Now that my kids are getting a little older, I thought a mother-daughter trip to NYC would be fun with my teen, while my youngest child was at sleep away camp. With more stamina and more interest, the goal was to see some sights that we hadn’t on prior visits.
We opted for the cost effective Vamoose Bus that has three convenient pickup locations – Arlington and Lorton, Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland. For just $80 for a round trip ticket for the two of us, it couldn’t be beat (note we took the cheapest times available, prices go up slightly from the $40/pp RT). I am not a fan of driving, so it was an added bonus for me not to have to contend with the northeast corridor traffic. The bus drops you off near Penn Station in NYC.
By the time we arrived in NYC we were able to walk the 12 blocks to our hotel, check-in, drop our bags off and refresh. We stayed a block off of Times Square at Tryp by Wyndham.
National September 11th Memorial and Museum
The only thing on our itinerary for the day of our arrival was to visit the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. Visiting the Memorial is free, however the Museum does require tickets. Admission is $24 for adults, $18 for seniors, $15 for ages 7 to 17. We were there on a Tuesday, which coincided with their Free Admission Tuesdays program. Tickets for this program open up the Monday prior to the Tuesday you visit. I checked online the day before and had no problem getting a pair of free tickets for 5:30 p.m. admission. If you have younger kids, this might not be the way to go since lines tended to be long even with the timed ticket.
Both the Memorial and the Museum are breath-taking. It was an honor to be there and hard to keep emotions in check remembering that day. The Memorial is located at the site of the former World Trade Center complex and the two striking reflecting pools are fitting. They reside within the original footprints of the twin towers. Names are etched on the panels of the structure and you’ll see an occasional flower perched in a name to honor that person. We actually met a man who was visiting for the first time to pay tribute to his fellow fallen firefighter. It was his first time because he never was able to summon up the strength to visit the site until that day.
The Museum is logically and thoughtfully laid out from beginning to end and evokes many emotions throughout. For this reason, give careful consideration to what ages you bring to visit. I would say a mature 9-10 year old can handle the material and you may need to skip over some areas. Tip: download the app and bring headphones. We found the material on the app enhanced our visit that much more with this “personal” tour of the Museum. From the films and artifacts to the memorial exhibition, each piece tells a different story. Plan on at least two hours to visit the Museum.
- You are limited as to what you can bring inside. Large bags and other items will have to be checked in the coat room. I did see several families with strollers, but I think the Museum is best for families with children ages 9-10 and up depending on the level of your child’s maturity.
- The Memorial is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the Museum has hours that vary based on the day of the week.
- Hungry? There is a small cafe in the museum, but we had dinner after our visit at nearby Bill’s Bar & Burger. Delicious burgers!
- There are no public bathroom facilities outside, only inside the Museum.
- We took the subway from the Times Square district to the World Trade Center stop. You can also get there by bus, PATH, ferry, car or foot depending on your location, public transportation is highly recommended though.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Waking up renewed with energy on day two, our next must-do was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, about a two mile walk from our hotel. Walking was a must and this allowed us to take in some of the sights, sounds and smells of mid-town New York and some of Central Park. You can get to the museum by public transportation, a taxi or car.
We spent about four and a half hours at the Museum and certainly didn’t get to see 1/2 of the collection, but we saw a lot! The Our Kids rule is to arrive at opening time and the rule holds true in NYC. We arrived shortly after opening (10 a.m.) and there were minimal lines and crowds. By the time we left around 3 p.m., crowds had thickened through the course of to the day. But since the Museum is so large, none of the exhibit halls, with the exception of Egyptian Art section felt overly packed.
Our favorites included: Drawings and Prints, European Paintings, Musical Instruments and the Greek and Roman Art exhibits. The gift shop was a shoppers paradise. So many books, trinkets and apparel and accessories – you could easily spend lots of time and money in there.
Admission is recommended at $25 for adults ,$17 for seniors, $12 for students and under 12 free. Fun fact: recommended means just that. You don’t have to pay what the Museum recommends, but they ask you to do so to help cover the cost of exhibitions. I’ve read various news sources stating that the Museum receives many grants to cover their expenses…but let your conscience be your guide.
If you have more time in the city, your MET ticket includes admission to the main building as well as same week admission to the Cloisters museum and gardens. We were hoping to go there, but ran out of steam.
Tips and Other Information
- Download The Met App. It includes an audio guide, so that whenever you are by a work of art, type in the number and get a short history of the piece. I found it incredibly helpful and it might be a nice way to engage the children in your party with the art.
- The Museum has specific tours for kids. If you’re bringing younger kids (which you absolutely should), consider partaking in one of the nicely laid out kids tours. Pickup a brochure at the front information desk.
- Plenty of eating opportunities abound. We went for casual and ate a mediocre meal in the cafeteria. Food was pricey, but that was expected. We had hoped to dine at the Roof Garden Cafe, but alas the weather was too stormy on the day of our visit.
- Travel light! Strollers are permitted, but large bags are not. They do have a coat check to store those items. Food is also not allowed to be brought into the museum from outside.
So many shows, so little time. We knew that we wanted to see one show while in NYC. We looked online at options and wanted to see about getting discounted tickets. On the way back to our hotel from the MET, we saw the line for the TKTS booth was outrageous, so we thought we were out of luck. After resting up at the hotel for a bit, I went back out to the booth and lucked out with a quick line and scored great seats to Finding Neverland at the Lunt-Fontanne Theare. It probably helped that it was a Wednesday vs. a weekend. I’ve read getting there in line early is best, but showing up 2 hours after the crowds died down worked best for us.
For those not familiar with TKTS, it is operated by the theater development fund and sells same-day discounted tickets based on whatever the theater gives them. Ticket discounts range, but can be up to 50% off, which is what happened for us. Download their app and you can get up to the minute details on what shows are available and what the discount will be.
We were excited about Finding Neverland because it stars Matthew Morrison, a suave actor who had a lead role on the TV show Glee, as well many a Broadway production. This musical is not the story of Peter Pan, but it’s a show that tells the story of J.M. Barrie and how though his life’s trials and tribulations he came up with the story of Peter Pan. The cast was outstanding and it was fun to see some actors we recognized from various other programs. Our favorite song was “Stronger” and the “Neverland” (Reprise) scene stole my heart. This musical is family-friendly and we would recommend it for ages 7 and up. The musical clocked in at about 2 1/2 hours including an intermission.
Small world story – during intermission, I ran into a friend from Arlington, who it turns out had her nephew in the play. He played one of the Davis boys – how cool!
After the show, we fan-girled out and waited outside the stage door. It took a while, but we were so lucky to have interacted with some of the cast from the show.
On our last day, we were exhausted, so we thought a carefree trip to see the entire city would be nice. We headed to Rockefeller Center, a national historic landmark in midtown Manhattan, an easy walk from our hotel. What I didn’t realize was that there are many things happening here. They have shops galore, a farmers market, many options for eating, plus the ice rink in the winter months. And if you’re an early bird, NBC’s Today Show is filmed at Studio 1A M-F. Taping starts around 6 a.m.
We knew we wanted to take in the view from the Top of the Rock and learn a little history in the process so quickly purchased our tickets online for the next available time slot. That turned about to be an hour wait, so we shopped and had a snack break at the local Starbucks. Tip: buy your tickets online! If you aren’t using any of the tourist packages, this is the easiest and fastest way to secure your tickets. Don’t stand in the crazy lines that form just to get a paper ticket. Save time – save money – save the environment.
Once you get in the elevator, you’ll be whisked to a floor where your bags will be checked and you walk through the metal detectors. Thereafter you can read about the history of Rockefeller Center and watch three short films if you choose to do so. Next, the elevator will take you to the 67th floor where you can start enjoying the spectacular views. There is an escalator to the 69th floor and then stairs to the 70th floor.
Download their app to listen to the history of the building plus fun facts as to what you’re seeing from the various viewpoints. We spent about 1 hour total on this tour. Tickets are pricey ($30/adult; $24/child ages 6 to 12); Senior $28, but I thought it was money well worth spent. We had a beautiful, clear blue day and could see so many iconic places.
Other Random Notes
- Because we stayed one block off of Times Square, it made it very easy to get to the various attractions we wanted to visit. Several people I had talked to said to stay in New Jersey for cheaper hotel rates and train in; but we used a great deal from Groupon and enjoyed being right in the middle of things. I would recommend looking at the various deal sites and remember that it’s just a room and you’ll be spending most of your time out sightseeing.
- Times Square is busy, that goes without saying. Stay together, stay alert. There is so much to look at – from the flashy billboards, to all the people as well as shops. Almost every store you can imagine is in and around this area. We headed to the Lindt USA Chocolate Shop, Midtown Comics, The Gap, The Disney Store and several others.
- We enjoyed breakfast twice at a place I’d highly recommend — Carve. Reasonable prices for an omlette one day and then a bagel the next. Nice service as well. They’re open 24 hours and also serve sandwiches and pizza, both of which we didn’t partake and I regret that we didn’t.
- We had two yummy dinners in the Times Square area. The first was Daniela Trattoria, Italian food at its best. Service was impeccable and the meal was exactly what we were craving before heading to Finding Neverland. The second was Minar Indian Restaurant, which has been in New York City for over 30 years. It was casual and the food delicious.
With so much to do and see, pick a few destinations within the city and make NYC a place to come back to every so often. Happy travels!
Photos courtesy of Amy Miller