Impossible to describe and filled with a kinetic energy known only by people who have been there, while Manhattan absorbed the brunt of the blow to the American psyche on Sept.11, today it’s safer, cleaner and more visitable than ever.
Recently, in a poignant ceremony, recovery workers carried an empty stretcher draped with an American flag away from the cleared space where the World Trade Center once stood, signifying the time for renewal. Soon, a new plan for the massive empty space in lower Manhattan will be decided upon, but Sept. 11 will never be forgotten.
My sisters and I had planned a trip to New York long before the 11th happened. We wanted to take our daughters, visit Broadway and experience “The Big Apple!” But in the aftermath of the many tumultuous events, we rethought our plans anticipating the mood in New York to be a somber one. After much debate, we decided to move ahead with our plans, though, especially when we learned a friend would be traveling and that we could stay in his Upper West Side apartment for free.
We were delighted to discover that New York City has bounced back with aplomb. This small island (a mere 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide at its widest point) is still the amazing metropolis of sophistication, culture, diversity and drive that I remember from living there in the 1980s, but now it’s more. It’s better. It’s cleaner and safer (thank you, Rudy Giuliani), and it’s packed with more than anyone can possibly experience in a mere four-day trip.
Long before Ellis Island saw some 12 million immigrants arrive through the port of New York between 1892 and 1954, the hopeful and ambitious were flocking to Manhattan to join other progressive thinkers, movers and shakers. What did they see? It’s astonishing to take Manhattan in: the breadth, depth and magnitude of it all will either leave you yearning for the quieter comforts of home or inspire you to the very bones for more.
Our group enjoyed a whirlwind of activities including theater, shopping, dining and sightseeing. We pounded lots of pavement. We splurged on taxis but we took the subways, too. For me, to open my 8-year-old’s eyes to the world of New York City was a must-do opportunity.
INTO THE APPLE
From the airport, we took the $10 bus into the city (with stops at the magnificent Grand Central on East 42nd Street and at Port Authority on West 42nd Street). A cab ride in may provide the most convenient mode of transport for your group, but it will cost anywhere from $25 – $40 to take you where you need to go and, by law, only four people can ride together per cab.
THE GREAT WHITE WAY
The first day we hit a matinee. Expect to be blown away by the magnitude of Times Square – the pivotal point for most of the Broadway theaters. Hold small hands walking among the throngs of theater-goers, lights, technology in full array and take in ALL”ˆof the local color! We enjoyed “Thoroughly Modern Milly” (it just nabbed the Tony Award for Best Musical) and “Into the Woods” – both appropriate for children, although the price of an orchestra seat for any age costs upwards of $85; mezzanine is more cost-effective. Boosters are available for the smallest ticket holders. To order theater tickets in advance, try www.broadway.com online or search “Broadway theatre tickets.” You can also try buying “Two-fers” (two-for-the-price-of-one tickets) by standing in line at the “TKTS Booth,” located at 46th and Broadway, one hour prior to your chosen show’s starting time. Check show availability on the boards by the ticket windows.
Beyond Musical Theater
“There’s so much more to do besides Broadway!” my astute 12-year-old niece told us. We heartily agreed.
A subway ride to Battery Park brought us near the vicinity of Ground Zero. We wanted to see, but we didn’t want to gawk. We walked silently near the vast expanse and we were glad to learn that no vendors are allowed in the area. Feeling appropriately serious, we made our way to the New York Harbor and watched as ferry boats travelled to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. To my sisters and I, it felt ironic. The Statue was given to the people of the United States by the people of France as a gift of international freedom. Only a few hundred yards behind us lay Ground Zero. Today, the Statue is closed indefinitely for security reasons, but you can still take the ferry to the island for an up close look and on to Ellis Island, which remains open.
Back on the subway – we girls loved taking the subway – we zipped uptown to Fifth Avenue to visit the famed FAO Schwarz toy store. Since it’s located just across from the Plaza Hotel, we ducked in there first for a little look-see. From the magnificent chandeliers in the lobby to the tinkling of fancy dishes being served to ladies and gentlemen at lunch, we observed with a keen interest, then … on to the toys! Founded in 1862 by Frederick August Otto Schwarz, an immigrant who had only been in New York for six months prior, but whose brothers had connections to all the fine toy stores in Europe, FAO Schwarz combines unique products for little ones in an unforgettable environment. It’s an amazing mecca for toy lovers from around the world.
Next, we re-crossed the street to the edge of Central Park (just next to the Plaza) and plopped down $34 for one of those “have-to” carriage rides through the park which look like they take forever but in truth last 20 minutes. Still, you soak up Manhattan, passing through the heart of the bustling 824-acre Central Park, amid joggers, inline skaters, lovers, nannies, the carousel, ice skating rink, zoo and amid towering residential skyscrapers, among them John Lennon’s former home, The Dakota.
Our 6 p.m. dinner reservations on the east side found us scurrying like so many New Yorkers along 60th Street (we tooled through Bloomingdale’s along the way) to “Serendipity 3″ between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. A real treat for families, it’s located in a converted townhouse with an ambiance part “ye old ice cream shoppe,” part Park Avenue. We enjoyed foot-long hot dogs polished off with what Serendipity’s famous for: frozen hot chocolates served in giant goblets.
Just up the street is Dylan’s Candy Bar (owned by Ralph Lauren’s daughter), a candy store that redefines the idea of the traditional by providing candy, yes, but in an awesomely designed shop complete with inlaid candy in under-lit stairs! Make your own pixi-stiks, check out the vintage Pez dispensers and stock up on candy-scented spa items!
So much to do, so little time! Museums, the Empire State building … One afternoon we lingered over delectable warm scones served with fresh cream, preserves and perfectly brewed pots of tea (OK, the kids had sodas) at Alice’s Tea Cup, where the ambiance taps into Lewis Carroll’s magical tale. Choose from more than 100 different teas – divine!
A favorite Italian dinner was devoured at Carmine’s on the Upper West Side. All the food is served family-style and we gaped at heaping platters of zucchini and calamari fried to perfection, moved onto mounds of an awesome caesar salad followed by the four-pasta platter and finished up with an ice cream extravaganza called “The Titanic” before sinking into cabs for the ride home.
New York is amazing and one-of-a-kind. For accommodations and everything else you need, the New York Convention and Visitor’s Bureau can assist you. Advice: Save up before you go and do plenty of research. Then trust it. Manhattan’s an international treasure and one that deserves nurturing. Especially now … but always, too.
MTA New York City Transit Authority
Subways and buses offer a daily “Fun Pass” for $4 which is good for
unlimited rides. Kids under 44-inches ride free.
NYC Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
To order a FREE copy of The Official NYC Guide, call 800-NYC-VISIT
Susan Brooke Day is editor in chief for this publication and the mother of three.