Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Trip to NYC ... Take 2

Last year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, our family decided to try something new and traveled into NYC to take in the family-friendly holiday happenings around Midtown Manhattan.  We found a dream line-up of pre-Christmas fun that included FAO Schwarz, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, the American Girl Doll store (have I mentioned I have three daughters), followed by dinner in Little Italy.  The kids just loved it and talked about our NYC trip all year long.  

The only snafu was finding a place to eat lunch around 5th Avenue, and of course the crowds in Little Italy.  Still, we had such a fun time we decided to make it an annual part of our holidays. 

This year we set out to repeat the fun, improving on our plan by packing a lunch and having better dinner options.  We decided to start at FAO Schwarz, then stroll through Central Park to the Holiday Market at Columbus Circle, take a train down to Bryant Park to take in more shops and enjoy the skaters, after which we'd go up 5th Avenue to the American Girl Doll store, and finally back to the car and home.  It was foolproof.

What happened, however, proved definitively that a year of anticipation and months of preparation are a sure way to ruin a perfectly good time.

Don’t get me wrong.  We had fun on our second annual tour of the NYC tourist traps.  And someday we may even laugh about it.  But we also learned a few things. 

First, we learned that the tall buildings in New York are not only excellent at funneling modest breezes and turning them into wind tunnel like gusts, but that these same buildings are also especially skilled at blocking out the lower-in-the-sky winter sun.  These two attributes can apparently work in tandem to make a typical 40-degree November day feel like the forecast for the Iditarod.  And while my coat was able to keep out the cold, I had no covering for my ears to block the constant complaining. 

Second, we found out that the Christmas Market at Columbus Circle doesn’t open the weekend after Thanksgiving, bucking the trend of holiday shopping centers.  No, these particular shops open a week later than that, after the initial holiday crowds have dispersed.  Of course, we learned this little factoid after dragging four children (three were actually dragged, one was on my shoulders) on a trek along the southern end of Central Park to the place where the market’s buildings stood empty, waiting to be filled with holiday commerce and joy.  It is worth noting that the journey along this end of the park is a lot longer than it looks on a map, and also smells of equine urine and droppings.  

Huddled Masses enjoying picnic lunch
on floor of Time Warner Center as
well-heeled holiday shoppers stare.
Third, we discovered that, should it ever be too cold to picnic outside in the Columbus Circle corner of the park, there aren’t many indoor places to eat a packed lunch.  In fact, there isn’t even one single bench within the mall-like Shops at Columbus Circle in the Time Warner Center around which a young family can gather to eat their pre-made sandwiches that were caringly placed in bags with their names on them.   The only real option is for the family to huddle in a corner of the mall and eat the measly sandwiches while hoping to avoid the unwanted attention of the mall’s crack security force.

Forth, we found out that if you are in the area of Columbus Circle with four children and a stroller, and you hope to take the subway to Bryant Park – a short jaunt on the 1 Line Downtown -- you really should not take just any elevator down to the subway platform.  Because there is a good chance that platform only serves trains going Uptown.  And if you find yourself on the wrong platform, you and the stroller and the children will take another four elevators, connecting countless platforms and dark passageways, before you arrive at the platform for the 1 Line train bound for Downtown.

Fifth, we learned that the bathroom line at the Bryant Park plaza and skating rink is about 40 minutes long, that the hot chocolate sold there stains almost anything, and that children really do not enjoy watching other people go ice skating.  A taste of what the time at Bryant Park was like:  Please can we go ice skating. No.  Please can we go ice skating. No.  Please can we go ice skating. No.  Please can we go ice skating. No. ... I have to pee.

Sixth, we figured out that the many workers at the American Girl Doll store on 5th Avenue have no possible way to clean the floors of said store once the doors open and the constant parade of spoiled brats spills in for the day, as they all beg their weak-minded parents for overpriced dolls.  By the time our children arrived at the store around 5pm and commenced begging, the carpet resembled the floor of a movie theater after a food fight.  It was certainly no place for that one two-year-old boy to show his exhaustion and disinterest in dolls by rolling around between shoppers and crawling like a dog.  His poor parents!   Did I mention that it was our two-year-old boy.

As a final lesson, we learned first-hand that there actually are bad restaurants in Manhattan.  Like, really bad.  I know it’s a shock. All the talk of how good restaurants are in NYC I was certain even the bad ones would be okay, especially for a family of Podunks from Syracuse.  It turns out that isn’t true.  In fact, a bad restaurant in Manhattan is probably worse than the typical bad restaurant someplace else.  We learned this one at a quant-seeming irish pub/restaurant within a block of 5th Avenue when we had the worst meal we've ever had in our entire complete lives.  To top it off, it was expensive.  Really expensive.   Like, did I miss the lobster course, expensive.   We could’ve bought an actual American Girl doll, plus two tacky outfits, for that price. 

Of course, the leisurely post-meal walk up 5th Avenue, past the windows at Saks, past the scaffolding-clad tree at Rock Center and under the hanging star on 59th street, made it all worth it.  Truly, the kids loved it, and will surely talk about for a year.

Our second annual holiday trip to Manhattan was certainly one for the ages.   Heck, someday, my wife and I may even learn to laugh about it.  And next year, we’ll be sure to do it even better.  If anyone has suggestions on how, please let us know.


kelly said...

You should make Denver your new post-Thanksgiving tradition. Plenty of room to roam and the meals are free.

Cort Ruddy said...

One of these days, there will be a knock at the door, and all six of us will be there, hungry, tired and weary from a long drive. You are forewarned.