It was our last day in the city, and with a flight that didn’t leave until late afternoon, we weren’t about to let our last 6 hours in New York go to waste. With our Airbnb host graciously allowing us to keep our luggage in the apartment through the afternoon, we packed our bags, placed them neatly in the corner out of housekeeping’s way, and ventured out into the city for one last time. We had hit all of the holiday highlights, and covered all of the landmark buildings in midtown, so this time we were headed in a new direction: downtown!
We only had one set appointment for the day (a brunch reservation in the West Village), so we started a leisurely stroll from our Gramercy apartment and headed southwest.
We passed by Gramercy Park, one of New York City’s last remaining private parks (only an elite group of nearby residents paying a yearly fee are awarded a key), and then around Union Square Park (above). The streets were the quietest they’d ever been, and as to be expected for 9 AM on a Sunday morning. “Everyone must be at church,” I joked.
We continued around the park’s southern edge and then made our way down University Place, where we soon found ourselves in the heart of NYU. We passed by the historic Washington Mews, which used to be stables for the area resident’s horses back in the late 1800’s, but now serve as housing and offices for the university. The foreign language department’s Deutsches Haus and La Maison Français flanked the east end of the street.
Just past the Mews, we entered the beautiful Washington Square Park, cutting right through the middle of the park.
We made our usual mid-morning stop on a park bench to feed Evelyn. It was another gorgeous day, so we ditched our coats under the stroller. We sat in the park for awhile, listening to the birds chirping and watching as other families slowly made their way out of their homes and into the park to play.
The iconic fountain was rather quiet on this mild winter morning.
We carried on through the park towards the West Village, following Barrow Street past the rows of beautiful townhouses. I didn’t tell Matt where we were going, hoping to surprise him.
When we finally made it to The Little Owl for our reservation, we crossed to the other side of the street and I looked at Matt waiting for a reaction. “Well…do you recognize this building?”
He looked at me, bewildered. “Noooo…should I?”
Fail. I explained to Matt that yes, he should know this building; this was the “Friends Building,” used in the exterior shots of the Friends’ apartment on my favorite show of all time. “Huh, can’t picture it” Matt said. Clearly he was not as thrilled by this as I was. We enjoyed a delicious brunch at the tiny restaurant housed on the first floor, while Matt spent some time googling Friends apartment building photos for confirmation that I wasn’t crazy.
After brunch, it was time to head even farther downtown. Having never seen the 9/11 Memorial since it was completed in 2011, we both agreed a trip to New York would not be complete without paying our respects. It would have been a bit too much of a jaunt to walk there, so we packed up our stroller once again for a quick subway ride down to the Financial District.
On our way from the subway station to the memorial, we walked under the new One World Trade Center building, a staggering 104 floors tall. The area was still a bit of a mess due to a new “Oculus” transportation hub that was being finished (and actually just opened to the public a few weeks ago), but following the crowd, it was easy enough to find our way to the memorial.
Standing at the edge of the north pool, it was hard to wrap our brains around the fact that an entire building once stood in it’s footprint.
Despite the large crowds, the falling water lent an eerily peaceful and calming effect to the area. The names inscribed around each of the pools brought you back to reality, reminding you of the tremendous loss that occurred here.
It’s hard to put into words the feeling that the memorial evokes, and I’m afraid as an outsider to New York, I certainly wouldn’t be able to do it justice to try. It’s one of those places you have to see and experience for yourself. After sitting a while and absorbing the energy of the place, we finally felt it getting too heavy and had to carry on.
We walked back towards Broadway, past Trinity Church, one of New York’s oldest parishes dating back to 1697. I figured since we were so close to Wall Street, we might as take a walk past the New York Stock Exchange Building as well. Not much was happening on a Sunday afternoon.
As we stood there for a minute planning our next steps, Matt confessed “you know what I want to see next time we’re in New York…that bull thing.”
“Next time? We can do that now!” I knew we were only a couple of blocks away, so we traveled ever farther south down Broadway to catch a glimpse of the charging bull.
By this point, we had almost reached the southernmost tip of Manhattan, just shy of Battery Park, when it was time to make the journey back to Gramercy.
We hoofed it back up to Tribeca to check out a toy shop we’d passed earlier (I still had to fulfill that promise of buying Evelyn a children’s book from every city we visited). Then we boarded the subway at the new Fulton Center that led right back to our flat.
The housekeeper was just finishing up in our apartment, so we took the opportunity to check out the building’s rooftop deck our host had mentioned. Definitely a perk of the stay, we were able to get some great shots of Manhattan and take it all in before we said “see you later”.
Looking southeast over Stuyvesant Town; the Williamsburg Bridge in the distance.
And just like that, our first family trip was over. It was time to cram all of our luggage and baby gear back into an Uber and head to LaGuardia.
For anyone who might be afraid of taking on NYC with children, don’t be! The city was surprising family friendly, easy to get around, and offered so much to see for all ages. I’m already making notes for our next trip (ahem…the High Line), so let me know, what did we miss this time around?
Gramercy Park | Gramercy Park W & E 20th Street
Union Square Park | 201 Park Avenue South
NYU/Washington Mews | Washington Mews & University Place
Washington Square Park | Washington Square North & 5th Avenue
The Little Owl/“Friends” Building | 90 Bedford Street
9/11 Memorial | 180 Greenwich Street
One World Trade | 285 Fulton Street
Trinity Church | 75 Broadway
New York Stock Exchange | 11 Wall Street
Charging Bull | Broadway & Morris Street
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