New York City: aka My Back Yard

Last week I wrote about collecting experiences over things.  I happen to live in a town that is a MECCA for all kinds of experiences.  This Ohio transplant considers this mecca her adopted backyard.  I love to SHARE my favorite parts of NYC whenever possible with anyone who asks.  In May, I usually hear from 4 or 5 families in the midst of planning their slices of time in the big apple.  After I write the first reply sharing my classic favorite experiences and my experiences du jour, I copy and paste the answer for the other inquiring families.  The list is deliberately short so as not to overwhelm and is geared toward folks traveling with the shorter set.

Here’s what I shared this year…

Broadway shows:
Can’t go wrong with Beautiful the Musical, Wicked or The Lion King (the opening number alone is worth the price of admission).  Waitress (though there are some racy bits – be ready to cover young eyes for a minute or two).  I have not seen it, but hear Anastasia is everything you’d want in a big sweeping, learn a bit about history, Broadway show.  Come From Away – my favorite show of last spring.  Groundhog Day is a hoot…I could watch that over and over and over.  Get it?  Dear Evan Hansen for the teens and their parents (still find myself listening to the soundtrack on endless repeat).


img_0524.jpgWhile on Broadway I recommend ducking into Gulliver’s Gate to spend a couple of hours before or after your show.  It would even be worthwhile to make a special trip to go see it and wander around Times Square.  This around the world tour of interactive mini models, that were built in the very country they represent, is an ideal excursion for a group of all ages.

Chinatown – We never tire of visiting Chinatown and go there often with no particular agenda.  We just keep our eyes wide open and duck into shops that catch our fancy.  If the restaurant is full, that’s a good bet you’re in for some delicious dim sum and if you have time sneak in for a quick and cheap foot massage.  You will be doing a lot of walking as you experience New York City, reward those feet!


The Tenement Museum – Living history at it’s best.  Interact with actors as you learn about life as an immigrant in a tenement.  All sorts of different “tours” to choose from and every person in your party will be engaged and leave with a new understanding of the immigrant’s experience in NYC.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – We have been here many times and still don’t feel like we’ve seen everything, but we keep trying.  We are partial to the Temple of Dendur and  The Astor Chinese Garden Court that my son discovered once while on a school trip.  Oh and make the trek to the rooftop for whatever installation is up there to enjoy, take in the views and perhaps a libation.

Cooper Hewitt Museum of Design  Not a living history museum, but certainly one of the most lively museums we’ve had the pleasure of visiting.  As one would expect of a design museum, they took their 3 year re-design super seriously.  This new and improved highly interactive offering is definitely something you want to experience.  The place is meant to be hands on and experiential.  Upon arrival you are handed an electronic pen that you are encouraged to use as you interact with the exhibits.  You and your kids will be learning as you play – which, to me, is the best way to learn.  All of you will discover your inner designer and perhaps think a bit more about the design of objects in your life and the purpose they serve.  Take some time before or after your visit to park it in the expansive courtyard adjacent to the building.  This is my new favorite place to tuck into for coffee with friends, but please keep that low.


Central Park – Oh how we love Central Park.  Again best to not have an agenda, just walk and wander and wonder.  Perhaps sneak in for a cocktail or a meal at The Boathouse?  Sit and admire the beautiful Bethesda Fountain.  Wander under the arches next to the fountain and gaze at the art on the ceiling – don’t fight the temptation to make echoes with your voice – do it!  Take a ramble through The Ramble and make the climb to Belvedere Castle.  Walk East to West or North to South or in a circle. Wander as you please.  You could make a day just exploring the various playgrounds.  A merry go round ride might be fun too.


That’s what I shared with my people when they reached out last May.  My friend from my publishing days the irrepressible Jane Manning Hyatt took on NYC with a whole different approach rather than asking one person she reached out on Facebook to her 1,000 or so friends and asked…

Friends! Tell me about your version of NYC – What are your favorite places to eat ($$-$$$)? Other highly recommended activities/places to see that aren’t on the regular tourist route?

Here are the answers she received by category.  I have referred to this list often and the recommendations have been spot on.  Of particular note is the long list of restaurants finds on this list.   Even the most hard core New Yorker might find something new on this list.  Thank you fun and knowledgeable friends of Jane Manning Hyatt.  Some people go micro, others go macro…anyway you slice and dice it though, the big apple is ready for you and your group to experience it.


Walk the Highline

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Learning & Culture

New York Vintners offers wine and cheese classes umm okay!??

The Tenement Museum

The Morgan Library

The Whitney

Cloisters Museum

The Met Museum


China Town

West Village



Donut Plant in Chelsea – grab a donut and take it hiking with you on the Highline

Halal Guys Food Truck 51st and 6th – all other Halal trucks are imitations


Bar at the Nomad Hotel

Bar at the top of The Standard Hotel

Flat Iron Lounge


Cafe Loup for Jazz Brunch and then walk the highland

11 Madison Park – get the chocolate shuffle for dessert

Claudette NYC


Brunch at Balthazar (really any meal though)

ViceVersa NYC (they serve a life changing Panna Cotta)

Gramercy Tavern


Red Telephone

Red Rooster Harlem

Roebling Pizza, Brooklyn,  Old School, the real deal


Carmines (pre or post the theater)

Park Avenue Summer


Gramercy Tavern

The Cecil

The Boathouse


Shake Shack

Gotham Bar and Grill

Ansel Bakery

89 Greenwich Avenue

Per Se


4 Responses

    1. Ooh The Frick! I have not been there in years but did love it when I went. Will go back this fall with my group for a visit – thank you for the reminder. Crazy how these things can slip through your NYC cracks. THANK YOU! And yes this crowd sourcing of vacation planning is a good idea – and so EASY these days. Cheers.

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