)

Friday we were up and at the breakfast buffet the minute it opened. This is what happens when you go to bed at 8 pm.

We took the train to Brooklyn and checked out The New York Transit Museum. Located in an old subway station, the transit museum is hands on and is part history, part science and is totally hands on for little tranport junkies and older history buffs. My favorite part was the history of the building of the subways and the over 18 historic train cars.

Circa 1930 train car

Really? This kind of sign was needed?
I loved looking at the old advertisements. It was great fun.

There were also bus mock ups and a turnstile maze as well as an electricity conductivity experiment station. Well worth the price of admission and a great way to learn about something that really is integral to the fabric of New York life.

From the Transit Museum we walked a few blocks to the Dekalb Market. I learned about the market from my friends SS and JC via facebook. They live in Brooklyn. The market is new and still in the growing stages, but that said I love the idea and the concept. It is a urban garden plot and a market made up on food stands and arts and craft boutiques and artisans hosting small store fronts. The super neat thing, the entire market is comprised of these little businesses having their operations or stores in scavenged shipping containers. Think adult sized legos!

One of the many water towers. This was my view from our lunch table. E insisted I take a photo!
Some art and some more shipping containers.

I had the stir fry with a fried egg. So good. It was fantastic.

This is @Hi_Im_Chrissy. She made me the amazing fried egg stir fry and agreed to let me take her photo.

I did some shopping at the market and scored some great made in NYC by residents' of NYC souvenirs.  E had a burger form a gourmet burger and sandwich shop and then he ate a lovely brownie from a bakery at the market. The market is only a few weeks old and is still growing. I think this will be a must revisit, next time I am in NYC.

The subway station was right next to the market, making our return trip Manhattan, super easy.

And our next stop... the Lego store at Rockefeller Plaza!

E was excited to check out the flagship store. It did not disappoint and even though it was Friday afternoon, the crowd was manageable! 

Rockefeller Plaza, lego style

He looped around the store

The tallest pick a brick wall in the world.
I am glad we checked this out. By this point, E and I were tired but not ready to be done. It was decision time. As I studied my notes and the map, I spied out of the corner of my eye, the Grey Line tour bus! I had considered this double decker bus option, as E had seemed very excited about the prospect of a double decker bus ride. You can buy tickets at the Rockefeller stop and I decided to purchase the 48 hour option. It isn't cheap, but E and I were able to get two tours in and it was worth it. For one, it made getting around and seeing a good chunk of the city possible and it was something I had never done before. Did I mention it was a double decker bus?

There are three loop options. The downtown, the uptown and the Brooklyn loop. The Uptown and Downtown are hop on and hop off tours, which means you can get on and off with your ticket either for a day or for the weekend, depending on which option you purchase. Sometimes there is a tour guide and sometimes there is a per-recorded message.  My advice, hold out for the tour guide, the recording is annoying.

Had traffic not been totally insane, I think E would have enjoyed this more, but when it takes 5 minutes to move two blocks... well the Downtown loop can last forever. It was also about 7 degrees too cool to be truly comfortable on the upper deck. After a major traffic jam around the Southside Sea port, E was all done with that bus tour and I decided I could get us safely to the hotel from the East Village stop, so we bailed in the East Village.

The best view of the Empire State Building I have ever had!

The famous "BALL"

Time Square

More Time Square

Hard Rock and a glimpse of the guy who sat next to us and behaved worse than E. He and his wife argued nearly the entire tour.

The view from the upper deck was amazing.
So it is 6 pm and E and I are standing in the East Village and with the help of my GPS on my iPhone, I plot our walking course. It will be a bit over 1.6 miles. Totally doable. Totally doable until E starts to panic and informs me he has to go to the bathroom, immediately.

Ugh. Ugh and double Ugh!

Finding a bathroom in NYC isn't as easy as one would think.

So as we are moving quickly up the street and the level of panic is increasing and I am beginning to really worry, when I see a sign and think, ok this place will do.

It turns out to be one of the best choices I could have made. Bite has amazing food, had a bathroom and they were wonderful to E and I! We hit the bathroom and stayed for a great dinner. E tried and LOVED a turkey and mozzarella panini with sun dried tomato mayo. (I would have sworn he would never eat that, but eat it he did, with gusto!) My tuna salad was huge and yummy. I had a great glass of wine also.

After our meal we strolled the rest of the way to the hotel, stopping off in a bakery for some cookies for E. As we walked, I remembered being in this neighborhood with my friend SS, when she had an apartment in Gramercy Park, back before E was even on the scene.

All in all an amazing Friday in the Big Apple. Stay tuned for our Saturday adventure!

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