Friday, February 28, 2014

Looking Back: New York City with kids - FAO Schwarz and Central Park

The kids were very aware of some of the sights they wanted to see during our trip to New York, namely FAO Schwarz and Central Park. We took the day to walk along 5th Avenue, a short walking distance from our hotel, The Marriott Marquis, which is conveniently located in Times Square.

Our first stop was FAO Schwarz, the iconic toy store, which holds the title of "oldest toy store in the United States". Upon entering, you are greeted with a huge selection of life-sized stuffed animals, which the kids liked checking out. When we visited in 2011, the Smurfs movie was the theme of the lower level so they had a good time looking at the recreations from the newly-released movie.

There is something for every child here for sure. My 10-year-old daughter, S, couldn't be happier when she spotted the Harry Potter section!

Of course everyone has to take a turn on the piano from the movie, Big.

The dress-up section is sure to win over the heart of any little girl.

And the Lego section has an endless selection, perfect for your little builder!

All in all our kids agreed FAO Schwarz was an absolute must-see!

Our next stop was Central Park. The south end of the park was a relatively short walk from FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue. The transition from city sidewalks to peaceful park paths was welcome after a few days in the city. Central Park's lush green landscape set amidst the urban backdrop provides 35 million visitors an escape from the city each year.

There are numerous activities in the park no matter the season. In the summer, there are over 20 playgrounds to help your little one burn off energy, possibly before or after a trip to the Central Park Zoo. The plentiful walking paths are great for a leisurely stroll or a self-guided walking tour. You may want to make reservations in advance for the popular horse-drawn carriage rides otherwise you will have to pay the "walk up rate". The park also hosts many concerts and Shakespeare in the Park during the warm months. In the winter, it is transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland. Ice Skating at the Wollman or Lasker Rinks is a fun family activity with lockers, lessons, and skate rentals available at both locations. If indoor activities are more your thing, kids are sure to love the Swedish Marionette Theatre.

Our kids loved stopping off at one of the playgrounds and letting loose for a bit. Miss A, in particular, loved doing gymnastics.

The kids had a great time spinning on the carousel.

And we all enjoyed sitting on a shady bench, listening to a violinist play.

Our first family trip to New York City was one of our favorite trips ever. The kids are always asking when we will go back - still to this day! We got to cross some items off our travel bucket list for now and look forward to our return when we can explore even more of The Big Apple.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Looking Back: New York City with kids - The Bus Tour

Our second day in the city was spent touring and exploring aboard a double decker bus! We took the City Sights NY bus tour, which I highly recommend. This bus features only open-top seating, offering the best views. After all, who wants to sit below? Not us! If you are concerned about inclement weather, no worries - you can sport a complimentary poncho!

My mom, husband, and kids after our unexpected downpour from the top deck!

We were caught in a torrential downpour due to the fact that we were too busy sightseeing to bother to check the weather report...lesson learned! After the rain passed, however, we all had a great time. The commentary via our guide was humorous and informative. Of course the best part of the tour is hopping on and off wherever you please.

We loved seeing the Empire State Building and iconic Macy's on 34th Street:

....the Flatiron Building and Southstreet Seaport:

....neighborhoods such as Chinatown, The East Village, Greenwich Village, and the Lower East Side:

....and last but definitely not least, Ground Zero. While Ground Zero resonates with sadness of the lives lost on September 11, it also resonates with the American spirit, which rose above the terror that threatened us Americans on our own soil. During our visit in 2011, the Freedom Tower was still under construction so we spent most of our time in St. Paul's Chapel, which remained amazingly unscathed given it's close proximity to the World Trade Center. St. Paul's Chapel became a place of refuge for workers at the World Trade Center Site in the days following the attacks.

Inside St. Paul's Chapel

I remember watching the horrific events of September 11, 2001 unfold on TV while playing with my then-6-month-old baby girl. Her innocent, cherubic face, was a bright light on this harrowing day and the days to follow. Ten years later we were now reflecting together at the location of the attacks, she now a 10 1/2 year old girl.

My oldest daughter, age 10, thoughtfully writing out a remembrance card

After we spent time inside, we explored the grounds. St. Paul's Chapel held it's own in the history department prior to September 11. George Washington worshipped at the Chapel on his innaugeration day in 1789 while Rudolph Guiliani gave his farewell speech from the Chapel in 2001. Many other famous world leaders have worshipped here as well. We were all intrigued by the old cemetery in the back which is the final resting place of many notable people.

Beautiful, peaceful grounds and cemetery at St. Paul's Chapel

In the evening, we ate at what our kids proclaim is their "favorite New York restaurant", Ellen's Stardust Diner. The restaurant is located near Broadway so it's a great place for dinner, pre-show. We had a great time with the singing waitstaff who are clearly Broadway bound. What a fun way to end a great touring day.