Friday, August 31, 2012

Eating and Shopping: A Quirky Guide to NYC with Kids

I'm a neighborhood girl, meaning I've always preferred the NYC neighborhoods with quiet streets and old brownstones. That being said, I had something of an epiphany on this last trip.

Downtown rocks.

One of the trickiest pieces of seeing NYC with kids is getting around. Even if you have an unlimited taxi budget there will be that moment when you are sitting in the back of a cab stuck in crosstown traffic (stop and go, stop and go, 1010 Wins on the radio) and wishing you could be anywhere else in the world.

Unless, of course, you are staying all the way downtown at the very tip of Manhattan.

All of New York's subway system converges in that tight little triangle. What this means, from a practical point of view, is no matter where you are in the city, when you and your kids hit fatigue overload all you need to do is locate the nearest subway stop and you can be back in your hotel room in approximately fifteen minutes.

"If we move back to the city I've decided I don't want a brownstone," I announced to my husband. "Instead I'm thinking a loft in Tribeca." He rolled his eyes and asked me if he should buy a lottery ticket.

Even though the West Village brownstone and Tribeca loft are pipe dreams, lunch at an iconic New York City restaurant was not. Thanks to prix fixe restaurant week, my daughter and husband had a date at Le Cirque. Afterwards she regaled me with details about the food, the flowers, the wonderful service. "It was a scene," said my husband, "and she fit right in."

While husband and daughter were dining with the 'ladies who lunch' crowd, my son and I were further downtown, standing on line at the original Danny Meyer's Shake Shack located in Madison Park. We had hot dogs and a Shack Attack. Chocolate ice cream, topped with chocolate, mixed with chocolate and delicious little chocolate crumbles on top.

We reconvened after our lunches at opposite ends of the price and service spectrum for a NYC tourism classic; The Empire State Building.

Nothing beats a view of New York from on high to get a real perspective of the city. Even though the day was overcast we could still pinpoint all the parks, landmark buildings and even the building where Child #1 spent the first two years of her life.

After soaking in the view, Child #1 and I decided to do a little shopping. But instead of Bloomingdales or Bendels we headed to an eastside branch of Pookie & Sebastian, my favorite hole-in-the-wall boutique.

While I browsed, Child #1 discussed her fashion design ambitions with the store's stylist. By the time I emerged from the dressing room the two of them were inspecting window displays together and by the time we left the store Child #1 had a new friend and a job offer, which only makes sense when you're ten and know your Missoni from your Moschino.

Which brings me to something obvious. The best, most personalized, moments in New York City (or any other travel destination) rarely occur in tourist hotbeds. They're the little moments, when you take time to travel away from the crowds, immerse yourself in a local spot and chat with likeminded people. The time it takes to find these out of the way spots is almost always worth the reward of the experience.

I won't be here on Labor Day, but will be back on Wednesday....happy last weekend of summer to you all!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The best spots are always off the beaten path.
And judging from the picture of your son in the subway, that was taken at the beginning of the day, wasn't it? Because I see no fatigue there!

Lisa Zhang Wharton said...

My son loves the subway systems. He loved to insert the ticket into the machine at the gate. He loved to hear the alarm ringing in China Town because so many people went in and out of the subway illegally.

Beylit said...

I've been to the Empire State building twice in my life and once to the top floor I never moved further than 10 feet from the elevator. I tried during my senior trip but fear of heights won out and I hugged the wall and asked repeatedly when we could leave. This was in the summer of 99, and our trip also included brunch at Windows over the World atop the World Trade Center. Talk about a nightmare. They sat us right against the windows. I had to actually sit with my back right against the glass so I couldn't see out, but still ended up not eating a bite and spending the entire time trying not to hyperventilate. Now I really wish I had been able to enjoy that moment more.

I always loved riding on the subway though which is weird because I sort of loath public transportation. It makes me nervous. I met a cute med student on the subway during that senior trip. Asked for my number and if I would have dinner with him. My chaperones were not amused.

Angela Cothran said...

Never been to NYC :( But it is at the top of my list of places to visit!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I could live in Tribeca. I used to live in Chelsea and liked it enough. The Wife used to live in Astoria, and it was really awesome. You're making me miss those days, Johanna.

Joanne Noragon said...

I am very impressed. I have been to the city and seen out of the way college student restaurants and shops more than once. I always had two adult children telling me which way to go, how fast to walk and that we could still get across the street. It was a lovely blur. Pretty much the opposite of your trip.

Jenny S. Morris said...

You have made me really, really want to visit NY. Thanks for sharing.

Johanna Garth said...

Alex, actually that's in the afternoon. For some unfathomable reason the subway system energized him.

Lisa, subways are like little boy heaven.

Beylit, I'm impressed you went up in the first place!

Angela, now you have a guide ;)

Joshua, this is the first trip where I could envision moving back and living there with kids.

Joanne, I have a feeling someday I'll be visiting my daughter there and she'll be shepharding me around.

Jenny, you really, really should :)

Anonymous said...

Kids was the main reason we left. Couldn't imagine doing it. Still unsure, but I do want to go back for a visit.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

It's definitely nice to chat with locals. That's why it's good to travel on your own because then you can choose where you want to go and see how people really live in that city.
Here in the Midwest people are usually pretty friendly to tourists, except some of them will keep talking to them even after the tourists start rapidly walking away.

Jemi Fraser said...

I haven't been to NY and the first time I go I'm sure I'll do a ton of the tourist traps - but I always prefer the places that are off the beaten path too! :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Love out-of-the-way spots :)
And the mother/daughter photo is priceless!

Happy Weekend :)

Emily R. King said...

I'd love to do this with my kids someday.

Your daughter is beautiful (like her mama).

Shell Flower said...

Sounds like such a fun trip. I've been watching Gossip Girl (I can't believe I'm admitting this) so I am thinking you were where that show is set, which is cool. Your daughter must have been in heaven with her fashion sense and all. NYC is the place to be for fashion :)

Chuck said...

This is sounding like a really good time...for you and the kids (sorry to Dad). BTW, I really noticed in that last picture that you could be a sister to my cousin! The image is uncanny.

The Bookworm said...

wow Johanna, it sounds like a great trip to NYC!