Just before Christmas the Harte family took their first ever trip to New York. Here’s a post on what we managed to squeeze in. Bear in mind we went as a family on a reasonable budget so you won’t find tales of cool bars or expensive restaurants here. We had fun though.
We flew with Aer Lingus from Birmingham to JFK via Dublin rather than go direct from a UK airport to JFK or choose the Birmingham to Newark route. We got the price down to circa £470 each (other options all seemed to be £600 min) – best I could for the dates involved (18 – 23 December). A bag went astray on the way back but was back with us within a couple of days.
We stayed on the 16th floor, room-only, at the Affinia Manhattan, corner of 8th Avenue and 31st Street, next to Penn station. It was handy for Times Square, the Empire State Building and close to the top end of the Highline. We had a studio suite, compact but big enough for two double beds and a small kitchen. It was a nice hotel, quiet, friendly staff. Pricey at circa £200 a night but worth it we felt.
What we did (paid for stuff):
Empire State Building (Adults $25, Kids $19) – We went to the 86th floor of the Empire State. You can pay more and carry on to the 102nd but it was high enough for us. Great views and no queuing at 10am.
MoMA ($25, Kids free) – Our kids will only stomach one major 2+ hours museum vist per holiday. We made a good choice in the Museum of Modern Art given UK primary school educators seem very keen on 20th Century Art so my 10 year-old daughter was already familiar with some works. Three cinema-related things impressed me. Firstly, the MoMA cinema had a Pasolini season on. Imagine living in a city that would show Pasolini on a big screen and have people show up for it. Awesome. Secondly, there was a Quay Brothers exhibition. I love those crazy Quays. Thirdly, there was a screening of Christian Marclay’s The Clock on a large screen in a room with sofas. Myself and the boy (aged 6) parked ourselves at the front for 10 minutes or so. We were both hooked as the film (24 hours of film excerpts of people looking at their watches and suchlike) is put together as if it is itself a richly plotted movie. Also, when familiar moments appear on screen, in this case an excerpt from When Harry Met Sally, the crowd laugh and applaud. I would love this to come to Birmingham. I would happily watch the whole darn thing in one sitting.
Theatre – we saw Spiderman – Turn off the Dark. Camp and knowing in places, I enjoyed this, as did the kids. I suspect had we been kid-free we might have tried for tickets to Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross (though it has had poor reviews).
What we did (free stuff):
Staten Island Ferry – the best free boat ride ever. Views of Manhattan, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty.
Brooklyn Bridge – We caught the metro to Brooklyn, walked back through Brooklyn Heights and then back over the Bridge into the Financial District.
Ground Zero – you need a visitor’s pass which you have to get in advance. We didn’t realise this, however, we lucked out and picked one up at the entrance. The sites of the two towers are now black, marble fountains surrounded by newly planted oak trees. It’s impressively done.
Central Park – we walked the bottom half of it. Past the ice-rink and up to Belvedere Castle. All lovely. Lovelier in autumn or summer I guess.
The Highline – Thanks to a late prompt I remembered about The Highline. A former elevated freight rail line now converted to an urban trail/park. It’s a joyful hour stroll – a real highlight of the trip. We have Highline potential in Birmingham y’know.
Shopping – well it’s free if you don’t buy anything. Certainly Tiffany’s is worth a look (nice building, high ceilings).
Times Square – madly busy, too busy really though enjoyably glitzy.
We had a nice ‘so-big-we-took-some-home’ meal in a place called Carmine’s on the Upper West Side and a lovely breakfast in Andrew’s Coffee Shop on 7th Avenue near to our hotel. As I say, we didn’t go big on eating out. However, we did enjoy the abundance of Delis in New York. The one closest to our Hotel served everything from Pizza to Sushi. In the UK a ‘Deli’ is an excuse to sell fancy cheese and meats at high prices. In New York it was simply a place where you could get any kind of food, at reasonable prices, at any time of day or night.
We mostly walked or caught the Metro ($2.25 per trip to go anywhere. if your child can squeeze under the barriers they go free). The cab to and from the airport (fixed fare of $52 + $6 tolls) was fast and scary with much beeping of horn.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip. I think next time would see more exploring of the other Boroughs but for a starter, we did okay I think.
Some pics what I took: