For the first time since our son was born, we took a real family
vacation. For a brief respite from the city, our first stop was to
visit our long-time friends in Fairfield County, Connecticut. These
days were filled with "shows" put on by our six (in total)
children, a trip to Kent Falls State Park, a Belgian chocolate
shoppe, and an adults-only dinner at the best restaurant in
Connecticut, right across the street from Yale. Then we headed into
the Big Apple on the Metro North to make our kids wish of seeing
the Statue of Liberty come true!
Every minute I was comparing New York with Chicago, and
measuring how kid-friendly it really was. I would have to sum it up
like this: New York is top-notch in its family friendliness, IF you
know what you're doing. Luckily, I have a friend and neighbor who
used to live in New York and gave me a lot of good tips. And being
a city parent already was the other piece to the puzzle.
First of all, like any good parent, you must actually make some
plans in order to have a smooth vacation with kids. This means
buying reserve tickets to the Statue of Liberty well in advance, to
avoid the snaking 4-hour line through Battery Park. This also means
planning some down time as well. You just can't see every museum
and architectural gem while dragging two kids along.
We did see a lot though, keeping the kids' choices and each of
our choices at the top of our list. Lady Liberty was all they
really wanted - and they both loved it - and Gabriella loved the
kids' audio guide there and at Ellis Island too. We also treated
them to their first-ever Ferris Wheel ride in the Times Square Toys
'R Us. We even enjoyed another dinner without the kids at a coveted
restaurant (thanks to a good family friend that lives in Manhattan
and babysat for us!).
We then had a chance meeting of one of my favorite celebrity
chefs, not at the restaurant, but on the street, saw the unique
Highline Park (or train-track park as Nicholas says), the Chrysler
Building ceiling mural, Grand Central Station, enjoyed dinner in
Chinatown in spite of the growing mounds of evening trash on the
sidewalk (Note: THANK YOU FOR OUR WELL-PLANNED ALLEYS, CHICAGO!), rode the
Central Park Carousel and chalked the rocks in Sheep Meadow (yes, I
packed sidewalk chalk and an inflatable ball), devoured Amy's
Bread, the Lobster Market and Jacques Torres' chocolate shop at the
Chelsea Food Market and even went grocery shopping at a bodega to
breakfast/snack in our lovely suite with kitchenette at the
Some other memorable things, but let's say, ummm, not
necessarily highlights: Gabriella screaming and crying for
the entire Ferry ride to Liberty Island. Fear of heights, and wind
sensory issues. Need I say more? We immediately cancelled our
plans to visit the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
An emergency bathroom trip that resulted in my noise sensitive son
Nicholas taking a face down duck-and-cover right on the floor of
the most disgusting Starbucks bathroom I've ever seen, all because
I flushed the toilet. But we did avoid pee in the stroller.
And last, but certainly not least, our ill-fated trip to LaGuardia
to head home. An accident and car fire closed the FDR expressway,
with us sitting in our taxi on it. We had to pay the taxi (thanks
for nothing) get ourselves, the kids and all our luggage across the
three lanes of stopped traffic and people milling around, climb
over an iron fence (thanks to the guy that helped David lift the
luggage over), walk back across the FDR on a pedestrian footbridge,
and find a new taxi on the street to take a different route to
LaGuardia so we wouldn't miss the last flight of the day. Note to
self: I thought you knew NEVER to book the last flight of the
Taking an urban vacation when you already live in an urban
environment is much less stressful, so we didn't have the
subway-mugging-walking down the street fear like I'm sure a lot of
NYC visitors do. And I have to hand it to New York. How smart are
they for planting gigantic suburban-chain restaurants right in the
heart of Times Square? Don't you know that Applebee's has a
good 2 hour wait for a table thanks to all those Ohio State fans!
We city folks preferred to find out from the locals where to
eat, other than a food timing-crisis trip to Q-Doba with our good
friends. Thanks to Babbo, Joe's Shanghai, Eataly, and the Chelsea
Market, we LOVED dining in New York. And that's coming from some
serious Chicago foodies. (Tru, Trotter's, Alinea, Everest,
I would definitely rate New York City high on my list of
family-friendly vacations. Use your urban parent sense, your travel
planning skills, and show your kids another great city. But don't
forget that you get to come home to the Second City, which will
always be first in my book.
See more of Heather's stories here.
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