New York City Family Guide : Upper East Side

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Amusing chalkboard outside an Upper East Side coffee shop. We did not put them to the test.

Growing up in NYC was awesome. Returning to NYC for extended visits with my young children has historically been peppered with not so awesome moments. Delightedly, our 2015 annual summer trip back home was the best by far. Oh, the places we went. My 7 and almost 4 year old are in sync both schedule-wise and in terms of interests which made just about everything more enjoyable. My 3 year old no longer naps. This, of course, is a major shift from last summer.  Additionally, heightened stamina made day-long outings and unplanned activities not only feasible but fun.

We all LOVE New York City and the traditions that we are establishing as our own family. The places we like to eat, the parks we like to play at, the people we visit with and even the subway lines they prefer to ride (nothing compares to the Q between Canal St. and Dekalb Ave. BTW). I’m tickled pink that the place I grew up and love more than anywhere else in the world already has a special place in their hearts.


 

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The MET post plaza renovations. My girls know this museum well. No matter how many times I’ve been, I’m mesmerized every time.

We accomplished more that I could have imagined during our three week stay thanks to some advance planning and a more laid back parental attitude of letting things evolve naturally. It was quickly apparent that by not trying to manage each moment and emotion for the group everyone was more chilled out. Needless to say there was a lot of personal growth!  The entire trip was an exercise in letting go and putting my trust in the universe. One stumbles upon the best discoveries by accident don’t ya know?

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Seriously, the girls would be happy to just ride the subway all day everyday.

Our adventures ran the gamut. We took a Metro north train ride to the NY botanical gardens, trekked all over Manhattan exploring things new and old, hit a multitude of museums, did our Brooklyn thing, ate plenty of great food, and just hung with my parents, sister, niece and friends. We even took a three day trip up to the Catskills and spent a day on the beach in Avon at the Jersey shore.

I have so much to share it would be ridiculous to do it all in one post. Ridiculous I tell you. So as not to overwhelm, I’ll be writing multiple posts focusing on a neighborhood or two at a time starting with the upper east side. Scroll to the bottom for my recommendations if you’re not into the pictures and can’t wait to check out the list. Though in doing so you will miss out on my clever captions and perhaps life changing information.

Lastly… it would be impossible to include every single point of interest, if you don’t see one of your favorite spots feel free to comment and share with the group!

Here goes..

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Inside the MET. Consulting the family map and guide to locate her favorite pieces.  Turn around. It’s behind you!

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Play date with friends at the Cloisters. So serene and definitely worth the trek.

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I spent a couple of hours walking down Fifth Avenue on the evening of the Museum Mile Festival and was actually able to get into the Cooper Hewitt despite the massive crowds. I snapped lots of inspiration pictures for future,unknown projects.

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Bubble man!! We love this guy. He always has a captive audience at his spot in Central Park at 85th st.

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Goofing around at the park. One must make time for playgrounds and sprinklers. They are abundant.

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Cafe Sault Ste Marie serving Blue Bottle coffee and baked goods.

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Watching Metro North trains travel to and from Grand Central Station. If you wave, they toot the(very loud) horn…beware.

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Guess where we are…

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Remember if you wave they honk!

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The store owner gave this bubble wand to T when he saw how happy it made her.  He smiled and said, “Look how happy she is. I have daughters too, just take it.” He even chased us down with an extra bottle of bubbles after we left. This would have gone all over town with us had it not been the second to last day of our trip.

UPPER EAST SIDE

Disclaimer:  These personal recommendations are places we went or have been as a family and here-to-fore I consider family friendly.  Any places I went without the children I’ll make note of. It is not necessarily because the venue wasn’t kids friendly, but we all need time to ourselves so when I could take the time, I did.

EATS:

  • Cafe Sault Ste Marie // Blue Bottle lattes and Dough loco donuts.
  • Enthaice // Solid Thai with good lunch special.
  • Shake Shack  // Burgers, shakes and fries. All good. There are other locations throughout the city
  • Moustache // Oh goodness do I love this place. Technically, it is in East Harlem but whatever. The food is authentic and delicious. Now, if they would just get air conditioning!
  • Famiglia Pizza // on 97th and Madison Ave. They make a pretty consistent New York Slice and my kids like it. There may be better but this has been our go to pizza parlour since our old favorite (Zesty’s) closed.
  • Le Pain Quotidien // This is a chain but it’s a good one and I will likely mention it again. It is a great breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack spot for coffee, baked goods, sandwiches, soups, salads etc. Multiple upper east side locations. Madison Ave btwn. 84th and 85th is a good one to hit before or after a visit to the MET.
  • Fairway // This is a grocery market chain and the perfect place for picking up picnic stuff, imported and prepared foods.
  • Dean and Deluca is another albeit more expensive and upscale place to pack for a picnic. You’re on vacation. Go ahead treat yourself.
  • Earl’s beer and cheese // The Taco and The Kale salad. Eat them both. Great beer too. We went without the kids

PLACES TO GO:

  • Central Park  // There are many playgrounds and points of interest throughout the upper east side portion of the Park. The Central Park Zoo, The Dairy, Carousel, the Boathouse, Belvedere Castle, The Bandshell , Bethesda Fountain, the Alice in Wonderland statue and the Conservatory Gardens are a few places worth checking out. Pack swimsuits and a towel for the sprinklers!
  • Watching trains from the 97th street bridge between Park and Madison. Busiest on weekdays at rush hours. It’s right down the street from Cafe Sault Ste Marie so grab a latte and some doughnuts and watch away.
  • Museums, museums, museums. There are so many packed into this neighborhood. Some of the best in the world I might add. See below for specifics.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts toddler story time in the Nolen library everyday at 10:30. It is free but get there early to secure a spot since space is limited. Outside of story time its a great place to visit with little ones for quiet time and am amazing selection of unique children’s books. The museum itself is must see. Pick up a family guide when you arrive but do a little advance research to plan what you want to see. I have been there hundreds of times and still haven’t seen everything. The museum had recommended admission posted but it is suggested donation. Meaning you can pay what you want. I like to support the museum but paying the full suggested admission for a family is quite expensive and let’s face it you might only last an hour or two. You can be frugal and support the museum at the same time. I have no issue giving $10-20 for the whole family. It’s your call. You can sign up for news regarding kids events here. The Temple of Dendur is a must.
  • The Guggenheim Museum. // Many visit to see the building alone. The museum is quite impressive but also expensive. Check your local museums for reciprocal benefits. We are members of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and our membership gets us free or discounted admission to some amazing and pricey museums all over the country including the Guggenheim. Woot woot! When it’s “free” there is less pressure to appreciate every single piece to get your money’s worth but maybe that’s just my issue.
  • The Museum of the City of New York  // I went on field trips to this museum as a kid. It was fine but never left a lasting impression. Well, let me tell you, they have really spruced this place up and it’s a cool place to visit. They have a really good gift shop, cafe and impressive rotating exhibits highlighting New York history.  It’s right across from the Conservatory Gardens and a nice walk down 5th Ave to some of the other museums highlighted. Check out summer family programs here.
  • The Jewish Museum, The Cooper Hewitt, The National Academy and The Neue Gallerie are all extraordinary and worth a visit but are perhaps best suited for adults only. The Neue Gallerie doesn’t allow children under 12. Conversely the Jewish Museum does offer family programs.
  • Bubbleman // Go see him. Just inside the park at 5h Ave and 85th street.
  • Ancient Playground // Right next to the MET on 5th Ave. I have mixed feelings about this place. It’s a cool playground but I recommend it for older children. It gets extremely crowded and there are hidden passageways. Not a good combo in my world. It makes me nervous but I’m a little bit of a spaz. I prefer the playground at 96th and 5th Ave. There is a sprinkler and things for both small and big kids. It’s also enclosed.
  • Carl Shurz Park Conservatory // This is a great park adjacent to a boardwalk along the East river. It’s a lovely place to go for a walk. There is a good playground and it’s walking distance to Gracie Mansion which you can learn about here.

So that’s all for now. Please ask questions if you have them and remember this is just a fraction of the possibilities in this neighborhood!

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Until next time.

Thankful for: A place to stay and people to visit in NYC!

Wanting: The ability and resources to travel to NYC every couple of months.

I’ve learned: I’m torn between my two “homes”. Leaving NYC is always bittersweet.

 

 

 

 

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