Travelogue: New York City (during the holidays)

Title Slide NYC

As I mentioned (and you may have seen on Instagram), we’ve just spent a week in New York. We had a wonderful time visiting favorite old haunts and taking in all of the holiday decorations; it was so nice to spend a week in a city we know so well. It definitely made it easier for us to go at a toddler’s pace without any regrets about skipping over some things. Still, I can’t lie: it has been a rough transition home for Hudson! I’m not sure if it was the time change or the consecutive weeks of vacation, but coming off of this trip has seemed more jarring than most. So it’s nice to look back at these pictures this morning, and remember why this is all worth it!

Because the trip felt like a bit of a homecoming, and because I’ve posted about many of these places before, I’m going to be referencing a lot of previous links where you can find more details if you’re planning a trip of your own.


We stayed in an apartment just off of Washington Square Park—which was an amazing location! Our favorite neighborhoods to visit all border the area (NoLIta, SoHo, the East and West Villages), transportation connections are easy, and it’s fantastic to be so close to a great park (and playgrounds) with a toddler. Oh, yes, and plenty of good coffee is nearby! There are Think Cafes on Mercer and inside the NYU bookstore on Broadway, a Third Rail just south of the park on Sullivan Street, a La Colombe and one of my old favorites, Gasoline Alley—a tad further east, on Lafayette. This is critical stuff!

We found the apartment through Kid & Coe, and I’ll be sure to talk more about it in an upcoming post. Needless to say, it was awesome to have space to spread out in indoors during a winter week in the city.

There’s a Le Pain Quotidien, it seems, every few blocks in the city these days—so it may not seem like anything special—but we’d missed the Belgian cafe chain! It was always one of our favorite go-tos for breakfast. I even had the Steel Cut Oatmeal and toast (an excuse to have my fill of their amazing Brunette spread) on the morning that I went into labor! We made it our first stop after getting off the red-eye.


Everyone was a little bleary-eyed at the table—and Hudson’s loss of sleep due to the overnight travel was beginning to be evident—so we walked the few blocks south to the Washington Square Park playground. It felt a little surreal to watch Hudson climbing around (on the big-kid side) and think about how often we’d been there when he was just a baby and how easily this could have still been his routine! Throughout the week, both Aron and I found ourselves looking around (generally watching Hudson do those fairly mundane things that a toddler wants to do anywhere) and thinking how odd it was that this would have been our life had we chosen to stay put!


We also found ourselves noting memories at every corner. There were five years of them, but it’s funny how they all seemed to involve Hudson: “That’s where I panicked about the jackhammer waking him up!”… “That’s where I changed his dirty diaper on a bench!” … “That’s where I nursed him while the mice ran underfoot.” Ah, yes. Memories.


We walked around SoHo for a bit, stopping in to see if City Bakery (in the old Vesuvio location) was selling the melted chocolate chip cookies we loved so much (they weren’t) before pausing at Giggle to get a “surf board” for the back of Hudson’s stroller. (A tip: Giggle is also a handy place to use the bathroom—and change a diaper or breastfeed discreetly—if you’re in need of such a place.)

Hudson never really uses his stroller at home, so we were concerned we would fuss about riding in it here. The wheeled board was such a nice alternative when he wasn’t into sitting (and we weren’t willing to bribe him with yet more cheerios). But luckily, he was usually pretty ready to sit down among all of the crowds.

When the sun set at 4:15pm that first evening, we decided to make a quick trip to Rockefeller Center to show Hudson the tree and a few holiday windows. We were actually a bit premature as the lighting was happening the following night, but I was just glad we hadn’t accidentally gone then! They were doing sound and camera checks, which was fun to see, but the highlight for Hudson was the window display at Sak’s Fifth Avenue across the street. The Yetis looked a bit like the scary “abominable snowman” from the 1960s Rudolph, which scared him recently, so I was concerned… but for no reason apparently, because he wanted to see them all twice.

Winter is not my favorite time in New York (give me summer’s long days and warm nights any time), but the city sure does look lovely around the holidays!


All of the taxis were pretty fantastic in Hudson’s eyes (“more taxi!” “more taxi!”), and he took riding the subway very seriously. That’s his focused expression, up there.

After Rockefeller Center, we made a quick stop at the East Village Milk Bar (Crack pie and Compost cookies were high priorities for Aron) before heading downtown to meet a friend’s new baby! (Hudson looks pretty pissed about the other baby on dad’s lap, but I think this has more to do with the squeeze-pack of applesauce that’s not yet in his mouth. He actually liked the baby almost as much as their cat!)


The next morning we got out the door early to get over to Herald Square to visit the Macy’s Santa (read about that experience, here). We were lucky to find the store still uncrowded when we arrived at 9am (greeted by Salvation Army collection volunteers lip-syncing and rocking out to Justin Bieber!).


We were only there for 30 or 40 minutes (we paid a visit to Santa and then one of us arranged the big guy’s ornamental counterparts in a line on the ninth floor), before heading over to the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side to meet up with a friend—whose son and Hudson played adorably together!


We took Hudson to the museum just over a year ago and picked up some fantastic tips for visiting AMNH. Even though he looks so much older, Hudson’s reaction was oddly familiar: again I was reminded of Vicki the Robot going into an overstimulated tailspin before utter collapse!

Besides knowing that admission is suggested (pay-what-you-wish), the other essential tip I would add: there’s a Shake Shack practically across the street! Oh, Shake Shack… I miss you so.

After lunch, we took the boys back past the museum and into Central Park to a playground. It was one of those classic New York moments (at least in my experience living there). At once so convenient: Just walk from the awesome museum, to the awesome burger, to the very cool playground. And at once so challenging: A million kids on the playground, many old enough that we were worried for ours—particularly when they broke into a fight! Aaaaaaah!

All of the excitement put Hudson right to sleep, and we were left to enjoy the park (which is beautiful in any season, even if spring is my favorite) and reminisce about the days when we’d walk circles around it hoping Hudson would fall asleep and leave us with this very kind of opportunity!


From the park we headed south along Fifth Avenue and used his nap-time as an excuse to see all of the holiday window displays. Just as expected, the Bergdorf Holiday windows were my favorite. (Here they are in 2009, 2010, and 2011.)


A small collection of NYPD were gathered on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, prepping for the Rockefeller Tree Lighting. I thought it was amusing to see how social-media-saavy the church is, by the way.

Hudson woke up just as we were nearing Madison Square Park, so we made a quick detour into the Italian Food Haven, Eataly, for cappuccinos (though you could choose beer) before crossing into the park for some more time at the playground.


I was pretty ready to sit down and have dinner by that point, but we were so close to the Zara with the kids’ floor on Fifth Avenue, so we made one more detour. Actually, Aron broke off down 19th street to pick up one of our favorite croissants in the city, while I oohed and aahed at cute miniature clothes for baby girls.


That night, we had Motorino deliver our favorite pizzas. Not quite as good as having them fresh, but a little crisping in the oven (thank you, apartment!) and all is well.

The following day, Aron started his conference—the real reason for the visit—and Hudson and I set off to explore on our own. We hit up some more old favorites (PeelsIl Buco Alimentari… ) and took our time playing in the park.

That evening, Aron and I had arranged for a babysitter to come over and put Hudson to bed so that we could head out.

We started with a trip down the Bowery to stop in at Food52’s Provisions Holiday Market. I’m a fan of the online shopping site (so beautifully curated) and it was fun to see so many of the familiar goods in person.

Afterward, it was incredibly warm out for December (warmer than back home in California!) so we walked around NoLIta (my favorite shopping stops were Thomas Sires, Love Adorned, and Haus on Mulberry Street) before Lobster Rolls (the best in the city?) at Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village.

The following morning the weather was less ideal. It was still pretty warm, but it was wet! I decided to take Hudson uptown to the Met and, man, it was tough! First, I’m out of practice with the subways, so after getting Hudson out of the stroller, folding the rain cover so it could collapse, waiting for the crowds to clear to attempt the downward slog while holding the stroller and Hudson’s hand and not being able to see my own feet (all while he tells me he wants to hold the rail and go down the wet stairs himself)… I realize we’re on the downtown-only side when we need to go uptown. Oh boy. That would be rough with two! I guess you take the bus or cabs or find the stations with elevators if you are juggling a lot? But I must say, New Yorkers are far kinder than they ever get credit: so many people offered to help carry that stroller down or up stairs for me! I was so grateful, too.

So we made it to the Met. If you have a stroller (or need handicapped access), you can enter at 81st street on the ground floor. There’s a really nice library there—the Nolen Library—that offers story time (an earlier one for up to age 3 and a later one for ages 3-7). We had just missed it, but it was still nice to pop in and read a Babar book about looking-and-not-touching when you’re a royal elephant who opens an art museum.

I thought we’d head for the Armory section first—to see the armored, life-size horses—but in the end we spent most of our time in the sculpture courtyards (“Mommy, that man standing on that man. That not nice.”) and in the large glass-enclosed Temple of Dendur exhibit. (“Mommy run too?”) In other words, the exact same places we took refuge from a freak, October snow storm a while back!

(By the way, if you’re visiting over the summer, here’s my favorite spot at the Met.)

The Whitney is moving downtown, to the Meatpacking end of the High Line, next year—but until then, you can still grab a meal at one of my favorite restaurants, Danny Meyer’s Untitled, on the ground floor of that museum. We walked over after the Met and Aron joined us for lunch. We actually ran into Danny Meyer and his wife once at the movies and she told us we had to try the Pimento Burger. I couldn’t resist my favorite pancakes and the cheesy eggs and grits, but we added the burger to the order and it was SO good!

Our plans for the evening changed a bit with the weather so we made some ill-advised decisions about how we spent the hours following Hudson’s nap. First we went to the Christmas markets in Union Square (always fun to check out) and stopped in Barnes & Noble to let Hudson play on those faithful old train tables (a staple of my first year in the city with him—train table drama and all). Unfortunately, the store put the train tables and lego tables away to make space for holiday merchandising, so there wasn’t much for him to play with there. Of course, in typical toddler fashion, both he and another boy wanted to play with something the other had grabbed off the shelf. Nevermind that they were the exact same things.


So what should one do in the rain? Head to Times Square?

No, that’s actually the opposite of what one should do, but we’re gluttons for… you know. I had it in my head that I’d actually walk into one of those stores like the giant Toys R Us with the ferris wheel inside since we were playing tourists on this trip, but the crowds dissuaded me and we ended up only popping into the M&Ms store briefly  (where we let Hudson believe that, yes, those are eggs!) before jumping back on a downtown train to pick up a take-out order from another favorite, the not-to-be missed Fatty Crab. (I actually prefer their pork buns to those famous ones at Momofuku!)

Honestly, I would love to try more new spots on one of these visits, but it’s just SO hard to stray!

On Saturday, the temperature had started to dip, but it was pretty pleasant outside. Aron was at work again and Hudson and I set off for one of those invigorating strolls where you’re feeling like the city is just so amazing… now that the streets are dry and you have your incredible latte from Colombe… and you’ve picked up more Peels muffins to share with Aron later… and the shops all look so interesting and your headed to a great urban playground to meet friends…

And then, of course, the necessary Liz Lemon moment, the proverbial “he-spit-in-my-mouth” moment happens: some crazy old man starts yelling at you that you’re an “f’-ing cannibal a**hole whose going to eat her children and should have her f’ing teeth pulled out!” Um, thanks for that. Oh, and thanks for that uneven sidewalk that made the stroller stop dead in its tracks right next to him as I tried to pretty much run past. Um, thanks.


Nothing a delicious brunch at Back Forty with good friends can’t help. Fresh donuts, incredible bacon, a pile of hash, (and ideally a Back Forty cocktail, but that will have to wait)… and the city redeems itself yet again.

Oh, and because I had to skip the brunch cocktail, I justified paying the exorbitant price pressed juice commands these days at Liquiteria. I know apple, pear, and pineapple are less wholesome sounding than, say, celery, carrots, or kale, but this one is SO good. I think more juices need to include mint.


We ditched the stroller briefly to head out to Tribeca, where we met another new baby…

Anton, who was so chill we almost forgot to include him in this photo!

On a side note, it’s so much easier visiting a city where all of your friends have kids! Hudson had a playmate everywhere we went–and got to share their toys, too!

We felt a little bad about leaving Hudson with a babysitter again (at this point he was starting to get a little homesick, it seemed), but fortunately all went well and we were able to sneak out for one more date with friends at our beloved Diner in Williamsburg.

Isn’t it just so charming? The food is always delicious. You can’t go wrong here or at Marlow & Sons next door.



Our last day, Sunday, was legitimately cold. This was the weather we had over-packed in anticipation of, so I suppose I’m glad I ended up being justified in bringing the snowsuits along. You really never know!


I was itching to get out and get the morning started, but you really can’t go shopping or anything much before 11 or 12 on a Sunday. We all stared through the window at Little Marc Jacobs at this incredible, completely edible, city and castle by City Cakes Bakery, wishing we could go inside (Hudson especially) but alas.


So we froze for just under an hour or so on the Bleeker Street playground and then bee-lined over to Frankies 570 for brunch.

We ordered all of our favorites (that egg sandwich with bacon…oooh. And that French toast?! wow), read The Monster at the End of this Book for the dozenth time, and I noted some creative cocktails to try at a future date in time. It was well-worth that freezing wait on the playground.


And we did pop back in to Little Marc (free cookies!) before wrapping up the morning at the ABC Home Store.

Our flight didn’t leave until 7:30 pm, so we were happy that there wasn’t a problem with our staying in the apartment until late that afternoon! In fact, while Hudson napped, I snuck away to check out The Pop-Up Flea, a now-annual menswear sale. It was pretty incredible… any of these brands would be worth checking out for gifts (many are being featured online at East Dane). And the people-watching… so fun! And sort of funny, too. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many slightly unshaven men in raw denim and Red Wing, heritage-style boots in one place! I overheard at least two women lamenting that they weren’t men (which I think is a high compliment for the goods), and indeed I coveted far more there than at any women’s sale I’ve ever been to.

In my ideal world, we’d do two of these trips a year: one weekend for just-us adults and one longer stay like this with the kids… maybe in the summer, though, when we could pack less! I don’t think that’s too unrealistic, do you? There were still so many people we would have liked to see, so many more places to go (hello, Brooklyn!) but, ultimately, a big success! And it was really interesting returning with Hudson for the first time. I love thinking about how he will get to have our lovely life in California and still visit this amazing place, where he was born.

Until next time, New York!

P.S. Search the New York archives for more past posts about what to do and see in the city.

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