NYC: Love at 9th Sight

Sometimes it's love at first sight, sometimes it's gradual and sometimes it just sparks suddenly after several previous experiences. I've been to New York City (NYC) eight times previously and came away each time feeling disappointed. Most of my visits were work related and involved staying in midtown Manhattan. Each time, I wanted to love it but instead felt overwhelmed by congestion, commercialism and cabs. New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, LA, San Diego...I fell in love with all of them for different reasons but for some reason, just couldn't make the connection with NYC. For me, NYC was like sushi. I would try it every year to see if something changed, but each time would confirm my previous experiences. This year, I had an opportunity to experience NYC differently and the result was dramatic. I fell in love.


Our family typically does light planning and tends to go with the flow on trips. Once we get to our destination, we'll check the weather, discuss what each of us would like to do and formulate a general game plan. We like to explore, wander and experience. For whatever reason, that wasn't working when I visited NYC. Maybe there is just too much to explore, maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind.. whatever the reason, I just wasn't connecting with NYC so I decided to try something different the next time I visited. My nephew lives in Hoboken and my sister Donna was looking to visit him so we decided to team up to take on NYC together with my son Nick and niece Meggan. My sister Kathy and niece Laura were planning to visit NYU so we decided to make it a family event! Margie is 7 and a half months pregnant and Anna had a birthday party so we decided to divide and conquer. We do lots of travel as a family but also like to travel without the kids and with each child because of the quality time and bonding opportunities.

This time, I booked a tour through Viator that combined 5 separate hop on/off bus tours and a harbor cruise. We also chose to stay right outside the city and took the train in from Newark station. We started with the harbor cruise, then walked through mid-town, explored Times Square and did a night bus tour of midtown, southern Manhattan and Brooklyn. The result was a dramatically different experience. Our tour guide was AMAZING. She was a lifelong New Yorker and her love of the city was infectious. She helped guide us through many of the city's neighborhoods and gave us a true appreciation for the city's history, personality and grit. When one guy on the tour took a call on his cell phone, she called him out and told him to hang up and stop being rude to everyone else. When the bus got a peek of the Statue of Liberty, she would yell “Hey Lady!!”.. she was quintessential New York and we loved it. The next day we did more of the same with a guided tour of Central Park and uptown Manhattan, including Harlem. Once again, we were blessed with an amazing tour guide, an African immigrant whose pronunciation of Harlem ('Arlem) is still seared in my memory. His passion for the park and the transformation of Harlem was as infectious as our previous tour guide. We wrapped up the tour back in Times Square where we found a small Irish Pub and grabbed an early dinner.


I'm not sure exactly why I fell in love with NYC this time but I did. It had something to do with the father/son bonding time and the moments it created. I'll never forget Nick leaning over to tell me that he thought the Soviet Army was raising money right outside Penn Station. I explained to him that it was the Salvation Army :) (We were talking about the CIA on the car ride up – not sure that was the best idea but at least he wasn't playing video games). It had something to do with going with my sister Donna and niece Meggan and meeting up with Kathy and Laura. We always have lots of fun together and this time was no different. It had something to do with our amazing tour guides, the picture perfect weather and visiting at the very early stages of the holiday season. However it happened, it happened and I'll be forever grateful. I fell in love with the neighborhoods, the pugnacious spirit, the contrast of urban and rural (Central Park), the opportunity to immerse oneself in so many different cultures in such a compact area. Hey Lady!!! I'll be back soon with the rest of the Gunn clan.. who knows maybe I'll even find a Sushi place and learn to love that too!

Nick and his cousin Meggan's, picks:

  • Riding the train in and out of the city
  • Toys R' Us in Times Square
  • Sitting in the front of the top of the bus on the bus tours
  • Shopping for souvenirs

What are some of your best tips while visiting NYC with kids?

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