New York, New York!
I love New York City; like legit LOVE NYC. I’ve been saying this for years – even though the last time I was there was 2008. I first visited NYC while in middle school 1997/1998 on an East Coast field trip; I don’t remember much other than I had an amazing time. The second time I visited to NYC was September 2005. I moved to Harlem in 2006 and lived there for just under a year. It was enough time to “fall in love” with the City.
After this Summer, my feelings are EXACTLY the same. I LOVE NYC! I found myself smiling at random strangers, walking with a pep in my step and feeling so much at home, as if I was raised there. I smiled until my cheeks hurt.
New York City with kids is a totally different experience; especially with a toddler. Every time we discuss where we would want to live if money and logistics weren’t an issue, we always say NYC. Our biggest hesitation is living in NYC with kids: public transportation, safety, expenses, adjusting third-culture kids etc. I know, I know, people raise kids in NYC on various incomes everyday – but it’s still hard to wrap our minds around how it would work for our family. This trip we got a little taste of what life would potentially be like; and the conclusion…drum roll please: I think we could definitely do it! With a lot of pre-planning and being quite knowledgeable about the city, I believe we’d adjust just fine.
Thankfully we had my moms Marriott discount (thanks Mom!!), though hotels were still super expensive we were able to manage a full two weeks in a very expensive city during high season. We managed by doing majority of our activities for FREE!
I did a lot of research, created a spreadsheet and planned out our entire two weeks (check your eyeroll and judgment), it came in real handy and saved us a lot of money! Although we didn’t do everything on the list, it gave us an excellent roadmap to follow and to stay within budget. If you want the spreadsheet for a future trip, shoot me an e-mail or comment below!
Let’s start from the beginning: we flew from Cleveland, Ohio to Boston to Laguardia. Although LGA is the most accessible airport, we had so much luggage it took us a while to arrange a van taxi to get from the airport to Brooklyn. Yes, we could have requested an Uber but we were on a tight budget! However, transportation from the airport was definitely an area we should have planned better: 6 suitcases, 6 carry-ons, a stroller, two adults and two kids; it was a lot. David and I missed the days of having one bag each and just hopping from place to place – how times have changed. In the end from LGA to Brooklyn we spent under $50 on the taxi.
July in NYC is HOT, and I mean HOT HOT HOT. I don’t know if this was one of the hottest summers or what, but I was determined to suck it up, wipe the sweat, pack some deodorant, apologize to my thighs and keep it moving. David and Levi were perfectly content hanging in the hotel because of the heat – I wasn’t having it. I wanted to be out and about EVERYDAY!
Most families avoid NYC because it’s so expensive, but if you know where to look and have somewhat of a flexible schedule you can get by with only spending on transportation, accomodation and food. I planned a variety of FREE things to in NYC with kids almost everyday.
For example, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Children’s Museum of the Arts, American Museum of Natural History, NY Botanical Gardens, Bronx Zoo, Guggenheim, and African Burial Ground National Monument are all either free on certain days or pay-as-you wish. This is the case with various museums, zoos, botanical gardens, festivals, fitness classes, children activities, storytimes, concerts and movies in the park throughout the five boroughs in NYC.
We decided against seeing a show on Broadway as it’s not recommended to bring babies – plus Malachi definitely wouldn’t have sat through a live show. I had to miss over half of the Lion King because he was completely over it after the 20 minutes of previews and once he heard, “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba Sithi uhm ingonyama”.
So, what did we actually pay for? The most expensive experience was renting bikes at Central Park ($80), while the second was Lion King movie tickets ($60ish including snacks), and the third was renting a small surrey on Governors Island ($40). Other than that, we didn’t really spend much on activities or experiences. I would try to find alternative options for bike rental at Central Park – the customer service was really kind and accommodating but the bike padding and helmets weren’t clean nor did they look like there was an attempt at cleaning them.
Transportation: Because of the heat we ended up hopping in a cab or requesting an uber more than once. We did get the MTA (train) unlimited ride ($37 each) for David and I. Levi and Malachi were free! Can you tell from the photo Levi was OVER IT? This kid has ridden the train hundreds of times in Hong Kong, but he hated the NYC Subway. David couldn’t help but constantly make comparisons between NYC MTA and Hong Kong MTR. From air conditioned trains, clean stations, and customer service at mostly every stop – Hong Kong definitely is nicer all around. Levi kept asking “how many stops?”, “can we take an Uber?”, “I hate this train”. To be fair we did get stuck in a few delays and mishaps – but that’s NYC. He was however, very moved by the, “Excuse me ladies and gentleman, I don’t mean to interrupt your day but I’ve recently lost my husband, I’m going through a hard time and I would appreciate anything you can give”. This happened a few times and he wasn’t happy with us for not giving money or not believing the story. “She just lost her husband mom, she needs money to find him”. Oh Levi, my lovely third-culture-kid!
Food: I believe the most expensive meal was in Harlem (and it was worth it). Mostly, we ate relatively cheap and thankfully didn’t have any stomach issues from street food. Malachi can now boldly request a hot dog and ice cream.
Day 1: Brooklyn
We kept it simple and headed to Prospect Park. I packed the boys swim trunks and we enjoyed the Splash Park as well.
Day 2: Central Park
One thing I’ve always wanted to do was bike ride around Central Park. I’ve had this image in my mind for years of my family tandem bike riding and it being all picturesque. Okay, reality check, so I enjoyed myself because I’m a dork and just love making memories with my family. But for David and Malachi it sucked! David had to tandem ride with Levi (basically pull his weight) in 99 degree heat, plus carry our backpack for the day with water bottles, blanket, diapers, baby carrier, etc. It was rough. It was hot. We were tired! But looking back at it, I’m still happy we did it! I’ll definitely do it again when my kids are older and more than capable to carry their own weight. We stopped in the park and had lunch, Malachi ran through some sprinklers, the kids played at the playground, we grabbed some ice cream, dropped off the bikes, cooled off at a Barnes and Noble and with only a few meltdowns and tantrums (I won’t share from who) we headed back to the hotel.
Day 3 – 14 to come!