The Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the Empire State… we saw it all this weekend. From our little home away from home Stuyvesant Town (aka Stuy-town), we pretended to be New Yorkers. That meant lots of time at the parks, eating fantastic (cheap) food and trying to fit in with the natives.
Traveling with kids, as we often do, there’s usually one mission in mind: find a park. After this weekend, I could write a book about the parks in The City— well, Dave could and I’d provide lots of great pictures. In a city filled with the world’s tallest buildings, they’ve certainly managed to carve out some beautiful green spaces.
Stuy-Town Parks (the Oval, et al.)
As we waited in the rain for the keys to my friend’s place (thanks, Dawn!), we took full advantage of what the neighborhood has to offer. Fountains, playgrounds, basketball courts, splash parks— there was so much to do! It felt like Sesame Street—friendly neighbors and the air is sweet! We started an impromptu, barefoot soccer game; it was Dave and me vs. the girls. They won. And I spent the rest of the weekend begging for a rematch.
This is, hands-down, the best park I’ve ever visited. It’s easy to pick out the New Yorkers because they’re laying out in open fields, half naked, soaking up the sun. The girls fit right in, opting for bathing suits instead of actual clothes. They ran through brick forts, got drenched in the sprinklers, ate cotton candy and gave money to the mimes. Lira bonded with the ballerina mime and they curtsied and blew each other kisses. All this and we barely scratched the surface of Central Park; we didn’t ride the carousel, take a boat or carriage ride, and didn’t get our faces painted. We’re saving those for next time.
This stop was a special request from Lira, a girl after my own heart. What’s not to love about a park in the middle of the fashion district? Since we missed the Central Park carousel, Lira got to ride the one in Bryant Park twice. Zana played in the outdoor library and threw rocks at the other kids. Oh the joys of the terrible 2s. I enjoyed a great view of more sunbathing New Yorkers while eating a salad and wishing I could have some of the girls’ ice cream. It’s a beautiful reprieve from nearby Times Square.
We don’t do much planning for our trips to New York. Who needs to? Everything you’d ever want is close and convenient. When we’re hungry, we eat. And it’s usually nowhere fancy. There are three types of places you can enjoy with your family at this stage in life.
New and Trendy
Dave and I enjoyed grabbed a bite to eat at Bite on 14th Street. Our vegan sandwich was divine and we seriously considered buying another one to take home for later. Warning: if you choose this option, you are at risk of the hipster evil eye. But don’t let that stop you. You’re entitled to a healthy, organic, vegan, cage-free meal with a minimal carbon footprint just as much as they are. The restaurant owners are happy to put up with your children in the name of capitalism; it’s the clientele who don’t want to encounter life’s realities in their bohemian bliss.
Cheap, No Frills Ethnic
Mamma Mia, pass the kebabs and the tamales! These are my favorite places to eat. You know the type—posters on the wall from the motherland, menu written in marker, satellite tv playing in the kitchen. My new favorite one of these joints is called Oasis. It’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and has the best falafel platter I’ve ever tasted. This stuff is so good that we drove out of our way to get more on our way out of town. The girls enjoyed meat and spinach pies. Oh, and did I mention it’s cheap? All four of us ate for less than 20 bucks.
Traditional New York
Think Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza at the 24 hour diner. These places have hard-to-remember names like “Diner” and “Breakfast All Day.” They’re on every corner and never disappoint. The ones we tried on this trip were The Coffee Shop and Eat Here Now. They were great—even for vegans. I’d tell you where they are so you could try them but—let’s be honest—they’re all the same. Tasty, cheap, and convenient.
I don’t know if it was the cute kid factor or just sympathy for my broken wrist, but the New Yorkers were unexpectedly friendly. Everyone from the playground moms to the bus drivers to the store clerks bent over backward to be helpful. People were opening doors, picking up my kids when I couldn’t and making friendly conversation everywhere we went.
I recently read a post in the Village Voice about Rude Things New Yorkers Do and admittedly, I did witness one or two (or 27) of the things on this list—but overall, friendliness prevailed. And as for the rest of it– it’s New York! That’s just part of its charm.