Life Updated: NYC with the Family

Our family loves New York City.  It is a pretty expensive city to visit, so we try to visit every other year.  2013 was the year.  If you follow Upcycled Education on Instagram, you've already seen most of the photos I plan to share.  But, I wanted to add some text and tips to them, especially since, blog reader and good friend, MG, is heading to NYC with a group of high school students next week.

Get some sleep before you go, MG!  Huzzah!  

Hello, Times Square!

One of the main reasons we went to NYC this year was because of Lil O.  Besides, Lil O being a huge city-girl, she also received Broadway tickets to see Annie for the holidays.  This is the first time Annie has been revived on Broadway in 30 years ago.  The show was absolutely delightful! I would go again in a heartbeat.

And yes, Lil O is sporting the same hair bling from early January.
That stuff stays in her hair for months.

When we visit NYC, we like to do things in "zones."  For example, we do everything we want to do in Midtown Manhattan.  Then, everything we want to do in the Upper East Side.  Everything we want to do in Chinatown.....  Otherwise, you spent either a lot of money on cabs and subway rides or your feet wear out from walking.

Of course, we eat, sight-see and shop along the way.....

A little girl's dream.

We sometimes meet up with old friends, like JC, whom I have known since I was 8 years old! And guess what?  JC is a literary agent!  You remember how I want to write a book one day, yes?  JC and I are scheming.

We had lunch at Eataly which is a lovely Italian market, but you need to
really LOVE food, like crowds and appreciate Italian products.

Alright, alright...I will stop talking about old friends, dreams of authorship and love for Annie.  Let's get to our family's favorites....

Cartwheeling on the Highline Trail
Lower Sides of Manhattan:

  • The Highline Trail - This converted railway is awesome.  More awesome than we thought it was going to be.  It is a lovely, funky, outdoor path that parallels the Hudson River.  The whole trail - one way - is about 1.5 miles.  We started at the north end and walked to the south end (ending at the Standard Hotel), then we cabbed closer to China Town.
  • Joe's Shanghai - In Chinatown, a good friend recommended this restaurant.  Joe's is notorious for their soup dumplings (see photo below).  Basically, you nibble on the edge of the dumpling, slurp out the soup, and gobble down the wonton-ish wrapper.  Lil O was thrilled!  SPECIAL NOTE:  Joe's gets packed!  Get there before 5pm to a get a table quickly.
  • Peking Duck House - This restaurant is our general "go to" in Chinatown.  We love the plush atmosphere and food.  If Joe's is too crowded, you won't be let down at Peking Duck House.
  • After Chinatown - which we prefer to visit at night as it feels more lively - we usually shop in Chinatown and then, walk through Little Italy (as it is right next to Chinatown) and grab a dessert before hopping either the subway or a cab back to the hotel.
  • Other recommendations from JC:  Pizza at San Marzano's and Cuban food at Cafe Habana (famous for their corn).  For kids, Peanut Butter and Company is recommended (check out their menu!).  And Mama Mariah from this homeschooling post here loves Rice at 292 Elizabeth Street (they are open; their website is just wonky).
  • REI - We would have visited this location in Soho, but we ran out of time.
Slurping soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown, NYC
Since I mentioned hotels above, we have stayed at:
  • Marriott Marquis in Times Square - What a fun location and if you request a room overlooking Times Square, it is pure entertainment!  This is where we stayed this last trip.
  • Residence Inn near Times Square - If you want a small kitchenette (in case you are traveling with small kids or like to have leftovers to munch on....), this is a good location.
  • Roosevelt Hotel - A very stately hotel in a great location.  We scored a room there via one of our last visits.

Bryant Park in Midtown is lovely at night.  Plus, there is free ice skating.
You just pay for skate rental ($14).
Doesn't the Empire State Building look divine?
In Midtown, we like....
  • Shake Shack - Yum!  Hip, busy, and fun for burgers, fries, and milkshakes.  We hit Shake Shack after seeing Annie and it was bustling at 10pm.
  • Bryant Park - (see photo directly above). It was magical at night all lit up and glorious.
  • Evergreen Cafe - the most affordable, down-home and tasty breakfast near Times Square.  I could probably eat there all mornings.
  • NBC Tour - Yep, we paid our $24 and took a tour of NBC studios.  Since Lil O loves Saturday Night Live skits, like this one, she was elated to be on the set!  I must say, it was enjoyable to see the "behind the scenes" stuff.
  • Rockefeller Center - This is always a good classic to visit.  The ice skating is way too expensive for me, but I love the feel of RC, the shops that surround it and being outside amongst the waving flags.  Our favorite shops there are the Nintendo and Lego stores.  Of course, 5th Avenue is right there brimming with shops like the American Girl Store.
  • The Today Show - We often wake up early and try to get our faces on TV by huddling outside the Today Show.  This time, we decided to sleep in :)  However, look below.  We did get our faces on a giant jumbo-tron at Times Square. Do you see us?
  • Carnegie Deli - We grabbed lunch to go and ate it on the train back home.  Mr. UpCyclist highly recommends the hard salami or pastrami sandwiches - which are expensive, but literally last for four meals (and I am not kidding).  Lil O likes their chicken tenders.  And me?  Their black-n-white cookies.  Woot, woot!
Can you spot the three of us in the above photo?

And now for our favorite restaurant in Midtown.....Cue spotlight.....
  • Udon West - Lil O loves udon soup, so Yelp led us to this small, local restaurant.  It was SOOOOO tasty.  We liked the shrimp/tempura veggie and fried chicken udon soups best.  Yes, I did just say fried chicken and udon in the same sentence.  Trust me on this one.  The three of us are still craving this soup.  Oh......
Pinch me.  This place is pure udon heaven.
That clump is shrimp and veggie tempura that you just break up
and throw into your bowl of soup, which I suggest you do.

Favorite Upper East Side places to visit....
  • Dylan's Candy Bar - Owned by Ralph Lauren's daughter, this is our favorite place to visit and buy souvenirs for friends and family.
  • Serendipity - This is a funky classic in NYC.  You "have" to indulge and order their frozen hot chocolate and share it with 2-3 friends.  Since there is usually a long wait to get in, call ahead and score a coveted reservation like we did.
  • FAO Schwarz - This toy store is a classic (right by the Apple Store, I might add).  We like to hit it on the way to Dylan's.  Their candy section has been expanded and rivals Dylan's.
  • Central Park - Need I say more?  Photo below.
There is so much to do in Central Park; walk, ride, bike.  Ice skate.
Visit the zoo. Just be.

Upper West Side places to visit....

This trip, we didn't have time for the Upper West Side, but if we had time, we would have hit:
  • Whole Foods - On Columbus Circle.  You know of my admiration for a good Whole Foods, yes?
  • Alice's Cup of Tea - JC recommended this for kids and as an alternative to Serendipity. 
And to top off a trip to NYC, we indulged in these sweet, little gems.  Macarons, which apparently are all the rage.  We loved this lovely shop, the Macaron Cafe.  Their packaging and macs were brilliant.

Treat yourself.  Aren't these macarons so pretty?

Mr. UpCyclist just leaned over my shoulder and said next time we go, we are visiting this math museum, which normally wouldn't excite me.  But, check out their photos here.  It looks amazing.

Dear reader, do you have a favorite NYC restaurant, shop or attraction?  Would you be so kind and leave a comment about it below?  NYC is such a great city, but since it is soooo big, knowing where to go makes it very helpful.