It was still early when we left the Empire State Building. We started north, heading to our next stop - The New York Public Library. My children grew up watching PBS's "Between the Lions" and that was all that they were able to see when we got there. Turns out that the library doesn't open until 10 am and we were well before that. The clouds that were obscuring the view a the ESB now decided to show us what they were good for and the rain started to come down.
It wasn't a hard rain so we pressed on to Bryant Park which is just behind the library. Although the park is near as impressive as the grand daddy Central, it was still a nice juxtaposition between the vibrant greens of the park and the surrounding city scape. The architecture was interesting as well, something completely lost on the kids with us. As we reached the entrance to the park, buckets began to fall and we took shelter under an umbrella with a friendly non-English speaking fellow. Who says that New Yorkers aren't friendly? Just because you can't understand someone doesn't mean he isn't friendly.
From there we went west until we found Broadway and traveled north. As the kids began to see the spectacle that is Times Square, they began to get excited. If you have never been there, you should go at least once, just to say you've been. I had only been there at night and was surprised at just how vibrant it was during the day. This, to the kids, was what New York was all about.
Again the tourist mongers were out in force. "Tour the city?" "Need a guide?" Etc., etc. As before we largely ignored them. Something else was going on here, which was either absent or I simply missed back at the ESB, homeless panhandlers. Although this was a first, each panhandler stood over a clear plastic box with cash inside and collected for the homeless shelter for the area. The fact that they were organized were no less annoying however and every half block I was accosted. Still, not nearly as bad as San Francisco where every 5 feet you are molested.
The kids had a ball. We went to a giant Toys R Us with an internal Ferris Wheel and a life size T-Rex that was animated. From there we went to the M&M's World first stopping by the ABC studios to wave at the anchors inside. We headed east to Rockefeller Center and stopped for some authentic pizza even though it was still a bit early for lunch.
Southerners don't understand all the hubbub about New York pizza. Why are New Yorkers who live down here always complaining about the pizza? All I can say is that after having that pizza there in the city, I think I begin to understand. It was GOOD.
The pizza place was conveniently located just across the street from the Nintendo World which proved to be very lame. All of that creativity from Japan and the best they can do is that store. We strolled past the NBC studios and where the Christmas Tree usually stands. My daughter wanted to go ice skating like she saw on TV and didn't understand why the rink wasn't open. In the south our rinks are all indoors so she didn't grasp at first. Heading toward Madison Avenue we discovered the newly open Lego World and almost couldn't get my youngest to leave. He could have spent the rest of his life there.
My sister in law found her own heaven on Madison Avenue. My daughter and her bonded over a pair of $1000 shoes at some store we passed on the way to the Sony Wonderlabs. As I pulled them away from the potential shopping, I promised that she could come back to the city some other time....
The Wonderlabs were really cool and best of all were free. Throughout the day, the there that stood out was that the things we had to pay for were a rip and totally not worth it. The kids had more fun at the locations that didn't cost us a dime (at least to participate in). They had more fun at stores and parks they did at the attractions that cost.
We breezed through the Apple store as although it was cool to see from the outside, was uninteresting on the inside. FAO Swartz was a clear winner though and my eldest fell in love with a $1200 stuffed bear. Start saving those pennies now!
Up until this point we were doing great. I had joked the previous night that we would go until the 8 yr old or 40 somethings gave out. So far so good. I had actually hinted that my sister in law would be the first to give in, being the oldest and all. We headed to the Central Park Zoo and decided that they wanted way too much money for such a tiny little attraction. Then we started the hike across the park to our final destination, the American Museum of Natural History.
The park killed us. Up until then our journey had been relatively flat and shady. Central Park was very hilly with large areas of sunlight. Energy draining sunlight. By the time we cleared the park, we were done. All of us. No exceptions. So much for the weak crashing first. I take back my teasing, we all suffered.
Fortunately, we got into the museum for a small donation of $10 since they were getting close to closing time. I regret that as I could have spent half a day there with no problem. Since we were toast, we took the subway back to Penn Station. We did go back to the ESB to see the view, but like I said before, it really isn't worth it, but you have to have done it at least once.
Most everyone slept on the train ride back to Jersey, the kids dreaming of all the sites they had seen and the adults longing for a cold beverage and hot foot soak.
Can't wait to go back!
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