Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: New York – Kimpton Muse New York Hotel July 2011
As much as I love traveling to beachfront properties and lounging around in the sun all day, my kids wanted to do something a bit more touristy--so we flew to New York and Washington, D.C. for our summer vacation. We hired Dial 7 Car Service to take us to the hotel. We requested a minivan because we travel with a lot of luggage, so the cost to the hotel was a bit more expensive, due to the larger vehicle. There are less expensive options, but it is based on the number of people and the number of bags of luggage. All of our luggage would not fit in a towncar, which is less expensive, so we had to pay more to get the minivan to hold all of our luggage. Their prices are listed on their website; it is nice to see ahead of time the different options.
We stayed at the Kimpton Muse New York Hotel, a boutique hotel right near Times Square. The hotel has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation and it really shows. We had a 1-bedroom suite which was beautifully decorated. The living room had a fold out couch for the girls and the bedroom was a nice size. The hotel was very accommodating and brought us a refrigerator, extra towels, pillows, and even toothbrushes and toothpaste (since our luggage had yet to arrive). The hotel has a pleasant bar/restaurant called Nios Restaurant with a very nice and hip ambience. We ended our nights there with a nightcap and appetizers (my favorite was the dates stuffed with goat cheese). The hotel is right in Times Square so we walked around a bit and explored Times Square. We also walked to the Top of the Rock (located at Rockefeller Center) to take in the New York City view, and what a view it was. The "Grand Viewing Deck" at 850 feet above street level offer full views of Manhattan with visibility approximately 80 miles on clear days. The 70th floor, accessible by stairs or elevator, allows you to experience a 360-degree panorama of New York City. The floors all have a breathtaking view of the city and the Empire State Building. It was a very pleasant experience, no lines, and an incredible view.
My kids love to visit Ripley's Believe it or Not, and there is one located in Times Square. Ripley's is always fun to see replicas of amazing people and facts. The kids enjoy comparing their height to the tallest man and they especially love going through the black hole tunnel, and this Ripley's also has a laser game they were able to play and compete in.
We were scheduled to see the Yankees play; however, the game got rained out so I went to www.broadwaybox.com to look for last minute discounted show tickets. I was very lucky and was able to get 5th row center to Sister Act at a discount 2 hours before the show. I absolutely loved this show. The set design was amazing. There were times when parts of the stage were moving in every direction at the same time. The costumes were very fun and glitzy and the last dress that Patina Miller came out wearing was stunning on her. The performances were so much fun. All of the actors had their own little personality that they portrayed so well. It was a really fun show, full of energy, and they received a much deserved standing ovation at the end. We had tickets for the Yankees game for Friday night but due to rain, the game was cancelled. We were lucky enough to get tickets for Saturday's game. It was a biggie because Derek Jeter was going for his 3000th hit. It was so exciting. The first inning he got his 2999th hit, and his next time at bat he hit his 3000th hit with a homerun. What an amazing amount of energy in the stadium, and we were there to see history made.
After the game, we went back to Times Square and took the girls to Madame Tussauds. We love this place as we see all of the famous people we all know and you can go right up to them and take pictures with them and act as though you are really having a conversation with them. We took a lot of great photos there. They also have a 4D movie of Happy Feet that is included with admission. After Madame Tussauds we hopped on the subway to go to Greenwich Village to have dinner at Chinatown Brasserie. What an incredible dinner. We had a number of appetizers, such as the vegetable spring rolls, lobster cream cheese sticks, and dim sum, as well as the filet and chicken dishes. The scallion pancakes were so good that I had to order a second order. They completed the dinner with chocolate fortune cookies with wonderful fortunes.
We then walked off our dinner by going to Washington Square. What a fun area to hang out. Different groups of people hanging together playing guitar and singing, putting on shows, playing in the large water fountain, and watching fireflies--what a perfect ending to a perfect day. Our next morning we got up early and headed to Central Park to go bike riding. We got our bikes from Bike and Roll. We had the option of taking a guided tour, but we decided to ride by ourselves at our own pace. We had a lot of fun riding around the park. They gave us a map to find the landmarks in Central Park; however, we really did not know where to stop to view all of the important spots, so if you really want to see all of Central Park and the key places to visit there, I would recommend a group bike tour. Note that there are times during the week when cars can drive through the park. We went on a Sunday so it was nice not to have to deal with any cars. It was an easy ride for everyone, thanks to a nice gentleman telling us where to turn off on the path to avoid going up a very steep hill.
After our ride we went to the Discovery Times Square, where they have a Harry Potter Exhibition going on until September 5, 2011. Jasmine is a big Harry Potter fan so she was so excited to see the costumes and props from the Harry Potter films. Right next door to the Discovery Times Square is a bowling alley called Bowlmor. This is a unique bowling alley in that the lanes are split up into different areas and each set of lanes has a different theme. Kids are not allowed in after 7:00 p.m. We also visited Toys R Us in Times Square, a 110,000 square foot store. They have a cute Ferris wheel that the kids can go on and a life-size 4000 square foot Barbie house that has 3 levels. The store is very big and fun.
I love going to Broadway shows, so I was very excited to see Catch Me If You Can. It was so much fun. I love when the performers include the audience in the show and actually speak to the audience. The story was told in a very interesting way. The dancing, singing, and acting were great. The set design was very colorful, and they even had the orchestra perform on the stage so you could appreciate the live music all the more. It was Amber's (my 13-year-old's) first Broadway play and she loved it from beginning to end.
That night we went to dinner in Soho and then walked to Little Italy and Chinatown. On the way back I stopped at the Empire State Building. Be forewarned….it can be a really long wait. When I first arrived I asked how long the wait was. They told me 30 minutes. There was a long wait just to buy your tickets. Once I got to the ticket window I again asked how long the wait was. I was again told 30 minutes. The next line was to get to the point where they take your photo (you cannot bypass this line). The next long line is to get on the elevator to the 80th floor. Once there, you get in another line to take another elevator up another 6 floors (20 minute wait) or you can walk the stairs 6 flights (which I chose to do). The stairs were crowded so you still moved slowly. Then you finally get to the top and all you see is the long line to get back down. I looked out at the view but it was not much different than the view from the Top of the Rock so I immediately started waiting in line to come back down. Again you had to wait in a long line and then another line to take the elevator 6 floors or the stairs and then another line to get in the elevator to go all the way down. My big tip is, if you want to see the view of New York City, go to the Top of the Rock instead of the Empire State Building. It was so much easier to get to the top and you actually get a great view of the Empire State Building.
Our last day in New York we made reservations to see the Statue of Liberty 1-877-LADY-TIX. You can go the day of and pick up same-day tickets that are timed, but by buying them ahead of time you save yourself from waiting in long lines. I bought tickets for both the Statue of Liberty and the Pedestal and Ellis Island. You can go to the above website for more information. I called 1-877-LADY-TIX to buy my tickets over the phone and I was then e-mailed the tickets. There were huge lines everywhere, but we got to go right in line for the ferry and went through security and were on the ferry in no time. On the way to Battery Park we stopped at Katz's Deli (near Soho) for some good deli food. This is actually where When Harry Met Sally filmed the famous "I'll have what she's having" scene. The food was wonderful. We then stopped to visit Ground Zero on the way to Battery Park. There is also a bridge right there that you can go on to get a better view of the rebuilding of the Twin Towers. When we got to Battery Park all I saw were long lines. Because I had reservations and pre-purchased tickets we were able to walk into the reserved area and board the boat right away. I am sure this saved us hours. The boat takes you first to The Statue of Liberty. It is an amazing sight to see from the boat. When the boat docked, we saw such a long line of people waiting to get back on the boat that we decided not to exit there and continued on to Ellis Island. I highly recommend you get the audio tape and listen to it as you tour the island. You can hear the actual people who were on the island; very touching. There is a room where you can search to see if your ancestors were on Ellis Island; this is also something you can do online at home at this link: http://www.archives.com/GA.aspx?_act=combo&klp=GA01001&cam=346&gclid=CPyL7diPiqoCFQQDbAodyzLQyw
After our tour we headed back to Manhattan and went to the Museum of Modern Art. There were of course some great pieces by famous artists, but what my daughter and I really enjoyed is looking at what others consider art. There was one wall that was completely white with "A Wall Pitted by a Single Air Rifle Shot" written on it and on this blank white wall was a little black spot where a rifle shot hit it. Art!!! Kids under 12 are allowed free admittance with a paying adult. I would highly recommend picking up the free audio tour. What I especially loved is they have different tours to listen to based on your age. There are audios for adults, kids, and teens. I listened to all 3 variations and it is really interesting to see how differently they describe each piece, depending on your age. Our last night in New York I took the tramway to Roosevelt Island. It cost $2.50 each way (you can use your metro card). You pick up the tram on 60th and 2nd Ave. Once on the island you can take the red bus for 25 cents each person and it takes you around the island. We then hopped back on the tramway and headed back. It was a beautiful ride at night.
For those of you with kids who like to shop at Forever 21, they will love the Forever 21 in Times Square. The store has 4 levels, including a special section for kids (which I have never seen before) and for those of you who love to shop at night, they are open until 2:00 AM.
If you plan on doing a number of different tourist sites, a great way to get discounted tickets is to purchase a New York City Explorer Pass. You can purchase a card with 3, 5, 7, or 10 attractions at one low price. You have 30 days to use the card once you visit your first attraction. One of the things I love about this is they give you a guide book with all of the attractions that include the hours, directions (how to get there via subway or taxi), website and tips on how to best enjoy the attractions. This book alone made my trip so much easier to plan. Your pass also allows you to go to special lines for admittance to avoid the crowds. This was especially great at the Museum of Modern Art, where there was a line out the door but I was able to walk right up to the counter to get my ticket.
You have a number of options when it comes to getting around New York City: taxi cabs are great if there is not a lot of traffic; pedicabs are a lot of fun and not too expensive and can maneuver through the traffic great; and the subway, which I was very surprised to discover how easy it is to use, once you figure out how to use it correctly--the key is figuring out where you want to go (e.g., uptown, downtown, Chinatown) and then making sure you get on the right train heading the right direction. We almost got onto the wrong train a couple of times (okay, we actually got on the wrong train but had a good laugh about it). We took the train to and from Yankee Stadium, Soho, Greenwich Village and a number of other places. It was amazing how easy, inexpensive, and convenient it is. You pay $2.50 a person each way.
New York is a great destination for families who are looking for an active, on-the-go vacation. There is something for every member of the family, from sports, to theater, to shopping. It is, after all, the city that never sleeps. My activities and accommodations were hosted or offered at a discount by the companies listed above.