NYC is a place we are very familiar with. Both Dave and I grew up in North Jersey (him in Jersey City just across the river) and most of our family still lives there so we visit several times a year. Unlike other places, there wasn’t much to research since I was super familiar with the city, subway, etc. so Milana and I headed on a mom-daughter trip for a quick 3 full days (4 nights). Milana has been several times already, but mainly on day trips from when we visited family. Our main reason for going this time was because she kept asking to see the Statue of Liberty, so I had to make it happen. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Times Square West which was in an awesome location. I used points for the room, making it free. We flew JetBlue to JFK using points and home from LGA on Southwest, using points again, making this a super inexpensive trip.
Things to note:
-While we don’t use a stroller, there were several places I couldn’t imagine pushing one through the crowds. I also didn’t see elevators/escalators at some subway station so if you bring one, make sure it’s something you can fold and carry without issues.
-We have been all over the world. When going to Tokyo, we were warned that credit cards were not accepted at most places. We found that to be false and used our cc 95% of the time in Tokyo, even for small purchases. On our recent trip to Stockholm, there were signs at restaurants and stores that cash isn’t accepted and that was the first trip where we didn’t pull out any cash at all. Sweden is the most cashless society on the planet.
Fast forward to NYC…I was shocked that I had to go to the ATM multiple times on our trip because stores and restaurants were cash only. I don’t remember this at all, and some tried to charge a fee ($1-$2 per transaction!!) to use a credit card. Now I get small business owners pay fees, but most will build that into their prices. I am a small business owner, I take credit cards. After almost 2 days of this, we would just walk out of the places that wouldn’t accept cards or would charge to use one and we went elsewhere. As someone who travels using points and miles, I prefer to use my cc everywhere and pay it off at the end of every month to earn points. It was shocking to see such a large % of NYC businesses with signs saying no cards were accepted.
Of course, the most popular forms of transportation is going to be the subway. However, after not visiting the city for a few years, I had forgotten just how awful the NYC subway is! Milana quickly realized that it wasn’t like Tokyo or Taipei and kept asking me why the people are so rude, why they don’t let anyone off before pushing on and why all the young men didn’t get up when a very elderly lady got on. We had a talk about the differences of people in NYC vs. the countries she’s more familiar with and she proclaimed that this was the worst and dirtiest train she’s been on so far, and I don’t disagree!
In Tokyo and Taipei, they had designated seating for elderly people, kids, pregnant women, etc. They would get up and offer their seat as soon as someone in that group would come on. In NYC? Good luck with that! Now Milana can stand and that’s fine, but when a woman in her 80s got on and not a single young man stood up to offer her a seat, my faith in humanity waned a little that day. I helped the poor woman balance all the while trying to keep Milana from falling. I have lots of friends in the city who commute using the subway and several have told me that when they were nearly 9 months pregnant, nobody would offer them a seat. In Taipei and Tokyo, people would line up in the order they arrived and (what a concept!) would wait for those exiting the train to get off before entering in an orderly fashion. Tokyo is a huge city, yet you could hear a pin drop on the crowded train as the locals quietly sat/stood on the way to their destination.
The trains were also dirty, smelled like urine (nothing new, I remember that from living there) and were just not pleasant to use. Milana spotted several rats on the tracks, the one thing I don’t miss! I still remember the huge rats, they were practically the size of cats and so so nasty! Needless to say, after a day of using the subway, Milana asked if we can please walk and we ended up walking an hour or more back to our hotel from wherever we happened to be just to avoid it. We used Uber a few times as well, it was a much more pleasant experience and I was glad to have my mifold with me for the rides.
Milana’s first subway ride/visit to the city:
THINGS TO DO
One of the most popular things in NYC is Central Park. Our most recent trip was July 2018 and Milana was 6 at the time of travel. There are so many things to do in Central Park! From wandering around and just enjoying the calm in such a busy city, to exploring the many playgrounds Central Park has lots to offer for families with kids of all ages.
Since I knew we were going to be visiting the Statue of Liberty, I booked tickets in advance (well 2 weeks in advance since this trip was booked somewhat last minute!). I highly recommend booking in advance, as they were sold out when we arrived. Milana loved seeing the statue up close and now has an idea of some of the history behind it.
Since we took the ferry to the statue from Battery Park, we had to check out the Seaglass Carousel while there. This is better at night with all the lights, but I didn’t want to come back to that area yet again so we did it in the daytime. This is so much fun, Milana rode twice!
We also visited the American Girl store. We have one in LA that I think is much better than NYC but she wanted to see it so we did.
One of the coolest things we did was visit Gulliver’s Gate, an interactive miniature world filled with landmarks from all over the world. Milana loved this place and recognized many cities that she has been to from all over the world. If you only do one thing, I highly recommend this. She still talks about it!
Times Square is probably the most popular tourist attraction. Definitely not my favorite but Milana asked to see it so we went one day so she can see it. I used to love the Toys R Us there, it was huge and had multiple levels and even a ferris wheel. It’s definitely missed!
My favorite neighborhood in the city is Union Square. This is where I spent lots of time when we lived there and it’s still exactly like I remember! Take your kids to Union Square park (one of the better city playgrounds) and stop at the Whole Foods across the street for some picnic food.
Washington Square Park is also nice, especially in the summer since kids are allowed to play in the fountain.
We also walked around Chinatown but only because we were were already there for dim sum. NYC’s Chinatown is my least favorite, it’s nothing like San Francisco’s so I wouldn’t make a special trip to see it unless you are already dining there.
We also walked around the Lower East Side after having dinner in the area. We found a cute little playground and some good restaurants.
Now normally I have a long list of places we must go to, however we have been to all our favorites multiple times so I didn’t really plan much food. We did eat a late lunch/early dinner at Whole Foods twice so not as much dining out as usual. I know we had to have bagels with taylor ham, something I miss dearly from Jersey! West Coast bagels are awful and they have no idea what taylor ham is. Much to my delight, one of the best bagel places was just 2 blocks from our hotel-Best Bagels. The line is out the door, even on a Monday, but so worth the wait! We ate breakfast here every single day.
I remember driving into the city for Gray’s Papaya hot dogs with friends in the middle of the night and not much has changed. There are now more locations throughout the city, one being less than 2 blocks from our hotel. Still the best and cheapest hot dog in the city, much better than the carts and Milana agreed!
We did have one hot dog from the cart just so she tried it, but it wasn’t very good.
Another thing I miss on the West Coast is the pizza. We ordered pizza to the hotel one night using Uber Eats (from Joe’s Pizza) and it was so good!
The Meatball Shop (several locations) used to be a favorite too, and Milana loves meatballs so we went one day for an early dinner. She loved the pasta with meatballs and I tried a few different meatballs and all were really good! The buffalo chicken were my favorite.
If you go to Washington Square Park, walk the 2 minutes to Pommes Frites. We used to go here years ago and it’s still the same. Awesome fries with a ton of sauce options.
And of course, we love dim sum! We went to the Golden Unicorn on a Sunday morning and the wait was super long. We waited nearly an hour but it was so worth it! They have traditional push carts however if you know what you like, it’s best to just ask the waiter to bring it as the room is huge and there aren’t many carts walking around. Our waiter told us he’s impressed that we know what we want by name, I guess he assumed we are typical tourists who have no idea what to order. We go to dim sum at least twice a month at home and are very familiar with the food so this was the perfect place for us. And they had really cute piggie buns filled with custard, which Milana loved!
For dessert one day, we went to Max Brenner. We used to go here when we lived nearby and then Vegas got a location but that didn’t last very long. Still the same with some yummy chocolate desserts. They have food too, but I wouldn’t come here for food..just come for some chocolate!
We also tried New Territories (near the Meatball shop on the Lower East Side) and had the unicorn shake.
And Dylan’s Candy Bar. We have one in LA but ours doesn’t have the restaurant portion. The desserts here are huge and really good!
Overall, we had a fun mom-daughter trip to the city. However after leaving the East coast and being gone for so many years, the city definitely leaves a lot to be desired. We will continue to visit family in Jersey however I am not so sure I will be willingly going back to NYC any time soon!