Guest writer and expat Ana Ines Ferrer takes her kids and their scooters on a perfect family day out with on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City.
You have been there before, many times. You just don’t know it.
The Upper West of Manhattan is synonymous to stepping into Woody Allen’s film Hannah and Her Sisters; the musical West Side Story or a Seinfeld episode. It is an eclectic and historically fascinating neighborhood located on the west side of Central Park between West 56th and West 92nd streets.
Many actors, artists, celebrities, students, academics and professionals choose to make this neighborhood their home. You can often see celebrities on their morning bagel run.
The Upper West Side also hosts some of the most architecturally impressive buildings you will ever see including the San Remo, the Dakota Building, the Ansonia Hotel, the Dorilton, the Apthorp. Not that I’m name-dropping!
It really is a fun, diverse and vibrant place to hang out for a day. Or a couple if you are lucky.
You get the vibe. Let’s go!
A perfect Sunday always starts with breakfast at Good Enough to Eat (www.goodenoughtoeat.com), one of my favorite places in the entire city. This is not an undiscovered gem, with queues regularly seen stretching along the block outside. You need to get there at least 30 minutes before the 9am opening.
Don’t worry, the line moves quickly and it’s definitely worth the wait. During this time we always encourage our two boys to scoot up and down Amsterdam Avenue – great way to expend some of their morning “energy”!
Good Enough to Eat serves a delicious Vermont style breakfast that is hard to beat. I personally love their signature dish – apple pancakes with strawberry butter. Our eight-year old can’t get enough of the “best bacon waffles ever” and their delicious pork sausage.
Unlike many places in NY they also work hard on the coffee; their latte is more than acceptable by local standards (Note: I do admit to being somewhat of a coffee snob after being spoilt for many years in Italy and Australia).
After brunch, especially in the cooler months, we like to scoot, walk and/or skip the three blocks down to the American Museum of Natural History (www.amnh.org), located in a gorgeous Gothic revival building on Central Park West and 77th, across from Central Park.
It was founded in 1869 and is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world with over 5 million visitors a year.
Again, you have been there before. You just don’t know it.
You have probably seen the Museum external façade and interiors in movies such as Night At The Museum and The Day After Tomorrow.
You have also read about the Museum in legendary books including J.D Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, where the main character Holden Caulfield explains why he loves the Museum so much:
“The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move … Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.”
After a couple of hours of ruminating and discovering at the Museum, we are always feeling a bit peckish and in need for some fresh air.
We head out the Museum and have a quick look at the GreenFlea Markets (www.greenfleamarkets.com) on Columbus Avenue (76th/77th St). You will find quirky and eccentric stuff here – the shopping is fantastic.
Vintage photos, postcards, antique diamonds, the cutest hand-made baby clothes, unused telephones, binoculars, Tiffany silver, homewares made out of telephone cables, handmade chandeliers and more.
Our boys love investigating these treasures and asking a million questions of the flea market vendors and artisans at hand! Their conversations are often something like – “How did you make that? Did it take long? Can you please teach me? Like now?”
Once my husband and I feel that the long-suffering artists need a break from our inquisitive sons, we put them out of their misery (and back to actually selling!) and suggest that we all head to Shake Shack. This tactic has never failed us.
Shake Shack (www.shakeshack.com) is located on 77th and Columbus Ave. It’s a New York City institution. You need to go there – at least once (even if you think you don’t like American fast food). Shake Shack makes some of the best New York City hamburgers, French fries and milkshakes.
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is a great place for kids to paint; draw; sculpt; sing; construct and during the summer time play with watermills and do some pretend fishing at the City Splash exhibit. There are also often some rotating science exhibitions.
Both our kids love their permanent Greek mythology exhibition, “Gods, Myths, and Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece”. Amongst other things, you can build an ancient temple and challenge Aristotle to a game of “Twenty Questions”.
Heading to Central Park we tend to start our ruminations at the Diana Ross Playground named after it’s neighbor and benefactor, Diana Ross, on 84th Street and Central Park. The playground itself is beautiful. It’s a circle shaped playground surrounded by gigantic and slender trees.
The structures are all made out of wood and the swings out of rubber tires – like in the good old days! It’s still one of our children’s favorites of the more than 20 children’s playgrounds in Central Park.
The kids then hop back on their scooters and we all head towards Strawberry Fields and The Dakota Building down on 72nd Street and Central Park West.
Sometimes we walk down to 72nd Street by walking all along Central Park West and admire the architecturally awesome buildings like The San Remo. Other times, we make our way to Strawberry Fields by walking/scooting through Central Park itself.
This gives our sons the chance to go tree climbing, rock hiking and engage in piggyback rides. Boys being boys, they do still love to collect piles of branches and pinecones so they can make forts at home.
For us, adults, we can take the time to admire the runners, skaters and yoga poses taking place on any given moment. Both routes are surprisingly tranquil (we are in New York City after all!).
Strawberry Fields is a living memorial to John Lennon’s life and music and remains one of the most popular areas of Central Park. We simply love it. In 1981 soon after her husband’s passing, Yoko Ono invited countries from around the world to donate flora to fill this 5.3 acre parcel of land in Central Park.
More than 50 countries donated plants, flowers and stones. At the center of this memorial, lies the iconic, circular Imagine mosaic.
Imagine, yourself sitting on a Strawberry Fields bench and listening to talented musicians play the violin, sing a catchy Beatles song. Or even better, a John Lennon wistful ballad.
Ana Ines Ferrer has been hopping on a plane and living in different countries ever since she could crawl. Born in Sydney she was raised in Montevideo, Madrid and Sydney and over the past 15 years has regularly visited family in Egypt and India.
In 2009, she relocated to New York City with her husband and their two inquisitive boys. It was love at first sight, and the City continues to inspire and amaze her. Ana Ines has worked in both finance and the not-for-profit sector in Sydney and New York. Her travel wanderlust will take her to Hong Kong, Paris, London and Buenos Aires with her tribe in 2013.
Have you had a perfect day somewhere in New York City, with or without kids? Tell us about it in the comments below!