Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vacation Begins: New York City

Early Saturday morning we began our trip to the airport in Milwaukee.  Chad worked Friday night and was back home with no sleep when we left just after 4:00 a.m.  He was able to sleep some on the car ride to the airport, I was driving of course.  We weren't sure how long to allow for security, so we planned for a couple hours at the airport.

I wasn't sure how the flight would go.  The kids have never flown before, and Chad has only been in a puddle jumper for a short bit and was not really interested in flying.  The airport experience went much better than I expected.  We flew on Frontier Airlines, and I checked in online the night before and printed boarding passes.  The bags were easily dropped at the desk, then on to security.  There was a huge line formed at the gate, but because we had Classic Plus tickets we were able to bypass through our own check in line and breezed through security.  After checking our gate location we relaxed in the Best Care Club.  They had free snacks, drinks and a dark, relaxing place to wait.
We watched the planes outside being de-iced which was not encouraging.  There was lake effect snow in Milwaukee all morning.

We boarded the plane on time and were just slightly held up by the de-icing process.  Everything went smooth.  Chad and the boys liked the snacks on the plane, and Kevin watched the gps TV channel which showed our speed and elevation during the flight.  We landed on time and after collecting our baggage Chad called for the car I had arranged to take us to the hotel. I arranged a car service after reading online that the yellow cabs were about the same price but the drivers were horrible.  We used Legends Limousine and reserved a sedan, but were happily surprised when a Cadillac Escalade pulled up for us.  The driver got us to the hotel safely, the ride was really fast.

Our room at the Affinia Shelburne was not ready so we headed out in the big city to investigate.
Grand Central was just a few blocks away from the hotel and was the closest subway station.  We would be using the subway to get around and after our experiences in Washington D.C. last year we knew that we needed to orient ourselves to the ticketing and trains before we needed to use it.  Luckily we found it was very similar to the D.C. setup.  We bought 7 day passes and then spent some time looking around Grand Central.  It was a beautiful building, and we checked out the small Transit Museum there to learn some history of the building and subway system.  There were many choices for food for a late lunch and the family decided on the Manhattan Chili Company.  Everything we ordered was very good.  We had dessert from a bakery on the first floor of the station and ate sitting on the floor of the main hall.

As we were leaving out the front door of Grand Central, we spotted a countdown timer and display for the new Nintendo 3DS that Kevin was expecting to buy in New York.  The next day was the release but a special party was being held at midnight in a Best Buy store in downtown Manhattan.  And yes, there was discussion and consideration of needing to go wait in line at midnight.

The hotel room was ready when we walked back, and that gave Chad and Kevin a chance to crash and sleep for awhile.
Our room was on the 14th floor and had a view of the Empire State Building.  Zack and I checked out the rooftop of the building while the others slept.  There is a lounge on the roof during the warm season, but hotel guests can go up there at anytime.  Zack wanted to climb up on the benches and look over the edge, but I freaked out a little and told him he needed to keep his feet on the roof.  We could see a lot of Midtown Manhattan from the roof, including the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

Once the other boys were awake we headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant, Rare.  We began to notice some things about restaurants in New York City.  They were expensive, service wasn't real great and there were no kids items or kids menu.  This last item wasn't a huge issue because Chad and Zack were able to share an item off the menu of most places that served only large entrees.  This restaurant featured steaks and gourmet burgers, both of which were ordered at the table and both of which were excellent.  We also had a fry sampler which was great.

After dinner, no one was ready to call it a day in the "City that Never Sleeps" so we headed out for our first travel on the subway to Rockefeller Center.
One thing about the subways was that there many exits and depending on which one you took, you could end up a block away from where you thought you wanted to be.  We stumbled upon the Top of the Rock entrance pretty quickly and headed up with little crowds.  There was plenty to see on the clear night, but it was windy and cold so we didn't stay too long.

The kids also liked the Swarovski crystal displays.  One was a large display on the top floors created to look like you were inside of a giant geode with changing colors.  The other display was crystals hung from the ceiling in the entry foyer downstairs that were shaped like Rockefeller Center upside down.

Walking around Rockefeller Center outside, mostly because we were looking for the subway entrance, we saw the Lego Store, the skating rink, the Nintendo Store, and the Today Show Studio.

We found the subway and headed back to the hotel for a great night's rest to get ready for another day.