New York City is a Festival - My Family Travels
“Visiting New York City is like going to a festival!” That’s how my 10-year-old son Nicolas described our recent visit to the Big Apple.

We visited last August, two weeks before the World Trade Center disaster. We spent four days in Manhattan touring the sites with our three children. They were ages 7, 9, and 12 at the time. Just recently, when planning our 2002 holiday, I asked my eldest son Daniel if he would like to go back to New York City this summer. His reaction was immediate: “Of course, why not?”

The graphic images of the Twin Towers, and the heroic efforts of the emergency personnel will no doubt haunt this generation of children. Daniel’s answer to my question reflects a level of youthful confidence that we as parents must do our best to continue to instill.

We will re-visit the city and we will visit the disaster site if we are given the opportunity. As parents, we believe that closure is important. We will go to focus on the incredible courage that New Yorkers are displaying by going about their daily business while at the same time trying to come to terms with this loss.

Home From Home
We will once again stay at the Red Roof Inn ( 212/643-7100, 800/RED-ROOF) on 32nd Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. Our stay at this hotel last August was exceptional and now that the hotel has undergone renovation in late 2007, it promises to be even better. It is situated in what is known as Korea-Town. Our train arrived at Penn Station at 10:30 am and we walked east four blocks to our to the Red Roof. Although we arrived before check-in time, the attendants at the front desk allowed us to store our bags until a room became available.

As a traveling family, we found the location of this hotel to be ideal. Times Square is 10 blocks north of the hotel. This 20-minute walk is particularly enjoyable at night when the street vendors set up their tables. Columbus Circle and Central Park are about 20 blocks north. We walked south to Chinatown, Little Italy and the Brooklyn Bridge. The United Nations complex is five avenues to the east, while the Intrepid Sea-Air Space Museum is seven avenues to the west. [FTF Note: The Intrepid Museum is closed until Fall 2008 while ship is restored and refurbished.]

We walked to most of our destinations. However, we found that the purchase of an all-day subway pass allowed us to cover more territory. Usually we would walk to our destination, and then subway back to the Red Roof Inn.

The City’s Sights And Smells
There was no shortage of places to visit and places to eat. We made the decision early on that we would focus on the sights and smells of New York City during our visit. This meant that we stayed away from museums, organized tours and anything to do with long line-ups.

Our meals were eaten during the non-peak times. New York City is great for quick food: pizza, bagels, falafels and noodles can be found in abundant supply. Much to my surprise, the cost of beverages for the children was reasonable. However, we had stocked up on drinks so as to avoid being gouged by exorbitant beverage prices.

Our only exception to the line-up rule was waiting to visit the Empire State Building. We had decided to visit the building at night since it would offer a grand nighttime vista of the city. We arrived and joined the queue. After about an hour of waiting we arrived at the ticket kiosk. That was where the sign read, “Elevator Wait Two Hours.” Obviously, many others had the same idea that night. We chose to come back the next morning. After a continental breakfast (included in room rate), we enquired about tickets at the travel desk in the lobby. They sold us admission tickets to the Empire State Building and we rode up the 86 floors without any delay. We will remember this next time.

We all had our favorite experiences. Felicia, our youngest, enjoyed the trip on the Staten Island Ferry. The one-hour round trip passage gave us excellent skyline views. The ferry, which travels past the Statue of Liberty, provides a relaxed up-close view of this most famous lady. The bonus here is that the trip is free. Note: The older ferries are the best since they have open windows and provide excellent picture taking opportunities.

Guided Around
For our general information, we relied on The Complete Idiots Travel Guide to New York City and New York City with Kids, both of which are published by MacMillan Travel. We also purchased three excellent location and guide maps by Map Easy. These large, easy to read maps sketch out city blocks detailing hotels, restaurants, retail shops and attractions. The three we purchased were for Upper Manhattan, Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

Most of the research involved in this trip was centered on choosing the most suitable hotel for our style of travel. We felt comfortable and safe at the Red Roof Inn. Stepping out of the hotel and walking out onto West 32nd Street gave us an immediate “New York” feeling. To us, this feeling was narrow streets, lines of yellow taxicabs, tall buildings, hustle and bustle, and a variety of aromatic smells that only New York in August could produce.

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