In many ways, going to New York City is like going home for us. My husband lived there for almost 15 years with me joining him for the last 5. My son was born in Brooklyn, spent his first 4 years there, and still has vivid memories of me pushing him around in the stroller on the sidewalks of Cobble Hill, visiting the playgrounds and pointing out the colors of each car parked on the street. We have many good friends living there still and lots of places that have special memories. So trips to NYC for us are filled with visiting and nostalgia as well as seeing the sights. This last trip was a whirlwind, with only about 36 hours in the city that included my husband playing two shows! But we definitely made the most of it, packing in Central Park, the MoMA, the Empire State Building, the Wall Street Bull and a rock show all into one day!
It is actually really nice to go back and visit a city that you once lived in because you end up doing some of the 'touristy' things that you never did when you lived there! I very rarely was down on Wall Street and only went in the Empire State Building once before this trip. But we also made sure to hit our favorite places like Carroll Park and the East Village. So here is what our New York minute looked like:
We drove into the city through the Holland Tunnel around 4 pm, with a giant storm cloud following us. After spending the last year in a very dry California, we were a bit unprepared for what to do in the city when it rained. We had hoped to park somewhere around Soho and then walk over to 1st Avenue for dinner at our favorite East Village restaurant, Lil' Frankie's, but the impending rain made us change our plans. So we instead parked the car in the village and made a mad dash for the restaurant, arriving just as it started to pour. If you have never eaten at Lil' Frankie's, then you must go the next time you are in NYC. It is a no-frills, laid-back East Village staple that makes wood -fired pizza and homemade pasta with old school ambiance and rock music filling the air. I love it and make sure to stop in every time I am back in the village.
By the time we finished our dinner, the rain had passed, and we were able to hit the streets. Pete had to run off to his show but the kids and I decided to walk around the East Village, making sure to take the kids up to St. Mark's Place, the street famous for hippies, punks and anarchists, for the New York Dolls and the cover of Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, the movie Kids, and so many other staples of our cultural history. It feels a bit different these days, with outdoor shops and people trying to sell you anything and everything, but you can still feel some of that energy that makes it so unique. We walked around the neighborhood for a while, until we finally got our fill and headed to Brooklyn for the night.
This was our only full day in the city and we wanted to make the most of it. The kids were really wanting to hit some parks, we wanted to see some art and I wanted to walk until my little feet hurt. So we set out fairly early, jumped on the subway and headed up to Central Park. As you know, Central Park is huge, you really have to go there with a plan of action otherwise you could just get lost for hours (which is also fun but maybe without your kids). We went in the park on the south eastern corner and made our way past The Pond, through the Hellet Nature Sanctuary, up to the Billy Johnson Playground. We used to visit this playground when Otis was little and it was always so much fun with the slide set into the hill and rocks and greenery all around. I guess in our memory of it, we had made into this huge slide and amazing space, but in reality it was a lot smaller than we remembered! We still had a good time and felt like we got enough of Central Park in for our short visit.
One thing about this trip to NYC was that it was incredibly hot and humid. We were all so hot after walking through the park that we decided we needed to be in someplace with lots of air conditioning. So we jumped into a cab and went to the MoMA! I love the Museum of Modern Art, it is my favorite of the museums in New York, and we hadn't been since I was pregnant with Lola when Pete was played a show there. It was the perfect place to spend a very hot afternoon, eating lunch at Cafe 2 on the second floor, and then taking in all the wonderful works of art they have in their collection. The MoMA is great for kids, not only because there are so many pieces that they will recognize and that are interactive but because they try to engage their younger audience with activity cards and workshops. We grabbed a couple of cards when we went in and my kids loved searching for the pieces, finding them and then talking about what the story was behind the painting. My daughter especially loved the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina's World. My son of course loved the Warhol wallpaper of the cows (I did mention that he loves cows, right?!).
After the MoMA, we headed down to the Empire State Building. I always do this to myself, suggest going up in something really high even though I know that I am petrified of heights! Needless to say, after we bought the tickets (surprisingly expensive at the door, look for coupons before you do it or buy one of the city passes), I immediately started panicking. The elevator ride up was probably my least favorite part but the kids thought it was awesome. When we got to the observation deck, my knees literally started buckling. I went out for a few minutes, making sure I totally embarrassed my kids by being so overprotective, only to have to go inside and watch them through the window. Fear of heights, I will conquer you one day! Just not that day.
After finally getting back down on solid ground, we were all pretty tired and ready to call it a day. Pete had to head off to his show and I needed to get the kids back to Brooklyn so that I could go to the show! But Otis had his heart set on seeing the Wall Street Bull and for some reason I agreed to stop on our way to Brooklyn (it really isn't on the way, btw). We took an uber downtown but because many of the streets are one way, he had to drop us a few blocks away. Well, we couldn't find the stupid bull, then finally found it, then couldn't get a taxi or find the subway so I started trying to follow my map on my phone. You can probably guess what happened, right? Yeah, someone bumped into me knocking my phone right out of my hand, shattering my screen, causing me to almost burst into tears. I gave into having a mini-meltdown, gathered myself enough to find the train, took the kids to Brooklyn, dropped them off with the babysitter, and then went out to have a much deserved glass of wine and watch my husband play. And I guess having this picture made it kind of worth it too:
This was our last morning in the city and we decided to take a walk down memory lane. We stayed with good friends in Park Slope, Brooklyn, who lived right by our favorite brunch spot, Miriam. We always make sure to hit up Miriam when we are in town because of the Mediterranean Crispy Dough, a fried dough with eggs on top, shredded tomatoes, spicy harissa and pickles on the side. Oh man, I crave this dish so much when I am gone and have not found a place out west that makes something similar. After stuffing ourselves, we headed out to our old neighborhood.
We lived in the Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill neighborhoods for over 5 years; it's where we first brought Otis home and spent our first days as parents. It is a place that will always hold a special spot in my heart. So we always try to go back and visit, to keep those memories alive, especially for Otis. We went by all of our old apartments, the toy store we used to frequent, the book store, Book Court, that is one of the best book stores out there, the pizza shop we used to always order, and finally to Carroll Park, the park that I was at almost everyday for about three years! The kids love going back to that park and running around the playground and through the sprinklers. It is a classic city playground, right off the Carroll Street stop on the F train, with a big kid side and little kid side. Take the train over, go to the park and then walk down Smith Street and Court Street and take in Brooklyn.
And then, we were off! On our way down to Philadelphia, our New York minute was over, at least, for now.
PS - If you do go to Brooklyn here are a few other things to check out that were our favorites:
*New York Transit Museum - Rainy days or super cold days in the winter for us were spent at this place where your kids could happily run through vintage subway cars, turnstiles and buses. A great place to visit especially for those train- obsessed kids (like mine was!).
*Brooklyn Heights Promenade - When Otis was a baby my days were spent pushing him in the stroller to the promenade, where I would then feed him while looking out at the Manhattan skyline watching the Staten Island Ferry (a great and cheap way to go by the Statue of Liberty, btw) and other boats cross the East River. A beautiful spot to take in the city and right by the all the restaurants and shops of Brooklyn Heights.
*Prospect Park Zoo - Much less famous than the Bronx Zoo but still a great one to visit. We would spend many of afternoons in this zoo, especially the petting zoo. It could explain why Otis loves cows so much now!
*Brooklyn Waterfront - This really came about after we left but it is awesome. They have built walking paths, green spaces, playgrounds, soccer fields and so much more up and down the waterfront. Grab some food and have a picnic on the water.
*Water Taxis - The most fun way to cross from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Catch one in Red Hook or Dumbo.
And, as always, find more pictures on my Facebook page here.