"You have to pay to breathe. Everything costs something."
On Tuesday we set out to do a 5 night family vacation starting in Pennsylvania and ending in New York City. The week before, we booked a hotel for one night in Allentown, PA so that we could check out Martin Guitar and do a factory tour. The next 4 nights we would spend in Queens, NY and explore NYC. "You're going to take a baby to NYC?" was the common response when we would tell people our vacation plans. "Must be nice to be made of money" was the other response. We definitely aren't made of money and the trick was to give ourselves a $1000 budget for the whole trip. People that live in NYC have babies. How hard could it be? We snagged a killer deal of a coupon and were able to get a Comfort Suites room with a free shuttle to the subway for about $65 a night. As long as we didn't have crazy high expectations, it seemed doable.
We left Tennessee on Tuesday morning and headed North towards Pennsylvania with a plan to make a quick pit stop at the Hershey Chocolate factory, so we could try some chocolate right from the source. After driving 8 hours in the rain, all 3 of us were pretty excited to make it to the hotel and call it an early night. The next morning after stuffing our bellies full of waffles & coffee, we made the short drive over to Nazareth to the Martin factory. Our tour started at 11, which gave us about half an hour to check things out, play some guitars, and browse the gift shop while we waited. Our group was finally called and we entered Mr. Martin's amazing factory. Instead of being greeted by Oompa-Loompa's, we met people from all over the country that called Nazareth their home. While I could write 5 pages on all the things we saw, I'll summarize it by saying that it was an incredible experience. The craftsmanship, heart, and quality that goes into a Martin Guitar is second to none.
A quick two hour drive East brought us onto the island of Manhattan. Never in my life have I second guessed my driving ability and morals as a person more than driving down 42nd street in my Ford Escape. I've met a lot of bad drivers in my life, but New Yorkers take the title for the worst I've ever seen. If the speed limit is 25 mph, that means the car has 2 speeds; as fast as it takes to get to 25 mph & and as fast as it takes to stop from 25 mph. Also, although there are lines painted on the streets, lanes really do not exist. Other drivers can do whatever they want to get around you, including, but not limited to: driving in the bike lane, passing you in a turning lane, or going around you while stopped at a light.
An hour and 4 miles later we finally made it to our hotel in queens. We quickly brought all of our belongings to our room and caught the free shuttle to the 61 St Woodside Subway station. The entire transportation for 4 days between Manhattan & Queens cost $66 thanks to a week unlimited MetroCard. I don't even want to imagine getting around NYC without taking the subway.
We arrived at 42nd & Times Square around 7:30 and walked towards Rockefeller Center. Unbeknownst to us, the latest Teton Gravity Research film, Rogue Elements was set to show at Playstation Theater, which we only learned after walking by. We stopped at the ticket office to inquire about pricing, but after learning it would cost $50 to get in, half of our daily budget, we decided to keep walking. Shortly after, Olin woke up ready to eat dinner. As we started dissecting the baby pack we realized we forgot her food back at the hotel. Luckily we were about 3 blocks from a Walgreens and were able to get her some banana baby food, her favorite. When she was finally done we headed back towards Times Square and grabbed some dinner from a food kart. We enjoyed our burritos while we people watched before getting back on the purple line to head back to Queens for the night.
Thursday morning we woke up eager to check out Central Park. After eating a large amount of complimentary waffles, we hopped on the purple line and took it to the red line, where we got off at 110th, or the North end of Central Park. After asking some friendly police officers for directions, and getting remarks of disbelief about wanting to walk through all of Central Park in one day, we were on our way.
We explored the big boulders and rocks of North Woods and the bridges around The Pool, Olin had a lunch time bottle at Shakespeare Garden, and we listened to buskers covering Beatles songs at Strawberry Fields. Allie and I started to get a bit hangry, so we decided to cut through the park and exit on the East side to see what there was to eat on that side, after we made a quick stop at Alice in Wonderland. We made our way towards 5th Ave and began walking North. I guess it was pretty visible that we were not from the area, because a man in a suit asked us if we needed help with directions or getting around. I was a little hesitant at first, but I told him we were looking for something to eat and preferably cheap, which is hard to find on 84th & 5th Ave. He recommended Shake Shack a few blocks up and offered to show the way. He was a fan of jazz music and had been living in NYC his whole life and was excited to learn that I was from Detroit, as he loved Motown music. When our fam arrived at the Shake Shack, we thanked him for his time and he was on his way back on his route while we entered the restaurant.
Allie took Olin to get a change while I waited for our food order to be up. By the time we got done eating and Olin ready to go it was starting to get dark again. We were almost 20 blocks up from the Balto statue, the last thing in Central park we wanted to see, so Allie suggested we hop on the green line to 77th. We headed to the Balto, took Olin's photo, and hung out for a few then made our way back to the green line so we could connect with the purple at Grand Central Station. By the time we got back to our hotel it was almost 7, and all three of us were pretty tired, so we decided that we would hang out in the room for the rest of the night and order delivery from Joey's Pizzeria, a local restaurant.
The vacation was starting to catch up with us by Thursday. We were moving a little bit slower and the weather was getting a lot colder. We hopped on the subway and headed down to the South end of Manhattan to take a trip to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. Olin has family members on both sides with names on the Honor Wall which made it a very emotional experience. Olin had a nice lunch time bottle on the ferry ride back to Manhattan and we decided to make our way to SoHo.
Both Allie and I being longtime fans of Patagonia and Burton, it was pretty obvious where our first stops were going to be. First we entered the Burton store. when we walked in we were greeted by an employee complimenting our custom Anicca Pack. It turned out that our friend, Forrest, who made our pack, was actually a friend of his too. Small world! We walked around the shop, checked out the new Olympic outerwear and then headed across the street to Patagonia. Olin decided that now would be a great time to have a dinner bottle while she picked out a new hat and dad got a limited Pataloha fleece. After the little lady was done with dinner, we walked down Canal St. where we got matching I <3 NY shirts and had found a nice hole in the wall restaurant to eat dinner. After dinner we decided to head back to Times Square for a bit and check out Midtown Comics and the Empire State Building. At about 10 we hopped back onto the purple line and headed towards Queens for the night, excited to check out the American Museum of Natural History in the morning.
The best part of the AMNH is the suggested donation entrance fee. Spending $50 for us to enter was a little out of our budget, but we were happy to donate $25 to get in. What we didn't realize was how tired we were by this point of the trip. Being space nerds, the first thing we did was check out the space exploration & Big Bang section of the museum. Olin had her lunch on the lower level where we realized we only packed enough formula for one bottle. After that we headed into the North American Mammals & Ocean exhibits. Allie and I noticed that we were both starting to get tired and cranky so we decided to head up to the dinosaur & fossils as it was already about 2pm. Olin took a nice 15 minute nap in front of the T. Rex while Allie and I discussed how we were both so shocked about how tired we were, so we decided that we would head back to the hotel and take a quick nap before we headed out for the night again.
Once Olin was ready to get moving again we made our way through the Native American exhibits and finally out the main entrance to see Teddy Roosevelt, our favorite president. We swung by the street food stand once again and went to town on some New York City Gyros!
Now that the three of us were all well rested we made our way back downtown one last time. Earlier that day, the Christmas tree was delivered to Rockefeller Plaza so we made sure to go check that out. But first we needed to grab some dinner. After reading a few articles online about things to do in Times Square, we found that the Times Square Diner was recurring on multiple lists. Allie got the biggest chicken sandwich I have ever seen and I got a gyro seasoned burger. With deluxe fries, 2 iced coffees, and a tip the total came out to $50, about what we expected a cheap dinner in Times Square to cost. Olin decided that this was going to be a great time to throw her first temper tantrum, which really set the mood. We got her to calm down by taking turns holding her while the other ate. For dessert, we walked over to Ben & Jerry's and said good bye to the city one last time now that it was about 11pm. We got on the N train with and connected with the Purple one last time as we made our way back to Queens.
All in all the trip was great! We came in under budget and were able to see more than we initially planned. The people of New York were incredibly friendly; every single person we met was kind. Allie and Olin both got to experience the big city for the first time, and I think it's safe to say that we would recommend this trip to anyone on the fence about it, especially if you are travelling with an infant.
Dogs & Diapers