Throughout this era of the pandemic I, like probably you, have been on a constant quest for the covid silver lining. There have been surprisingly quite a few. That said, I would give every single one of them up to get back lives that were lost or seriously altered in a negative fashion. But as I cannot make that happen, the quest continues.
So here I am delivering to you a shiny red Big Apple in the form of a silver lining – NOW is the time to pop your mask on and take FULL advantage of the many, many institutions and dining establishments that are open and eager to accommodate your visit. Handcuffed to the state for medical reasons we decided to allocate our spring break 2021 dollars not to jungle quests and skinny margaritas in Costa Rica, but to our beloved backyard: NYC aka The Big Apple. Our friends Stacie and Michael came down from Boston to join.
I will give you our mini agenda, but let me paint a quick picture for you here: On Friday @3pm (after school has been let out – during a primo week of spring break) we had a “night at the museum” afternoon at the perennially popular and always fun to visit New York Natural History Museum. We sprinted around saying hello to our old friends of yore – the elephants quietly on their way to nowhere, the GIANT whale hung from the ceiling, and the fourth floor for a vertebra tutorial. No wait. No lines, No strollers nipping at your heels. And quiet. So quiet. Eerie quiet. Special quiet… interrupted only by our awed whispers along the lines of “this is amazing…” “we are so lucky.”
This same scenario happened over and over – at The Met, along The Highline, as we peered over “The Edge” and in The Whitney. The only crowded forum we experienced was the East River Ferry on our way to Wall Street. But that’s because it was a gorgeous day and that ferry only runs every 90 minutes on weekends so simple supply and demand.
When planning exploration jaunts I follow a cluster model of sorts and use food/cocktails as the carrot/anchor/grand finale of our expedition. Also like to weave in sunset views and A LOT of walking. As a worky outy kind of family the mornings get left open so everyone can participate in the exercise mode of their choice. Then you can grab a quick free for all lunch at home (so those lunch dollars can be applied to dinner), take the dogs for a long walk before being abandoned and head out. Allocating pockets of quiet time is critical to keeping smiles brimming.
Here’s how we organized our time (we live on the Upper East Side):
Day 1: Central Park, Natural History Museum, Central Park, Dinner @Il Fiorista
Walk across park via Belvedere castle, get party started with whispering bench (people love this), weave through Shakespeare’s Garden, and keep West until the behemoth of the museum is before you. Note: buy your “extra” tickets before as with limited capacity they sell out. Or skip the “extras” and just visit with your old favorites cause who doesn’t have an old favorite in this treasure of a museum?
Exit Museum and head back through park. Head south through the Ramble, down the magical waterfall steps, over Bow Bridge and down the mall. Ooh and and ahh and politely listen if your guide (me!) happens to have just deep dove into collecting knowledge about Central Park and is keen to share it. 🙂 Duck into Hallett Sanctuary (closes at Sunset) to experience part of the park that most New Yorker’s (even ones that live or work 500 feet from) don’t even know exists.
Walk to 57th street Q station. Go to dinner somewhere in the Flatiron or Union Square. We went to the lovely Il Fiorista and had our own flower and book festooned greenhouse. Prix fixe =’s more time for socializing and a festive and flowery time was had by all including the teenagers.
Day 2: The Met, quiet time, Ferry ride, Wall Street Tour, Walking tour, Sunset, Dinner @Locande Verde
Meet at noon for The Met, because well it’s The Met. (Advance tickets required and though these can be competitive on the weekend the place is STILL empty). As this was our friend’s first time to The Met we had our son take us on a circumference tour of this massive museum. Having spent lots of time there at his school he knows all of the routes and useful backstairs so we were able to cover a great deal of the museum in our allotted 90 minutes. Need to go back for the Neel and Goya exhibits. Back at you in April Met.
And then? Quiet time. Quiet time enjoyed, we headed back out. Caught the 5:29pm ferry from E. 90th and The River and were whisked down to Wall Street by boat. Here Don gave us a quick tour and a history download. We waved at Alexander Hamilton’s grave, popped into and out of the Oculus, peered at the 9/11 fountains from afar (they are fenced off). Then had a blazing orange sky sunset walk up the river to a sumptuous dinner at Locanda Verde in Tribeca.
Day 3: The Whitney, The Highline, Hudson Yards, The Peak, The Edge
Saved my favorite day for last following the crescendo approach for planning. Workouts and lunches complete we hopped in cabs to The Whitney. Toured it top to bottom making sure to head outside on its sizable terraces to take full advantage of surrounding views enabling us to sneak a peak of the ghost town like Highline (a site never seen before by these eyes).
From there we got our reserved tickets (necessary only on weekends) out for a slow meander north on the aformentioned raised railroad which we got to have basically to ourselves. Even at a very deliberately slow pace the lack of crowds enables you to efficiently navigate this very special NYC path. We – literally – stopped to smell the flowers, sat on benches, looked at street art below, and stopped to admire each and every viewpoint. Was travel/tourist luxury personified. Go! Go! Go!
By then we were hungry so we zipped right into Hudson Yards onto the 5th Floor and were whisked up in our very own elevator ride to the 101st floor where the chi chi restaurant The Peak is housed. Due to some weather we were pretty much fine dining in a cloud, but by the time our entrees arrived the city began to dramatically emerge like a curtain was lifted.
When we arrived onto The Edge, champagne in our hands, all of Manhattan was around us giving us much reason to happily toast our good fortune (much to the relief of this NYC tour guide). The Edge is perhaps the definition of a tourist trap but if you are gonna be trapped somewhere this is a pretty swoon worthy trap. When this pandemic thing is over The Edge in addition to the view will also be all about lines and waiting and crowds. To avoid that and take a bite out of that view yourself. GO! GO! GO! even if it is raining.
And that was us taking 3 big and satisfying bites out of the glorious city we get to call home. Inspired!? Go!
Some planning logistics: The Peak for a sunset dinner needs to be booked 21 days in advance at 9am sharp. Tickets to The Edge on weekends at Sunset are also tricky time slots to grab. But this is a scrappy group, so you can do it. The museums and The Highline were less competitive and we grabbed our spots about a week in advance. Same with the Dinner reservations. Ferry tickets can be bought on site or via the NYC Ferry app in advance.
NYC is my favorite place to go in summer. Last summer I had to choose whether to buy a new Hallett boat or go to NYC, I chose boat. Sometimes I regret that choice. I wish this pandemic would be over soon, and I go to New York City as soon as possible. Thank you for an inspiration!