A day in New York City can be nourishing to every person in the family.
During a recent visit, our activities and stops aligned well with the interests of our littles. Theatre, art, Egyptology and of course that must-have view of the Statue of Liberty were all highlights. And my husband got the pizza he wanted, multiple times a day.
Since our hours in New York City were limited, I wanted it to be perfect. I was determined to fit as much as possible into our time. I did allow for sleep, but it wasn’t easy because I was too excited.
We arrived in the afternoon and took a taxi from the airport. Even after a morning of airports, the kids were so pumped about being in “a real taxi, Mama!” Their enthusiasm for riding in taxis did not wane even after repeated journeys. Who knew transportation could be so exciting? I was just glad to have someone else driving so I could catch my breath and enjoy the success of getting everyone through two airports and to our destination.
We barely stopped to drop our bags in our elegant but teeny tiny hotel room, then walked immediately towards Central Park to catch the last few open hours of the American Natural History Museum. I will never reach an age where the skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex won’t impress me. We walked along the glass-walled displays of bones in the museum, admiring massive talons and exclaiming over the lengths of tails. Parts of the museum felt very kitschy with elaborately crafted dioramas featuring animals in every geographical location. The massive scene of a giant squid and sperm whale in battle was impressive and required much contemplation! We had our eyes dazzled in the hall of gems and stared curiously into displays about evolution. This was an awesome place to explore with kids. There are curiosities and impressive sights that seem to go on forever. The kids stood in front of a slice of a giant sequoia tree taller than they are and grinned for a photo. We were able to spend several hours in the museum with only a quick snack at the food court.
Even with all the wondrous exhibits, the kids started to fall apart as dinner time approached. We walked back along West 79th Street to our hotel and made a quick pit stop in the first pizza place we could find. We were starving. Giant, hot from the oven triangles of cheese and pepperoni pizza were like a religious experience after all the walking and traveling. After dinner, we went to a gelato shop next to our hotel. The icy treat was delightfully shaped into roses on top of our cones with a delicate cream filled macaron as a topper.
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The next day, we had the full day and I packed it with plans. We rose early to eat bagels and drink coffee in blue cups from the deli across the street. I stuffed my purse with black and white cookies for later. We spent the first part of our morning crossing part of Central Park. Any time I enter expansive natural space in the heart of the city, I have to bask in the dynamic contrast and the peaceful relief to the eyes. Massive and impressive, of course, Central Park is also filled with little details and spots to get lost in and rest. The kids were exuberant to be in the park and released from our tightly gripping hands, which they had endured down all the busy streets. They reveled in freedom, running over walking bridges and climbing rocks.
Our destination that morning was one I’ve been dreaming about since I was a teenager: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We arrived on the granite steps before opening and I was like a little kid, too. I could barely contain my joy and anticipation waiting for those doors to open! The entry to the Met is as high ceilinged and grand as I imagined. We all stopped to gaze up and around to orient ourselves in the venerated space. With tickets in hand, we entered the Egyptian Art exhibit. The collection is absolutely engaging for kids and adults. We gazed at mummies, elaborate sarcophagi and ornate jewelry. A collection of miniature sculptures found within a burial chamber was especially surprising and fascinating. We missed reading pretty much every informational plaque as our kids rushed us along, but we saw so much.
The final part of the Egyptian art exhibit is The Temple of Dendur, a gift from the Egyptian Government to The United States in 1965 and reassembled in the Met in 1967. The temple, which was completed around 10 BC, occupies a glass-walled atrium in the museum and is surrounded by the waters of a reflecting pool. A Sphinx lounges on a pedestal nearby. Our kids are little Egyptology enthusiasts and seeing the temple and exhibit was thrilling for them.
We moved on to the classical section next, wandering through marble sculpture and familiar paintings. Our youngest stood for a long time in front of a kinetic battle sculpture starring her favorite character, Medusa. She gazed up dismayed to see that Medusa’s head was chopped off.
At the time of our visit, we also stumbled into an exhibit of fashion. Somehow, even though I primarily wear jeans and only wear mascara for special occasions, I have the fanciest, fashion-obsessed kids. They were in heaven wandering through the array of lit glass boxes containing explosions of color, fabric and creativity. My 10-year-old’s favorite was a ball gown complete with a holster.
I was positively mournful to leave the Met. The time we spent in the museum flashed by so quickly and I yearned to explore every single room. Even after half the day, I wanted to stay. Since our tickets worked for two days in a row, I ended up delaying the next destination on the trip and bringing everyone back the next morning. Someday, I will go again and spend the many days I wished for.
We had to hustle out and catch a cab to our meeting spot for the New York Water Taxi tour, which we rode to Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. We wandered Brooklyn on essentially a midday food tour: more pizza, coffee and chocolate ice cream. Right before leaving our quick visit, we stopped under the Brooklyn Bridge to ride the carousel. Jane’s Carousel is a beautifully crafted antique, purchased by the city from Youngstown, Ohio. Built around the carousel is a modern building, square and made of glass. From your vantage point inside you can look out and see an impressive view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
We caught the water taxi back across the harbor and we were finally able to do something that our kids had been desperate for the whole trip: see the Statue of Liberty. Our oldest had learned about the statue in school and she had been asking pretty much hourly when we would see her. The boat passed close enough to get the view of the lady, from the folds of her gown to the up stretched torch. My child’s face when she finally set eyes upon her was one of pure and vibrant happiness. She was in absolute awe. A wonder from the pages of her book in life!
When the boat docked, we headed to The Gershwin Theater on Broadway to pick up our Wicked tickets. We didn’t have much time to eat so we ended up grabbing some crispy spring rolls and rice from an impressively small Thai food restaurant, barely large enough to accommodate a row of tables. We ate standing up outside the theater before rushing to our seats.
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I have intentionally raised my kids to love theater so I will always have friends to attend shows with. I have taken them to performances in Austin since they were very small. Of course, Wicked was a marvelous production and when Elphaba finally flew up into the air my youngest was absolutely screaming with delight and smiling so big. Witnessing her intense excitement and amazement almost made me cry. It was truly beautiful.
We floated home to our hotel and collapsed after the show, thrilled and worn out. In the morning, everyone else was still asleep. I woke and quietly went downstairs to walk the neighborhood by myself. I watched parents guiding their children to school and people rushing to work. I meant to find breakfast but instead found Levain Bakery. I returned to the hotel and woke up my family with a bag of giant, decadent cookies: chocolate walnut and dark chocolate peanut butter. They were the best cookies I’ve ever had and I have zero regrets about eating them for breakfast with my coffee.
For this art and theater lover, travel to NYC was a dream, and our trip there enriched each of us in unique ways. This is how I want every trip to feel: like we moved easily with serendipity and everyone left with their own favorite moment. I have so many plans for all the future trips I wish to take there. One dedicated just to art galleries. Another to see all the plays! I love that I can share my interests and passions with my kids. When we are together, exploring and discovering new places, I feel connected to them in ways that I hope last even as they grow into adults.