In August we went to the USA to see relatives in the north of New York state. I’m not a city-break person but who could pass up the opportunity to see New York City just one time? We do like to tick boxes on our family trips and now I can say we have done the Big Apple.
It’s quite difficult to plan a good trip to NYC when I have never held any ambitions to see it. Most people I’ve spoken to seem to get pretty excited and have dreams about the place. It’s easy to get recommendations from other people so that’s what we did. I think we had the perfect itinerary to try the variety of experiences in this great city and tick those tourist boxes – with a little inspiration from Frank Sinatra’s song!
1. We Can Make it There – Ride a Yellow Cab
The yellow cabs in the streets are a classic image of New York City and we took a cab from the airport to our hotel on arrival. It’s a good way for a family to travel to Manhattan as it is a fixed price. The JFK cab dispatcher will allocate a car which will fit all of you and your luggage. The highway was dirty and the neighbourhoods were drab and run down at first. Fizz said her heart began to sink on that journey as it all looked a bit grim but then we got to Manhattan and impressive skyscrapers rose around us. At the hotel the cab driver unloaded most of our luggage but drove off with my new hiking stick before I could stop him!
2. Wake up in the City that Never Sleeps – Wellington Hotel
Things immediately began to look up when we got to the Wellington Hotel. Not knowing what we wanted to do in New York, we selected the best located hotel we could find with lots of tourist fun on our doorstep. The Wellington Hotel completely nailed this. Just a step outside the front door and we could see Central Park to the right and Times Square to the left. The subway entrance was adjacent to the side door of the hotel. It all seemed so easy!
Our room was a deluxe suite. When you are jet-lagged you all want to sleep at different times so it was an absolute godsend to have the living room with a comfy sofa and separate bedroom. There were two big beds – in fact one of them was so huge it was as wide as it was long. Each room had air conditioning and a large TV.
There were large closets and several tables, two desks and drawers plus a little dining area. The kitchenette had a fridge, kettle and microwave and the hotel provided Styrofoam cups on request. There were not any plates or cutlery available, but this is normal in a USA hotel, as my frequent-flyer husband will tell you. It’s just a 3 minute walk (past Carnegie Hall) to a supermarket selling paper plates and plastic cutlery.
We couldn’t hear traffic because our windows overlooked the central light well, although there was a hum from the hotel fans. We didn’t have mobile phone service in the room, I think the tall building was blocking it out, but it worked fine in the hotel lobby. Wifi is an additional charge, but you can connect two devices free if you book direct with the hotel. The room was always promptly cleaned to a high standard and there were plenty of staff including porters. It was a great stay.
3. These Vagabond Shoes – A Walk in New York
Everyone told us to walk New York, the best way to see it. Despite losing my hiking stick, my sore foot was having a good week and we walked miles. Through Times Square, past TV crews recording entertainment news. Along the High Line, which was once a raised railway line but is now a very long, thin park. Through Central Park where five brides and two dance-troupes were having professional photo-shoots. Along Broadway, past buskers, limousines, pretzel sellers and people hawking horse and carriage rides. Visiting famous shops like M&Ms and B&H Photo. It’s undeniably lively. We also took the Staten Island Ferry as foot passengers which is free. That got us a closer view of the Statue of Liberty.
4. King of the Hill! Make it to the Top
Manhattan is famous for its skyscrapers so we had to get to the top of one and see the awesome view. We chose the Rockerfeller Center aka “Top of the Rock”. We wanted a view of the Empire State Building and you can’t see it if you are on it! It was a great choice with good views of Central Park and the classic view south towards lower Manhattan. M hates heights but he was completely fine because the terraces were huge with big edges and fences. I loved seeing the rivers and the shape of the island. Thanks to jet lag we were in the queue at 7.45 am and so it wasn’t crowded.
5. In Old New York – The Museum of Natural History
It rained heavily one day and we abandoned our idea of an Ellis Island boat trip and chose the Museum instead. I love the movie set here “A Night At The Museum” so this was a great box to tick. We saw a few of the star exhibits of the movie such as the Easter Island head, although many others don’t exist in real life. It’s a huge museum and we were there almost seven hours. In fact we had a big argument near the end of the day about whether we had seen it all. We hadn’t! Thankfully we did go on to find the moon and planetarium exhibit which was incredibly impressive.
6. Find A Number One – Stardust Diner
Even I know that New York is famous for song and dance routines. Without actually going to a Broadway show, a great way to get a flavour of the entertainment scene is to eat at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. The waiting staff are professional performers from Broadway, film and TV who work there between jobs. They get up on the tables and sing; there is entertainment the whole time. It was a fabulous atmosphere and our cheeks hurt from smiling!
I think we picked a great selection of things to see and do for our three days in New York City. It hasn’t turned me into a city break person but I do feel we have properly ticked the NYC box!
More New York City Family travel on this blog: Saving Money and Finding Bargains on a Trip to NYC. Photographers don’t miss my review of B&H Photo Store New York.
Disclosure: We paid for our own accommodation at the Wellington Hotel but were offered a free room upgrade in return for a review. All opinions expressed here are my own.