I did quite a lot of my growing up in the Big Apple. We moved there when I was my girl’s age at the moment, 10. Mum sold the apartment to retire and move in with us girls in 2008. I lived through the 1980s, went a way to university in the late ’80s early ’90s, came back for gad school, and then it was the home I came home to for the holidays. Growing up in NYC is oh so different that visiting as a wide-eyed tourist with one hand on your purse and the other on your pepper spray. You don’t typically stop to take in the sights, they are part of the landscape that you overlook on a daily basis.
Now that I live away from the rush, the ebb and flow of NY I can go back, visit, and enjoy.
Before Mum sold the Co-op I’d go up with A. and we’d visit the playground across the street. We’d swing on the swings, figure out the climbing frames, run around chasing pigeons (rats with wings). It was a different experience that coming in at 10 and not knowing what was safe and what was a not.
There’s lots to do as a family if you decide that NYC is the place to be travelling to. I can’t recommend hotels since I still have far too many friends who let us crash at their place when we come up. But I can recommend things to see and do that might not be on your list of “things to do in NYC”. Don’t ask me about the other boroughs, I’m a City girl! We hardly ever leave our own neighbourhood except with schlepping out to see a Mets game (yes, I’m a Mets fan. My early years were spent in Baltimore, MD as an Orioles fan – don’t ever ask me to root for the Yankees. And, NO, you cannot root for both. It’s a law written up somewhere when you sign your lease – you must choose a baseball team, one or the other not ever both – period, end of story!) or out to the Bronx Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, or JFK airport.
The nice thing about NYC is that just about every neighbourhood has a little park or playground for the kids to run around. There’s a great website that will help you find the nearest one to where you’re staying in case your kids need a run around because your walking around all day long didn’t quite wear them out enough. And yes, if you have kids, you know this to be true!
https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks – this site belongs to the department of parks. You can also do a Google search of parks near the address of where you are staying as well.
Speaking of parks…explore Central park! There is plenty to find and do. The City has made huge strides in making the Central Park Zoo a much friendlier place for animals and people alike. If you’re one of those people who hates zoos and all they stand for, then steer clear. But for those that can enjoy and appreciate what the people working their are trying to do – I recommend a stop and look-see. Make sure you find your way to the Carousel. If you’ve read “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger then this is THAT Carousel. The one Holden tries to grab the golden ring on. The machine that holds the rings is still there, or is was two years ago when we were last there, but it doesn’t have the rings anymore. There’s the Shakespeare’s Garden with every plant mentioned in his plays growing there. There are lovely walks, lawns for picnicking on, and lots of history around.Explore the museums! Of course there are the biggies: * The Natural History Museum (it’s not quite like the film, “Night in the Museum” depicts it, but it’s still a fabulous museum! * The Metropolitan Museum of Art (we call it The Met) is another, but a little less know part of the museum is called “the Cloisters” and it’s my favourite place. It’s close to where I grew up so it holds a special place in my heart, but it also houses an amazing collection of Medieval art. The Unicorn Tapestries room is my happy place. * There’s the Children’s Museum, which I’ve not been to but heard great things about. * Off the radar might be the Tenement Museum, but if your children are old and have been studying American History and the time of tenement housing and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire then this would be an insightful experience. It’s a guided walk through and it’s powerful! Go to the main branch of the NYC Public Library and see the inspirations for “Winnie the Pooh” and a host of interesting exhibits they have organised throughout the year! We love this place.
Oh, while you’re up checking out the Cloisters, I recommend a stop off to visit the Little Red Lighthouse. Not many people remember the story, “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge” (the link is to a YouTube video of the filmstrip version I grew up watching in my Mum’s elementary school classes when I got to go in with her for a day.) but it was a favourite of mine growing up. When we moved out of Harlem and into “The Heights” (that’s Washington Heights, though I think realtors are trying to call is something else these days) we lived up the hill from the Lighthouse. It was in sad repair and the park was pretty much a junkie’s paradise (I know I’m really selling a visit there, aren’t I ?!?) BUT, but it’s been cleaned up and a lot of loving care has gone into creating a better park and nicer looking lighthouse.
And since you’re exploring the outer reaches of the world in the Upper ends of Manhattan, you should go se where the Dutch “bought” the land from the Native Peoples of the Lenape tribe – currently known as Inwood. There is a marker commemorating the “sale” in Inwood Hill Park if you’re willing to look around and enjoy the park while you’re doing it. There’s an interesting site that shows where State Historical Markers are in NYC on the website, Forgotten New York.
I’m not going to tell you about the obvious things – take in a show! go up the Empire State building! Take a ride on the subway! Eat a dog from a street vendor! or any of that stuff. You know that already. What you need is something off the beaten path and something a local might actually get around to doing. So go explore the northern end of the island, enjoy, and let me know what you think! I’ll be back with more ideas about my ol’ hometown in the coming months – there’s always something happening in the “city that never sleeps”.