This is it – the final summary from our big city adventures.
Can I admit I’m glad these are over? I’ve really missed thinking and writing about something other than the stress of finding public bathrooms. (Though thanks to a kind reader – Hi Erin! – who pointed out there is a website/app for this. As soon as I saw her comment I could not believe we didn’t try to Google our way out of this problem).
Our trip home via New England will get lumped into a reflective post on the highs and lows of traveling with kids.
There was an underlying sense of relief as we headed out on our last day. City life is exciting and exhausting, and we all felt ready for one last grand adventure…and then some days of rest.
This was the only day in New York where we set an alarm. We had timed tickets for the American Museum of Natural History, purchased before leaving home. If we had been doing this trip sans kids, John and I would have opted for an art museum – likely the Metropolitan again. But we did have the kids and they have been very enthusiastic about the Night at the Museum movies, so the Museum of Natural History seemed like an obvious choice.
It was another gorgeous day. Once we arrived in Times Square, we immediately navigated to the subway and took the line Uptown.
Here was our original plan, but we needed to make some changes along the way.
- American Museum of Natural History
- Central Park (Bethesda fountain, Billy Johnson Playground,
Strawberry Fields, The Plaza) Roosevelt Island Lighthouse (take tramway) Extras: Ancient playground (right beside the MET; halfway up Central Park)
We had tickets for 10 am, but arrived about 30 minutes early. We made good use of that buffer and navigated to a nearby Banksy. The last time John and I were in NYC we just happened upon a Banksy, but Googled this one! The experience was likely lost on the kids, but they came along willingly. Street art is so cool.
And then an all-too-familiar calamity struck. A child desperately needed the bathroom. I do not know how this happened so often on our trip. I guess back home there is just always either a public bathroom or we’re on a trail/outside, so they can go au natural? Either way, there was an uncomfortable panic as we walked back from the Banksy (and found a locked Porta Potty along the way – such a cruel discovery when one’s child needs a bathroom) and waited in line to get into the museum. We managed to make it in time, but the stress of the toileting situation was wearing thin!
I have mixed emotions about our experience. The biggest letdown was the fact the kids were so enthused about items from the Night at the Museum movies, but nothing looked exactly like it did in the films. We followed an official museum guide that provided a tour based on the movies, but it was underwhelming. I also found that different people were interested in different things, but the space was too big to separate. Finally, and I know this is nitpicking, I am typically a huge fan of museum architecture, and found there were a number of areas in the museum that looked quite dated.
That said, we made the most of it and have plenty of fun memories.
The dinosaur skeletons were definitely a highlight (Rexy from the movies). A very friendly and knowledgeable museum guide wandered over at one point and engaged us in a great conversation that the kids seemed to appreciate. The kids also loved seeing the replica of an Easter Island sculpture (Dum-Dum from the movies), and the enormous blue whale in the great hall.
Levi also spotted a panda, which was very exciting since he had just finished researching them for a school project. He insisted I take a picture for his teacher.
We let the kids use our phones to take pictures and that really helped to keep them engaged. It was fun to look back at the photo roll from the day because the kids took such interesting angles of the exhibits, both because they are naturally shorter but also because they are interested in different things.
By the time we left, the weather was oppressively hot. I had planned on us wandering through Central Park, stopping at some various playgrounds along the way.
Unfortunately, a combination of factors led to tears being shed at Bethesda Fountain and I don’t even have a single picture of this gorgeous space. Sigh.
The kids spent some time playing on the iconic slide in the Billy Johnson Playground, and then we took the kids by The Plaza Hotel (they LOVE Home Alone, and this hotel features prominently in the second movie). Then a child needed a bathroom (and yes, we made everyone use the bathroom before leaving the Museum of Natural History) and there were none to be found. We wandered for a while – slowly starting to panic – in Central Park and ended up buying a $7 sparkling water at the Central Park Zoo cafe so we felt justified in using their bathroom. Again, we made it just in time.
We strolled down Fifth Avenue and stopped for some food. It felt great to get into air conditioning and we all enjoyed lots of water with ice – despite the ramifications of drinking all that water!
I had really wanted to take the tramway out to Roosevelt Island, but I could tell the heat was going to make that experience less-than-ideal, so we decided to skip it this trip.
By this point, we were back in Times Square. We hadn’t decided if we were going to take in another show while in New York, but went to the TKTS booth to see what was on offer. They didn’t have much of interest/in a price range I wanted; the kids were willing to try either The Lion King (TKTS doesn’t get tickets for this show) or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (sold out at the TKTS booth). We decided to try each theatre.
The Lion King tickets were EXPENSIVE and we would have had to split up into groups of two. I wasn’t overly enthused about going to see it anyway, so we made our way to the Lyric Theatre and snagged reasonably priced seats for Harry Potter.
Tickets in hand, we went to The Hard Rock Cafe because they were advertising a “Messi” burger (Levi’s favourite soccer player) and it was close to the theatre. Supper was not without incident. They said the wait time was 45 minutes unless we were willing to squeeze around a tall, round bar table. We were fine with that! Things were going so well until one child, in the very crowded conditions, accidentally banged their elbow into a huge glass of water which shattered all over the floor. Said child was very upset (from embarrassment) and started crying. The tears eventually stopped and the Messi burger was delicious. Abby had the Mac n’ Cheese which came in a very fun plate shaped like a guitar with, she told me, incredibly delicious strawberries.
We had enough time to make a quick stop by Krispy Kreme for dessert (my first time having one of their doughnuts). This was a sweet deal – literally. While lining up to order, they handed out free – incredibly fresh/still warm – doughnuts!
Though I’ve read all the Harry Potter books (multiple times), and have seen all the movies, I don’t consider myself a super fan and hadn’t read the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Though this was on Broadway, it is a play not a musical. It is also very, very long. Originally this play was designed to run 4 acts spread over two nights. For Broadway, it has been condensed into a single show with a runtime of 3.5 hours! We discussed the length before buying tickets, and both kids insisted they wanted to go for it.
There were a few hiccups at the start. We got seats in a box, which is a unique experience. One child was frightened by the perspective. The railing is quite low and to see the stage you really do have to lean your head/upper body out over the ledge. I asked the usher if they had any other seats available, but in the end there was only a SINGLE seat that hadn’t been sold for that night.
I found some boosters and this worked like a charm – both kids (and even John at one point) knelt on the ground.
The first 30 minutes or so, I thought we’d made a mistake. It was very loud and I could tell Levi was bothered by the volume. There is no orchestra, so all the sound effects come through speakers…which were hanging right next to our box seats. Poor little guy. He was a trooper, though.
About 30 minutes in, I completely warmed up to the experience, and got carried away by the story and special effects.
Was it light, fluffy and fun like a musical? No. Were the set design, magic elements, and acting top-quality? Yes.
We were all very impressed with the level of detail involved, and there were so many cool nuances. My favourites: the time turning scenes, where moving forward/backward is conveyed via an optical illusion on the set that wowed me every single time. Also, the fact the water scene in the Triwizard Tournament actually involves a pool of water on stage.
I won’t say more because I don’t want to give away major plot points, but if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’re almost guaranteed to love this show.
Technically I enjoyed Aladdin more because it’s so light-hearted and I love musicals. But if there had been a couple of songs in Harry Potter (which I think could totally work), this would have been a nearly perfect show.
It was LATE when we got out. The last shuttle is supposed to leave at 10:30 pm for New Jersey, and it was about 10:28 pm when we exited the theatre. We had resigned ourselves to needing to Uber back to the hotel, but John suggested we at least try to catch a shuttle.
Lo and behold, when we arrived at the Port Authority, the shuttle was still there!
Another up and down day, but it ended on a high note and is sure to be something the kids remember forever!
Your turn. Has anyone else been to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? It had just opened in Toronto when we were visiting there, but I’m glad we waited to see this on Broadway.