Road Trip: Memorial Day Weekend in NYC

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Because going to New York City isn’t exciting enough (at least for those of us who don’t actually live near the Big Apple), when my wife and I took the kids, we inadvertently decided to ratchet things up a notch by driving in and by opting to visit during the Memorial Day weekend. I learned a few things during this trip that might lead us to adjust our strategy for the next time: the first is that a Pathfinder is not really an ideal vehicle for maneuvering around Manhattan; and the second is that in NYC, the Memorial Day weekend coincides with Fleet Week, so you get an extra helping of excitement and congestion. I posted a photo last week of a Marine helicopter flying around the Statue of Liberty and that was the kind of shenanigans that were going on around the island all weekend.

This trip was really focused on seeking out attractions and sights that would appeal to our kids and we packed a lot into our long weekend, so I’m going to post Part One this week and Part Two next week. On that note, here are a few of the high lights that might be of interest.

Spaceship on Pedestal outside of Mars 2112.    Photo: Brad MoonSpaceship on Pedestal outside of Mars 2112.    Photo: Brad Moon

Spaceship on Pedestal outside of Mars 2112. Photo: Brad Moon

We had lunch at a restaurant called Mars 2112 on the first day. We’d read that it was a tad expensive and the food wasn’t great, and it turns out that the collective online opinion was pretty much bang on. Lunch for five ended up setting us back about $110, and that was for such gourmet fare as lukewarm burgers on stale, verging on crunchy buns. But, the kids loved the place. You enter the restaurant via a simulator ride that tosses you around a spacecraft cabin during its descent to Mars and once inside, the place is dark, lit in red and modeled to appear carved out of Martian caverns. There are costumed Martian characters wandering around to keep the kids amused as well. While no-one (besides me) remembers what they had to eat at Mars 2112, the kids knew exactly where it was and kept asking to go back whenever we’d pass it on a tour bus

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Inside Mars 2112. Photo: Brad Moon

More on NYC after the jump.

We stayed in an apartment on the Upper West Side, just half a block from Central Park (thanks to Jody’s Aunt, who was kind enough to offer us her place while she was out of town) and we made frequent use of the park. Besides being a great place for the kids to get fresh air and stretch their legs, there were fenced in playgrounds everywhere (all the better for weary parents to have a seat and sip a coffee without worrying about their progeny escaping) as well as attractions such as Belvedere Castle to explore. And then, there was the Central Park Zoo. Although a far cry from the expansive research-focused setup that we’ve become accustomed to with the Toronto Zoo, it was a great way to spend a few hours. The grounds, though compact, are shady and well-kept and the kids were especially amused by watching the penguins being fed. It’s a small scale zoo, light on exhibits, but what is there is well done and, considering the space limitations, I think it’s just about perfect as a relaxing way to spend a few hours outdoors. The boys looked for Alex the Lion for a while, which led to yet another discussion about how real life is not always quite like the movies.

Belvedere Castle in Central Park.    Photo: Brad MoonBelvedere Castle in Central Park.    Photo: Brad Moon

Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Photo: Brad Moon

Everyone decided to give me a few minutes for something they knew I’d appreciate: The Apple Store on 5th Avenue. I already have enough Apple toys (far too many, my wife would suggest), but the glass enclosure and concentration of techno goodies was pretty cool.

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Looking Up Through The Glass Cube of the Apple Store. Photo: Brad Moon

And after that, the Big Show. Right behind the Apple Store is the flagship F.A.O. Schwarz toy store. Although it’s free to get into F.A.O. Schwarz and parents with children can easily kill an hour or two there, the chances of getting out of the building without having spent some money are slim to none. As reported by Brian Little in November of last year, the Muppet Whatnot Workshop was indeed set up and running and looking suitably eclectic in person. I’d have loved to have the kids build their own as souvenirs of the trip, but with Muppets ringing in at $130 apiece (close to $500 Canadian at the time), that expenditure seemed just too extravagant to justify.

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The Muppet Workshop at F.A.O. Schwarz. Photos: Brad Moon

They did have the opportunity to dance on the giant piano ala Tom Hanks in Big.

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Jon and Aidan Busting A Move on The Big Piano. Photo: Brad Moon

We tried to figure out if we had enough bricks at home to duplicate the life-size LEGO Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Harry Potter & gang or 60s vintage Batman that adorn the first floor. We don’t; not even close.

Retro Adam West-style LEGO Batman.     Photo: Brad MoonRetro Adam West-style LEGO Batman.     Photo: Brad Moon

Retro Adam West-style LEGO Batman. Photo: Brad Moon

One pleasant surprise was a large clearance section where toys were significantly discounted. I almost picked up a 12″ Joker action figure, but then decided that this wasn’t the nick knack I wanted to remember New York by. There were also piles (literally) of Dr. McCoy and Scotty Star Trek TOS figures knocked down to five bucks or so. Apparently Kirk, Spock and the Klingon were the big sellers from this run.

I did buy a Donald Duck as Darth Maul figure at the Disney store. The character combination just seems right and I figured if nothing else, it’s something I can torment Ken with… If anyone’s interested, you can also pick these up at Amazon, although I believe they’re cheaper at the Disney Stores.

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Darth and Duck Maul On My Bookshelf. Photo: Brad Moon

More on the Big Apple next week.

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