I visited New York City with my wife and 2 1/2 year old son. My wife was visiting mostly for business and I provided most of the childcare. The weather didn’t really cooperate much as it was sweltering and tremendously muggy. Most days I felt a combination of par boiled, fried, sauteed and grilled. After what we hoped would be a cooling rain, the weather only returned to its former steamy condition. But I was able to see and do some wonderful things with my son.
An extraordinary museum visually and intellectually. The displays were a little too advanced to capture my son’s interest. But I thought the video displays in the Whale Room (displaying a full size great blue whale hanging from the ceiling!!) were tremendously compelling along with the other exhibits. The Rose Space Center, with its enormous planets suspended in air is also amazing.
Who ever heard of a New York hotel whose staff actually makes its guests feel WELCOME?! Staff (from the maids to the Concierge) say: “How can I help you?”, “I’m glad I could help,” etc. If you’ve lived in NYC any length of time this type of service is nothing short of miraculous.
Not to mention that the prices can be quite lower than the finer Manhattan hotels (especially on weekends). The rooms are standard, nice Marriott-type (a bit on the small scale, but this is NYC after all). The hotel is a five minute walk to the Brooklyn Promenade with its fine view of the lower Manhattan skyline. A short walk to Cobble Hill or Montague Street takes you to excellent restaurants including Harvest, Saul and many others. If you like bakeries as much as I, you shouldn’t miss Sweet Melissa Patisserie on Court Street (Cobble Hill). The chocolate desserts are rich, dense and just plain wonderful. You are a 10 minute subway ride from Wall Street. I traveled from Queens MOMA to the hotel by subway in less than 30 minutes. That’s pretty fast!
MOMA Queens is hosting a fascinating Ansel Adams exhibit. Unfortunately, it’s nothing like the monumental Adams photographs that MOMA displayed about ten years ago. But it’s a great exhibit nonetheless. Most interesting from my perspective were the prints developed from the same negative but decades apart. By comparing the elements of each print, you could see how Adams’ vision changed or developed based on the changes in emphasis between the two prints. The later prints are more pictorially dramatic. In a shot of a stand of birch trees, he brings out the white bark of the some of the trees, but leaves others in shadow creating a sharply contrasting effect. While in the earlier print of the same image, he is content to bring a single tree and its leaves into the forefront and leave the rest in shadow. One gets the impression that the later images are more highly “worked over” to develop certain effects while the earlier ones retain a certain simplicity.
I made the mistake of taking the hotel concierge’s advice and took my son to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum instead of the Manhattan Children’ Museum. After a short subway ride and excruciatingly long walk (carrying my son the entire 12 blocks), we discovered that the museum’s summer hours begin at 1 PM (which the concierge didn’t know about). A merciful security guard bent the rules and allowed us entry. Jonah loved the toddler playroom with a nice water feature filled with cups and boats and plastic boxes filled with dolls, trucks, etc.
There was a mock pizza parlor which allowed him to run the whole show from buying and selling the pies, eating them and baking them (with all the fixins) complete with wooden paddle. What a blast!
There was a dinosaur display with motorized animals roaring in your ear. One mamasaurus had her little babies with her. The babies scampered around their nest through some sort of motor mechanism. Jonah toured around this several times.
I didn’t realize that the museum is in Crown Heights, a minority neighborhood. During the entire time there, we were the only white faces we saw. I never felt threatened in any way. But it felt odd to witness such a stark racial separation or barrier while walking the streets.
Jonah had his first visit to the 72nd Street Boat Basin, which made a strong impression. There were two trumpet players playing ballads and battling for attention around the basin. It was stiflingly hot so Jonah had his first fruit popsicle, which melted naturally (he doesn’t eat very fast). When the thundestorm struck we made a beeline for home.
Van Saun Park (Paramus, NJ)
My brother took us to Van Saun Park, a Bergen County park. It is one of the best parks for children I’ve ever seen with a creditable zoo (seeing a mountain lion made me realize how beautiful and frighteningly strong they are…they roam our Cascades mountains here in the NW), narrow gauge railway (my son is a great Thomas the Tank Engine fan), pony ride and carousel. A group of Indians were playing cricket on a playing field, which I’d never seen played live. All the facilities are beautifully maintained. This is a kid’s paradise.
As we prepared to leave the park, my sister in law told me that my grandparents were buried quite close by in a Paramus cemetery. I would’ve loved to visit their graves (they died in the mid-1970s) but will have to save this for another trip.
New York’s playgrounds get a big thumbs up. The ones we played in were even bigger and more extensive than the ones here at home in Seattle.
We didn’t get to the Staten Island ferry unfortunately. My son loves the water and boats or all kinds, especially ferries. Next time.
I have to add a postscript about airport travel. I owe a profound apology to Newark Airport since two years ago I had the trip from hell thanks to Newark and I panned it heavily in an airport discussion group. This trip both incoming and outgoing flight experiences were wonderful. Almost no lines, everything works, there’s plenty of food options. Seatac, on the other hand, is a zoo. I read in a travel magazine that Seatac’s communications director said that the security lines sometimes snake all the way out the parking structure!! This is inexcusable. Before 9/11, Seatac was a busy but well functioning airport. Now, it is a busy and barely functioning airport. I understand the critical need for good security, but if Neward can handle this why can’t Seatac? A recent New York Times article rated Seatac one of the worst airports for security delays. Guys, fix it.