As the title of my trip review shows, visiting New York City was not my idea of a vacation. I hate big cities, traffic, grime, heat, line-ups, shopping and loud noises...everything NYC is. You see, I was outvoted by the rest of my family...my hubby who loves unbearable heat, my daughter 19 and son 14.
Yes, I said I hate heat and there we were visiting New York during a heat wave. The good news is that the weather was sunny the whole week, the humidity not so bad, and the nights were warm and balmy.
We left Canada eh....Sunday July 14th. This was not without a hitch. Ten minutes after leaving home we realized we didn’t have our gps. We returned home, ransacked our house for one hour to no success. I proceeded to print off a gabillion google directions maps. It’s a good thing we did go home. My son had never locked the door. Never trust your 14 year old with important tasks. Maybe someone stole our 2 GPS’s during that 20 minutes we were gone.
Already behind schedule, we finally crossed the border into the USA via Buffalo. My son's long anticipated breakfast at Cracker Barrel ended up being at 3pm. Our first destination was the Holiday Inn Express West Point - Fort Montgomery where I snagged a pointbreaks deal: 2 rooms for 2 nights for 5000 priority points each. Lots of space before our New York visit. The day was spent touring and visiting with friends and the family shopped at Woodbury Commons. The drive up to and around this area was beautiful, hilly, calm, and breathtaking at times.
We left by 9am Tuesday morning and didn’t hit traffic until merging onto the 9A right after the George Washington Bridge. At this point, had I been driving, I would have turned around and went home. Everyone was impatient, honking, crazy, entitled. Thankfully, my husband never listens to me when I panic. We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express Madison Square Garden on 29th street shortly before 11.
On a block that is pretty bland, with lots of scaffolding everywhere, harmless homeless people sleeping, and 3 parking lots, the Holiday Inn stands out brightly and welcoming. The weekday staff was great and checked our luggage for us. We parked our car just down the street at Little Man Parking for $30 a night with hotel validation. This parking lot is gated up at night, so our car felt pretty secure. I used 35000 priority points for 1 reward night and paid for 3 nights which came to a total of $720. My price did go down $100 a couple weeks before leaving...so it pays to check. This was for a 2 double bed room. Breakfast each morning was a zoo but the staff did a good job keeping the food replenished. It was great coming back at the end of each day and having cold water available to refill our water bottles.
So...I sent the boys off to the American Museum of Natural History, the Shake Shack and Levain bakery. My daughter and I went shopping in the area of our hotel. We came back to drop off our bags and were able to check into our room at 1:30 pm. The rooms are nicely renovated, in an upscale manner, modern but very compact...about the size of a cruise ship room. My daughter and I had a conversation about it. I told her it was okay....it was like a little oasis in the city. According to her, we had apparently been talking about her hair. Now, I always tell her her hair looks like a little oasis.
I had made reservations for us at the Nougatine for 2:45....a 3 course fixed lunch for $32 that I had read about here on TA. Thanks to google maps and Endermihn’s “Absolute Beginner's Guide on How to Use the NYC Subway” here on TA, we bought our 7 day unlimited passes at the self-serve machine and jumped on the right train within 2 minutes. The subway was HOT, grimy, sweaty, stinky. In fact, the whole city was hot, grimy, and very stinky at times..granted there was a heat wave going on.
As the doors to Jean George shut behind us, the craziness, heat, honking, noise of the city disappeared. I had requested a table with a view and we were seated at a table looking on Central Park. Some people were dressed up, others were not. I wore a simple jersey skirt and tank top but didn’t feel out of place. The appetizers were good, our entrees were melt in your mouth delicious (I had the salmon), and the dessert was yum!. It was just a special meal but I wouldn’t want to pay more for it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping. We popped into Tiffany’s. My daughter ended up spending a lot of time at Uniqlo which had a terrible bench seats and Anthropologie which had a great couch to sit on while she shopped. At 7:30pm we met up with the boys to go to the Top of the Rock. Sunset was at 8:34. The line was crazy. We couldn’t get tickets until 8:35 and once on top...it was insanity. The top level was claustrophic, full of people jostling around. The other levels were packed but shortly after 9pm it was almost empty. So...if you plan on doing TOTR at sunset, make sure you buy tickets ahead. My daughter did manage to get some pictures at dusk and night but missed out on daytime shots. Oh well.
At about 10 pm we walked to Time Square. Insanity, wall to wall people, smelly, spent about 10 minutes here and continued our walk back to hotel. I’m not sure what the draw is here.
We took the subway to Brooklyn and toured around. We had lunch under the Brooklyn bridge at the smokestack building. My son ate at the no.7 sub and the rest of us ate at Luke’s Lobster. I had my first Lobster roll which was soooo good. I headed back to the hotel while the rest of the family walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and went shopping at Century 21. My husband could have spent more time there but my daughter did not like the prices. At 7pm, I met up with my very hot and grumpy family around Bleecker Street Records. I had 3 restaurants picked out for dinner and we settled on Tacombi with the indoor food truck. I loved Tacombi. Even though it was loud and chaotic it was a good loud and chaotic. The food tasted real and so tasty. Our meal with 1 beer, 2 drinks, 3 apps, and 2 tacos each came to about $80 with tips.
I had a 3 hour tour booked with Oasis biblical tours at 10:30am. My phone died and our alarm never went off, we slept in, and ran out of the hotel to catch the M4 bus which goes all the way down Madison Ave to the Met. We made it in time but got lost in the MET not realizing there were two levels of entrances. We finally figured this out and found our guide. The Metropolitan Museum was great....and not just because it was air conditioned. Having been to amazing museums in Greece and Paris, I thought there’s no way I could be impressed with another museum. I was wrong. This is a beautiful museum with wonderful exhibits . Some areas were crazy busy, other areas were quiet. Having a tour guide was amazing. That night we booked another tour for Saturday morning before we left.
After the MET, we walked through a sweltering Central Park to Todd English’s Plaza Food Hall. This was our most expensive meal of the trip but was really nice. The ridiculously tiny portion of parmesan fries and sweet potato fries were in fact really good. We also ordered a tuna two-way and a lobster sushi rolls. Melt in your mouth delicious! The greek salad that came in a cube shape was fine and more plentiful than it first looked. The prime rib sliders were the best sliders I’ve ever had in my life, and the Brooklyn spaghetti and meatballs (my son’s pick) was surprisingly pretty good too. $120 plus tip. Not a whole lot of food but very good! We finished off with a strawberry shortcake macaron ice cream sandwich at the Francois Payard booth in the more informal food court next to the restaurant. YUM!
We walked down 5th and the kids spent the evening at Uniqlo shopping. They really liked this store and the prices are great.
Friday was 37 degrees. In Fahrenheit, that is....really really really hot. I actually came up with a great plan on this day. We started off with an ice coffee at Starbucks. I kept my cup all day, getting it refilled with ice cubes everywhere I went. At 11:30am we did the Original Greenwich Village Food Tour with Foods of New York ($49 each). We met at Murray’s Cheese Shop and made 8 Food Stops, all amazingly yummy. Rahim was a great guide. He tried to keep us as cool and entertained as possible. We enjoyed learning about the neighborhood and the architecture. The whole family loved this tour. Our stop at Palma’s had me wishing we could have returned for dinner.
We took the subway back to the 23 st. where we caught a bus to Chelsea Piers. After reading a lot of mixed reviews on boat cruises, Classic Harbor Cruise Lines ( www.sail-nyc.com) was a no-brainer. The other cruise lines would have cost us $140. Classic Harbor’s child ticket goes up to 14 years old and I found a discount code on line for $15 off each ticket....making our grand total with fees for the 1.5 hr Statue & Skyline Sightseeing Cruise $102. No line-ups, small groups, beautiful boats, a bit of narration, great staff that went around offering to take pictures for you, and a free beverage (alcohol, juice, or pop) in a glass......wonderful!
After our cruise we walked about 10 minutes to Chelsea Market. I had read reviews of the Chelsea Market Food of New York tour, took notes, and did our own tour. We started off with chocolates at Jacques Torres, had supper....lobster bisque and a shared lobster roll....at The Lobster Place. We grabbed some chocolate milk at Ronnybrook dairy and some cupcakes at Elenis for later. We found the Chelsea Market entrance to the Highline where again I was pleasantly surprised. What a beautiful walkway-park. I don’t know what I was expecting but I was amazed. Beautiful, interesting, calm and at times funny (good animals bad animals)....well except for the guy walking around with the slingshot randomly aiming and shooting rocks. We walked from the Chelsea market to the 30th st. entrance (about 25 minutes) which left a quick 5 mins walk to our hotel where we enjoyed our cupcakes.
Saturday & Sunday
We packed up our bags, checked out, picked up our car and drove down to the MET. Driving around Manhattan on a Saturday is actually quite pleasant. We were too early so we drove around to Levain bakery to pick up some more cookies for later. They are the best cookies ever! My favorite was the dark chocolate peanut butter.
We did our second tour at the MET focusing on Greece and Rome. After our tour, we picked up some burgers at the Shake Shack, which were really really good and left New York City. We drove 2 hours to the Holiday Inn White Haven-Lake Harmony where I got a 2 queen plus sofa bed suite for 15000 priority points....making a stop at the Tannersville outlets on the way. Sunday was spent driving home and enjoying what was left of our cookies.
Um...in the end, I was very happy to leave this big crazy hectic city....but there were true highlights for me. The MET, the Greenwich Food Tour and the Highline were all outstanding. The food that I had researched and “mapped” out ahead of time was all great and the family all had a good time. Of course, big thanks to the Trip Advisor community for helping me plan it all out.