Thanksgiving in New York City (with a teen and a tween)
I have included a list of links at the end of the post.
Traveling with a 15 year old girl and a 12 year old boy and two (very young) parents requires flexibility and the knowledge that not everyone will have their needs met at the same moment in time. Every day every member of the family will have their wants and needs met for a large portion of the day, but unlike solo or couples travel there will undoubtedly be compromise involved.
Our first compromise was the hotel. Mr. G likes full service hotels. He likes a lobby lounge and a spa (even if it’s never used), a workout room and a restaurant. I have the same wish list when we visit resort locations but in New York City I just want a decent sized room, an immaculate bathroom and a small bill upon checkout. I don’t want to spend time in the room and I don’t want to pay a premium for a room that I have no interest in lounging in. I picked the perfect hotel for me, The Affinia 50 (50th between 3rd & Lex). Mr. G thought it was “a bit dumpy” but I would have to disagree with him. The kids had a great room with plenty of space to run around and a view of 3rd Avenue (hey, it’s a view of something) and we had enough space to move around and a view of a brick wall (bonus: you can walk around naked with the shades up).
Perhaps one of the reasons I enjoy the Affinia 50 so much is that ten years ago when we were there in a four day blackout the staff and management helped us carry the children up and down 22 flights of stairs. Twenty two flights of stairs. In the dark. In 100+ degrees.
So yeah, brand loyalty and all of that.
We spent about $3,500 on the two rooms, much like at the Viceroy. Unlike the Viceroy the rooms were immaculate, the staff was friendly and Rome (the doorman) would greet us with, “Welcome home Family.” and the biggest smile you ever saw every time we walked in the door. If Rome ever decides to work at another hotel you should probably think about staying there too. He’s that lovely.
I love that there’s no minibar and I can put my milk & fruit in the small refrigerator without having to ask permission. I don’t mind that there’s no lobby bar & the business center on the 2nd floor offers free coffee and wifi, that’s enough for me. I travel with my own wifi anyhow.
Our first night there we ate at Gyu Kaku (50th and 3rd). It was raining and they’re a chain and we’d come in rather late. It’s not really great but not terrible either. It’s also moderately priced.
The first morning was cold and rainy. I walked to Ess a Bagel (3rd between 50th & 51st) and we all indulged. At this point in my life I find carb eating women to be quite rebellious. I don’t know many rebellious women. New York bagels are big and doughy and they put half a stick of cream cheese on them. They’re equal parts delicious and disgusting and I suspect that if I lived in New York City I’d never eat another bagel but I’m a tourist so I eat my bagel and gain my first pound.
We stopped by Bloomingdales because Jane didn’t pack a coat. I will not tell you how angry I was. I’m trying to not cuss here.
No one else eats their bagels and we end up having lunch at Jackson Hole (64th between 2nd and 3rd). This is a childhood favorite of Mr. G’s and we struggle to eat not a burger knowing that we’re going to have steak later that evening. Note: the only thing worth eating at Jackson Hole is the burger.
Then we shopped. Jane and I shopped like we were headed for the chair. It was like a slingshot sent us to Madison Avenue and we found ourselves at Chanel, Prada, Hermes (where are we at on the H belt? Tacky or fabulous?), Gucci (hadn’t been to Gucci since the 80’s… surprised that it’s reasonably priced), Pucci and then I succumbed to Jane’s demands to do a Gossip Girl tour of the city. This included visiting the steps of the Met but NOT actually going in. Apparently they eat lunch there. No art for us, Gossip Girls do not “do” museums.
We headed back to the stores and Jane went into Alice & Olivia. It’s a fabulous boutique for her and most of her dresses seem to come from there. I went next door to Helmut Lang and and then came to see what Jane might have found. She was trying on dresses and came close to finding one that she loved but it just didn’t lay flat in the back. That’s when the sales lady turned her attention toward me and asked if we had “classic leather pants” and tried to tell me that leather leggings were classic. Although she had at least 19 years of wisdom gathered up I explained to her that $800 leather leggings are not classic and that mothers and daughters who shop at the same boutique never end up looking good. She argued with me and told me that they have grandmothers who buy outfits at Alice & Olivia. You can’t save the world, we left empty handed. Poor Jane still doesn’t own a pair of “classic leather jeggings”.
We bought macaroons at Ladurée (Madison between 70th & 71st) and enjoyed the experience and the packaging nearly as much as the flavors. Do not miss vanilla or salted caramel. Jane had first experienced Ladurée in London this spring and hasn’t stopped talking about it since. It’s worth a visit as the macaroons are both delicately sweet and decadently flavorful.
Jane and I walked and nibbled and stopped for coffee and found ourselves back at the hotel in time to get ready for dinner at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse. By “getting ready” I meant it was time to loosen our belts. Peter Luger is another of Mr. G’s favorites and the Brooklyn location holds many fond childhood memories for him and now for our kids too. We can’t visit New York without dinner at Lugers. It would be incomplete. We ordered steak for four, tomatoes & onions, potatoes and spinach and we felt like a family. It was one of those dinners where you look around the table and swim in gratitude that your children love each other and that they’re kinder, better and smarter than you and your spouse. It was good. Steak in butter has that effect on me I suppose.
We left Brooklyn fat and happy. This is a good time to mention that Uber is just as fantastic in New York as it is in LA. Possibly even better. We took town cars everywhere, sometimes they were SUVs, they were all clean, they were all safe, they were all not-taxis and didn’t cost much more than a taxi. I was happy. If you want to try Uber here’s a coupon to save you $10.
Thursday was Thanksgiving so the city was pretty quiet. We wandered over to Bowlmor in Chelsea because their website fairly screamed that Bowlmor at Chelsea Piers is open. It wasn’t open. We then headed to Times Square because Alexander wanted to bowl and on our way to Lucky Strike we wandered into another Bowlmor and the three of them played three games (nine total) for $130. We can just file that under “things that aren’t worth the money”. It’s my mistake for not asking about prices but none were posted and it hadn’t dawned on me that bowling would ever cost quite that much. Lesson learned.
After the Bowlmor shakedown we wandered through Times Square and popped into Bobby Van’s for a very late lunch. Jane had a pan seared scallop salad that’s one of the best I’ve ever had. I never order scallops (or rack of lamb) in restaurants because my own are better than most and they aren’t really that difficult to prepare but I’m willing to concede that Bobby Van’s scallops are better than mine.
I made Jane go into St. Patrick’s Cathedral because churches can be so beautiful. It’s under construction and the presence of money boxes everywhere just made me think of all the money the LA Archdiocese took from the community and all the children they abused. When Jane started lighting candles at every altar I wanted to tell her to stop, that it was disrespectful but then I realized that some part of me wanted to disrespect this institution for the damage they’ve done and the damage they continue to do.
We kicked around a little more and rested up because it was Thanksgiving. There was more eating to do.
I’m pretty sure you won’t be shocked to hear that I gained a little weight on this trip.
We had Thanksgiving Dinner in Central Park. If you ever find yourself in New York City looking for a restaurant to enjoy Thanksgiving I’d recommend the Loeb Boathouse. It was reasonably priced and since Alexander and I are the only two who enjoy a typical Thanksgiving dinner it was important to find a menu that would offer Jane & Mr. G a protein besides turkey. Mr. G had prime rib and Jane went off the kids’ menu and had some pasta, which was not at all child sized and was absolutely delicious. The dinner was beautiful without being stuffy and elegant without being fussy. The service was spectacular and the view was unbeatable. The cheesecake and pumpkin pie were good but skip the chocolate cake.
We spent the day Friday visiting with family and I thought I had reservations for Serendipity 3. Unfortunately it was for the DC location and apparently it’s a mistake made so often that they honor the reservations. The waiting area was pretty full and Jane needed to use the restroom so while she went to the back of the store I checked in with the hostess and then out of nowhere this guy appeared.
There were about a dozen people waiting for tables and out of the blue he started yelling at the top of his lungs, “I need to clear this place out. I can’t work like this. I need everyone waiting to go outside. The wait time is two to two and a half hours. If you don’t get out of here I’m going to shut everything down.” It was 35 degrees outside and almost everyone went outside. I didn’t. I was talking to the girls at the hostess desk. I asked them if he was always like that and they were apologetic and said he yells a lot. They said they could seat me quickly and tried to make things right.
My daughter came out to look for us and saw an empty front of the store and when I told her we couldn’t eat there because the manager was a crazy man who was kicking people out she was somewhere between pissed and sad. Yep. I know the feeling. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to shake the feeling and strongly suspect that Serendipity is a place I’ll never return to.
It’s a good thing Dylan’s Candy Bar is at the corner. They’re actually nice to you.
We had dinner in Times Square at Ruby Foos. Great service, terrible food.
Then we saw Matilda. It was a wonderful performance and the kids were flawless but Mr. G and I were both uncomfortable having a cast of children working to entertain us at 11 o’clock on a Friday night. We’re both oddly sensitive to kids working. If you’re like us you won’t fully enjoy the show but make no mistake it’s quite enjoyable.
Saturday was spent running through Central Park after lunch downtown at Katz’s Deli. Like so many days lately there was a milestone. Alexander was running and jumping and calling for his sister to join him like she does every time and she toddled along next to me unable or unwilling to run and jump and play in her new wedge heels. Some milestones hurt.
Uber: only a sucker would grab a taxi at JFK or LAX. Just use uber and enjoy yourself
Affinia 50: The hotel I really enjoy and Mr. G tolerates
Gyu-Kaku: eh, it’ll get ‘er done
Ess-A-Bagel: OMG they ship!
Jackson Hole: our favorite location is on 64th but Mr. G assures me they’re all good.
The Met: some people actually see the collections. You should be one of them.
Alice & Olivia: here are the classic leather pants. Perfect for your 15 year old daughter or a 43 year old driving carpool…
Ladurée: with a nod to their French roots the website is difficult, fortunately the stores are lovely.
Peter Luger: FYI it’s cash only and it’s worth every penny
Bobby Vans: We went to Times Square and they also have a store in the AA terminal at Kennedy that’s pretty okay for airport food.
St. Patricks Cathedral: beautiful gothic architecture, historically important building
Serendipity: fuck that, not linking there.
Dylan’s Candy Bar: the uptown alternative to Economy Candy (which we also visited for my obscure licorice needs and love of wasabi flavored nuts)
Matilda: You’ll probably love it. Mr. G and I have issues. We know it.