New York – pint sized edition

This little cutie is coming to visit in May

I often wonder what it’s like to be a kid in this city. I have seen the nannies on the upper west side struggling with strollers and wandering 3 year olds, dads taking their sons to central park to play catch or explaining the cosmos after a visit to the natural history museum, the groups of mothers meeting for play dates. I’m not sure how they do it, but I can understand why they do. This city is wondrous. It provides enough fodder to ignite the imagination of any child. I am 28 and I still get awestruck when I look up at the Chrysler Building , or see the New York skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge, or pop out of the subway in the evening under the bright lights of Times Square.  I’ve been making mental notes for the day of places to go when one of my nieces, nephews or god kids come out for a visit.

American Museum of Natural History – 79th @ Central Park West

This is one of my favorite places in New York, part of the reason is the little gasps from kids walking in (I feel the same way). This museum is gigantic, you can see a diorama of a blue whale, cower under dinosaur skeletons, observe butterflies in the conservatory and then sit back and listen to Whoopi Goldberg tell you about the birth of stars. They have a lot of kid specific activities too. It can be a lot to take in if you try to see everything in one visit. My suggestion is to skip out on all the various human diorama exhibits.

Central Park Zoo

I’ve never been here, so I’m actually really excited for the chance to check it out. I wonder what they do in the winter?

Central Park (in general)

There are so many things in the park for kids to enjoy: a small carnival, a castle, a zoo, fishing, boat rides, model boat sailing and lots of open space to run around on.

Brooklyn Bridge (park & the walk across into Manhattan)

Walking seemingly precariously over traffic & water, with the wind whipping your hair and loose ends of clothing about, there is nothing like a bridge to bring a little thrill to a day. There is a beautiful park on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, perfect for a little picnic (grab a pizza from Grimaldis & sit in the grass).  South Street Seaport is close by on the Manhattan side of the bridge and offers something similar to fisherman’s wharf in San Francisco. There is also a really cool playground shaped like a boat, near the Seaport.

Serendipity

This may be more of a little girl thing, but I think Serendipity is fun. There are all kinds of restaurants like it. The food is ok but the atmosphere is whimsical, like you fell down the rabbit hole and are now in Wonderland. I think their signature offering is the frozen hot chocolate.

That’s my short list of things to do with the kiddies. I’m sure there are a ton more fun things, so if you know of anything I must take Kian to, I’m open to suggestions.

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Inevitabilities

So you’re visiting New York, maybe for the first time or the first time in a long time. You have been living in the relative comfort of your California lifestyle; all sunshine, cruising with the top down, wide open spaces, relaxation. Here are a few things you should probably prepare yourself for:

Improv Everywhere - Tourist Lane

You’ve got legs, now use ’em!

You are going to walk A LOT. To minimize the pain make sure to pack comfortable shoes. Don’t make the mistake of buying new shoes for your trip, you want ones that are well broken in. If you don’t want to stick out as a tourist, try not to go right for the sneakers. Flats for girls are a good option and there are all kinds of stylish street sneakers.

Prepare yourself for a brisk walking pace. If you want to avoid the white hot rage of the New York commuter, stand aside to gawk at the tall buildings and pretty lights. If I’m with you, please let me know if I’m walking to fast (sometimes I get into a zone).

You Will Get Lost

Manhattan is set up on a pretty good grid system. It doesn’t help much though when you pop your head out from the subway and have no idea if you’re looking north or south. I still get lost sometimes, and I remember visiting and walking block after block only to realize I just walked 10 blocks in the wrong direction. If you have a phone with apps it would be a good idea to download google maps and a subway map before heading out, it will help in a pinch. The quickest way to get your bearings though is to just ask someone.

Things are Expensive

That’s a picture of a $25000 sundae, it is also served here in NY. I want to estimate that the average mark up for stuff in Manhattan is $5. Want a beer? That will be $8 a cocktail $14-17. Dinner out in California would cost me about $20-30, here in New York it’s easily $35-50. I regularly shop at Whole Foods for groceries, my monthly rent check could easily rent me a nice sized CA condo.

NY is Dirty

Towering stacks of garbage bags, dog poop smeared on the street, rats on the platform, these are average sights on my morning commute. New York is a city with lots of people who produce garbage, with dogs that also produce their own special type of garbage and rats that like to sift through said garbage. Is it gross, absolutely but what are you going to do? My suggestion plug your nose and just keep walking, carry hand sanitizer & get over it.

“New Yorker’s are Jerks!”

This isn’t actually true, most people living here are pleasant, bright people. They are also incredibly busy and therefore generally don’t have time for B.S. That being said, there are also plenty of people in New York who are just bat sh*t crazy! Most of them are harmless, so just ignore them and you should be fine. If they can’t be ignored, then record it and put it on the internet

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Get Cozy

There are over a million people living in Manhattan, this doesn’t include the tourists and commuters who come in from the boroughs to work. They are all vying for space on an island that is approximately 23 sq. miles, it’s going to get crowded. My morning commute always reminds me of worker ants on an ant farm, there are just so many people trying to get to their individual jobs. My advice is to be patient. If the train is too crowded and the idea of being pressed against a total stranger freaks you out, wait for the next train it’s coming in the next 5 minutes. Streets too crowded? Take a break, sit down, get your bearings and work up the courage to brave the wave of people again. Many of the big tourists spots (Times Square, Union Square etc.) have plenty of seating for the weary tourist.

 

These are the things i hear the most complaints about so I thought I’d get them out of the way first. There are just certain things that come along with a big city, that gets a lot of tourists. If you get over them now you’ll have a more pleasant experience when you get here.

Tourist Tutorial

My friends the Washingtons let me know that they were planning a trip out to New York in May. I was ecstatic and have been mentally planning all of the fun things I can share with them. They aren’t my usual type of visitors and have presented some unique challenges in trying to figure out what would be most enjoyable for them. They are a family of three. Kian my godson is an adorable and precocious 2 year old. Jared is one of my favorite people, a picky eater and general skeptic of New York’s mass appeal. Krista is one of my oldest and dearest friends, likes good food, a good deal and is generally up for anything. As I was making my lists of Jared approved places to eat, Kian’s places to play, & Krista’s places to shop it occurred to me that most of the information I’m going to share with them is information I share with most people that visit so why not post it on the blog. So over the next few weeks I’ll share some of the places I think visitors should check out and what to skip, things to do with the kids, practical planning tips, where to eat, where to shop, and what ever else I think of.

Oh the places we’ll go..

I love having visitors. Being fairly new to New York I relish the opportunity to explore the city like a tourist. I recently had two of my good friends Megan & Katy come to stay for a bit. It was glorious good fun, lots of delicious food, long life affirming conversations and raucous laughter. We discovered new places together and savored some of the staples they look forward to enjoying when here. Here are a few of the highlights:

One last delicious bite

Luke’s Lobster : I actually discovered this place when my siblings were in town but I offered it up as a suggestion for potential lunch places to visit. They give a generous portion of lobster on a buttery roll. I don’t like lobster with too many fixins so the simplicity of these lobster rolls were right up my alley. The girls visited more than once which gives me the impression they liked it too.

St. Dymphnas: We had a hankering for some calamari while wandering St. Marks. This bar was a delightful surprise. An unassuming bright little bar. It felt like an italian place, but turns out it was an Irish bar. Cheeriest Irish bar I’ve ever been to. The girls and I had calamari, a cheese plate & beer lots and lots of beer.

Rebar: The magical land of Brooklyn is starting to grow on me. Finding places like rebar is one of the reasons. It had an inconspicuous entrance I figured it was just going to be another cramped NY restaurant but once the doors open you soon realize it’s bigger on the inside (like the Tardis!). The decor could best be described as log cabin resort. Beautiful iron gate doors act as a partition between the bar & restaurant. The tables are huge as if one big mighty tree was felled and fashioned into a dining table for the whole forest. The space is lit by a charming array of rustic chandeliers & lone low watt lightbulbs. The food was good! A bit pricey but delicious the polenta dish was a real stand out. A fun place to meet a bigger group.

Hester Street Fair: The name makes it sound much bigger than it actually is but what it lacks in size it makes up for  in charm. Situated in a little pocket between volleyball & tennis courts (don’t worry there are fences to keep the stray balls from flying toward your face) the fair houses a modest collection of artisans & food vendors. You can literally walk the whole fair in 2 min. We enjoyed sampling the food vendors (Luke’s Lobster is there!) and I managed to find a delicate little necklace just as I was losing hope in finding the perfect gift for a friend.

Serenity - the main ingredient Dragon Tears

Angel’s Share: The perfect place to take someone you want to impress. The bar is located behind an unmarked door in a busy yakatori restaurant. It’s usually pretty packed on the weekends but since we visited on a Wednesday early in the evening we managed to score a table in the back room. It is a classy places with dark wood, white gloved servers & $14 special cocktails made by mixologists.


Joe Shanghai: Soup Dumplings! This place is virtually on every “must eat” list when visitors roll through town. Two tidbits of advice: 1) The dumplings are a meal unless you want a ton of leftovers. For the average party of 3, 2 orders of the Dumplings (1 pork & 1 crab) and an appetizer or 2 (scallion pancakes & green beans are my favorite) are more than enough to satisfy. 2) If you’ve never had these type of dumplings first, watch the people around you and copy their technique otherwise prepare to have the inside of your mouth scalded by an explosion of soup. This place is popular and no frills so be prepared for a long wait and to share a table.

Momofuku Noodle Bar: David Chang is a rockstar of the NY culinary scene. He has a string of Momofuku restaurants around town varying in theme & exclusivity. We like to come here for the Ramen & Pork Buns. My perfect bowl of Ramen hinges on two criteria; the pork & the broth. The ramen here hits the pork portion of that criteria out of the park. Which is also why the pork buns are a winner. We didn’t go to the milk bar (which is a block over) but Momofuku also has excellent cookies which rival my beloved Levain cookies.

My list of places to take people is slowly growing. I try to take visitors to a combination of sure fire hits and new places we can test together. If you ever decide to head out to NY for a visit, I have a handy google map with markers for all of the places I’ve enjoyed.

Looking forward to your visit!