Thursday, July 22, 2010

New York, New York

I just got back late Tuesday from our East coast trip with our twins. Let me begin by saying that it was so hot and humid that when a friend joked that it must have felt like the jungles of Thailand I think she was, perhaps, not far off. I don't do well when I am uncomfortable. 

And boy, was I uncomfortable. I was tired, I was stressed, I was cranky and my poor husband had to listen to me complain non-stop. This picture of me to the left gives you a sense of how I felt the entire time: tired. All that being said, our kids had a blast. They didn't want to leave. And we didn't even get to do half of the things I thought we'd do! 

As you may have noticed, I tend to over prepare when I travel; this is my way of having some sense of security, but it doesn't always guarantee that everything will go smoothly. I thought I'd share what I learned about spending a short time in Manhattan and Brooklyn with toddler twins. One of the reasons I made myself go on this trip was because I know new experiences are good for our kids. And, hard as it was for me, I love the idea that at almost 3 1/2 they may actually remember some of the fun things we got up to while in New York! 

First things first
Remember all of those tips I wrote about previously on what to bring on the plane? Here are some updates: 
  • Richard at Angels Town Car was awesome. (310) 871-8033 or by email at New car seats, very efficient and courteous, available by email or phone, has access to mini vans or town cars, smart enough to check the arrival of our plane which came in to LAX an hour late.....he was terrific.  I would absolutely call him again!
  • I needed that extra pair of pants I recommended bringing on board as my son's milk carton spilled between my legs making me look like I had peed myself. Bring extra clothes...even if you no longer have babies who spit up!
  • I desperately needed that back up DVD battery when ours died with over 90 minutes left to go in the flight! Damn it, why didn't I listen to myself?
  • If you can avoid it, don't bring water or milk in sippy cups through security; buy that afterwards. They'll pull each item out and test it to make sure you aren't bringing some kind of poison or explosive or whatever. Not that this is a bad thing, but if you're already running a bit late, as we were, this is a bit of a drag. 
  • Additionally, if you are running late and security is checking your sippy cups and you have to send all your bags through the x-ray machine again because you've forgotten that electronics have to be screened separately from the rest of your carry on baggage, don't end up leaving one of your DVD players and the chargers behind because your son is having a meltdown over his sippy cups being manhandled and your daughter is having a tantrum about putting her shoes back on now that she's passed through security and you are so frazzled trying to keep track of everything. Or, if you do that...try to realize you've left your precious DVD player behind before the doors of your flight are closed and they won't let you exit and your son cries inconsolably. Yeah....that was not fun.
Then we arrive
  • Legends Car Service. They're the place to call if you need a taxi with car seats. Retrieve your bags from baggage claim and call your reserved car; they'll show up within 5 minutes to take you to your destination. Like Angels, they can send a town car or a minivan depending on the size of your group and amount of luggage. 718-788-1234. 

  • We decided not to rent a car as New York has a great subway and bus system; and unlike LA, people actually use it! We did, however, need our strollers. My first plan was to buy some cheap umbrella strollers to have while there. However, after a little research I found out that all of the ones I could find had a 30 pound weight limit. The ones that would hold up to the weight of our children were pricey enough that it actually was cheaper to ship my single strollers to my parents' house and back to LA again. But strollers were a must! Our kids would never want them here in LA, but with the heat and the distance we had to walk every day, the kids were more than happy to have them at their disposal (that's our son, passed out in his stroller after a long day at the playground, clutching his beloved spray bottle). I, however, was super crabby about the fact that Brooklyn's streets, while quaint and charming, are really, really uneven and make pushing a stroller, with a 43 lb child in it, in 98ยบ humid weather, up hills, a real pain in the @#$*! 
  • In a panic I also shipped rain coats and rain boots because at some point the weather report said it was supposed to thunderstorm every day for the 5 days we were there. In total it rained for 30 minutes, spread out over 2 days. We walked home in one of the 15 minute "rainstorms" without the coats or boots and the kids had fun getting wet. Well, if it had stormed the whole time you would have thought how clever I was to have planned ahead. 
Entertain me!
If you're planning a trip with your family, New York City and Brooklyn is a great destination idea. Most people love the energy of Manhattan and the plethora of things to see, do and experience. My kids had a bit of sensory overload and for the first few days couldn't stop complaining about all the smells; it really made me realize what a bubble we live in here in Los Angeles. Once they got used to it (or as I continued to ignore their whining) they began to have a great time. Here's a list of some of the wonderful things you and your twins can enjoy if you make it out East.

  • Children's Museum of Manhattan. Someone recently joked that the only thing this place is missing is a bar for the parents, but in all seriousness, this is a pretty great museum. Our kids had so much fun exploring all of the different floors. The staff was really helpful, even suggesting a great place for us to have lunch when we left and they also have an awesome free stroller check at the front (I wish places in LA had that)! 

  • American Museum of Natural History. I remember loving this museum as a child. It is so much more extensive than the Los Angeles Natural History Museum so don't even think of that as a comparison. There are tons of dinosaurs and fossils to see (our daughter, in the photo to the left, is checking out a "dinosaur egg"), an amazing hall dedicated to ocean life complete with a 94-foot replica of a blue whale, and right now there are exciting exhibits with live lizards and snakes that should excite just about any kid. One tip that really helped us save some money was to be patient and wait on the longer ticket line. There are machines you can use to quickly get your entrance ticket, but they will automatically charge you the full "suggested" fee of $16 per adult and $9 per child (ages 2 - 12). Wait on the long line, which actually moved pretty quickly, and you can simply pay what you wish. Ignore the person who takes your money when they ask if that is all you wish to pay for your entire party; yes, it is. Ask her if she would like to try affording a vacation with twins these days and if she thinks coming up with an extra $50 to go to a museum on top of that would be easy. Another thing to be aware of is that on a hot, Summer afternoon this museum was extremely crowded. Our kids couldn't take very much of it, nor could they actually see much of the very popular exhibits because of the crowds. Try not going on a Monday (when many of the other museums are closed) and try to get there at 10 when they open to get the best chance of enjoying what's there.
  • Central Park. This is an amazing (and enormous) park and you could really spend your entire vacation checking out all of the things going on here: there's a carousel, 17 playgrounds (Heckscher Playground was recommended to us by a knowledgable friend), even an amusement park! Our friends who also have multiples said their kids loved watching the model boats at the Kerbs Boathouse and climbing on the Alice in Wonderland Statue. Just remember that the park is 843 acres (!) so you won't be able to see everything and if you want to see particular parts of it, it's best to map out a plan before you go. 

  • Think about relaxing your healthy eating habits and let your kids eat hot dogs, pretzels and ice cream from the many street vendors around the city...for our kids it was definitely a highlight.
  • Our friends who were traveling to New York at the same time we did said their triplets loved the ferry ride out to the Statue of Liberty. Unless your kids can handle huge crowds and long lines, I suggest just getting the amazing view from on board the ferry. If you have older children, and especially if you have family that came to America through Ellis Island, the tours there are pretty cool.
  • If it's super hot or raining (as is entirely possible in New York during the Summer) there are a few things I can recommend that we didn't get the time to try, but that sounded really fun: Moomah looks like a really terrific cafe/play area/art space/hip hang out. The indoor playground at The Chelsea Piers (just call ahead as sometimes you have to reserve space) is good if you just need to burn some energy and play indoors for a bit. The Intrepid Museum is cool for anyone into checking out a submarine, aircraft carrier or airplanes. I remember doing it as a kid and really liking it.
Brooklyn used to be the red-headed step child of Manhattan, but it's no longer uncool to be one of the "bridge and tunnel crowd" (well, maybe the tunnel is still uncool....unless you love MTV's "Jersey Shore"). Anyway, Brooklyn is not only a really nice place to live (yes, I grew up there), but it also is extremely kid-friendly; especially neighborhoods like Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights. 
  • Prospect Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same men who created Central Park. At 585 acres it is slightly smaller, but truly beautiful and full of many wonderful things to do and see. I have a special place in my heart for this park because it's the scene of many wonderful childhood memories for me, and it didn't disappoint this time around either. We played in two of the seven playgrounds (Third Street Playground and Harmony Playground) both of which had terrific water features that the kids loved. The park also has a great Zoo that's been wonderfully renewed in the 15 years since it's re-opened, a carousel and lots of beautiful, rolling lawns. In the winter there are great hills for sledding and you'll always find at least half the neighborhood out doing just that whenever there's a snowstorm.
  • My parents took our children to see Jack and The Beanstalk at Puppetworks in Park Slope which the kids loved! Puppetworks was the winner of 2008 Parents' Picks quest to find the Best Indoor Playspace/Partyspace for Little Kids in Brooklyn.
  • The best, new playground in Brooklyn seems to be Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 which we, sadly, didn't get a chance to go to. Check out their website, the pictures look fantastic and I've heard nothing but great things about it (except that there could be a bit more shade....but that seems to be par for the course in New York). If you're down there, afterwards take a walk along the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights for a terrific view of the skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge.
For more information, check out for anything you want to know about what to see/eat/do in Brooklyn or Time Out New York's kid section for things all over the city to experience.

Overall, the trip was a good one. I definitely had my moments of wishing I could click my heels and be magically transported back to my home in LA, but I do get why people love New York so much; there is an incredible sense of energy and life there and a real sense of "neighborhood" that you don't get in many places in Los Angeles. Our daughter made an instant best friend with the girl who lived upstairs at the house where we stayed, we easily struck up conversations with people on the subway or in the park, and I enjoyed giving my husband a running commentary on every store that had changed hands since I was a kid. I'm making baby steps towards being a world traveler with our twins; it doesn't come naturally to me, but now that I've done New York once, I think maybe I can try it again. But definitely not in the Summer!

What about you? Where are your favorite places to travel with your kids? Where do you think we should try next? 

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach

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