Saturday – in honor of John’s 37th birthday – we went to NEW YORK. Almost a year since our last visit. October 2007, boarding the Norwegian Spirit on our way to New England & Canada. As exciting as that trip had been (taking in the sights of the NYC passenger terminal and Penn Station), this time we wanted MORE.
Behold the American Museum of Natural History. Isn’t she PRETTTY?? YES_SHE_IS!
We got to the museum early. We’d debated the merits of driving v. taking the train and finally decided just to drive. Mostly b/c it allowed an extra hour of sleep. There’s a parking garage located conveniently beneath the museum, so we were able to park all day for just $46 bucks. WOW. My lovely friend Pannonica had set aside Super Passes for us and let me tell you. NOTHING BEATS FREE. The “insider touching privileges” and executive washroom access were just icing on the (proverbial) bday cake. Make no mistake, Biologists are ROCK STARS.
The museum is massive, so we had to prioritize. Several sections are similar to the Academy of Natural Sciences here in Philly, as well as the Penn Museum and the Smithsonian. So we skipped those. NO NOT ALL OF THEM. A few we walked through, doing the YES I AM PAYING ATTENTION dance. The place is just way too big to see in one day. So we did the best we could. We took in the scenic tour of the Food Court. I recommend getting there as soon as it opens, before the bagels are fondled too much. At lunchtime the place is an absolute zoo. I wanted to try the empanadas, but as the line was 5 deep, I gave up. The half of a bacon cheeseburger I pried away from my husband was o-kay. But not an empanata. We checked out one of the gift shoppes. The girls wanted cool moving-picture book marks, which were indeed neat, but at $6 a piece left me aching for an empanada.
2 meals in the food court and one gift shoppe visit later, we took in the actual museum. Which is very quiet and clean 1st thing in the morning. Disintegrating into a combination swap-meet/ Macy’s parade atmosphere as the day wears on. We saw as much as humanly possible w/ 2 children in tow and swarming hordes of on-lookers. The highlights included the breathtaking Hall of Ocean Life. Also, the Dinosaurs Alive! IMAX film, which positively enchanted my older daughter, though not my husband. Always a critic. We all very much enjoyed the Lizards & Snakes: Alive! special exhibit, which, I confess, has left me longing for a Burmese Python. The whole museum – from the dioramas to the miles-long array of minerals, to the beauty of the building itself – is awesome. Fascinating. Overwhelming. By the time we left, I felt like someone who’d tried digesting 5 billion years of history w/ one too few Tums.
BUT THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR DESSERT. And what trip to New York is complete w/out a visit to the sweetest place on earth (at least for a child) – FAO SCHWARTZ. We made our way through Central Park, ambling towards 5th Avenue. It was simply lovely. The undulating trunks of the American Elms, the couples in love, the roller dancers making fools of themselves. AHHHHH. What a day to be alive. Even the teeming crowds outside the Plaza weren’t enough to throw off our bliss.
Until we arrived at FAO SCHWARTZ. I must confess that my daughters were MORE THAN A LITTLE skeptical regarding this particular store. They kept asking, over and over – What IS THIS?? WHERE ARE WE GOING?? IS THIS FUN>> IS IT FOR KIDSSSS>???? As though we’d lost our senses. TRUE the name does sound more like a financial institution than a toy store. But once we stood outside the glass walls, and the girls had spotted the doorman dressed as a toy soldier, they knew GAME ON. Once inside, we managed to make our way through the two stories and come away unscathed. The ladies agreed to one small Playmobil set each. I was awed by the life-size Lego recreations of Chewbacca, Hagrid and the Harry Potter gang. But enough is enough.
Next stop: American Girl Place. Anyone who knows me can JUST IMAGINE WHAT I WAS THINKING. And you would be right. But I kept it BUTTONED. Through 4 floors of crass commercialism, personal shopping, doll hair salon, and cafe. I simply smiled weakly and let Daddy treat his daughters. Afterward I needed a drink. BAAAAAAAAD. We walked up 5th Avenue, past stores I will never be able to afford, surging with the crowd. We ate dinner at a cozy Irish place, which YOU KNOW HAD ALCOHOL. We stood in Times Square, gazing open-mouthed at all the neon and craziness. And then we walked, slowly, back to the car, taking in the sights. Watching the blocks morph from tacky souvenirs into respectable stone. And silently wondering what life must be like for those fortunate enough to live in such splendor.