The week following Labor Day week, Jack had his fall break from school which is a bit nuts for two reasons- 1. most of our friends have just begun school in various places across the country while Jack has already completed week 7 of first grade (!), and 2. as Jack so accurately questioned, "why are we having fall break when it is not even fall yet?" Despite its inaccuracy in season, fall break was had and thoroughly enjoyed. David happened to also snag the week off, which made for a very fun and much needed family vacation in Connecticut and New York!
Our first stop was a visit with some of our very dear friends at their home in Darien, Connecticut. As we reconnected with our old friends we watched as our children connected for the first time. There is something so wonderful about friendships with other families. The visit was full of yard games, dance parties, having yummy food and drinks, and enjoying the beauty of their home and beach with its stunning sunset.
We then spent the better part of the week in New York City where we had an amazing time! The boys both did so well on all of our adventures and David and I were able to connect in a way that is often challenging in our day to day hustle at home. We left thinking that it was the best family vacation that we have had so far! Such a good feeling to come away with and to remember as we struggle to transition Rigby back to life at home. His nighttime sleep has been extremely interruptive and while part of it may have been the travel, I recently discovered that his bottom molars are popping through so I am crossing my fingers that his troubles have been a combination of teething and transitions and that his sleep resolves itself very soon.
We stayed at the Yale Club in Midtown (a very special thanks to David's uncle, Uncle Joe) and the location was great! It is so convenient to be right across the street from Grand Central Station which has some good food (Shake Shack!) and coffee options and a pretty great toy store, Kidding Around, which we visited a few times. Another great find was Urban Space Vanderbilt which had so many great food options that we went every morning, twice for a quick dinner for the boys, and once for happy hour without feeling like we were neglecting ourselves of all the fabulous food in the city. Some personal favorites of Urban Space were the sushi burrito from Hai Street Kitchen, the coffee from Toby's Estate, and the smoothie from Liquiteria. I am still wishing I had tried a doughnut from Dough as they looked so beautiful, but I'll have to save that for the next visit.
We arrived in the city around lunch time on a Monday and after quickly dumping our bags at the hotel, we grabbed a car and headed to Westville West only to find, disappointingly, that it was temporarily closed. I was bummed, but mentally categorized this spot on the "save for another visit" list. We quickly recovered and found the charming Hudson Clearwater on our walking path with a few free outdoor tables. Lunch was great and set us up well for our packed afternoon of adventure.
We made our first stop of the afternoon at the very charming Children's Museum of the Arts in the West Village. The museum caters to children as young as age 10 months and while we were a little weary about Rigby's involvement in the Wee Arts Studio, David quickly discovered that he loved it! The museum makes homemade play dough that he loved manipulating and this incredibly cool Flubber that he also loved to touch and stretch. While Rigby played in the Wee Arts space, Jack and I made our way to the upstairs studios and workshops catering to older children. Jack made an alien movie in the animation lab and loved the top floor exhibit of Herman Miller circle chairs. I would definitely bookmark this spot if you are planning any visits to the city with young children as many people I have talked to have never heard of it; it is a wonderful way to enjoy the arts and to really feel like part of the city.
After the museum, we made our way to the Highline and entered at the south end by the Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District (By the way, the new Whitney is amazingly beautiful...another spot added to the "next visit list"). Being Fashion Week in New York, we happened to stumble on a fashion show ending so there were beautiful models, amazing clothes, and cameras everywhere. It was quite a sight to see. We had a fun walk along the Highline where we grabbed a much needed afternoon treat of ice cream cookie sandwiches from Melt. After our treat and walk, we headed back to the hotel and met Uncle Joe for a quick dinner at the rooftop grill. It was nice to be back "home" and tucked in for the night on the early side.
Tuesday, after a quick stop to the children's floor of Zara on Fifth Avenue (I had to!), we headed to Central Park where the highlight for Jack and David were the hot dogs, not the playgrounds which we found a bit too urban for our tastes. Rigby enjoyed a Central Park soft pretzel while we watched the rowboats in Loeb Lake before heading to one of my favorite places of the trip, the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.
The museum might be my most favorite of all time. The dioramas are amazingly constructed and full of interesting and fine details. There are 43 dioramas alone in the Hall of North American Mammals! All of us were captivated. The Hall of Biodiversity was spectacular and was the museum highlight for us. David and I were particularly captivated by the sheer number of species displayed among the hall's Spectrum of Life exhibit which showcases the diversity of life resulting from 3.5 billion years of evolution. More than 1500 specimens and models are organized into 28 groups along the 100-foot-long installation and it is stunning! We could have stared at a 2x2 foot space for an hour! Another highlight for me was the life-size Blue Whale model hanging from the ceiling in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. The fiberglass model is of a female blue whale and measures 94 feet long and weighs 21,000-pound. It is quite an experience to lay on the floor beneath the whale to truly embrace the size of such a beautiful creature. I stole away while the boys were in the gift shop just to take a second look.
On Tuesday evening, we grabbed happy hour drinks at Urban Hall while we fed a quick dinner of quiche to the boys. We arranged that night for a babysitter to come put the boys to bed so we could have a night out. We started the night with drinks and an appetizer on the roof deck of the Yale Club and then met David's cousin and her boyfriend at Gramercy Tavern. The corn flatbread with lamb sausage and green tomato was outstanding followed by the grilled shrimp and dumplings in miso broth, but the highlight of my dinner was the chocolate pudding cake with sweet cream, buttered pecans, and coconut ice cream. (Yes, it really is as good as it sounds!)
The following morning we took the boys on their first subway ride and headed down to Battery Park. The boys played in a play yard, Jack and I rode the beautiful SeaGlass Carousel, and we caught glimpses of Lady Liberty across the Hudson. We were all pretty hungry and decided on an early lunch at Shake Shack which was oh so good! Many hamburger spots (ahem, In-n-Out) do not live up to the hype, but the same cannot be said for Shake Shack. The burgers, the fries, the shakes, and the concretes were delicious! We beat the lunch crowd by going on the early side and snagged a cozy table on the patio so all in all it was a huge hit! After lunch, we hit up the toy store in Grand Central terminal before going up to the room for a much needed rest.
Rigby and I stayed in for the night while David and Jack went out for dinner with David's uncle at Sardi's and then went to see Roald Dahl's Matilda on Broadway. Uncle Joe commented to me the following day that he barely watched the show as he was too busy watching Jack watch the show with such fierce intensity and interest!
On our last day, Jack and I had our special one on one time together in which we went to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building! Our flight didn't leave until 6:30pm so after our Empire State adventure, we were able to fit in one last visit with Uncle Joe. We went to his apartment where he kindly had sandwiches delivered for lunch. We were able to let the boys play at the apartment playground while we ate and visited.
I am feeling so grateful that the small airport in Chattanooga (our future home!) has direct flights to the city. This was our best family vacation yet and we are already looking forward to our next visit! In fact, we have talked about visiting a few times each year- maybe one with the whole family and the other for just us grown-ups. As you have read, my list of places to visit and things to eat has already been started for our next trip up! Until next time, New York!