Though my wife (and children) are all native Californians, I actually was born in New York City and raised in one of its boroughs, Staten Island, until I was 16 years old. This is my third visit back since that momentous move. My wife and I aren’t into relaxing, resort-style vacations, and love to visit bustling cities. NYC, of course, is one of the most bustling of all, so it was a trip we were very excited about.
With our children now 5 and 8 years of age, this also was our first major family vacation. Given all the walking we did and the kind of East Coast humidity that our children have never been exposed to, I can say that the kids were real troopers. Their excitement at being in the Big Apple usually pre-empted any complaints about being tired, bored or hungry.
We were in NYC for six full days—still not enough to see everything, but we pretty much hit all the main highlights without feeling too rushed! This included the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Times Square, the Empire State Building, Central Park (and Strawberry Fields), Rockefeller Plaza, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the World Trade Center site, and the Guggenheim. In a sop to my interests, we also visited the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art and the Society of Illustrators Museum. Although, we decided to skip a Yankees game this time around (something my wife and I did in 2001, when she was 6 months pregnant), we did see one of the hot new Broadway shows: “Promises, Promises,” with Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenoweth.
my old neighborhood where I visited with some childhood friends and neighbors. After that, we did more touristy things on the island—it turned out to be a real memorable part of the trip, not only because I saw my old neighborhood (including the house I grew up in), but also because we got to see and feel a part of the city that is completely different than being in Manhattan where we otherwise spent all of our time. My love of colonial history goes back to some of the remnants from this era that still existed on Staten Island during my childhood, such as the Conference House (where Ben Franklin and John Adams secretly met with the British in September 1776 in an attempt by the British to negotiate an end to the war) and Historic Richmondtown, places we visited during our trip. We literally drove across the whole island and got to stand on the north and south ends: on the south facing Perth Amboy, New Jersey and the other, facing Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline in the distance across the harbor. (It’s a long story, but our visit necessitated renting a car in Manhattan. It was not only my first time driving in New York, but also my first time driving through Manhattan traffic. It turned out not to be so bad, but let’s just say that my California defensive driving experience served me well! We had the thrill of driving through the Holland Tunnel, on the New Jersey Turnpike, and across the Verazzano Narrows Bridge.)
I left New York in the 1970s—it was an era of national oil crisis and recession, and a time when the city had nearly gone bankrupt. While I have nothing but great memories of growing up in New York, I think it’s safe to say that there was a real feeling at the time that the U.S. had seen its best days.
New York has always had tremendous energy, but the city I visited seems as forward looking as ever, and indeed seems even friendlier and positively bubbly and ebullient. Immigrants remain the backbone of the city and were the friendly, smiling face at many of the tourist spots we visited. Everywhere we went there was tremendous construction and renovation underway—remarkable for a city as well developed as New York, and a tribute to its ability at continual reinvention. The American Museum of Natural History, for example, was completely covered in scaffolding undergoing renovation, as was the interior of Rockefeller Center and the exterior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Even my grade school elementary school in Staten Island was completely covered in scaffolding and undergoing renovation; and numerous subway improvements and construction often created minor detours for us on the subway lines we had to take. (The kids loved riding the subway, made all the more convenient by 7-day unlimited ride MTA passes.) I was also impressed by the overdue facelift that the Staten Island Ferry terminal had undergone in recent years, with extensive work still underway on its exterior. (And it still only costs a quarter going one way!)
Anyway, it was a memorable family vacation and hopefully the first of many to come....
Below are some photos from the trip. To see everything, go to the links provided below:
- Part I of our New York adventure
- Part II (Visit to Staten Island)
- Part III of our New York adventure