New York for Kids

New York City is a great place for kids. Before my nieces and nephews got to the age when they didn’t want to hang out with me anymore, I’d plan a range of activities and let them choose which ones they wanted to do. Here are the ones that never failed to amuse, educate or surprise them, and entertain their somewhat slightly jaded auntie.

Sony Wonder Technology Lab: Hands down, Sony Wonder is one of my favorite places to take kids. This gem of a museum might seem a bit out of place among the ritzy shops and office buildings that line Madison Avenue but inside there are treats for kids and adults alike. Highly immersive, you log in when you arrive and a profile is created for you. At the end of the visit, you get a certificate listing all the exhibits you interacted with. You get to see how communications technology developed, feel what it’s like to perform open-heart surgery, mix music, build computer games, and other activities. There’s also a high definition theater that shows feature films on Saturdays.

Admission to Sony Wonder museum and high definition theater is FREE however, reservations are recommended. Sony Wonder Technology Lab is located at Sony Plaza, 555 Madison Avenue at 56th Street. Hours: 9:30 – 5:30 pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays. 212-833-8100.


Dave Lindblom

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum If your little ones are interested in planes, helicopters or space ships, the Intrepid is the museum to visit. The Intrepid offers an array of interactive exhibits from aircraft carriers to space ships, to supersonic jet simulations, that will keep your kids entertained and educated at the same time. Two days ago, on July 19th, the new Space Pavilion featuring the Enterprise, NASA’s first space shuttle, opened at the Intrepid. (I saw the Enterprise in 1983, I can’t wait to see it again up close.) The day I took my nephew to the Intrepid, we also saw the Aurora 7. I was shocked how small the interior was. The highlight of the visit for me was riding in the jet simulator. What a cool experience! Also at the Interpid is the Concorde.

Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum, 700 W 46th Street at 12th Avenue, 212-245-0072. Hours (Spring/Summer): Monday-Friday, 10-5; Weekends and Holidays 10-6. Winter Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10-5; Closed some Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. Admission: Adults $24; Children (3-6) $12 and (7-17) $19. With admission to the newly opened Space Pavilion, tickets are $30, $16, and $23 respectively. Check the website for ticket prices for seniors, the military, veterans, and students with IDs. You’ll save $2 if you purchase online. Or buy a New York Pass, which will grant you free entry to several museums and landmarks.

New York for Kids - Barbie house at Toys R Us
New York for Kids – Barbie house at Toys R Us

Toys R Us Times Square: If you love your kids, you’ll want to take them to Toys R Us; if you love your kids, you’ll not take them to Toys R Us because they’re going to want everything they see. When you pass through the revolving door to this cavernous 110,000 square foot store, you’ll spot toys and games and the 60-foot Ferris wheel even before the photographer snaps your photo (you can decline). It’s as if you’ve just landed on the red carpet! Head to the escalator or take the elevator to the 4,000 square foot Barbie house, or the life-sized T-Rex at their Jurassic Park or take a ride on the Ferris wheel. Toys R Us Times Square is ginormous and your kids will have a whale of a time. Wear comfortable shoes, pack your patience, be prepared to pull out the plastic often. Just don’t get carried away.

Toys R US, 1514 Broadway at 44th Street. Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturdays until 11 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. 646-366-8800.

Have fun in New York City!


Manhattanhenge 2012

Everyone was excited about yesterday’s Manhattanhenge the twice yearly (May and July) phenomenon during which the sun sets in perfect alignment with the east-west grid of certain New York City main streets: 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th Streets.

This year’s Manhattanhenge dates are May 29th and July 12th and 13th. Yesterday, with its beautiful sun, promised to make up for May’s dismal rain. To say I was excited would be an understatement.

My niece and friends had planned to view the sunset from the overpass near Grand Central. The overpass is a perfect spot. High above the traffic, it offers the perfect vantage point to get a clear shot of the sunset without distractions. Unfortunately, as soon as we took up our positions, the police arrived and told us to leave. We had no choice but to take to the busy 42nd Street, which is not closed to traffic.

Manhattanhenge 2012
Manhattanhenge 2012

At 42nd & Fifth Avenue, a crowd had gathered. Perhaps the police had urged some of them to leave the overpass. There were a few intrepid photographers, one had set up his tripod right on the yellow line in the middle of the busy intersection. Of course, as the lights changed he, and the rest of us, were forced to move.

When the traffic stopped again, everyone, myself included dashed back into the street to get a view and take some photos. The photo above is what I got before cars and buses started honking.

Unfortunately, yesterday’s Manhattanhenge was almost totally obscured by a thick clouds. Normally, you’d see something that looks like this.

Manhattanhenge, image from the Internet

Manhattanhenge doesn’t occur only in Manhattan. If you live in Chicago, Toronto or Montreal, you have your own henge. Although this is such a short and an unpredictable event, it’s definitely worth looking forward to.

When the sun dropped behind the clouds, we headed to a nearby bar and rounded out the evening with a few cold ones.

Have you experienced Manhattanhenge?


I’m linking this post to Endless Summer, a round-up of summer-themed travel posts
hosted by Travel Rants and Raves.

Cheap New York City for the Budget Savvy Traveler

You’d never know it, but there’s a cheap New York City that beckons the budget savvy traveler. Here are my picks for cheap ways to get around and enjoy the Big Apple.

Most travelers, including Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor will agree that New York City has one of the best transportation systems anywhere. With express and local buses that connect to major subway stops, it’s a breeze to get around the city or get to the airport. And Bloomberg, one of the city’s richest residents, takes the subway to work.

Getting Around

As soon as you get to the city, buy a MetroCard. A single ride on the bus or subway costs $2.50 but a better buy is the one-week unlimited ride MetroCard which costs $29.50 and gets you on subways and buses. Sold at vending machines at subway stations and some kiosks. Vending machines take cash and credit/debit cards. Cards are better for refunds if your MetroCard is lost or stolen. Most subway stations have elevators and/or escalators; many are wheelchair accessible.

Making connections to the airport

La Guardia, take the A, B, C, D or 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 train or M1, M101 bus or Metro North to 125th Street then connect to the M60 bus which takes you directly to the airport. Price by bus or subway $2.5o one way or Metrocard. Add $6.75 for Metro North peak hour rate.

For JFK, take the A train to the Howard Beach/JFK stop and connect to the AirTrain which will take you to the airport. Cost $7.25, including $5 Air Train fare. You can also take the E, J or Z train to Queens, get off at Stuphin Blvd and connect with the Air Train or the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) to Jamaica Avenue. There’s an in station link to the Air Train which runs every 4 to 10 minutes. For LIRR, add $8.75 peak time rate.

Going to or from Newark? Head to Penn Station and take NJ Transit to Newark Liberty Airport station and connect to the Air Train, which picks up passengers every 3 minutes. Cost $12.50, includes the $5.50 Air Train fee. Travel time 25 minutes.

New York Airport Service operates express buses that will take you to and from the major airports. Buses run every 15 minutes and make stops at Grand Central, Penn Station and the Port Authority. If you reserve online, the fare to JFK and La Guardia is $10.

Shuttle Vans/Shared Ride. If you want door to door service on a budget, schedule a pickup with the Supershuttle, also called the Blue Van. For under $20, they will pick you up at your home or hotel and take you to any of the airports. This is a shared service so they’ll be picking up other passengers as well.

On your next trip, make sure you take advantage of these cheap New York deals.

Getting into a New York State of Mind

There’s nothing quite like summer in New York City. School’s out, buses and subways are less crowded, restaurants spill out onto sidewalks, beaches are open, and there are free concerts and movies in the parks.

Although I won’t be in New York City the entire summer, I’ll be there next month. Just thinking about it makes me feel giddy with excitement. I’m really looking forward to doing a few things while I’m there, like:

  • Try out a new restaurant. With more than 3,000 in New York City, there’s always something new to try. My favorites: Thai, Mexican, Spanish, Brazilian, Italian, and Indian.
  • Catch a Broadway play. High on my list, the revival of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. I’ll check TKTS for half price tickets. 
  • Watch the fireworks at Coney Island. No matter how many times I’ve done this, it always feels like the first time. Fridays 9:30 p.m. Ends August 31st. FREE
  • Take in a movie at Bryant Park. It’s Monday, I’ve found a spot on the lawn and I’m waiting for dusk and the start of another classic movie. Ends August 20th. FREE
  • Experience The Ride. Never heard of it? The Ride is a bus with seats facing sideways and a huge picture window so you see what’s happening on the sidewalks. It’s like moving theater with the action changing as you drive by.  Best of all, this summer, The Ride is offering a special rate of $59, down from $74.
  • Walk the High Line. The High Line is an elevated park that runs over the old New York Central Railroad line. 10th Avenue from Gansevoort to 30th Streets. FREE.
  • Cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. One of the oldest suspension bridges in the country, and definitely one of the most beautiful, it spans the East River and connects Manhattan and Brooklyn.

So that I can soak up more of New York’s frenetic energy (wish I could bottle some and take back with me), I plan to stay in the city and have identified a few places, including B&Bs and hostels near my old neighborhood.

Now that I’ve made my list, I can’t wait to see New York City again, and hear what my friends have been up to. It’ll be just like old times.



photo by:

The U.S. Army

Weekly Photo Challenge: Winter

It’s difficult to think of winter – the topic of this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge — when the temperature’s nearly 80 degrees and I’m looking at the sea. I’m glad that I had these photos in my collection.

Lately, with changes in weather patterns, winters are not as severe as they used to be. Sometimes, weeks pass without snow and we get spoiled by so -called ‘good’ weather. We experienced a period like this in March. Then towards the end of the month, we woke up one morning to some ‘white stuff’ — a dusting, really. I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been. It was still winter.

An unexpected dusting of snow, Harlem NYC
An unexpected dusting of snow, Harlem NYC

Now this is winter!

The third snow fall on January 27, 2011 brought total amount to 36″ and made it the second snowiest month in New York City.

Snowy trees, Harlem, NYC
Snowy trees, Harlem, NYC

Looks pretty, doesn’t it? Until you have to go out in it. Especially when it starts to melt.

Snowy window, Harlem NYC
Snowy window, Harlem NYC

New York’s 50 Millionth Visitor

Scores of people visit New York City everyday. Last Friday, one British couple, Craig and Lucy Johnson, got the surprise of their lives when they found out that the city had named them its 50 millionth visitor.

According to the New York Times, the city’s tourism officials selected the couple because the U.K. is the largest source of visitors to New York and because of the Johnsons’ connection to the city — they met in the Big Apple 10 years ago.  The newlyweds were married at Rockefeller Center.

Craig & Lucy Johnson being feted as NYC's 50 millionth visitor, photo Earl Wilson, NYT
Craig & Lucy Johnson being feted as NYC's 50 millionth visitor, photo Earl Wilson, NYT

They were presented with a symbolic gold card and saluted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Johnsons also received a $10,000 gift card for this trip and a $10,000 package of gift cards to visit and spend money in famous stores and at Broadway shows again in 2012. NYC & Company, the city’s tourism office, will even pick up the tab for any taxes they incur on their purchases.

Of the 48.8 million people who visited New York City last year, 10.7 million of them were foreigners. By the end of the year, 50.2 million visitors will be recorded.


Ever Notice These Statues in Times Square?

Times Square is known for many things – bright lights, skyscraper billboards, store after store hawking everything from cameras to souvenirs but few people notice the statues. I’m one of them. I’ve walked through Times Square a million times and didn’t see them until one early morning a few months ago.

Although I was late for work, I had to stop and take a photo. Who knew there were these statures in Times Square? And who were these people who were influential enough to have their likenesses rendered for posterity?

Statue of George M. Cohan in Times Square
Statue of George M. Cohan in Times Square

George M. Cohan, the first coast to coast superstar, started out at age 8 as a child performer. He was part of the group, The Four Cohans. His parents, Helen and Jeremiah, were traveling vaudeville performers and he joined them on stage as an infant. He became a successful actor, singer, dancer, playwright, composer, librettist, producer and director, and was known once as “The Man Who Owned Broadway.” Cohan’s first big hit on Broadway was Little Johnny Jones (1904) which introduced the songs Give My Regards to Broadway and The Yankee Doodle Boy. He went on to produce over fifty musicals.

Cohan was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 3, 1878 and died on November 5, 1942.

Statue of Father Francis Duffy, Times Square
Statue of Father Francis Duffy, Times Square

Father Francis P. Duffy – I didn’t understand at first how or why a stature of a Catholic priest came to be in Times Square until I did a little research and made the connection to Duffy Square. The northern end of Times Square, between 45th and 47th Streets in front of the steps to the TKTS Booth, is called Duffy Square in honor of Father Francis Duffy. A chaplain for the Fighting 69th, Father Francis, a Canadian, became the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the U.S. Army.

Father Duffy was born in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada on May 2, 1871. He died in New York City on June 27, 1932. At his death, General MacArthur revealed that he had recommended Father Duffy to lead the 165th Regiment.

Travel Photo Thursday: New York Christmas Scenes

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in New York.

Here are a few scenes from Bryant Park. I’ve always loved Bryant Park – it’s small and intimate, and very accessible especially for people who work in midtown. People stop by during lunchtime, sit at the tables and read or take advantage of their free wifi. In the summer, there are movies. In winter, ice skating.

Skating in Bryant Park
Skating in Bryant Park
Bryant Park Christmas Tree
Bryant Park Christmas Tree
Met Christmas Tree
The Metropolitan Museum's Christmas Tree

Last Saturday, as I traveled around the city, I couldn’t help noticing that almost every guy of a certain age (and some girls) was dressed like Santa. Cars honked and people waved when they saw them. But these Santa guys and gals weren’t going to dole out gifts, they were part of the Santas-only pub crawl – a flash mob type event that brings together people dressed as Santas, elves, etc. They go from bar to bar, drinking and generally having a good time. Great way to get “into the spirit,” isn’t it?

Going to the Santa Pub Crawl
Going to the Santa Pub Crawl

This Santa agreed to let me take a photo but pulled on his mask just as I raised the camera.

Santa Pub Crawl
Santa Pub Crawl

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration

Every Friday evening at 9:00 p.m. in the summer, there’s a 30 minute fireworks display at Coney Island. I just love standing on the beach and watching the fireworks rise above my head and then fade into the night sky. It never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration
Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration
Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration
Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration

Random Travel Images: New York City

As I’ve written previously, one of the things I love about New York is the variety of foods to be had.

Mexican paella
Mexican paella

Mama Mexico is a restaurant near work that I go to frequently for lunch, especially when we have a large group or colleagues visiting. A few weeks ago, I had dinner there with a group of friends. I wouldn’t normally have ordered the paella but one of them insisted. The presentation alone was enough to fill up my stomach. The taste was absolutely divine!