Notes from NYC: Things We Did and Saw

I had all kinds of plans for us in the city. We were going to do The Natural History Museum and The Met, Central Park (Belvedere Castle and The Shakespeare Garden), The 9/11 Memorial Ponds, The Highline (we had big plans to walk the entire thing. HA!)

I wanted to hit up the The New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, revisit Top of the Rock, which was the crowd favorite last time we were in NYC as a family. Archer remembered the view fondly but Fable did not. Fable was 2 1/2 then and I was entering my 2nd trimester with The Twisters. (Bo coined the term "Twister" on this trip i.e. twin + sister = twisters, which, YES. YES YES YES. Twisters, my girls are. Little tornadoes. And I am the storm chaser...)
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Bo and Revi had a hard time in the city. Bo was clearly overwhelmed and Revi matched her intensity by asking Bo if she wanted to "run away with her" or "hide behind a bush" or "throw a rock off the top of a castle." I longed for the days when I could strap both girls to my body and carry them around with me. I also longed for the days of strollers... Those were the days.
Our first day in the city, we took the advice of Ms.Andrea.Shaw on Instagram (thanks, lady!) and hit up Broadway in Bryant Park which was SPECTACULAR fun. The kids played Chinese Checkers, rode the old Carousel and I danced by myself to Phantom of the Opera which is my favorite Broadway Musical of all time probably because it was the first one I ever saw as a kid and I am still reeling from the experience.

We spent several hours in the park, hit up the Public Library for bathroom breaks. And after lunch, took the subway to The Met.
The kids marveled at the knights and their armor, the Egyptian artifacts and their mummies and the instruments in the instrument room. They adored the sculptures and then...  the little ones decided they wanted to climb all the things.
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We lasted an hour and a half before we had to bolt, but it was totally worth it. The kids got to see some American art, including the epic George Washington piece that both Hal and I remember fondly from our own childhood trips to the Met...
We did most of our dinners/all of our breakfast eating at home. But, besides the snacks I packed in my humongous backpack every day, lunches were always eaten at whatever restaurant we happened to be next to when hungry. ED: As for eating out with kids, here is my trick for knowing if the restaurant is appropriate for kids: Crayons. If a restaurant has crayons, you're clear. If the restaurant does not have crayons -- go elsewhere. (This is a tried and true method that has never steered me wrong in ten years.) For example, this restaurant (which name I do not know) had crayons:  
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We got smart by day #3 and used ice cream as a bribe for making it through the day relatively unscathed. (There is an ice cream truck on every block which proved incredibly difficult because NO WE CANNOT HAVE ICE CREAM IT'S 10AM.) This place (pictured below) was two blocks from our apartment. And they had "child size" cups which I appreciate. (Smalls are NEVER small when it comes to Ice Cream. What is up with that, America? What is up?)
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For our second day, we spent the morning in Central Park... We toured Belvedere Castle and marveled at the butterflies in The Shakespeare Garden. It was beautiful. A string quartet played and the girls danced and we ate tortillas and apple slices and sprawled out in the shade.
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We searched out the nearest bathroom and listened to some jazz musicians play on our way back through the park. We sat on benches, chased each other around, looked for another bathroom. (And another.) And then, after stopping for lunch (which resulted in a disastrous meltdown), we headed back to our apartment to sit quietly and play Scrabble and cry.

And then later, in Chelsea... 
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ED: What happened to Chelsea? When did it become a mall? 

I felt similarly about The Highline. Which was beautiful and much adored... But also... a little... I don't know... sanitized? Los Angeles gets skewered for its propensity for phony but I felt completely blindsided this trip by a very different kind of Manhattan. Everything felt new and shiny... brick and stone replaced with metal and glass. Dirt replaced with tiny rocks...  trees with bamboo... LA does that, too. We knock down our historic homes and replace them with eco-friendly boxes with gray stone yards. But LA is a child in comparison. LA is a new city -- its oldest structures 150 years old. NYC is an old soul, made of stone and poetry... but now?

My brother in law, a New Yorker, sent me the link to this piece by Zadie Smith, which echoed a lot of what I felt. (He agreed that the city has transformed quickly over the last several years.)

...For three whole blocks before I gave up trying to shepherd our crew forward and sat down, bare feet in the water feature (lovely) and watched my kids soak their clothes from heel to shoulder until dinner time happened and we hightailed it home. 
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ED: I really wanted to do The Statue of Liberty this trip but it didn't happen. Next time, I hope. Ellis Island, too. (My kids' names originated from Ellis Island... when Isaac's son, Wolf exited the boat from Poland, just two short generations ago... But I was far more excited about it than the kids were... in a few years, I'm hoping that will change.)

In the end, though, Central Park was the highlight. I realized this trip, we are park people. We like gardens. All of us are at our best in a shady spot surrounded by plants. Maybe because gardens are our go-to destinations here in LA but there's something about the garden lyf that appeals to all of us. It always feels like home. It's where we find our family zen.
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(Thank you, Ashley for recommending The Shakespeare Garden/Belvedere Castle. It was magic.) 
And so, on this ye family vacation, 2015, one of the many takeaway lessons was this: when in doubt, find a garden. 
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What about you guys? Where do you take your kids in NYC? I would love to hear from the New Yorkers in the house and also those of you who have traveled there with small children. Where do you recommend?