(Warning: this may be the longest post I've ever written. I am officially breaking blogging rules by doing this and I don't care, ha. My hope is that someday my kiddos will read this and remember our amazing trip.)
Fortunately for me (the trip planner) I've been to NYC twice and my hubby actually worked in NYC for several years, so we had some familiarity with the city going in. But, every time I sat down with the intentions of planning out our days in the city, I hit a mental road block. After several failed attempts at planning, I decided perhaps we were really supposed to just "go with the flow" and experience the city.
Matt and I had a date night before the trip and talked about what we really wanted from our time in the city and we both concluded that we didn't want to feel pressured to see everything, we really wanted our kids to just experience the city. But, most importantly, we wanted some serious family bonding.
Now, I can tell you without a doubt, that we had the best family bonding experience exploring New York City. From the hair-raising cab ride from the airport into Manhattan to the crazy chain of events that made us get back to the airport just in time for our flight home. It was a grand and blessed adventure.
So much of our time in the city meant getting from place to place. During the last school year, Harrison had a section in social studies about public transportation, my, we hit the gamut on this trip. It felt like, planes, trains, automobiles and subways and boats and cabs and lots and lots of walking! But, I have to say, this may be where most of our bonding took place. This is where we had some serious team work, and learned a few lessons along the way. Like the time where Matt swiped the subway card, Harrison proceeded to go in, only for us to realize that we had run out of money on the card. Leaving Harrison in the terminal and the rest of us on the other side! We made Harrison stand right up against the bars, he looked like he was in jail, it was hysterical and a good lesson. From that time forward, I went in first then the kids, then Matt. We also made a plan that ensure no kid would be left on the subway to fend for themselves (a nightmare in this momma's mind) so I got on or off first then the kids and then Matt. It just felt adventurous at times riding the subway and Harrison carried a metro card in his pocket for days after, it was adorable.
At times taxis were the best option and each time we got on one, man, I regretted it! With a boy who gets car sick and a serious lack of air conditioning in the back seat, not to mention the stop and go traffic, I always had a bag in my hand ready. I'm happy to say he made it on every cab ride without an incident, but it was quite an adventure each ride.
These shoes were made for walkin', and did we! I was very intentional about the shoes we wore for this trip. I looked long and hard for a comfy pair of tennis shoes especially for me with my back and hip issues. I seriously expected to be in some pain with all the walking that we would be doing, but I'm pleased to say, that my back and hips held up amazingly well. One day we walked almost 11 miles and 14 flights of stairs! I was so proud of Harrison keeping up as well. If you are really going to experience the city, then you are going to walk A LOT. I think when I look back on this trip, I will think of my view for most of the time will be Haley holding her daddy's hand right in front of me. Haley and Matt were a team, therefore, the little man and I were a team. It was just a sweet, sweet time walking so many miles with my boy. I loved his observations, like the many times he asked, "you mean people actually live up there?" or his fascination with the fire escapes coming down the sides of buildings. He is at such a sweet and fun age, it was just a blessing to spend that time with him experiences so many new things.
As I think back on the trip, some of the sweetest moments were spent at a park. Well, of course there is Central Park, what a beautiful place right in the middle of so much action. We entered the park one lovely morning by The Museum of Natural History and walked to Belvedere Castle and then to the sailboat pond. What a beautiful and relaxing morning it was with crisp blue skies a little breeze. Harrison and I were fascinated with the dog walkers, eight dogs on a leash and so perfectly behaved!
One of my favorite times of the whole trip was spent walking the High Line Park one evening. This park was created where old elevated freight train train tracks once ran. I couldn't picture in my mind before we went how wonderful it could be with the fun benches and lovely landscaping. I can see why it is a favorite place to stroll, even for the locals. After our walk, we picked up some cupcakes at an adorable little bakery and took them back to the hotel.
I love that we spent so much of our time away from the tourist stops and saw the city from a different perspective, really absorbing the feel of what it might be like to live there. We stopped at a neighborhood park and let the kids play for a few minutes in one of pricier areas of the city. I found it fascinating to watch the nannies carrying for the children. It reminded me of a book I enjoyed reading a few years ago called The Nanny Diaries.
Our first night, we went to Madison Square Park, it is a lovely oasis with some interesting sculptures and a dog park. We laughed because Harrison could have spent the entire evening watching the dogs play. We intended to have dinner at the Shake Shack right in the park, but we thought the line was too long and found another place to eat. This was our biggest mistake, ha, apparently the line was actually not that long based on NYC standards. Oh well, I hear we have a Shake Shake coming to the Dallas area, I may yet get my chance.
A Magical Night:
I'm not going to lie, I may have muttered to myself, as I finally pushed the "buy now" button on the ticketmaster site "this better be good". I mean, I am pretty frugal and spending well over two hundred dollars for Haley and I to see Wicked seemed outrageous. I may or may not have attempted to buy the tickets three times when finally, I said something to myself like "this is not something you get to do everyday, Jennifer, just buy the tickets!" So let's just say, even though I had heard many wonderful things from trusted sources, I still thought there is no way it's going to be worth the amount of money I just spent on this show.
I'll fully admit I was wrong. It was magical in every sense of the word! Haley and I sat mesmerized the entire time. The story was beautiful. I think as someone who worked for years to achieve a dream, it is always so touching to see people at the top of their "game". I know the many hours dedicated to their craft. And I felt honored to be watching the talented performers. My goodness, Haley looked so precious that night in her dress with some loose curls in her hair. To say she loved it is an understatement and I would have spent twice as much for the amazing evening with her.
I'm just going to say, if you get a chance to see Wicked, just do it! FYI for my local friends, I hear it will be in Dallas Spring 2016.
Of course, you can't go to the big apple and not do any shopping. We spent about half of a day doing a little 5th Avenue shopping. The kiddos had some money to spend from their grandma, so we headed to FAO Schwartz. It turns out it is closing soon, boo. Goodness, we walked around that place forever as Harrison searched for his treasure. It was overwhelming for him to say the least. Then, we happened upon the treasure his heart desired, a station where you build your own remote control car, what! I would guess we ended up spending 100 times as much on this car when it was all said and done, but my goodness, he was so proud of his creation! It was pretty cute and sometimes it is fun to splurge a little, and they get you at every turn from the battery pack to the convenient backpack to carry your car in that they show you at the checkout, ha.
Although Haley made a valiant effort to find her treasure at the toy store, she had another store in mind and it involves a little blue box. So, our next stop was Tiffany's. We found our way to the silver floor then to the charm area. She poured over the charms for awhile then asked the sales lady for the price of the charms she liked, it turns out most were way out of her price range (no surprise there) except for the infamous "Please return to Tiffany's NYC" charm. So, she bought it and carried that little blue bag around feeling so big! It was pretty cute!
My hubby wanted to do his shopping at UNIQLO which is quite an interesting Japanese clothing store. It is all white with a lot of glass and a modern design, it felt very futuristic to me. I managed to look through my section for about two minutes when the kids and I decided to enjoy one of the fun benches for the rest of our time at the store, they were beat and hungry! If we made one mistake time and again on our trip, we waited a little too long to eat lunch and we all got a little "hangry" and we always weren't by good places to eat so then we ended up settling for something we wouldn't normally choose. So, if I were to do it again, I would have planned our meals a little better. On the bright side, my hubby found some pretty cool clothes that he couldn't have gotten at home.
We did venture out to Chinatown one day, but I would say it really wasn't worth it unless you were wanting to buy a knock off watch or purse. I don't care that much about brand name and I don't really want to support someone making knock offs, so it wasn't for me. But, when I visited NYC in college, I was all about the fake Rolex. On the other hand, it was neat and slightly disgusting to walk by the open fish markets. It was a good taste of another culture for the kids so I am glad we made the trek out there. I also thoroughly enjoyed the walk through SOHO to get there, at least that's where I think we were! I'm so thankful for my hubby's navigating skills, otherwise, we wouldn't have seen nearly as much!
Although we realized the scary proposition of ruining the kids for life after experiencing NYC pizza, we took the chance twice. We met one of my sweet sorority sisters from college for dinner at a neat pizza place right next to where David Letterman used to be (crazy to say "used to be"). We had a great evening with her and it was neat for the kids to be with someone who lives in the city and has ever since college.
On Matt's agenda for the trip was to eat at Joe's Pizza. Once again, waiting just a little too long, we made our way there via cab after our fun morning in Central Park. This little dive is a favorite amongst locals especially of the famous type with pictures of famous people eating Joe's Pizza adorning the walls. At some point, Harrison, had decided he doesn't like pizza (how is he my child?). So, he opted to sit out while we chowed down on this fine delicacy. Trying to figure out what to feed the boy, we ended up buying him a street hot dog out of desperation. He took one bite and spit it out on the sidewalk, I thought "oh no, it must be bad!" It turns out his loose tooth came out in the bite, ha! So, Haley found his tooth right there on the sidewalk of New York City while Harrison was spitting blood. I don't think any of us will forget this moment, it was hilarious.
Meanwhile, the boy still hadn't eaten lunch. There was a Trader Joe's close, so since that is where I normally shop, I thought I'd just pop in there and get him something. Think again, the line wrapped around the entire store, even with 14 registers and it was a random Tuesday at 1:00pm. I never wait in line at our Trader Joe's. It was just another time to realize how different life would be like if you lived there. Don't worry, we did finally find Harrison, our foodie, a decent lunch, ha!
The Statue of Liberty:
Although, I didn't plan ahead very much, I did buy tickets to take the boat to see the Statue of Liberty ahead of time. When we walked past about a thousand people to get on the boat, I felt like a genius, but I didn't think about the ten thousand people that would be on the island wanting a ride back that we would contend with! We sat on the top of the boat on this warm day and took in the sight of Lady Liberty, it is really a nostalgic feeling to see it from the water. After all, it is still very good to be an American. I purchased pedestal tickets which allowed us access to the pedestal which was plenty high for me. My crew opted to hike the stairs instead of taking the perfectly good elevator. I may have been giving my crew, especially my husband, dirty looks as I huffed and puffed my way up, telling myself once again, "it's time to get back in shape, Jennifer!" I made it in one piece and the view was terrific. We made our way back, purchased our "souvenir Statue of Liberty" bottle of water, then it dawned on me that we would be in quite a line to get back on the boat.
We stood in line amongst tourists from all over the world for a good two hours before we could get back on the boat. I think the collision of cultures and many accents and languages was a eye opening experience for the kids. We finally made it back on the boat. I had full intentions of getting off and touring Ellis Island while I gave the children a history lesson and they hung on every word (dreaming here), but we were so exhausted we didn't dare get off the boat in fear of another line to bare. In hindsight, we might have just stayed on the boat and viewed the statue from the boat, instead getting off and touring Ellis Island where the lines were much shorter. Oh well, who knows, it's still not everyday that you get to stand on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty!
Well, that was some highlights of our trip in a nutshell (kidding here). It was a grand adventure! Actually, our trip didn't end in the big apple, we took the train and spent a few days in Connecticut. I will leave those adventures to another post. Until then!