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As you may have spotted on our social media feeds, earlier this month, we visited New York as a family. We were lucky enough to tag a holiday onto a work trip as The bonnie mob was showing at childrenswear tradeshow, Playtime. We had a brilliant time in the Big Apple, so we wanted to share our top tips of where to stay, what to see and our favourite places to shop and eat. Read more below…
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in two different hotels during our trip, YOTEL, in midtown Manhattan, and The Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District.
YOTEL – Just three blocks away from Times Square, the futuristic Yotel is the brainchild of Yo! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe and his business partner Gerard Greene. The lobby alone is an experience, with self service airport-style check in screens on one side, and a giant luggage-storing robot, dubbed the ‘Yobot’ on the other. The Yotel’s design concept is inspired by the clever use of space in Japanese pod hotels, combined with the luxury elements of first class air travel. Extras such as bathrobes, slippers and minibars have been dispensed with in favour of free fast-connection Wi-Fi, a complimentary continental breakfast and guest fridges in the shared kitchens on each floor.
We booked a terrace room with a hot tub, which the kids absolutely loved! Our room was light and bright with plenty of space for four. Décor is minimal and functional, but we had everything we needed for our stay. We particularly loved the terrace, which was great for relaxing on after a hot day in the city and made our first few jet-lagged days much easier. The outdoor space also meant that we could order takeout and eat al fresco on some of the evenings, which kept the costs down.
The hotel also has one of the largest terrace bars in Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River with an amazing view of the New York skyline. It’s perfect for enjoying a cocktail, but it does attract a party crowd at the weekends. Overall, we thought that the Yotel is great if you have older children (ours are 11 and 13), but might not be ideal if your kids are younger. We would definitely recommend booking one of the terrace rooms, as the kids really enjoyed the hot tub.
THE GANSEVOORT – Set in the heart of the super-cool Meatpacking District, boutique hotel The Gansevoort is inspired by the swinging sixties and has an old New York charm. With a more luxurious vibe than the Yotel, the décor is sleek and modern with plenty of downtown drama. Think Moroccan lamps, flora and fauna and bold fabrics. The rooms were comfortable, with plush beds complete with velvet-tufted headboards, mod-styled sofas, LCD TVs and colourful paintings and photographs on the walls. We really loved the hotel’s location. It’s surrounded by great stores, including the Tesla showroom, which was popular with Gareth and the kids.
But the real draw of The Gansevoort is the 45-foot long heated rooftop pool, with an underwater sound system and a 360-degree panoramic view of the city. We loved hanging out there in the evenings and it was great for people watching. There were a few families staying at the hotel with kids about the same age as Alice and Rhys, so they made some friends. They also really loved the pool table in the lobby. We really enjoyed our stay at The Gansevoort and again would definitely recommend it if your kids are a little bit older.
WHAT TO SEE
MOMA – Located in Midtown Manhattan, New York’s Museum of Modern Art is an absolute must visit for families. Alice is a keen photographer, so we headed there to see Being: New Photography 2018. The museum is home to over 200,000 works of art, so there is plenty to take in. Our favourite exhibition of the day was from Bodys Isek Kingelez, who was a sculptor and artist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, known for his models of magical cities made from cardboard, paper, tape and other everyday materials. They were so intricate and beautiful and the colours were so rich, reminding me of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. At the end of exhibition, there was an interactive virtual reality experience – using Oculus Rift headsets – allowing visitors to explore Ville Fantôme, one of Kingelez’s large scale city sculptures. It was amazing, but it gave me vertigo! We also really enjoyed some time out in the gardens at the museum. Super tranquil, with beautiful water features, they are a great escape from the city.
STATUE OF LIBERTY AND ELLIS ISLAND – Ellis Island, in the Upper New York Bay area, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the U.S. from 1892, until 1954. We really enjoyed our visit here. I felt like I learnt so much and you really got a feel for why the USA is so diverse, yet so self-segregating, all in one museum. The stories of how the migrants and slaves got there, and why they left their own countries behind were heart-breaking, and it really showed how the American Dream evolved.
THE INTREPID SEA, AIR & SPACE MUSUEM COMPLEX – Rhys absolutely loved visiting this aircraft carrier, which is home to the world’s fastest jet planes, a guided missile submarine and a space shuttle. My father was a submariner, so we found it really interesting going on board the submarine to find out what life must have been like for him. They also have an amazing prototype for the Space Shuttle Enterprise. The kids really enjoyed all the space stuff – learning about NASA’s discoveries and developments.
THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDENS – We took a train from Grand Central Terminal, out via The Bronx and Harlem (an experience in itself), arriving at the beautiful, lush green gardens at dusk. After a long, hot day in the city, the cool environment of the glass houses was definitely a welcome relief. We had visited the gardens for their Aloha Nights event, a celebration of the Hawaiian Islands with an after-hours viewing of their current exhibition: Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i, in the Art Gallery and Conservatory. I was looking forward to the evening, as our SS18 collection was inspired by Hawaii and the exotic plants certainly didn’t disappoint. The colours were absolutely amazing. There were also hula lessons, Hawaiian music and lei-making demonstrations, where you could make your own lei pin. We then wandered through to see the Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, which were beautiful and well worth seeing. We took an Uber back to the hotel, right through the top of Manhattan, which was fun at night-time! We’d definitely recommend a trip to the gardens, and it’s a great activity to do with kids.
TRIBECA SAILING – Living in by the seaside in Brighton, we do lots of sailing as a family, so we were very excited to book a private sail cruising New York Harbor, as part of our trip. We couldn’t recommend Captain David and his team at Tribeca Sailing more. The classic sailboat was beautiful and David was an absolute fountain of knowledge – showing us the sights of the city from the water, including Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, New Jersey and the buildings of Manhattan. Once he realised Rhys and Gareth were good sailors, he let them take the helm, which made their week! We took one of our biggest vendors with us, who commented that it was one of the best brand meetings she’d ever had. So we’d definitely recommend it if you’re taking clients out in the city. It’s also a great activity for families and a really unique and special way to see New York.
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY – Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in the world. Brilliant with kids, there’s too much to do in one visit, so we opted to see an exhibition called Space Show: Dark Universe. Curated by a team of astrophysicists, science visualisers and educators, the show explores the pivotal discoveries that have taught us about the structure and history of the universe and our place in it. Alice and Rhys really enjoyed it and it’s located right on Central Park, so you can come out and go for a stroll afterwards.
THE HIGH LINE – The High Line is a 1.45 mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail, created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan, designed by architect Elizabeth Diller. We absolutely fell in love with it. There’s a lot of construction going on at the moment around the High Line, including British designer Thomas Heatherwick’s giant 50ft honeycomb, the centrepiece of the Hudson Yards development. At the moment, it’s hard to tell what sort of impact this will make on the surrounding landscape. We would definitely recommend a walk along the High Line if you’re in NYC.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS – There were lots of other things we enjoyed – including a visit to the Empire State Building on our first day and we also wandered past the iconic Flatiron building. Being so close to Times Square whilst we stayed at the Yotel, we couldn’t miss it off our itinerary! It was very crowded, so I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children, but Alice and Rhys were mesmerised by the lights and it was good to say we did it! Rhys took part in a beat box / dance / acrobat show, whilst we were there, which was hilarious! We also visited Battery Park, which is great for kids. There’s a jet water feature there, which the kids really enjoyed playing in. We visited the rainbow crosswalk at the famous Stonewall Inn too, a must-do – even if it’s just for the obligatory photo!
WHERE TO EAT
SHAKE SHACK – The best for burgers! We went twice during our trip.
CONGEE VILLAGE – This restaurant was recommended to us by a friend who is originally from Shanghai. We really enjoyed eating out in authentic Chinatown and had a really lovely meal here.
GOTHAM WEST MARKET – Described by The Business Times as ‘one of the best food halls in the world’, Gotham West Market is home to 50 of New York’s coolest eateries, and you can find everything from authentic Mexican street food, to classic New York pizza by the slice. The market is really great with kids, as you can all choose something different to eat.
CHELSEA MARKET – Another one of New York’s brilliant food courts, we really enjoyed the choice on offer at the Chelsea Market, where you can try everything from doughnuts to seafood.
WHERE TO SHOP
PICCOLINI – The cutest children’s and baby gift and clothing shop in Chinatown / Little Italy. Piccolini is a new stockist for us for AW18 and is well worth a visit.
SNEAKERS N STUFF – This store was close to The Gavensvoort Hotel and I may have gone a bit crazy in there! We all came home with a new pair of trainers.
DEPARTMENT STORES – We also visited our stockists Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman.
CITY PASSES – A great way to save money on the big attractions.
EATING OUT – Our kids are aged 11 and 13, so they now eat adult meals. The average cost to eat out was $150 - $200 for an evening meal, lunch was around $80 and breakfast was about $50, so it can quickly add up! If you’re on a budget, Airbnb is a good option – so you can eat in if you want to. We also took advantage of the city’s amazing delis for sandwiches at lunchtimes, which helped to keep costs down on the days we did trips to places like Ellis Island.
WHEN TO GO – We visited in August as we were showing at Playtime New York, but the weather was quite hot and humid. This meant that we couldn’t do as many things outside as we would have liked – we were constantly diving into shops for air con! We’d definitely recommend visiting in May or September, when the weather is a bit cooler, if you can choose.