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One of my husband’s cousins is getting married in Rhode Island this summer, and we are planning to attend the wedding, and we will be driving. That is roughly a 16-hour trip via car…one way…with two kids. *Gulp* BUT, since we will be headed north anyway, we decided to spend a few vacation days in New York City. Woohoo!
I have only been to Manhattan once, several years ago—the teenager was barely 5 then—her and I had a great time visiting my brother, who was lucky enough to score an internship that came with a 2-bedroom apartment. He took us to Central Park to eat a hot dog, to see the Lion King on Broadway, to ride the Ferris wheel in Toys-R-Us (at least 3 times), and for a walk around Chinatown.
We also got the charming experience of having my daughter get motion sickness on the subway and vomit into a random stranger’s Crate and Barrel bag. So you know…it was a well-rounded trip. This time, we will have the little guy in tow, but we will not have the luxury of a free place to stay (Cross your fingers that we get to skip the puking on the subway bit though).
Getting Opinions from the Kiddos
Before I started planning our whirlwind tour of the city, I asked each kid “What do you want to do in New York?” They only had one request apiece: the teenager (book nerd) wants to go to the NY public library and the little one wants to see the Brooklyn Bridge.
Um, okay…I was all, what about the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building or dinosaur bones or Times Square? I got a bunch of “yeah sure” and “whatever you want.” It actually made my planning easier though, I just had to work in two for sure activities, and the rest of the itinerary is as long as we have time activities. I bought a street/subway map of the city so I could plot a course and get the most out of each day (2 full days + 1 evening and 1 morning).
Finding a Place to Stay
My first planning task and (biggest dilemma) was finding a place to stay. If any of you have ever priced hotels in Manhattan then you feel my pain. It proved to be a difficult endeavor to find a reasonable place, cost-wise, that didn’t have a mention of bed bugs in its Yelp reviews. Also, I had the extra consideration of finding a place that had parking.
Requiring a place to stow the car made the hotel shopping a million times more difficult. I researched rooms in various parts of the city, and there are definitely some really great places to be found. I especially liked some of the smaller hotels and spots like Hotel 91, but most of them did not offer any parking. They either suggested a nearby parking deck or the parking was so expensive it made the room rate out of our budget.
I considered Staten Island for a minute or two. I looked at a couple of the common chain hotels, and they had decent prices with (as far as I could tell) free parking, but most of the travel articles do not recommend staying on Staten Island due to the excessive travel time to Manhattan activities.
So…I have decided to make reservations at the Wyndham in Long Island City.
L.I.C. is the westernmost neighborhood of Queens and has recently become a thriving arts community. According to several travel message boards, it is a good alternative to staying in “the city” and is still accessible from Manhattan via the subway. Parking is offered at the hotel and no mention of vermin in the Yelp reviews! Yay! Problem #1 solved.
Figuring Out What to Do
Planning task number two: Squeeze as many adventures into 2ish days as humanly possible without sending us to the hospital with exhaustion.
I wanted to plan an itinerary that jammed in all the goodness the Big Apple had to offer but didn’t make the vacation feel like this massive chore we are just slogging through. I made a list of all the things we wanted to see and plotted them on the handy dandy map I bought from Amazon. I grouped them according to area, and I looked up their operating hours (because that would be a crazy bummer to show up 5 minutes after closing).
I think I have it all figured out now:
- arrive in the evening, check into the hotel
- 7 train to Times Square, check out Midtown Comics (open til 12 am)
- visit Empire State Building (open til 2 am)
- 7 train to Grand Central Station for breakfast
- 6 train to E 77, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (10-5:30)
- Lunch at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park
- Museum of Natural History (10-5:45)
- 1 train to Times Square for dinner at the Shake Shack
- The Ride tour (last show @ 8:30 pm)
- Rockefeller Center: Sculptures and Channel gardens
- 7 train to Grand Central for breakfast
- Walk down 5th ave and take a Breakfast at Tiffany’s selfie for Instagram 😉
- NY Public Library (10-6), lunch in the cafe at the library or from a nearby spot/food cart
- 7 train to Hudson Yards, walk or taxi to Pier 83 for The Beast boat ride (10-6)
- 7 train to Grand Central Station then 6 train to Chinatown
- Explore Chinatown: Mahayana Buddhist Temple (8:30-6), Aji Ichiban (10-8), Columbus Park
- Brooklyn Bridge, dinner in DUMBO
- F train back to 42nd street/times square
- Check-out by 11 am
I spent several hours working on this plan, scouring travel blogs and trying to figure out how to read my map. If anyone has any suggestions or ideas, I would be very glad to hear them!
Where to Eat?
Alright, that brings us to planning task #3: Food.
My daughter is a very adventurous eater, my son…well, not so much. The teenager is all about new flavors, trying interesting recipes, and exploring ethnic eating. The little guy is more of a—chicken finger, make my cheeseburger plain, my favorite ethnic food is ramen noodles—kind of eater. So, when visiting a city with virtually endless dining possibilities, how do we satisfy her sophisticated palate with his plain-Jane eating style?
My 17-year-old is an excellent traveler, she rolls with the punches, knows how to navigate an airport and is willing to dive headfirst into new experiences. She started traveling as a toddler, accompanying various family members all over the U.S. from Alaska to Savannah to Boston. She had already visited more cities by the age of 5 than the 10-year-old has visited in his whole life (hey, 2 kids cost more to take places!).
He is a homebody, preferring his own bed, own toys, and own food. I have been working on broadening his horizons, but it is slow going. However, for this trip, when there is so much on offer, I don’t want my daughter stuck eating generic meals at chain restaurants just so the little guy can eat chicken fingers at every meal.
Obviously, a slice of NY style pizza is a must, and I really want to hit up the Shake Shack. Both of those options will please everyone. However, I am pretty much begging for any recommendations on the food front. Like, seriously.
So that is my vacation planning in a nutshell. If you see something in my itinerary you think is a terrible idea or you know some awesome little diner we just have to try, please (please please please) comment below!
I would be very grateful for the help 🙂