April 11, 2019

Forty-eight hours is not a lot of time to spend in New York City. It feels like even less when it’s dumping rain for half of those hours. And it feels like even less when you’re running from place to place with a toddler in tow, and that toddler has his own ideas about the pace he’d like to keep. (Spoiler: the pace he wants to keep is much, much slower than the one you had in mind.) But it’s the city that never sleeps, which means that in spite of rain and tyrannical toddlers, 48 hours still affords plenty of opportunities for memory-making.

If you ever find yourself on a cross-country RV trip and want to make the very same memories we did, just keep the following do’s and don’t’s in mind. Some of what follows is good advice. Some of it is terrible. All of it is true.

Do not drive the RV into Manhattan. If your own common sense doesn’t stop you, the Lincoln Tunnel probably will. (And anyway, from what I understand, vehicles of that size are not even allowed in Manhattan except by special permission.) To everyone who asked how we navigated an RV around the city, the answer is that we didn’t.

DO drive your minivan into Manhattan. Trust us, it’ll be lots of fun. GPS will tell you that you’re .4 miles away from your hotel and it will take you 45 minutes to get there.

DO park your minivan in an extended-stay parking lot for two nights. Then, retrieve the van roughly twenty minutes past the 48-hour mark and get charged for three nights. Those three days will cost the equivalent of one semester of community college.

DO say yes to the first person trying to sell you a hop-on-hop-off tour bus package. The packages are basically all the same, so saying yes to the first one will save you time.

DO get a picture of your kids with the stranger dressed in a Statue of Liberty costume in Times Square, and do pay this stranger while mentally applauding them for their oddly entrepreneurial spirit. Look at the photo you take, and get excited to see the real Statue of Liberty soon. Hope that the real Statue of Liberty is much less creepy-looking than this costumed version.

DO stay in the Hilton Doubletree on Times Square. It’s close to everything, it’s clean and modern, it’s (comparatively) inexpensive, and one room/suite can accommodate six people. BONUS: they give you fresh chocolate chip cookies while you wait at the check-in line. {{**IMPORTANT UPDATE** After writing this whole post, I went searching for a link to the Doubletree and IT’S GONE. It’s getting demolished and rebuilt. There’s some master plan blah blah blah. Anyway, you can’t stay there anymore, which means you can’t perfectly re-create our trip, and discovering this makes me grumpy and sad.}}

DO begin sight-seeing immediately. You’ve only got 48 hours (plus twenty minutes), after all.

Do not waste time and money at the Empire State building, but DO visit your friend, who works at the World Trade Center, and let him take you up to the 85th floor for a breathtaking view of the city.

Do not have a game plan for getting from Battery Park to Midtown at rush hour, especially if you are trying to make it to a show. It will be really really fun and exciting to hail a cab and then go literally nowhere for fifteen minutes while you stare obsessively at your watch.

DO order Broadway tickets using the app Today Tix. Not only are they really cheap, but you just might get awesome seats to boot. I took our oldest two boys to see School of Rock, and all I knew was that we’d be sitting in the front center section. I thought we’d probably be in the back corner of that section, but nope — dead center, fifth row. It was amazing. We were close enough that when one of the cast members threw a guitar pick into the audience, it landed in Cooper’s lap.

DO see School of Rock. I had no idea how good it would be. I saw the Jack Black movie years ago, which was fine, but Andrew Lloyd Weber adapted it for the stage and it was incredibly entertaining. The cast of kids is phenomenal, and I found myself smiling through almost the entire thing.

DO eat at Bubba Gump’s on Times Square at 10 o’clock at night after seeing a show. It’ll be just as packed as ever, and there’s nothing like eating your weight in shrimp as midnight approaches. Smile across the table at your sons, who don’t seem sleepy at all. Marvel at how old they are, and how they are turning into people you genuinely like spending time with.

DO try to accomplish the majority of your sightseeing on a day that is absolutely pouring rain. Sit on the top level of a double-decker bus with ponchos on. Run through Central Park with ponchos on. Ride the Statue of Liberty tour boat with ponchos on. Get coffee, see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, visit 30 Rock, grab a hot dog, all with ponchos on. You’re making memories, kids.

Do not find a black and white cookie to eat. Try very hard, but discover that every bakery that supposedly sells them is closed.

Do not eat your dinner inside while it rains. That would be too simple.

DO buy falafel and gyros from a street vendor and eat them quickly under the shelter of a tree (with ponchos on), and then frantically elbow your way through crowds of people so you can get back on your tour bus when it stops ever-so-briefly at a nearby intersection. (Don’t worry — your four kids will make this really easy to accomplish.)

DO spend an obscene amount of money to get day-of tickets to see Hamilton, just you and your spouse. Get good seats. Watch. Laugh. Cry. Refuse to get out of your seat at the end because you want them to just start over and do the whole show again.

DO leave all of your children in the hotel room so you can see Hamilton. This will be easy if you follow my prior advice to stay at the Times Square Doubletree, because Hamilton and half the other shows are a five-minute walk away. (**EXCEPT NO YOU CAN’T.**) Sure, your four-year-old might lose his mind and turn into the most difficult child ever while you’re gone, but who cares? You’re at Hamilton! Your older kids can handle it. Even when he calls room service, other rooms, and your friends back home.

DO go shopping at Forever 21 at one in the morning, after the show. I mean, hey, it’s open. Grab some jeans at American Eagle while you’re at it, because it’s open too. Hold hands with your husband. Laugh at the absurdity of the world. Laugh at the absurdity of yourselves.

DO wake up to the sight of your six-year-old staring out the window at Times Square, 27 floors below. Hear him whisper “it’s so beautiful.” Feel melancholy for a moment because you know one day he’ll leave you, and it’s possible that he’ll move all the way to New York City, which is a really long way away.

DO buy falafel etc. etc. from a food cart a second time. It’s really yummy.

Do not buy Statue of Liberty trinkets. They’re cheesy and cheaply made. Let your kids do that instead.

DO see Michael Cera coming out of the theater where he’s performing in a play. (But do not get your phone out in time to snap a photo.)

Do not feel any regrets as you drive out of the city which is now sunny and perfect. Your kids were bummed out by all the rain. You were a little bummed out too. But you will always remember floating by the Statue of Liberty with a driving rain in your face. You will remember your toddler stomping through puddles in Central Park. You will remember that damp smell as you get on and off the subway. You will remember taking shelter on the beautiful steps of a church whose name you didn’t learn. You will remember late-night dining and later-night shopping. You’ll remember running through the streets with no clear sense of where you’re going, and holding hands with your husband, and the sight of the fluorescent lights on the upturned faces of your children. And you’ll remember the expression on your six-year old’s face as he looks out the window and whispers “it’s so beautiful.”

RV’s and NYC

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