In our quest for more experiences and fewer things, we packed the kids up the first week of November, and headed off to New York City. Other than our trip to see Hamilton back in May, I had never been to NYC, either- I’m not sure the five hours in May counted as an actual visit. Jon’s sister and her husband met us there for three days of city exploring and fun, and it ended up being a pretty much perfect family trip.The drive from DC to NYC is only a few hours, and even Bean can manage that. We were able to leverage a great room in Midtown, where we not only had space (miraculous in Manhattan!) but the free Marriott breakfast buffet was included every morning. We figure we saved about $300 on breakfast alone, so totally worth it.
The first NYC Miracle was this:
Jeffrey immediately discovered the $1 pizza slices- Kelsey had been to NYC several times and was showing him the ropes. Our first foray, while we waited for Jon to return from parking the car, was the to the pizza stand on 6th and 39th. As I ordered slices for the other kids, Bean looked quizzically at me, and said, “Where’s mine?” Maintaining a calm facade, while freaking out and cheering inside, I slid another dollar towards the pizza man and asked for another slice of cheese. Pizza man, if he noticed me, might have been wondering why I was tearing up over his cheap pizza.
Having Bean in the city had me a little worried; how would he respond to the crowds of people, the smells, the noise? We’d talked about it, and part of why we got a midtown hotel was in case he needed to withdraw— it would have been easy for me to get him there, while letting everyone else go about their fun. Turns out it was all worries over nothing. He loved the city. He ate new food, he never wandered off, he communicated well, he seemed to just thrive on the energy- it was a complete, pleasant, surprise.
Jon met us back at the hotel, and after marveling at the views, we headed to Times Square. I wanted the kids to see it first in the dark, in all its flamboyant, garish, glory. They were not disappointed, and we walked through the throngs of people, laughing and with great smiles on everyone’s faces. Pro Tip: Dressing Bean in very loud clothing helps keep track of him—evidence to follow.Then, of course, we made our way to Hamilton, right as the night’s performance was getting under way. These kids, like a bajillion others, enter the lottery as often as possible, in hopes of someday getting a golden ticket. Someday it will happen!On Day Two, Bean donned what he named The Party Suit. Makes it very easy to keep track of him, honestly. We made massive use of the Marriott breakfast buffet, and headed out for our first NYC subway ride.
We headed down to see the September 11 Memorial. That was somber and more powerful than I anticipated; I knew it would be emotional, I just wasn’t quite prepared for how. I found the name of James V. DeBlasse, the man whom I wrote about in the 2996 Project, and stood still for a bit, thinking about that day. Three of our five kids weren’t even born yet, and none of them really remember a world before then.It’s a short walk from there to Trinity Church, where we were able to visit Alexander and Eliza Hamilton’s graves, and marvel at how many other people come to see them now. We found Angelica and Hercules, too, and then spent some time in the gorgeous sanctuary, where the kids lit a candle for David. It was a lovely pause in the middle of an exciting day.
Leaving the church, we made our way down Wall Street, visited General Washington, and headed towards the Battery. If you’re a #Hamilfan, you’re already singing all the same songs we did on our walk. The weather was sublime for November, and the skies were crystal blue and clear, with only a soft breeze. We didn’t need coats, and were fine in light sweaters. It was perfect.
Catching the Staten Island Ferry is a great way to get close to the Statue of Liberty, but keeping it affordable for a big family- we couldn’t get off, but for free, eight of us got to ride the ferry, see Lady Liberty, take our pictures, and everyone was happy. The ferry was easily Bean’s favorite part, but Abby was disgruntled because there were tall people in front of her- a fact she neglected to tell us until we’d disembarked. I think she still had fun anyway.
By the time darkness (such as it is in the city) settled in, everyone was pretty tired and ready for a break. We headed back to the room and ordered pizza, which for the first time ever, made EVERYONE happy! How great is it to feed all your kids the same food??!
Day Three, Jeffrey declared at the Breakfast Buffet that he was defeated. He was finally full, and the Marriott had won. Jon and I fist-bumped and marked the day.Much to our delight, Kelsey and I found a flea market on our blocked-off street, and we hurried down in search of souvenirs and treasures. It went on for blocks and blocks- food, vendors, crafts, junk, it was so amazing and fun. We wandered around until everyone was ready to head uptown. It was much colder than the day before, so cute scarves were in order, and easy to find. Everything is pretty much easy to find in NYC, right?
We headed uptown, towards the park, only to be stymied by the New York Marathon and the throngs of humans there, cheering on the runners. On Jeffrey’s food-bucket-list was a pastrami sandwich from Carnegie deli. Since no one else wanted one, we insisted he get it to go, and we wandered off to Rockefeller Center, where Bean desperately wanted to go ice skating, and Kelsey was her amiable self, happy sharing a piece of cheesecake with Abby.
Our last stop was Grand Central Station, before we had to say goodbye to family and head our separate ways. Everyone was tired (according to the fitbit, we’d walked more than 23 miles in three days) but everyone was also happy. This is the first family vacation we’ve taken where there was no stress, no conflict, everyone got along beautifully, and everyone really had a great time. It’s so much easier to do this now that they’re older, and this just makes me even more determined to swap out stuff for experience. They are all still talking about what a great time they had, but have already forgotten the Lego they bought at 30 Rock. It’s pretty clear we have a plan for the future now.