New York! Visiting Lady Liberty!

#LadylibertyI’ve been to New York many times in the past 26 years and yet, until this past July I had never taken the time to visit the Statue of Liberty. I guess it was just something I always thought I’d do “next time”. Recently when thinking about places to take the boys within the United States Lady Liberty came to mind. She is after all one of America’s most well known symbols! Our trip to New York to celebrate my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary seemed like the perfect opportunity because as it turned out only one of us had ever been to Liberty Island before!

While I am glad to say I finally “saw” the Statue of Liberty, I think once was enough for this group.  Neither of my boys loved the experience and Elliot gave it a 2 out of 10. There just wasn’t enough to hold his interest. My first impression upon seeing her up close was that she seemed smaller than I thought she would be. I guess all those movie shots of people seeing her from the deck of the boat as they sailed toward the American Dream made her seem larger to me. Not that she isn’t pretty darn large at 305 feet and 1 inch! Anyway…

Here’s the scoop on our visit!

Do keep in mind that Crown and Pedestal tickets sell out many months in advance, so go online and purchase them as soon as you decide you’re going. We purchased our tickets in early May for an early July visit and the Crown tickets were already sold out through the end of July. However, we were able to get Pedestal access which as it turned out was perfect for our group due to various ages and physical restrictions.

A few things to consider if you are able to get tickets to visit the Crown.

  • The age and physical ability of the members in your group.
  • Elevator service ends at the Pedestal and you’ll have to walk the rest of the way.
  • It is 377 steps from the main lobby to the top of the Crown, or 22 flights of stairs.
  • Anyone visiting the crown must be able to walk up at least 162 steps on a confined spiral staircase.
  • The only restrooms are located in the main lobby!

Tickets include round a round trip ferry ride to Liberty Island and Ellis Island as well. You can catch the ferry from two places Battery Park, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, and Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey. Private vessels may not dock at either Ellis or Liberty Islands.

We caught the ferry at the Battery Park location. It’s an easy walk from the subway station. I was a little surprised at how much the ferry rocked back and forth and found that I was most comfortable on the top level with no roof overhead. It was in the direct sunlight, but I needed the open air and the plus side was of course the spectacular views!

Before getting on the boat you will pass through a number of security check points, almost like going through airport security. You’ll also do this before you enter the Pedestal. There are guided tours available but an audio tour is Included with your ticket. We’ve taken many audio tours and didn’t feel like this one was very user friendly.

On the main floor you’ll find the original torch which we stopped to look at, but we skipped the Liberty Museum and went straight to the main attraction! The Pedestal offers panoramic views of Ellis Island, New York, New Jersey and the New York Harbor. There is an elevator and half of our group took advantage of that while the other half walked up. The walkway around the Pedestal is very narrow and very crowded, so after taking a few photos from each side we went back down.

I thought maybe we would visit the museum on our way back down, but by that time everyone was hungry so we decided to get lunch instead. We took a few more photos of Lady Liberty and then decided it was time to go as the line for the return ferry can be up to an hour long. Some of our group went on to visit Ellis Island and the Immigration Museum, but my boys were done so we skipped that.

A few days later we had an opportunity to see Lady Liberty again while out boating with some friends! I loved seeing her this way… in fact, it seemed much more impressive to me than the more formal route we took earlier in the week.

New York! Shopping!

I think I may have mentioned in some of my previous posts that I absolutely love to travel! But I also love to shop! What could be better than shopping while traveling? A perfect combination! No?!

It’s a small world and with the invention of online shopping and chain stores on every corner it’s getting harder and harder to find places to shop that are unique. So why waste time shopping in a new city when you can find anything you need or want from the comfort of the living room couch? To that I say, “Where is the fun in that?”  You see, for me, it’s not really about getting a new item, well not entirely anyway… what it’s really about is the experience, wandering the neighborhood, poking in and out of different types of shops, discovering new places  and meeting the people.

mercer-street-soho-new-yorkOn our most recent trip we chose to dedicate an entire day to shopping in SoHo, but in a city like New York there are endless places to shop and we managed to fit in the Meatpacking District and Madison Avenue on this trip as well. 🙂

SoHo is shorthand for South of Houston and it is on the list of National Historic Landmarks. The borders are Broadway west to Sixth Avenue, and Houston Street south to Canal Street. Within those borders you’ll find just about every retailer you’ve ever heard of and many you haven’t! There are also many flagship stores and one of a kind places too. You’ll find clothing, shoes shops galore, furniture, art, housewares and more! Oh and did I forget to mention the chocolate shops, amazing restaurants and hotels who are also located here! With its cobblestone streets, cast-iron buildings, designer shops and oh so cool vibe, SoHo is  unlike any other place in New York. Don’t miss it!

Keep in mind most shops in SoHo don’t open until 11:00 am, but stay open later which we discovered when we showed up ready to shop at 10:00 am on a Monday! No worries, we stopped and had a coffee while we waited…

Don’t laugh but before we’d even made it two blocks we’d already visited Orla Kiely, Fiorentini & Baker, Ted Baker, Paige and James Perse! My favorite right now is Rag & Bone, so that was our next stop and then of course we wanted to make time for, Desigual, Moleskine, Sam Edelman and Camper Shoes. We were also excited to discover a Sweaty Betty and a Miz Mooz Shoes along the way! By this time it was already 2:00 pm and although we’d made a sizable dent in our pocketbooks we’d hardly seen any of the neighborhood!

We spent a lot of time on Mercer Street, but this handy map of SoHo stores and services might help you plan your itinerary a little better! Not that there are many, but if you’re looking for a bargain your best bet is Broadway where you’ll find more mainstream shops, like Lucky Brand, Banana Republic, and Guess?!

Bleecker Street is another great shopping area… It’s actually a great street to walk down if you’re heading to SoHo from the Meatpacking district or vice versa. Although you may get sidetracked and never make it to your destination! There are many fun one-of-a-kind boutiques along Bleecker Street as well as some big names like M.A.C. and James Perse. You’ll find the famous Magnolia Bakery here and there are many great bars and restaurants as well. We used to come here a lot when we lived in Hoboken as the PATH station is nearby on Christopher Street and it’s one of my favorite spots.

The Meatpacking District is home to the Highline, The Standard Hotel and the new Whitney as well as many great shops:  Diane Von Furstenberg, Alice & Olivia, Joie, Michael Stars, Theory and Intermix and the list goes on… Also nearby you’ll find Christian Louboutin, a Barney’s Coop and Alexander McQueen. If you’re more interested in picking up a new piece of art there are a number of galleries here and often you’ll find artists selling their wares right on the sidewalk!

We not only found a lot of fun new treasures on this trip, but we met a number of really fun people along the way! In fact we had so much fun with the shopgirl in the Alice & Olivia store that we exchanged numbers! Turns out she and I both grew up about 45 minutes from each other on the West Coast! Small world indeed! Per her request I sent her a photo of me in my new outfit the first time I wore it!

Remember this is by no means a comprehensive list! New York has no shortage of neighborhoods in which to wander and shop, these are just a few of my personal favorites!

New York! The 9/11 Memorial.

I still remember what I was doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. I think we all do. Recently I had an opportunity to visit the National September 11th Memorial and I brought my two young boys. My older son, knows about 9/11 although not in-depth. We didn’t say much to my little one, but he could still sense that this was a place of quiet reflection and sadness. The museum is recommended for ages 10 and up, so we made the decision not to visit the museum with the kids though I am sure it is worthwhile.

Reflecting pool and waterfall.  There are two.
Reflecting pool and waterfall. There are two.

The outdoor reflecting pools and waterfalls are surrounded by panels engraved with the names of all those who lost their lives at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. It is a beautiful and moving tribute worth taking the time to see. I’ve included some information from the official website.

The National September 11 Memorial is a tribute of remembrance and honor to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.

The Memorial’s twin reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in the North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood.

The names of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools, a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history.

The Memorial is surrounded by beautiful gardens and many new buildings, the tallest of which is called the Freedom Tower. It stands at 1,776 feet which is taller than the original Twin Towers. It dominates the skyline and is quite an impressive site.

New York! Times Square & The Broadway Theater District!

Times Square!

IMG_1602If you’ve never been it’s just got to be on your itinerary! Now, I know some might disagree with me, but according to Travel and Leisure, Times Square is the #3 tourist destination in the WORLD with annual visitors of 50,000,000! There’s a reason for that!

Yes, It’s crowded and yes, it’s loud and chaotic, but it’s also fantastic, exciting, and a true spectacle worth witnessing!  With the flashing lights and neon on all sides, Broadway shows, the neon, the many costumed characters and I mean “characters”, the neon, and did I mention the NEON, it’s no wonder that it’s such a popular destination! Even the subway stations are lit up! It’s so bright you can see the glow well before you actually arrive!

Photo credit TDF.org

A lot of the area is pedestrian friendly and there is an outdoor seating area where you can sit and take in the scene or eat a slice from one of the many pizza spots. Over on the 47th Street side is where you’ll find the famous ticket booth, TKTS, where you can purchase same day discounted tickets for Broadway and Off Broadway shows. You’ll find it under a giant red staircase, bleachers if you will, where people can congregate and enjoy the view. If you climb to the top step it’s a great photo opportunity! Keep in mind tickets for matinees are sold in the morning and evening performances are sold in the afternoon.  Check the board for available shows.

Times Square is a great place for kids! When asked which sites they were most interested in seeing while in New York, both boys mentioned Times Square. M&Ms World, The Hershey’s Chocolate World Store, Toys R Us and The Disney Store are just some of the big name stores you’ll find! The Toys R Us has its own Ferris wheel, inside!

Elliot was especially interested in visiting M&Ms World which is an experience all in itself! Open from 9 am to Midnight every day of the week its jam packed with people!  You’ll also find every color and type of M&M you’ve ever heard of, and many you haven’t.  Want to make your own mix of colors and flavors? You can! Want to personalize your M&Ms, you can do that too! Maybe you need an M&M lunch box, backpack, or beach towel? They have them! Also, pjs, toys, t-shirts and pretty much everything else you can think up! After buying about 27 pounds of M&Ms we escaped… to Hershey’s Chocolate World! Can anyone say stomach ache?

Times Square has no shortage of hotels in all price ranges and most of the larger chains are represented. While it’s not my personal favorite part of town to stay, its pretty loud all night long, I recently stayed at the Westin Times Square and you can read my thoughts in my New York! An Overview…post.

If you’re planning a trip to the theater while in New York you’ll end up in Times Square, but I highly recommend a night time visit!

IMG_4565Speaking of the theater… I’ve seen Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway twice and it was well worth it! The first time when visiting last October and again this past visit with my folks and the boys! While tickets are on the expensive side, I would recommend sitting on the main floor and trying to sit in the aisle.  The show features some neat surprises and they are best seen from the aisle seats.

This was Elliot’s first musical and I’m glad I waited until he was just about 7.  When entering the theater he said, “No need to go, I already know what happens in this story, let’s go do something else.” Uh Oh! He was skeptical, but ended up loving it, both boys did! There are booster seats available and snacks and beverages are allowed in the theater. Adult beverages too! I will say there really aren’t enough bathrooms for the volume of people attending, but if you get there a little early there should be enough time!

There are other kid friendly shows currently playing on Broadway, Aladdin and Mathilda being two of them.  We saw Aladdin a few years ago in Seattle and really liked it, but we liked Lion King more. Mathilda is coming to our area soon and we plan on seeing it here, so decided to skip it in New York.

New York! The High Line!

Photo Courtesy of Friends of the High Line
Photo Credit Friends of the High Line

The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It’s incredibly Unique!  It runs between West 34th Street and Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District between 10th and 12th avenues. It’s owned by the City of New York and operated by both Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.  

IMG_1610The High Line opened to the public in 2009, of course just after we moved away from the area, and is in my opinion a must-see when visiting New York!  It offers great views, beautiful gardens, interesting art, tours, quite a few food choices, and many lovely places to sit and relax.  Although it is elevated there are railings on both sides and the pathways are surprisingly wide. Considering that I am a self labeled Over Protective Mother these are very important points for me!!

I’ve visited both in the daytime and at night, its open until 11 pm in the summer time, and loved it both times! On this most recent visit we found ourselves in the park at night and even the boys, who I admit can occasionally get tired of our desire to wander endlessly, really enjoyed it!  We started on the Gansevoort side as we were already in the area for dinner.  A great way to add a little something to an already lovely evening and as a bonus we had great views of the Empire State Building which was all lit up for the 4th of July!

IMG_1607My idea of a perfect New York outing would be to start with a High Line journey at the West 34th Street entrance and then wander along until the very end of the line which puts you right at the entrance to the new Whitney Museum of American Art.  If you’re not with kids I would also suggest that there are many lovely shops and galleries to visit in this area as well. Dinner or a drink at any of the wonderful restaurants or bars in the very trendy Meatpacking District would top it off!

New York! Pizza, Markets, Restaurants & Bars!

There is no shortage of places to eat in The Big Apple and that’s why this post won’t be on the shorter side. ha! I read that there are upwards of 24,000 different choices! So there is literally something for every taste or dietary restriction you can think up and every budget too! A friend of mine who lives there once said she was attempting never eating at the same place twice and honestly with that many choices it’s possible!!

IMG_5182 - Version 2

Sitting down to breakfast or a long lunch isn’t really a priority for me, especially if I have limited time in a city, so It’s usually coffee to go and pastries and milks for the kids.  We save our big meals for dinner and during the day there are many options in New York for on the go eating!

Everywhere!

Pizza

IMG_1603New York is known for pizza and the first thing I like to do each visit is head out for a slice. No matter the time of day or night as there are many places that stay open late or even all night.  The main choice is cheese, but if you must have toppings you can find them. Sausage would be my second choice. Many spots are small or just walk ups where you grab a slice to go and they are as little as $.99!  Everyone has their way to eat it, but I like to fold mine in half so the grease can run out and then eat it like a sandwich.  Be careful it’s SUPER hot!

Hot Dog Carts

nyc-hot-dog-cart

Another option, and you’ll see them everywhere, are hot dog carts! At $4, it’s not the bargain price of a slice, but still not too shabby!  Just like pizza there are certain expectations about how to eat your hot dog and putting ketchup on it is a New York no no, it’s not okay in Chicago either!  If you don’t mind the possibility of being teased a bit I’ve noticed a lot of the carts are now offering ketchup along with the standard yellow mustard!  A perfect lunch or snack between sights, just grab a dog and eat it on the go…

Flatiron District

Eataly

IMG_5155On our last night in town we ate at Eataly located just across the street from Madison Square Park and right next to the Flatiron Building.  It’s a very unique place which is a sort of farmers market meets Italian grocery store meets cafe with seven gourmet restaurants all throughout.

Each of the restaurants specialize in a certain food type and they are all sit down, so you can’t grab something from this place and that place and then meet in the middle.  I’ve had the opportunity to try three of the restaurants.  La Pizza & La Pasta, Il Pesce, and La Piazza.  All three were incredible and I can’t wait to go back and try the other four places!

I would keep in mind that because Eataly is incredibly popular it can be difficult to get a table, so it’s a good idea to arrive before you’re already famished and put your name in for a table.  We decided to have appetizers at La Piazza, which offers first come first serve tables, while we waited.  If you let them know your plans the servers from the different restaurant options work together to make sure you’re alerted when your table is ready.  Nice!

Shake Shack

IMG_5168Shake Shack is located inside Madison Square Park and is famous for it’s burgers. Apparently the line can stretch around the entire park at lunchtime! Based on the smell I am definitely stopping here for a full meal on our next visit!  We stopped here for frozen custard after Eataly and it was delicious. I just loved the atmosphere here. A beautiful park setting on a warm New York night made complete with twinkling lights overhead!

Meatpacking District

IMG_1673The Standard Grill and the Standard Plaza are located in the Standard Hotel and both are great people watching spots!  Corrie and I had a nice lunch in the outdoor portion of the Grill and the food was pretty good and so were the cocktails.  Later that same weekend we went back and drank Cosmos at the Grill bar until 3:00 am! We met some local gals and it was a lot of fun!

Most recently the boys, Grammie and I enjoyed appetizers and wine in the Standard Plaza and it was a great spot to take a break from all those fun Meatpacking shops!

SAMSUNG CSC

Valbella was one of our nicer choices this trip.  Tim spends quite a bit of time in the neighborhood and suggested it as a nice place to celebrate my birthday!  The cuisine is Italian and both the service and the food were perfect!  As a special treat the boys and I were invited to help the pastry chef prepare a special birthday desert and it was so fun! You’ll want reservations.

IMG_5007The Gansevoort Market opened this past October 2014 and is just around the corner from the Standard Hotel.  While the restaurants I mentioned above are all on the higher end this market is much more reasonably priced.  It’s basically a gourmet food court with many choices! Something for everyone!  Some of us had crepes while others had pizza and other BBQ.  There is a lovely seating area and its first come first serve.  There are also pretty decent restrooms here.  Always good to know where their might be a place to stop, especially when traveling with the kids!

IMG_5005The Chelsea Market also located in the Meatpacking district and just across the street from the Google offices is a fantastic place to visit if you can just brave the crowds!  It’s so popular!  It is also home to the famous and very tasty Eleni’s Cookies!  Here is the official description from their website.

A block long and a block wide and just a short walk from the Hudson River in the area of Manhattan known as the Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market has become in just fifteen years one of the greatest indoor food halls of the world, with more than thirty-five vendors purveying everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake. Attracting 6 million national and international visitors annually, it is one of the most trafficked, and written-about, destinations of any kind in New York City. Chelsea Market is a neighborhood market with a global perspective. 

SoHo

IMG_5254Balthazar is a traditional French bistro and it’s been around since 1997!  The food was great as was the service! Keep in mind it’s very popular so reservations are a must. My parents had eaten here many years ago and really liked it a lot, so we chose to return in order to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary!

The Balthazar Bakery is right next door and serves great sandwiches and dessert items! We stopped here a few days later while shopping and I had my favorite Jambon with butter on a baguette! To go of course!

IMG_5133Dean & Deluca has been in this SoHo spot since 1977 and if you’ve never been you should definitely stop in for a peek around and a snack!  They sell the best of the best from all around the city as well as fresh produce and some grocery items too!  There are no tables, but there are some stand up counters or you can just eat while you wander around looking at all the wonderful food items!

NoHo District

IMG_1621Lafayette Grand Cafe and Bakery located on Lafayette and Great Jones streets is another French style restaurant. Corrie and I ate here and we really enjoyed the atmosphere, food and wine!  I must admit we were disappointed with the desserts and we didn’t even bother finishing them. If I had to choose between this place and Balthazar I would choose Balthazar. You’ll need reservations.

Lower Eastside 

IMG_5124Katz’s Delicatessen is a New York institution and has been around for 127 years! I highly recommend trying it at least once! It’s famous for its deli food as well as for being in the movie When Harry Met Sally. There are many things worth eating here, homemade hot dogs, coleslaw, the pickles and strangely even the cheeseburger, but the thing you go here for is the pastrami on rye!!  It’s GIANT!  If you’re not a big eater I suggest sharing.  Mom and I shared and neither of us could finish our halves.

IMG_4596Sammy’s Romanian is what I would call a real experience.  And while we did enjoy ourselves quite a bit, I’m not sure it’s one I need to have again. The pros were that the skirt steak I had there was up there with some of the best I’ve ever eaten, The egg creams were big and frothy, the entertainment was super kooky but fun, and the people were friendly.  The cons were that it was overpriced, located in a smelly basement and unless you’re very hungry it’s too much food which we ended up having to throw out due to our staying in a hotel. It’s been around a VERY long time and there is definitely something to be said for that, but I’m not sure what it is.

IMG_4603The Backroom Bar is of course a place you’ll want to visit if you’re without the kids, but I highly recommend getting there if you can! Out for an after dinner walk around the Lower East Side after our dinner at Sammy’s we had no idea Tim had a destination in mind.  When he disappeared down an old staircase into a dimly lit hallway or alley of sorts my parents and I weren’t sure what to do, so we just waited… a few moments later he came back and asked, “What are you waiting for, come on!” After walking a few steps and avoiding a few puddles you come to the other side where there is another staircase leading to a secret entrance complete with doorman and peephole. It all makes complete sense once you get inside, after all it was a speakeasy and it shouldn’t be easy to find!  I had a French 75 and it was served in a dainty white teacup while Tim’s beer was served in a coffee mug.  Even mom’s diet coke was served in a teacup! Here is the official about from their website.

The Back Room is one of only two speakeasies in New York City that operated during Prohibition and is still in existence today. It is a timeless example of the underbelly of New York past. The original 1920’s speakeasy, known simply as “The Back of Ratner’s,” played host to many theater and movie actors of the “Roaring Twenties,” as well as famous gangsters of the era. These gangsters included Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky.  They were known to use the space for “business meetings.”

Tribeca

IMG_5004We discovered Kaffe 1668 while wandering through Tribeca one afternoon. We only had time for a coffee, but they serve breakfast and lunch as well.  The vibe and decor were great. I wish we would have had more time to explore the neighborhood as there were a lot of neat shops and good looking restaurants. I would definitely stop in here again and they have multiple locations throughout the city.

Bonus: Hoboken, NJ

IMG_5290Now I know this isn’t exactly located in New York, but I just have to mention Benny Tudino’s located just across the river in Hoboken, New Jersey!  Simon and I discovered it when wandering around one snowy day and it’s been our favorite ever since. The slices are HUGE, fresh and cheap!  They’re probably the equivalent to three slices anywhere else and back when we first started going there in 2007 they were $1.75.  The place has been around forever and it’s not fancy, but if you’re feeling a like a quick trip on the Path Train over to Hoboken, also home to the Cake Boss’s bakery, it’s definitely worth checking out! We only ever ate pizza, so I can’t tell you much about the rest of the menu.


Take me with you!

Would you like directions to all these fabulous places? Why not take me with you! you can download this and other fun hilarystyle articles using the GPSmyCity app!

#pinmehilarystyle

New York! Museums!

IMG_1638New York is up there as one of the greatest museum cities in the world!  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, The Whitney, the American Museum of Natural History and on and on.  There are so many worth seeing that picking which ones to see during each visit is always a tough decision.

On our most recent trip we visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side, the new Whitney Museum in the Meat Packing District and the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.  We had limited time so we choose to see highlights of each one.

IMG_1661When Corrie and I visited back in October we also made a quick stop at the Guggenheim since it’s such an iconic building.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go inside as we had only two full days in the city, but just seeing the incredible architecture from the outside is an experience. It’s a fabulous museum and if we’d had more time its high on my list!

IMG_4671While a person could spend hours or even days wandering inside The Metropolitan Museum of Art we had a long list of “must sees” on this trip so we had to pick a few highlights. Lucky for me we chose two of my personal favorites. The Temple of Dendur and The Costume Institute Exhibition.  No matter how long I give myself I always wish I had more time… There is always just one more thing I want to see.

IMG_4684

Located inside the Egyptian exhibition is the Temple of Dendur gallery  and it is, in my opinion, just breathtaking and if you’re at all interested in Egyptian art and history it’s a must see.  The Gallery has floor to ceiling windows that look out on Central Park and there is also a beautiful pond located inside.  The Temple dates from 10 B.C. I mean 10 B.C. WOW!!!  Amazing!!!  It was given to the United States by Egypt and has been in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1967.  I still remember the first time I walked into the room where it is displayed and I was so excited that my family found it as beautiful and fascinating as I do!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_4711The tagline of this Blog is Travel, Fashion and Fun, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that my other favorite gallery to visit while at The Met is the Costume Institute.  The exhibitions in this gallery are revolving and at times it is closed for new installations but we lucked out on this visit because it was open!  The current exhibition is called, China: Through the Looking Glass and it was SPECTACULAR!  Everyone in our group loved this exhibit even my 6 year old and 12 year old boys! Most of the galleries didn’t allow photography so I don’t have many photos, but If you get a chance to visit New York before September 7th when this exhibit closes it’s a must see! Here is the official museum text which explains the exhibit.

“This exhibition explores the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion and how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries. In this collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art, high fashion is juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other art, including films, to reveal enchanting reflections of Chinese imagery.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_4744The American Museum of Natural History, otherwise known as the Night at the Museum museum, was high on everyone’s list this trip and especially the kids!  My Simon could spend days inside and wants to read every single word in every single exhibit!  Of course we didn’t have time for that, so we settled on hitting some of the most popular permanent exhibits and two special exhibits. We let the kids choose which ones.

The truth is that while the special exhibitions can be fun to see, they do cost extra and the museum has so many amazing permanent exhibits it’s not really necessary. We ended up not really having enough time and felt like we were running through a bit.  I would suggest no less than half a day at this museum.

IMG_4774This a big museum with a lot of twist and turns and it’s easy to get lost inside, even if you’ve been multiple times. Insert sheepish grin here…  During this visit I discovered their fantastic app called Explorer!  It’s great for not only giving you insight into each exhibit, but also literally guides you to each location. Once we downloaded the app we walked right to everything with no problem!  We decided to try and locate some of the items from the Night at the Museum movies and found out the museum offers a Night a the Museum Tour that looks like fun. It’s two and half hours long though so we didn’t have time on this trip.  Also if you time it right, and your kids are 8 years or older, they even have overnights!  We found “Rexie”, the whale and squid and possibly “Dexter” the monkey!

IMG_4797The subway goes right to the American Museum of Natural History and as I mentioned in my New York! Overview! post the stations often reflect the area around where they are located.  This one has so much incredible art and even fossils!  The minute you get off the train you’re excited to see what’s next!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_5023
Can you believe this amazing photograph is really a DRAWING!

The Whitney Museum of American Art has a brand new location in the very trendy Meat Packing District.  The entrance to the building is located just at the end of the fabulous High Line Park which would be a perfect end or beginning to your visit at the Whitney! The kids and Tim spent quite a few hours there with friends while mom and I went shopping at some of the nearby stores. Priorities, right?!  We joined them at the end just before the museum closed and I must admit I’m anxious to get back and see the rest.  I think it will be my first stop on our next NY visit!  The photo is of a piece by artist Chuck Close and it’s just one of the many amazing art pieces in this museum.  The Whitney is open until 10 pm on weekends during the summer and it’s such a beautiful setting I think I would like to start my visit around 5pm and end it watching the sunset from one of the museum’s balconies!   There are also some great spots to eat in the Meat Packing District, but I’ll save that for another post…

New York! An Overview…

New York! New York!

IMG_4121One of the absolute best cities in the world!  Every time I start thinking that maybe I’m tired of it or that it’s lost it’s charm compared to some other spot I need to see I go back for another visit and fall in love all over again!  I’ve been visiting New York since I was 17 and even lived 30 minutes away for a full year and although I have my favorite  go to places it never fails to amaze me how this city can feel so new and like home all at the same time. The sights, sounds, smells I love it all!  Which of course means that there is no way I can write everything I want to share in one post!

IMG_4984 - Version 2This particular trip was a special occasion as we went with our extended family to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary!  A big deal right!?  Since there were eight of us I thought it might be fun if everyone wrote down their top 5 New York “must-sees” and we would go from there. Suddenly five full days, one evening, and a half day didn’t seem like much time at all… PANIC!  How would we fit it all in!?  I am happy to say that although we didn’t get to everything on the list we did get quite a lot accomplished!

We went Uptown, Downtown and Midtown. We went to the Lower East Side, the Upper West Side and everywhere in between. We saw the American Museum of Natural History, the Central Park Zoo, The Whitney Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Neue Gallery. We shopped and ate in the Meatpacking District, SoHo, Chelsea and the Lower East Side. We ate pizza and saw a Broadway show in Times Square!  We took two boat rides and visited both Liberty Island and Ellis Island! We walked the High Line and wandered Central Park. Some of us walked across the Brooklyn Bridge while others visited the 911 Memorial. It was a whirlwind of a trip and a fabulous time!

Here are some of my thoughts about getting here and around.

Arrival

When traveling to New York there are three different airports to choose from. Newark, JFK and LaGuardia.  JFK is about an hour out from Manhattan and the others are about 30 – 40 minutes.  There are many ways to get into the city from each airport. I find the easiest way is to just jump in a taxi, but it’s not the least expensive.  Their are shuttle busses with round trip fares available and limousines too.

Getting around in Manhattan

Taxi! Uber, Subway, and walking…  There are many ways to get around the island of Manhattan and all are good.  If you ask my little guy he’ll choose TAXI! every time.  He’s the only almost 7 year old I know who has been hailing cabs since he was three years old! He’s constantly putting his hand up and waving them down.  Thankfully, they don’t seem to stop for small children, either that or they just don’t see him down there. 😉

Taxi!

Just like in the movies you can look down the street and you will see a literal sea of yellow cabs.  The only problem is getting one to stop!  You’ll notice there is a light on the top of the cabs. The trick is figuring out what the different light combinations mean. Here are some helpful hints:

  • When just the center is lit highlighting the medallion number the cab is available.
  • When the medallion number and the side lamps are lit the cab is off duty.
  • When the lights are dark it means the cab has a fare already.

It can be especially difficult if you’re trying to hail a taxi in the rain, late at night or when an event has just gotten out.

Uber

During my October visit we used Uber quite a bit and often found it easier and more reliable then standing around trying to hail a taxi.  I suppose it depends on where you are and what time of day.  You’ll need to download the Uber app before you can use it.  Once you’re all set up it’s as simple as “calling” the car.  No need to pull out your wallet or figure out the tip.

Subway

IMG_4797This past visit we all purchased 7 day unlimited ride Metro cards for $31 each and that worked great as well.  I downloaded the MTA Subway App and it’s fantastic for route planning and finding out about any changes or outages at the different stations.  I entered in our destination and current location and my Apple Map would then switch me directly to the MTA Subway app with directions for which stations and detailed instructions. The subways, can be HOT, loud, and crowded.  However, they are surprisingly clean in both the stations and the cars themselves.

IMG_4794All of the subway stations are unique and a lot of them have wonderful art on the walls.  You’ll often find people singing and playing instruments in the subways as well. Sometimes you’ll find people dancing on the subway cars and we saw quite a few people panhandling while riding.  You might find that taking the local train during rush hour is a better choice than the express.  Especially if you’re traveling with kids.

Walking

If it’s not too brutally hot or too bitterly cold there is always the option of walking from place to place!  There is no street in NYC that doesn’t have something of interest on it and often I’ll find that I’ve walked miles before I even realize it.

Hotels

IMG_4360I’ve been to New York twice in the past 12 months and both times I stayed in Midtown. This wouldn’t be my first choice of neighborhood, but it worked out for the group.  I’ve also stayed at the SoHo Grand and it was lovely, but the rooms are very small. Most New York hotel rooms are and if you’re traveling with a family you’ll need to make sure that the room offers two beds, as a lot of them do not.

This most recent trip we stayed at the Grand Hyatt on 42nd and Park and overall it was a really a pretty nice place to stay.  It’s located within walking distance to both Rockefeller Center and Times Square and is attached to Grand Central Station, so it’s easy to get pretty much anywhere!  The rooms and hotel surroundings are all pretty nice. There is a cute little convenience spot called The Market in the lobby where you can pick up snacks, drinks and most importantly Starbucks coffee! My two complaints were the towels were on the old side and the walls are pretty thin.  I could hear people going in and out of their rooms all night long.

In October I stayed at the Westin Times Square and I was lucky to have been invited to join my friend as her guest.  I don’t think either of us were super excited about it.  It was pretty rundown, but we didn’t spend much time in the room, so it didn’t matter much!