We landed in the Big Apple for our NYC adventure celebrating John’s 13th birthday and hit the ground running. We had a wonderful first day and experienced all of the emotions.
Day 1: 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Mickey: The True Original Exhibition, Eataly
Day 2: Greenwich Village Food Tour, Old St. Patrick’s Catacombs, Black Tap
Day 3: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, Oyster Bar & Hamilton
Day 4: Harry Potter, Central Park, Tea at The Plaza, Balloon Inflation, Da Marino, The Ride
Day 5: A NYC Thanksgiving
Day 6: Macy’s Santaland, do, Dylan’s Candy Bar & Sarabeth’s
The Intercontinental Barclay in New York City
9/11 Memorial & Museum
Our first stop was the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. It was a solemn, beautifully done, important experience. We started by exploring the memorial outside. I haven’t been down here since 2000 and, even though I’ve seen all of the pictures and videos, it was still shocking.
One thing that I’ve learned about city touring with our kids – and Honey and myself – it is always, always worth it to take the docent led guided tour. And today was no exception. Our guide expertly and sensitively narrated how the events of September 11 unfolded as he walked us through the museum. Honey and I both learned things we didn’t previously know, and the kids were quite literally rapt with attention. I love that he conveyed early in the tour – especially for the kids – that many, many people did survive 9/11 with the help of strangers, colleagues and first responders. The survival rate was nearly 90% in both towers. I don’t say that to diminish the lives lost, but to attempt to convey that the tour was a juxtaposition of inspiration and devastation.
On that note, and before we get too far, I also want to say that I received all sorts of reactions when I said we were bringing the boys to do this. We felt like it was a critical part of any visit to NYC and we (fortunately) know that they reacted appropriately to a few other intense and emotional museums that we’ve toured (particularly the Holocaust Museum in DC, Pearl Harbor, and the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis). One reason that I prefer a guided tour over an audio tour is that I know exactly what they are hearing and can immediately answer questions or give a little more explanation when needed. In the times we’ve done an audio tour, they skip ahead, press the wrong button, etc. and I can’t keep a close pulse to what they are seeing, hearing and feeling.
The 9/11 guided tour is done with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity. At the beginning the guide explains that at any time you may turn off your headset, take a break or leave the tour – no questions asked and no hurt feelings. They understand that this was a tragic and pivotal day in American history and that many coming to the museum lost someone that day and all coming to the museum – no matter where you live and who you are – were impacted. For my generation it is one of two things that we “remember when…” – Challenger and 9/11.
Seeing the last column and standing on this sacred ground was one of the most emotional parts for me. Having someone go over the markings and meaning was priceless. It is one of the most iconic parts of the aftermath and recovery.
Survivor Stairs was another incredible thing to see.
For the kids, who did not live through 9/11 and don’t have images forever imprinted on their memory, it was things like this that they could not believe. Seeing demolished fire trucks, support beams and elevator motors drove home for them the level of devastation.
Hearing the stories of the helpers and seeing the beautiful pieces of remembrance were the things that reassured them that there are beautiful, good, kind and wonderful people in this world and that they should be incredibly proud to be Americans.
If you go…
- Buy your tickets online in advance to avoid lengthy lines to get in.
- Highly consider paying for the guided tour. We did the regular tour, but there is also usually one tour a day that focuses on the helpers and first responders. I was torn on which to do but ultimately chose this one because I wanted us to experience the full museum and story of 9/11.
- There were not a lot of children in the museum. Ours were the only two on the tour. I guess my advise here is know your kids. At age 9, I’m not sure we would have brought John. Whit tends to be much more mature in some ways than John and we felt comfortable with both of them coming at the ages they are.
- You can go as far into the events of 9/11 as you wish. If you need to see the shoes, backpacks, bikes, charred letters, voice mails and emails sent that day, you can. They are all located in a part of the museum that you won’t just stumble on. If you think that is too much, you don’t have to. We took time after our guided tour to explore that and it was incredibly moving and humbling.
One final note… for me, one of the most impactful realizations of the 9/11 museum is that it is located on the exact footprint of where the events unfolded. It is sacred ground. Many other museums and memorials are located so far away from where the events occurred. You can feel the difference in this one.
Mickey: The True Original Exhibition
On quite the opposite end of the spectrum, we also visited the Mickey: The True Original Exhibition. This pop-up experience is in NYC only until February and is so worth a visit if you are a Disney fan or just want to do something cheerful and fun.
Inside is a fun mix of contemporary art, memorabilia and darling photo opps! Some are traditional art pieces, and many are interactive.
As the story unfolded from black and white to color, one darling surprise was turning up in an ice cream shop where you get to choose a scoop of Ample Hills ice cream designed just for Mickey’s 90th!
Since we visited on Mickey’s actual 90th birthday, we were treated to a few extra special surprises, including getting to hug the birthday boy!
And getting a personalized drawing by a Disney sketch artist!
At the end, there are some cute collectible items in the shop, including ears, books, socks, etc. and a custom shop where you can design your own shirts and hats and create them right there on the spot.
If you go:
- Purchase your tickets online in advance.
- Dress in your best, most fun Mickey inspired attire and WEAR YOUR EARS!! About 80% of the guests in attendance did just that and it was so much fun.
- They do a great job of spreading out guests and not allowing too many people in at once. It is so easy to see everything and get great pictures. Cast Members are in every key photo spot offering to take as many pictures as you like on your own camera.
Eataly NYC Downtown
We ended our day exploring Eataly! The boys were wowed!! It really is such a bustling and electric atmosphere.
After taking in everything downstairs and making notes of where each of them wanted to come back for dessert (gelato and fill your own cannoli) we headed upstairs to Birreria – the roof top pop-up – for dinner. They change out the themes seasonally and we were thrilled to catch this year’s Alpine version with all of the twinkle lights.
The atmosphere was just wonderful. We all felt like we had stepped into a magical fairlyland forest full of twinkle lights. But…. here’s the bad news… the food was a solid meh. I cleared my plate only to fill my belly. We arrived a little early and had a glass of wine in the lounge area. I wish we had wrapped up with that and then eaten our meal downstairs. But, you live and learn, right?!
A much brighter spot on our first day of eats was just watching John enjoy his first experience ordering and eating street food. Haha! This was on his birthday bucket list and I have a feeling it will have about 5 checks beside it by the time we leave. He thought this was amazing. :-)
You can follow along with our trip on my travel Instagram account… dixietravels. With that, goodnight from the Big Apple!
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