To beat the winter blahs, we decided to pack up the kids after work one Friday night and drive into New York City for the weekend. It was a good plan, except that there was a snowstorm, so the highway driving was a bit harrowing. Fortunately, not many travelers were foolish enough to be on the road, so we didn't encounter much traffic. (Yes, we probably should have stayed home, but the hotel was prepaid!) Braving the wintery weather and arriving close to midnight, we were relieved to find that New York really is the city that never sleeps.
In spite of the late hour, there an alert staff at the front desk ready to help us up to the room with our bags. I chose the hotel, The Lucerne, mainly for its proximity to the Natural History Museum (1 block away), but this little hotel on the Upper West Side turned out to be a real find that suited us perfectly. Its not a luxury hotel by any means, but was quite comfortable, clean, quiet and staffed by very helpful people.
Although the area is mainly residential and, thankfully, mostly free of late night revelers, there are plenty of nearby restaurants to choose from. We didn't explore them, however, because we found that the lobby restaurant, Nice Matin, was perfect for breakfast and dinner. Again, the staff was very helpful, especially with the kids. With a french bistro menu and casual, bustling atmosphere, this was clearly a favorite with locals and travelers alike. Distinguished looking older New Yorkers, artsy young couples, and well-heeled children in italian leather shoes all gathered to enjoy the good food and efficient service. The french toast was the best I've ever had and my daughter enjoyed the most beautiful bowl of hot chocolate ever.
With our cozy base established, after breakfast on Saturday we took a windy walk through Central Park towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although there was some complaining about the distance and the high winds, it is a very doable walk and the kids liked exploring the serpentine paths, bridges and castle along the way.
Once at the museum the highlights for my eldest son were the ancient Egyptian mummies, medieval weapons, and the knights-in-shining-armor displays.
My daughter was entranced by Degas' Tiny Dancer, his ballerina paintings, and the colorful impressionist paintings.
I tried to take a picture of my youngest son, but he was a little grumpy from all the walking and cheekily quipped "How about a picture of me in the back of a TAXI, on the way back to the hotel?" Oh well, art isn't for everyone!
Maybe he'd like the American Museum of Natural History better, so after a quick lunch in the museum cafe, we headed back across the park to see some dinosaurs and fossils. (Still no cab for him though, we were adamant that we were going to walk the city!)
As you can imagine, on a cold blustery winter day, this popular museum was PACKED. So our visit was a bit abbreviated, but still we got to see some good stuff: the wild animal displays, the Teddy Roosevelt exhibits, dinosaurs, Attila the Hun, the life-sized Blue Whale model, and the dazzling rocks & mineral cases. If we'd had more stamina we probably would have liked the 2 hour "Night at the Museum Tour," but in my book its always better to quite while your ahead. Next time.
Finally, exhausted by their crash course in culture and nature, we walked back to the hotel for a cat nap before dinner. Fortunately, there was no need to dress-up or fight for reservations downtown when we had such an easy option in the lobby. Without even having to put on our coats or hail a cab, we enjoyed another good meal at Nice Matin. The kids had steak and frites (which the waitress kindly brought out early for them) while we had cocktails, mussels provencal, sole milanese and wine. Honestly, after the first cocktail I would have been charmed by most anything, but even the kids were won over by the enormous plate of cookies offered for dessert.
On Sunday morning, we headed for a more somber visit to the 9/11 Memorial. My eldest was born in Washington, D.C., in 2001, just days after the 9/11 tragedy, so we felt it was especially important for him to see the former World Trade Center site and learn more about the events of that day.
Staring down the seemingly bottomless open wells at the site where the towers once stood was very moving. You can see the water pouring down in the pictures above. We would have liked to visit the site sooner, it was somehow comforting to visit it now that the new buildings are taken flight towards the blue sky. Although the museum is not yet open, but you can stop in the visitor center on the way out for a short film or to purchase books and memorabilia.
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Kid Trips' blogs profile fun events and cool family-friendly venues. We focus on regional and national family travel articles.
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