This was our day to get NYC done! We had a very ambitious list and figured we’d cover what we had the energy for and come back Saturday morning for anything else. Our first thought was that we should start with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, knowing this would take awhile and be very emotional. We thought we could get that checked off the list and then move on to Times Square and Central Park. It’s also very close to the ferry. But, instead we decided to take the express bus (which takes an hour and a half) into the city and take it all the way north to Central Park. The advantage being it was one mode of transportation that picked up 2 blocks from the marina and took us as far north as we were hoping to go in Manhattan. Otherwise we’d do the train to the ferry again and be in Battery Park and have to take the subway up to Central Park. So, we opted to start the day with the bus and head all the way north and work our way back south. We took the bus across the pretty incredible Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The view was amazing and we knew that when we left NYC we’d get to go under the same bridge on the boat.
We hopped off the bus at the southern edge of Central Park. The girls LOVED it. We try to take our time with everything on this trip, and yet there is never enough time. It’s a constant Looper mantra. We could have spent all day in Central Park with the girls. But instead we just scraped the surface. I assured them that we can go back to NYC for a weekend anytime they’d like. But, for the time we did have they immediately asked if they could climb all the rocks. Of course! They were thrilled. I’m terrified of heights so this of course made me crazy but I tried to just turn around and not watch.
Molly was in awe of this huge park in the middle of this huge city. Our next big win was a crepe cart for lunch in the park along with a Halal cart for Ben. The girls and I inhaled our crepes and they went right back to rock climbing. After awhile we told them it was time to move on. We walked around the park for a bit and then headed out to the rest of the city (or at least our 2 day run through!)
We walked over to 5th Avenue and headed south. We don’t go to Michigan Ave. often in Chicago but the girls have definitely seen it and the shopping. But we wanted to show them 5th Avenue and all the shopping. We took them into Tiffany and Co. just to walk around and look at the sparkly things. Maddy of course loved them all. We walked past a few more of the huge stores and I marveled at the gorgeous, historic churches nestled amongst the retail. I got a picture of the outside of St. Thomas and the inside of St. Patrick (I believe – I may have them mixed up!). Both were beautiful and such a respite nestled in all the shopping craziness.
We kept seeing the red bags go past us so we knew we were getting close to American Girl. The girls kept spotting them as well. We made the stop there with the caveat that we were not buying a thing. Everyone agreed but then Madelyn of course had a mini fit about it once inside. They’ve been to the Chicago store quite a few times, but this store was HUGE in comparison. Every room brought new things to look at and new wishes added to the ever growing “list”.
Next up were Rockefeller Center and Times Square. We walked over to Times Square and then realized that was directionally stupid so we back tracked to Rockefeller Center. We showed them Radio City Music Hall, NBC Studios, and Rockefeller Center. Madelyn had seen a picture of the ice skating rink and wanted to see where it is. We told her it’s just a big restaurant in the summer! But we saw it anyway.
Then we made our way back to Broadway and headed south through Times Square. We stopped to enjoy a couple of the fun exhibits set up. First up the girls jumped in these large benches in the shape of Xs that provide a rest spot for people walking around. They hung there for a few in the midst of all the hustle and bustle and a lot of interesting sites. There were a large group of women wearing very little and covered in body paint to look like an American flag. I requested the girls NOT go into this line of employment when they get older. There were also tons of people dressed up as super heroes and the Statue of Liberty. Molly asked if we could stop for a picture if we passed another Statue of Liberty person but we never did. Next time! As we walked and their legs got tired (with the promise of ice cream ahead!) we passed another fun exhibit. These chairs tip and roll but don’t fall over. We played in an exhibit like this in Kansas City last summer at the science museum. I almost fell over! But the girls don’t. They just rock and roll all around and love them.
We kept walking down to 34th St. We had now walked around Central Park and then from 57th street south to 34th St. with a lot of east and west in between to go to 5th Avenue, and around Rockefeller Center and over to Broadway. At this point we were rivaling Day 1 in DC step counts. The girls were troopers. But we weren’t done! After an ice cream and t-shirt buying break, at 4:50 PM on a Friday we hopped on the subway and rode it south to the 9/11 Museum. We walked off the train into the new transport center. The entire complex amazed me. It was not lost on us that it is huge, airy, and bright white everywhere. It’s clean and feels hopeful and full of energy. No matter how many people are in there it doesn’t feel crowded. It feels safe and welcoming.
We walked outside to the Memorial fountains and I immediately started crying. I had warned the girls I was going to be a wreck in here. The last time I was in NYC the fountains were just large holes in the ground. We showed them the names on the wall and I couldn’t get a sentence out explaining the names without more tears.
Next we got tickets and headed inside. The whole place just took our breath away. I don’t have enough words to describe the emotion we felt inside the museum. We were so impressed at how well done it is. Heading down the first main escalator are huge beams leftover from the buildings. The girls were fascinated by the remaining structure and how the museum was built on top of it. The museum provides a children’s guide. This was so helpful since so many kids weren’t yet alive. Molly read the guide cover to cover. She studied each exhibit and explained it to Madelyn. From the remaining staircase, to the last steel column that was removed from the site, to the fire engines and special exhibits that were given to NYC as gifts, all were touching and beautiful.
While Ben and Madelyn went to look at the last column and all who had signed it, Molly and I looked at a Statue of Liberty given to NYC covered in mementos and memories that showed how much the whole world cared about what happened here. Then we rounded the corner and there was one of the fire engines. I just stopped in my tracks and cried. Again.
Much of the museum exhibits do not allow photography, understandably. The two hardest rooms for me were the portrait gallery (no photography) and the historic exhibition room. The portrait gallery is wall after wall after wall of pictures of every person that died in the attacks. There are touch screen stations all around where you can type in a name and read about that person. And in the middle there is a dark room that displays mini bios/obituaries for each person with some voice over. The name is read, the blurb displayed and then 30-60 seconds of voice over from a friend or loved one telling an anecdote about that person. There is a recording studio where you can leave a message or story for the museum if you have one to share. The girls played with the touch screens while Ben and I just sat there and listened, reliving it all. 23 year olds sitting at their desks at work. 66 year olds retiring that fall. People leaving for vacation with their family the next day. The stories just kept going.
We saved the hardest for last. The historical exhibition room (no photography) proved too much for Molly. It was getting late. We’d been there for a couple of hours already. We had walked all day long. We were hungry and tired. And this room had constant stimulation. There was the feed from the Today show when the broadcast was interrupted with reports that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. There was footage of the second plane flying into the second building. There were pictures of the people hanging out of windows (that I quickly turned the girls away from). The exhibit was set up as a minute by minute timeline of the events going all the way to the last plane in Pennsylvania. There were more emergency vehicles in this room and many, many, many photographs. I showed and tried to explain the dust clouds when the buildings collapsed. There’s just no explaining any of it. Eventually Molly looked at me and said she was ready to go. Of course she was. We sped through the rest and got them out. It was an incredible experience that I highly recommend to everyone. It was beyond hard and an emotionally tough way to end the day. We second guessed our north to south geographic plan, but at this point we’d done everything on our list and were exhausted.
We walked towards a pizza joint for dinner and passed the firehouse right next to the World Trade Center buildings. So, the emotion kept on flowing. Then as a mood lightening bonus, as we were walking towards a late dinner and the ferry we passed the bull and little girl statues! Complete fluke…we were walking past and I saw all these people standing around the bull. I had totally forgotten about taking the girls to see the empowered girl! And there she was.
After a quick look and photo op we headed to a hole in the wall pizza place and grabbed some slices for a quick and easy (and good!) dinner. I glanced at my watch at 8:19 PM and realized that if we hurried we could catch the 8:30 PM Staten Island ferry. So, our tired legs rushed and ran to the ferry station and we made it. We collapsed onto the ferry, Maddy finished eating, and we pulled out of the harbor. We were then treated to an incredible sunset with the gorgeous Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty in the backdrop. What a beautiful end to a fun and emotional day.
After the ferry ride, a quiet and very somber Molly got on the train and sat down. She was still taking it all in. Hard to believe this was the same day that started with rock climbing and crepes. She was overtired and trying to process a lot. We should have started with the hard stuff. She’s a tough kid though and a good night’s sleep helps everything. She did ask me if she had to journal about the museum. I said no, of course not. Her journal is hers and if she doesn’t want to talk about that she doesn’t need to. We fell into a Lyft back to the marina and got on the boat around 10 PM. We were exhausted but we’d gotten to everything on my list and that meant we could head out on our boat the next day past the Statue of Liberty!
We took it easy Saturday morning and got a slow start. The current in the Hudson is serious and you want to be pushed by it. Unfortunately from 9:30 AM until 4:30 PM it was going to be flowing against us, so it didn’t really matter when we left. We managed to touch base with other Loopers that were next door in Staten Island. They were going to a marina right in Manhattan that day so they didn’t have to do all of the commuting we did. I asked if we could leave at the same time and get pictures of each other’s boats in front of the Statue of Liberty. We pulled out at around the same time and agreed to meet there.
First we went under the Verrazano-Narrows bridge. Incredible! I use that word a lot but there are just so many things that are indeed incredible. The views were pretty amazing. My friend Tina commented on a picture of the bridge that she took the ferry to Staten Island and then RAN across that bridge during the NYC marathon. She said the water was a different view. But what a view that would have been! So special that we all can have a different perspective of the same place.
As we were on our way to the Statue of Liberty the Staten Island ferry passed us going to Staten Island. It was fun to get a picture of it from our boat. We enjoyed riding the ferry.
And then, there she was! What an amazing experience to be there on our boat, with our children, in front of the Statue of Liberty. There are very few words to describe it! And I took way too many pictures to post, as did Ben. What memories!
After we got pictures of the kids with Lady Liberty and our Loop flag with Lady Liberty we met up with Odyssey and took their picture. Then we traded places and they took ours. Ben then pulled all the way up to the security zone so Molly could get a picture up close with her new polaroid camera.
After awhile we decided we’d taken enough pictures and spent enough time hanging around and should get moving against the current. We said goodbye to Odyssey, cruised past the Manhattan skyline one more time and headed up the mighty Hudson River! As we kept going, the city kept going. And going. And going. I asked Maddy if she still thought it looked smaller than Chicago. Nope!
Thanks New York City! See you next time. Now onto the Hudson River and the Erie canal.