Our recent family trips to New York have been short affairs, usually on the tail end of a trip to New England. The city is a convenient half-way "pit stop" to our destination outside Washington, DC, and it offers kids and parents both an exciting transition from the mountains and lakes of New England.
Our last two trips to the city have been the most memorable, and our choice of accommodations played a significant role in making them so. There is so much to do in the city, and, for us at least, usually so little time, that we prefer to see the sites within close proximity to our hotel. When the hotel is the Sherry-Netherland, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, the natural destination is Central Park.
As guests in this extraordinary hotel, recently named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of historic hotels of America, we felt like visiting royalty. It was a weekend, and the usual crowds of business travelers had left for points unknown. The staff seemed pleased to be of service, and made the extra effort to store all manner of bicycles and other gear that could not remain on our car top in the parking garage.
Our two daughter were staying with family outside the city, leaving my wife and I alone, well .... almost ... with our 4 year old son Josh.
We awoke to a beautiful, and sunny Saturday. What better place to than Central Park to ease into metropolitan life. After breakfast, we crossed Fifth Avenue to the plaza at the southern entrance to the Park. There, near the horse-led carriages for hire, we were entertained for almost an hour by street performers.
The zoo is just a short walk into the Park. We focused on the children's zoo, which is segregated from the rest of the Park. Kids can't wander far, and Josh was content to run around, sampling the mix of animal and hands-on exhibits.
After a hot pretzel, we returned to the hotel, got our bikes out of storage, and headed for the 10-mile loop through the Park. This glorious is chock-a-block with roller bladers, bicyclists, and joggers on weekends, when all automobile traffic is thankfully banished. The rolling hills make for a rather challenging ride -- uptown on the east side and a return on the west side -- which Josh was content to view from the comfort of his bicycle seat behind mine.
We made occasional stops to sample the playgrounds, and found one in particular along the West Side which featured an array of large beastly animals... and a fountain.
On our most recent trip we stayed at a wonderfully located hotel, the Dumont. For travelers like us, the 34th Street location – soon after the mid-town tunnel and a straight shot to the Lincoln Tunnel and New Jersey -- was made in car heaven. But it gets even better! There is an outdoor parking lot opposite the hotel, which meant that I could leave the bikes – locked of course – on top of the car.
The hotel suite, which included a kitchenette, was well appointed. The kids slept on the pull out couch and a wonderful cot in the living room while we hid way in the adjoining master bedroom. My only suggestions would include a lock on the bedroom door and a better control on the showerhead, which appeared to have been possessed by demons.
Eve, my 15-year-old daughter, writes that, "the hotel was good. The color theme was interesting and contemporary. We only stayed one night so there was not much time to check things out. We had only one bathroom so that was a small problem. The small kitchen was a good idea."
Morgan, my 11 year old concurs. "The hotel was pretty. The suite was very nice. It was big with its own little kitchen. All the couches and chairs and beds were all very comfortable and the bathroom was very roomy. The view was nice -- a little fountain."
As comfortable as things were in the Dumont, we were in New York to see and experience the city. The morning after our arrival, we headed straight for Times Square and Broadway.
The former would never have been on my parents' itinerary, but today, after a multi-million dollar facelift and a commercial renaissance, and bolstered by lots of New York's finest, it is one of the city's most popular destinations. We checked out the Disney store and rode the escalators in Macy's. The girls wanted to see a show, so we walked up and around Broadway, poking into theaters, until we settled on "Annie Get Your Gun" starring Bernadette Peters. The tickets weren't cheap, but we didn't want to spend our one day in the city waiting in line at TKTS in Herald Square for discounted ones. Better planning would no doubt have saved us a few dollars.
While the girls went to the show, Joshua and I did something that has long been on the top of his New York "To Do" list. We descended into the subway and hopped on the first train to arrive at the platform. In Josh's case, the medium is the message.
We had no destination beyond riding the train.... downtown as it turned out. Josh loves riding on anything that moves. I was thankful that it wasn't rush hour.
I managed to get Josh off the train at Union Square. But we lagged only a moment before catching our next form of public transport – the bus – uptown. We rode up the Eastside to the mid-fifties, taking in the city from the street. Departing the bus, we interrupted our circular journey long enough to grab a drink before hailing a cab to the Dumont..
By the time the girls walked back from the theater, Josh and I had packed the car for our trip home. Driving west along 34th Street we found the Jersey Turnpike, and our route homeward, without making a single turn.
Suites at the Dumont Plaza start at $331/night
150 E34th Street
781 Fifth Avenue
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