New York City Day Trip: American Museum of Natural History

350px American Museum of Natural History New York City New York City Day Trip: American Museum of Natural History

Frontview of American Museum of Natural History (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once of our favorite day trips in New York is the American Museum of Natural History, and yesterday was the perfect day for it. The showers and sprinkles throughout the day didn’t bother us in the least.

On yesterday’s itinerary:

  • the new exhibit honoring Theodore Roosevelt. I knew about his role in establishing our national parks, and that he was a staunch conservationist, but had not been aware that he was originally planning to become a natural scientist, and switched to law in college. Other interesting nuggets from the exhibit: Roosevelt’s father was one of the founders of the Museum and there has always been a Roosevelt on the board, to this day.
  • the special exhibit, The Power of Poison, running through August
  • Dark Universe, the new Hayden Planetarium space show narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

We skipped the Butterfly Conservatory this time but we’ve done it in past and it’s a nice breathe of Spring (ends late May) and saved the new exhibit on Pterosaurs (through January 2015) for another time.

Instead, we spent a bit of time in the Hall of North American Mammals on the recommendation of a delightful volunteer who had kindly guided us from Poisons to the Hayden Planetarium theater because we were tight on time and she thought the turns might be a tad confusing. She told us that the Mammals exhibit was recently refurbished — down to the bison getting a blow out – so we thought we’d check it out. We also wandered a bit in the Hall of Asian Peoples.

We wrapped up our day with a jaunt over to the Nintendo Store in Rockefeller Center so Doug could pick out a new game for his birthday, grabbing a pick-me-up at Bouchon on the way, and finished up with dinner at Cafe Un Deux Trois on West 44th.

Here’s a short video from our day. It’s pretty sucktastic, as my iPhone photos weren’t oriented properly for the video format:

Here are some of the photos straight from the phone:

 TIP: Give yourself 90 minutes for the Poisons exhibit. We only had a an hour, so had to skip the live presentation.

 New York City Day Trip: American Museum of Natural History

Roadtrip resumes

It has been more than three years since I last posted on this blog. In that time, I:

  • Started working for BlogHer out of the New York office
  • Moved to Connecticut
  • Got divorced

And even managed a few trips with my son:

I plan to catch up with details on the Chicago trip in an upcoming post as well as share some of our favorite local spots,  in NYC and Fairfield County where we live. The older trips though? Too much time has passed but please enjoy my photo sets on Flickr, linked above.

 Roadtrip resumes

New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtain

Ellis Island 300x199 New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtainLast week, I was in New York City for the annual BlogHer conference, and even though I was pretty busy at the conference, I managed to squeeze in a little sightseeing.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Originally, I planned to take the train first thing on Thursday morning to attend an event the day before the conference started on Friday  (more on that later), but a last minute change had me travelling down on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, I spent most of the day out in Brooklyn taping a roundtable conversation for Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, but the shoot wrapped up in time for me to connect up with my BlogHer roommate Joanne Bamberger (PunditMom)  and go to the Matisse exhibit (Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917) at the Museum of Modern Art.

Joanne is a MoMA member so she didn’t need a timed ticket to see Matisse, and as her guest I could purchase a pass for $5.00. If you aren’t a member or guest of one, you will need a timed ticket for Matisse. Is it worth it? If you like Matisse, yes. The exhibit, which runs through mid October,  gives you a good perspective on the evolution of his art. However, as we wandered through the exhibit a recurring theme of my commentary was how disconcerted I might have been had I been one of his subjects. There’s a series of sculptures of a female neighbor that progresses from fairly realistic to very  stylized (and not very attractive), and some of the renditions of his children are downright disturbing.

One of the neatest parts of the exhibit though is his version of of deHeem’s La Desserte because the original is shown along with Matisse’s version. It’s surprisingly faithful in its own way.

Timed tickets to Matisse are $20 and include all the MoMA galleries. Children 16 and under are free, and there are senior and student discounts. The Museum of Modern Art is located at 11 West 53rd Street.

Ellis Island

On Thursday, I went to Ellis Island on a trip sponsored by  Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project. We took the Ellis Island Ferry from Battery Park ($12 adults, senior and child discounts available), had a lovely lunch at Ellis Island, and enjoyed a guided tour by Ellis Island expert Tom Bernardin. We were a private group, but Bernardin offers his guided tour for $30 per person 3-4 times per week at 9:45 am (not including the ferry ticket). Note that waiting for the ferry on the Manhattan side will give you a true appreciation for the concept of “huddled masses yearning to be free.”

We did not disembark at Liberty Island, but circling the Statue of Liberty gives you some of the most spectacular views of this landmark.  Ellis Island itself is fascinating, and Tom created a good picture of what it must have been like for immigrants from the late 1800s through the early part of the 20th century.

Some of my photos from the day. More on Flickr.

4883354744 692dc67720 New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtain

4883371212 cfc7bb1354 New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtain

4883385320 402082be52 New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtain

4882775649 dea1c2f3fd New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtain

4883349472 87374053ea New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtain

Central Park Zoo

On Sunday, the conference was over, and good friend Celeste Lindell and I walked over to the Central Park Zoo and spent an hour enjoying the animals in this compact zoo before we departed for our respective homes later that afternoon. If you like zoos, Central Park is a great way to pass an hour, and it is the perfect size for small children who were out in force (with their parents of course). Be warned: once you’ve been, you’ll never view the Madagascar cartoons in quite the same way. There are no lions, hippos or giraffes, but there are plenty of lemurs and penguins. Selected pictures from the visit are on Snapshot Chronicles and the full set is on Flickr.

The zoo opens at 10am year round, and closes at 5 weekdays, 5:30 weekends in summer, 4:30 daily in winter. Adult admission $12. Senior and child discounts available.

The Shower Curtain

I have never wanted an item in a hotel room, with the exception of the executive apartment that Mir and I had at Mom 2.0 in Houston last February, and in that case, we wanted the entire apartment. Or, you know, to never go home. But last week at the New York Hilton, I fell in love with the shower curtain.

This one. New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtain (affiliate link)

shower curtain 300x300 New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtain

There was a waterproof liner attached to the curtain on the inside below the mesh panel, and the outer curtain was cloth in a white herringbone pattern. The mesh panel let in light while the opaque curtain protected privacy. It would be the perfect shower curtain for a shared bathroom when both occupants are on tight schedules and truly need to share.

Right now, none of our bathrooms would accommodate this type of shower curtain; the one with the tub is the bathroom Doug uses, and I am not so crazy to put a WHITE shower curtain in a room used by a 10-year old boy. Someday though.

Important: If you think you’d like this shower curtain,  the one sold in Hilton’s online shop is NOT the right one.  The one in my link is the correct one, and there are also similar less expensive options on Amazon.

Hotels

On this trip I stayed at the Wellington Hotel for the first two nights. I went to New York earlier than originally planned for a taping of a roundtable panel for Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project and this was all they could get for a hotel. The Wellington’s rack rate ranges between $175-230 except during Fashion Week when it skyrockets to the $300-400 range. These rates aren’t that different than the advertised rates at much better hotels in New York. The rooms are very small, not unusual for New York, and very rudimentary. The ice machine is in the lobby. You get the idea. Unless you’ve got no other choice, and absolutely need the 7th Ave/Carnegie Hall location, you can do better with a little hunting. Start by checking Quikbook online. If you’re totally stuck? You can survive anything for a night or two.

I moved over to the Hilton on 6th Ave. for Blogher, which had a special conference rate of $199 per night. Hilton’s regular rates range from $329-400 per night, putting it WAY out of my budget for a personal trip. However, if you are a member of Hilton’s frequent stay program and you need to be in this area of Manhattan, look into using your points.

On my previous trip to NYC for the TBEX travel blogging conference, I stayed at the Hotel Indigo in Chelsea, also with a special rate of $199. Normal rack rate is $250-275, but the hotel, like many in Manhattan, offers packages that can save on the rack rate if you want the add-on (breakfast, sightseeing, sometimes theater tickets and restaurant vouchers.) An advantage of Hotel Indigo is that it’s owned by InterContinental Hotels. Join the Priority Pass frequent stay program and you can earn your points staying at budget friendly Holiday Inns and use ‘em in Manhttan. Hotel Indigo in New York also has a nice little rooftop bar and free wi-fi. Very convenient to Penn Station, which is usually how I travel to the city.

Other hotels to consider in NYC, but note that I haven’t stayed at them recently (or in the case of one, at all): Affinia Hotel Manhattan, right across the street from Penn Station.  I think the Affiinia used to be a residence hotel, which is why all the rooms have a kitchenette. This makes it very appealing for trips to NYC with my son, as I can save a pretty penny on breakfast by “cooking in” before we go off on our day of sightseeing. Room size is variable.  Rack rate starts around $239 but there are discounts for AARP and AAA members.

The Paramount in Times Square. The rooms in this hotel are teeny tiny, but the Times Square location cannot be beat, and you can usually get a good rate. Rack rates for a one-night stay in mid-August ranged from $180-209. Definitely check Quikbook online before booking directly.

A hotel I have not stayed at but that gets raves from colleagues is the Roger Smith Hotel. Typical rates range from $189-249, although there are a few outlier inexpensive rates ($139 and $159), and like most Midtown hotels, rates skyrocket during Fashion Week in September. Free wi-fi.

Unless you are getting a conference rate (and even then) check the rate on Quikbook online before booking directly with a hotel. Sometimes you can get a better rate, sometimes you cannot, but it is always worth checking.

Restaurants

Meals are never a big part of a conference-based trip to New York. Especially with BlogHer. I find Iam so busy that I often forget about dinner altogether. Nonetheless, I had a few nice meals on this trip that merit a call-out.

Insieme, the Italian restaurant inside the Michelangelo Hotel on W. 51st. You can make a very nice meal out of a salad and an appetizer portion of pasta. Plus some bread and a glass of wine or two. We weren’t familiar with the wines on the wine list so to help us choose, they gave us a tasting of a few choices.  We also were offered an amuse-bouche of a cold tomato soup that was quite tasty.

My publisher took me to dinner at sushi/dim sum restaurant Ruby Foo’s in Times Square. The food was good, but the best part was the company and being served (versus the conference buffet line.)  Sister Times Square restaurant (also part of B.R. Guest Restaurants) Blue Fin is also quite good.

On Sunday after our trip to the zoo, we had lunch at the Brooklyn Diner on West 57th. I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and Celeste had a baked macaroni and cheese dish that looked absolutely decadent. You also might want to check out a classic in the area, the Carnegie Deli, but be warned, the portions are large (and pricey) and the service short.

Disclosure: The trip to Ellis Island was sponsored by Liberty Mutual. The trip to the zoo was the first (hopefully annual) self-sponsored BlogHer  zoo trip. I wasn’t even tempted to  liberate the shower curtain from the Hilton bathroom.  My hotel room at the Wellington was paid for by the film production company and presumably was part of the budget for the filming. The shower curtain link above is an affiliate link to Amazon.

 New York, New York: MoMA, Ellis Island, the Central Park Zoo and a shower curtain

My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York

4756775982 9d3fb48ee0 z My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New YorkLast weekend, I attended the Travel Blog Exchange conference in New York. I was there to represent Blog With Integrity on a panel about blogging ethics, which I wrote about on Marketing Roadmaps earlier this week.

I also hoped to pick up a few pointers for this travel blog that, while very neglected of late, is still very close to my heart. I don’t have many hobbies. Dogs. Photography. Cooking. Sporadically needlework like crochet and needlepoint. I collect a few things — miniatures and Scottish Terrier items, especially pins and bookends.  And of course, the living breathing specimens icon smile My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York

And always and forever travel.

Like Kara Williams of The Vacation Gals, my travel blogging is more pragmatic, less introspective than many of the writers at the conference. I’m well past my backpack and hostel days, and I’ve always liked a certain amount of creature comforts. I prefer a shorter trip with a little luxury to a long trip with none.

I write about traveling with my son. What we do and see. And how we survive the sometimes stressful experience of traveling as a family. In all its variations. In the last 2 years, I have traveled with my husband and son, with them plus his sister and family, with my son alone, with my brother and mother, and by myself.

By myself is quieter but not always more fun. Sure, I can wander around taking pictures (my preferred souvenir) and nobody loses patience with how long I can stay shooting the same thing to get just what I want. But I almost always think how much Douglas (my son) would love something. And wish he was with me to experience it. For example, on this last trip, I had a yummy strawbery-rhubarb Crumbs cupcake for lunch, and immediately made plans to bring my son to a Crumbs Bakery next time we are in Manhattan together.  Because he would just LOVE it.

Even though my blogging here is as much about family as it is about travel, some of the advice presented at the TBEX conference really resonated.

The opening panel was called “Travel Writing: Upping Your Game.” A core idea of the panel was that travel writers have a quest. It doesn’t have to be big, and it may be the reader’s quest, not the writer’s, but there’s a goal. As one of the presenters commented (I think it was David Farley but my notes don’t say), it’s like the Wizard of Oz. Without the quest, the story is just a bunch of oddballs wandering around.

Allison Stein Wellner, who writes for about.com and Luxist,  contributed the idea of the situation versus the story. Originally coined by Vivian Gornick in  her book The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York (affiliate link), the idea is that we are in situations, but we tell stories. What makes our writing compelling is the stories. Sometimes this is hard to reconcile with the more pragmatic style family travel blog, but I still think it’s about our stories. Even if they are less introspective, and more about answering questions that our readers might have, we’re still solving a problem. Following a quest.

The other presentation that really resonated with me, even though I don’t (yet) do a lot of video was Lori Rothschild Ansaldi’s presentation on how to create a compelling travel video. In a very accessible and simple way, Lori (who was an executive producer for Samantha Brown’s travel show) told the audience how to research a story, create a storyboard and prepare a shot list, all without using any industry jargon. And she told the attendees that it was okay to get help editing your videos. Amen!

As I always say, know what you do well and do it. And what you don’t? Outsource.

Now,  the little more New York.

I stayed at the Hotel Indigo on West 28th. They offered a nice discount for TBEX attendees if you booked by the end of March, and it was walking distance from Penn Station. When possible in New York, I like to walk. You see more and get a little exercise as well.  My hotel decision payed huge dividends when I decided, at 3:30 pm on Sunday, to catch an earlier train home. All I had to do was walk the two blocks from Macy’s to my hotel, collect my bag, and book it a few blocks to the station to catch the 4:05 pm Acela home.

I also walked to (and from) the conference, at the Cantor Film Center on 8th Street in Greenwich Village, both days. You can see my full photo set on Flickr, but here are some of the highlights.

On Saturday morning, I walked down Broadway and through the Union Square market. I was terribly tempted by the cherries, but knew I couldn’t eat a whole pint without being sick (and sticky)  so didn’t buy any. I took a few pictures on my way.

4758530169 a56f227b3e m My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York 4742702982 775de01ab0 m My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York 4742701034 345041cbdb m My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York

On the way back to the hotel Saturday evening, I noticed an odd statue of a nude man in Madison Square Park. I didn’t take a picture then but you can see it here in a picture I took during the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday:

4758634291 f4a8841d0a My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York

Sunday morning, I was walking through Union Square and for some reason looked up and saw:

4758726751 897d3a427a My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York

At first, I thought that somehow they’d moved the statue I’d seen the day before, but then I realized this might be the Manhattan version of Chicago’s cows.

Not exactly. But close enough. British artist Antony Gormley has placed 31 life-size figures of his own body cast in iron and glass fiber on sidewalks and rooftops of buildings near Madison Square Park. Apparently many of the figures are on rooftops, which has caused some consternation, but it seems most folks realize they are statues, not jumpers.

The weird thing?

Going through my photos when I got home, I realized I had captured another image with a Gormley statue. Totally unintentionally. I didn’t even notice the figure on the roof until I was editing my shots.

4742065601 6b3440792a My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York

The statues will be on display until August 15th. If you’re in the neighborhood, look up!

 My thoughts on travel blogging and a little more New York

Photowalk, New York City

I’ll post about my weekend at the Travel Blog Exchange conference in NYC later this week. In the meantime, please enjoy some of the photos I took walking to and from the conference (West 28th to West 8th and back again).

4742757890 2b3f611e39 Photowalk, New York City

4742755152 71fd07b8db Photowalk, New York City

4742065601 6b3440792a Photowalk, New York City

4742109763 4e4bb1154f Photowalk, New York City

4742074229 3899bf1b85 Photowalk, New York City