New York City (mis)Adventures
By Lilly Hsu
An uneasy feeling came over me as we boarded the ferry to go to the Statue of Liberty. The vessel seemed a lot larger than I had remembered, and this was the first time in my experience that the ferry ride was free. Free in New York? In a panic, I told my two teenage boys that we needed to get off the ferry. My older son, Ben, rolled his eyes, indicating “This is not happening, and I don’t know this woman”. Never mind that the vessel had already left the port. Frantically, I asked a large burly ferryman, “Does the Staten Island Ferry go the Statue of Liberty? I am a tourist and think I’m on the wrong ferry.” He replied dryly, “How could I have guessed that you are a tourist?” As it turned out, the Staten Island Ferry does not go to the Statue of Liberty but instead carries passengers (including tourists other than myself) back and forth between Staten Island and Manhattan. But it was free, and since we made it out to the Statute of Liberty later in our trip, everything worked out fine.
Difficult to Get Lost in NYC
The trip to Staten Island was the only big misstep in our family’s spring break trip to Manhattan, the last family vacation before Ben embarks to college in August. After going to New York with my companion twice over the past two years, I felt comfortable enough to take my kids there alone. Midtown Manhattan is a pretty safe, family-friendly destination, and for people who are “directionally challenged,” midtown and the Upper East and West Sides around the park are relatively easy to navigate. Streets going east-west have numerical street names, such as 42nd Street, and streets going north–south have numeric avenue names (5th Avenue, 7th Avenue, etc.).
My sons had made a list of things that we should see: Central Park, NBC Studios, The Statue of Liberty, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Natural History Museum, The Dakota Apartments, Strawberry Fields (Central Park), a Broadway play (either The Book of Mormon or The Lion King), and Chinatown. On our first full day in Manhattan, the kids decided that we should walk to the Guggenheim Museum. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim is located on 89th Street on the Upper East Side across from Central Park. Since our hotel was located on West 49th Street, this required walking over to 5th Avenue and some 40 blocks north. I was hesitant to walk since it was windy with the temperature in the 40’s, and we had to pause at almost every block for traffic lights. As it turned out, walking is the ideal way to experience New York. The boys were captivated by the various landmarks on the walk and took numerous photos on their cameras and iPods. Sites along the way there and back included Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Avenue of the Americas, Park Avenue, the ever gorgeous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Trump Tower.
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Photos by Ben and Daniel Wright
After visiting the Guggenheim, we crossed Central Park to the West Side and walked south back to Midtown Manhattan. With map in hand, Ben led the way towards the Dakota Apartments, the building where John Lennon lived and was murdered. We also paused briefly at nearby Strawberry Fields in Central Park West, the memorial to Lennon created by his wife, Yoko Ono.
Manhattan Ain’t Cheap
The cost of meals in Midtown Manhattan can add up quickly. At the Hard Rock Café in Times Square, one can expect to pay $15 to $17 for a large salad and $20 for burgers. Having breakfast at McDonald’s and lunch at Sbarro’s became a mainstay to eating on a budget.
Fighting the crowds
We were there the week before Easter, which may have also been the kickoff of the tourist season because it was crowded. My younger son, Daniel, was interested in seeing the Broadway play, The Book of Mormon, at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre, but we were disappointed to find that the shows for the week were sold out. We also tried The Lion King but the only available tickets were $275 per person. The line for the Top of the Rock observation deck atop Rockefeller Center was a two hour wait, so we opted to get reserve tickets for the next evening instead. We waited in line for over an hour to board the (correct) ferry to the Statue of Liberty.
We were able to visit most of the places on the kids’ checklist during the short time in New York, and wished for more time to see Chinatown and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another future family trip to New York could happen, although it will not be quite the same as Ben leaves the family unit for college. Even on this trip he exhibited signs of independence, anxious to be on his own in exploring the big city.