We were so excited to make New York City our vacation this year! We loved our time there two years ago, so we had a better idea of what to expect and we were in less of a hurry to see everything. There were definitely things we wanted to do again, some new things on our list, and a chance to explore the city with Daddy all day long. Keller took the time off as vacation, so he didn’t have to work in the afternoons this time around. One of our favorite things about visiting NYC is all the amazing food! We made a point of choosing cuisine from around the world and decided we would each pick ONE restaurant to return to on this trip. Otherwise we would go new places. We often ate a late lunch and called it “lunner” — covering both lunch and dinner for the day.
Originally we had plans to spend one weekend in NYC to celebrate my birthday. Min was going to keep the kids while we had a short weekend trip. In May, Keller ran across a classic rock concert that would be in NYC at the end of July. There were two bands playing that were on our bucket list, so we tried to figure out a way to make the concert happen. Min graciously offered to keep the kids the second weekend as well.
Now the puzzle turned into what to do for those two weeks in between. It seemed silly to fly to NYC for the weekend, fly home, then fly back two weeks later. Southwest Airlines to the rescue! Southwest allows kids to fly unaccompanied at 5, so we decided to make the trip happen. Keller and I flew up first, enjoyed a weekend solo, the kids then flew up for two weeks, before we sent them back to Min and we had one more adult-only weekend. It was great!
A huge thank you goes to Min for being willing to keep the kids both weekends and send and catch them on either side of the trip. The kids had a great experience on both flights — we were able to take them all the way to the gate and catch them on the ramp coming off the plane. They pre-boarded with a flight attendant and sat in the front of the plane. Caden’s favorite part was that he could play on his DS for as long as he wanted — there wasn’t a parent to tell him it was time to turn it off! Kamy and Caden are totally up for flying solo anytime.
We decided to stay in Astoria again — the same building! We knew the manager and the location, and we were confident that we knew what we were getting into. Fortunately we were able to stay in two of her units and just switch between them due to availability. Since they were both on the same floor, it was easy. The location can’t be beat and the 15 minute subway ride to Manhattan was perfect.
Friday — Keller and Chione flew to La Guardia after leaving the kids with Min in DFW. We had a room booked at Grand Hyatt at Grand Central Terminal. Since we weren’t sure what all we were going to do on our weekend sans-kids, we figured we couldn’t go wrong with being in the middle of everything. Dinner was at Raymi (Peruvian), where we had an exceptional meal, including Keller’s favorite dish of the trip — octopus. After dinner we went to the Smoke jazz club in the Upper West Side. We were a bit disappointed with the group playing, but we enjoyed our evening together regardless.
Saturday — We met up with Keller’s boss and his wife, Rob and Jamie, at Grand Central before taking the subway down to Brooklyn. We wandered around the park and waterfront before having a delicious lunch at Juliana’s. Yes, still my favorite pizza place ever, and it counted as my “repeat restaurant” pick.
From there we headed to the Brooklyn Naval Yard for the Formula E race. Keller bought tickets for the race way back in January as my birthday present. I liked the race — it wasn’t loud, we were close enough to see several of the turns, and the 45 minute race was just long enough to enjoy without getting bored.
After the race, the four of us had dinner at Nano (Ecuadorian) in Hell’s Kitchen. This was a restaurant repeat for Keller, and we knew it would be good!
Sunday — First thing in the morning, we moved all our stuff to the apartment in Astoria. The kids would check one small bag with their overnight stuff, but otherwise Keller and I brought all their clothes in our suitcases. We ate breakfast at the Breakfast Shack food truck in Astoria, which was delicious.
Then we walked down to Kaufman Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image. We were glad to visit the museum, since we skipped this it last trip because the kids would not have been interested for very long. But we were!
From there we picked up kids at the airport. Catch! For dinner, we had pupusas at Salvadoria (Salvadorian), just down the street from our apartment.
Monday — First on our list was the Bronx Zoo. We purchased a membership since two visits would exceed the cost of the family membership for the entire year. We enjoyed the kids’ zoo, watching the sea lions, the Congo exhibit, and the Butterfly Carousel again. The prairie dogs were particularly popular this time around.
The kids enjoyed the different activity stations set up around the zoo. One of their favorites was a little obstacle course.
After the zoo we ate lunner in Bronx Little Italy at Antonio’s Trattoria (Italian). We’d been here before, but we were a little disappointed this time around. The kids did enjoy nutella pizza for dessert though!
Tuesday — First thing in the morning, Keller snagged rush tickets for The Great Comet of 1812 musical that evening. The kids played at Diana Ross playground and we wandered over to the Belvedere Castle in Central Park where we met Daddy.
From there we went to the Swedish Cottage Marionette performance of The Princess, The Emperor, and the Duck. The kids really enjoyed the show — it was a great length for the kids’ attention span, and Caden thought the marionettes were so cool. We wandered to another playground in Central Park where they had a massive granite slide. A piece of cardboard made you go really fast!
We walked past the Central Park Zoo and then ate lunner at Obeo (Vietnamese fusion) in Hell’s Kitchen.
Wednesday — One of the new museums on our list was MoMath. It is a part of the ASTC passport program, so our admission was free. Even better! The kids really enjoyed the hands on exhibits, including building tessellations and puzzle mazes on the floor. The tricycles with square wheels were fascinating!
We had a quick snack at Excellent Dumplings (Chinese). We all need more practice with chopsticks before we can consider ourselves competent. Fortunately you can stab a dumpling with the chopstick. =)
Next we hurried to the Amsterdam Theatre to see Aladdin. Our seats were the first row in the balcony, so the kids had a clear view and they enjoyed all the songs and costumes.
Lunner was at Burger & Lobster (American / English). The burgers were pretty good (after we sent the first ones back for being way overdone) but the lobster was unimpressive. They did give us free desserts, which the kids enjoyed. That evening Kamy and I went to see The Phantom of the Opera! I love the music from Phantom, so I will happily see it just about any time. Kamy was able to keep up with the story with my whispers, so she liked it too.
Meanwhile, Daddy and Caden explored the 2nd Avenue subway and rode the subway across the Manhattan bridge after dark.
Thursday — Keller spent the day in Stamford for work. The three of us went to the Hall of Science in Queens. They had a small section of the museum set up as a Maker Space and reserved for non-school groups. The challenge was to build things you could find at an amusement park out of cardboard and tape. I think we did pretty good!
We spent a couple of hours at the museum before heading back to Astoria. We got dinner at the Crepes House in Astoria, just a few blocks from home. It was a little hole in the wall place with one table and 2 stools, so the kids sat while I stood to eat. We stopped for ice cream on the walk home too!
Friday — Back to the Bronx Zoo! This time we met up with Rob, Jamie, and their son Greyson. Greyson wasn’t very pleased about being in the stroller, but he did love the Bug Carousel!
The kids both made a handful of pressed pennies at the Bronx Zoo. Who knew those shiny pennies would come in handy? Kamy picked out a peacock and Caden chose another stuffed snake as their souvenirs from the gift shop. Caden also bought a rubber snake (subsequently named Rubber) with his savings.
After exploring a few hours, we all had lunner at Tra Di Noi (Italian) in Bronx Little Italy. It was a family restaurant a few blocks from the Zoo and it worked out great. The waiters were very friendly with all three kids and the food was tasty. Poor Rob and Jamie had to hike all the way around the Zoo to get back to their car, since the Zoo was closed by the time we got done with our meal. Oops! Everyone made it safely home though.
Saturday — After breakfast, we hurried to Times Square to get rush tickets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Fortunately there were plenty of seats, so we were able to get discounted tickets for that afternoon’s matinee performance.
Once we had the tickets in hand, we went down to Brooklyn for lunch at Juliana’s (Kamy’s pick for a repeat restaurant).
After delicious pizza, both kids rode Jane’s Carousel and we bought Kamy a t-shirt from the carousel.
We had just enough time to get back up to Times Square for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The musical itself was just okay — it was a weird hybrid of the two movies and the book and something totally new. It was a bit gruesome too, Violet explodes rather than being de-juiced. Less family friendly than I was expecting, but I did not really do my research and just assumed. My fault.
We made short detours to both M&M World where the kids filled a bag with M&Ms and Nintendo World to play with the new Switch console and look at the merchandise.
Dinner was quick Chinese from Fatima’s below our apartment. Keller then went back out to see Groundhog Day. No one would accuse us of not taking advantage of the musicals running while we were there!
Sunday — Caden’s repeat pick was brunch at Il Bambino (paninis). Kamy’s Must Do thing in NYC was the Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park. She specifically saved her money and brought it with her so she could ride it twice.
Then we wandered up the Hudson River and ended up at the Rockefeller Park playground and the tall slide at Teardrop Park.
We ate lunner at Samba (Brazilian) in Hell’s Kitchen. Last but not least was gelato from Amorino near Times Square. The presentation for their gelato is stunning, because they create roses by placing thin scoops of gelato in a flower pattern.
Monday — I scooted out to do some shopping at the various thrift shops in the Upper East and Upper West side of town. Meanwhile, Keller and the kids spent the morning at Gulliver’s Gate miniature world.
It is an incredible display of miniature settings from around the world — from The White House to the Pyramids of Egypt to the Taj Mahal. Artisans and craftsmen from around the world have been creating these displays and were still working on them when they visited. They were given keys which activated events in the displays too, like starting the parade or watching airplanes land at the airport. Keller and the kids spent more than two hours there! Kamy and Caden picked out ornaments from the gift shop to remember.
We met up for lunner at Joe’s Shanghai (authentic Chinese) in Chinatown. The crispy beef and steamed pork buns were both excellent. We even got ice cream at The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (another repeat, as it has Keller’s favorite ever mint chocolate chip shake). Keller grabbed a ticket to see the musical Dear Evan Hansen that night.
Tuesday — For lunch, we ate at Glady’s (Caribbean) in Brooklyn. We tried goat for the first time, and while it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t our favorite either. Then we walked through the Botanical Gardens in Brooklyn on the way to the Prospect Park Zoo. We didn’t stay long at the zoo — it just doesn’t compare to the Bronx location, so I grabbed a ticket for The Great Comet at Brooklyn TKTS booth.
Next we walked to the NY Transit Museum. The kids were more interested in the science behind the subway system than they were last time around and enjoyed all the subway cars. Since Caden loves the subway so much, he now has a t-shirt with a map of the Manhattan subway system. He wears it constantly!
We had some time to kill before our dinner pick opened at 5, so we stopped by a local playground for an hour. Dinner was adventurous at Awash (Ethiopian). Service was slow, so I had to eat as soon as it came in order to make my show on time. The food was not a hit for us. I don’t think there was anything wrong with it, I just think Ethiopian is too far out of our wheelhouse to appreciate. Keller and the kids went back home for the night. I had great seats for the show and really enjoyed the performance.
Wednesday — Poor Caden was sick! We’d spent the last 10 days telling him to keep his fingers out of his mouth and to stop touching everything, but unfortunately it caught up to him. Caden and I stayed home to rest. Keller and Kamy went to BestBuy and then Kamy rode the Bryant Park carousel. The two of them got lunch at Untamed Sandwiches near the Park which was reportedly excellent. Keller got matinee tickets for another Broadway show that afternoon and then the four of us had dinner at San Aroy Thai Kitchen in Astoria.
Thursday — Coney Island was on the agenda today! We stopped for lunch at Panino Rustico (paninis) on the long subway ride down there.
The kids played on the beach and then each had $20 for rides.
Dinner was in Brooklyn at Colombia (Columbian) and it was delicious. Keller and Kamy tickets got last minute tickets to see Wicked. They almost missed their show because they had to hunt down a printer since the box office wouldn’t take e-tickets on Keller’s phone. They made it just in time! They also waited by the stage door when the musical was over and Kamy met the actresses who played Elphaba and Glinda and they signed her Playbill program. She LOVED it!
Meanwhile, Momma and Caden went shopping at a few Goodwill outlet, hunting for raincoats. The weather forecast was calling for significant rain the coming weekend during the concert, so raincoats were a high priority. Before taking the subway back home, I treated Caden to an enormous soft serve frozen yogurt, which Caden freely admitted was too big and too many sprinkles to eat it all. =)
Friday — Our last day with the kids meant a trip to The Met. We focused on the American wing and Renaissance sculpture. We still have seen only a fraction of the museum, but maybe next time we will explore a different wing.
Lunch was at Brindle Room (American). The reviews weren’t kidding — the Brindle Room makes an amazing burger. Keller says it is top 5 burgers he’s had and we even ordered a third burger before we left! It was simple but delicious.
Keller then took the kids to play at Heckscher Playground in Central Park while I ran a few errands. An hour later I joined them, but the kids were having a blast, so we let them play. They played on and around the massive rock for two and a half hours! It was a great, iconic NYC way to end the kids’ time in New York.
Saturday — First thing in the morning we took the kids to airport. We didn’t have any trouble and the kids were off and on their way! Catch Min! She caught them just fine, their flight was in early and had no issues. They’re ready to fly solo again any time! Then Keller and I ran by the apartment and got ready for The Classic East concert at Citi Field. We had lunch at El Chivito D’Oro (Uruguyan). It was a simple, busy, neighborhood restaurant with massive meat plates. We split the one person meal and it was more than enough! (Yes, that is an order for one.) We enjoyed most of the meat, but just couldn’t handle the blood sausage. We tried it though!
Then we took the subway further out in Queens for The Classic East concert. We saw the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, and The Eagles. The Doobie Brothers were very good, Steely Dan was okay, and The Eagles were all I hoped they’d be! Obviously it was a little different since they had some people filling in for Glenn Frey, but the music was excellent. We had a blast!
Sunday — Sunday morning we packed our suitcases for our flight the next morning. Then we took the subway to lunch at Spicy & Tasty in Flushing (Chinese) and dessert at Spot Dessert bar. Spot was different and fun — all their desserts are large, elaborate concoctions designed to be shared. We split three different desserts, but our favorite based on flavor was the Green Forest. The Flower Pot was quite creative though!
We went to the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and saw their exhibition of Tiffany lamps and the NYC panorama created for the 1964 World Fair. To top off our incredible trip, we went back for day two of The Classic East concert: Earth Wind & Fire, Journey, and Fleetwood Mac. Earth Wind & Fire were high energy and fun, Journey was iconic, and Fleetwood Mac was incredible. It was a perfect ending!
Monday — Up early, we flew home, ate at lunch at Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill in Addison, picked up kids from Min’s house, and drove home.