I grew up in Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City. When I was a child, my parents would occasionally take us into Manhattan to go to a museum or see the Christmas decorations. As we walked down the streets of the city, my dad would say, “Don’t look up. You’ll look like a tourist!”
He wanted us to be street smart, to be more concerned about our immediate surroundings than the tops of buildings, hundreds of feet over our heads. But, do you know how hard it is for a child to walk through the canyons of skyscrapers and keep their eyes on the ground?
In case you couldn’t guess, it is nearly impossible. I would try to keep my eyes down, but a little beam of light would play on the sidewalk and I’d have to look up to track its source.
So, while I find myself saying a lot of the things my parents said to me when I was a child, I never ask my children to refrain from looking up when walking down the streets of the city.
The last few times I took my kids to New York City, Luke and Leah would marvel at the double-decker buses and ask to ride one. In my mind, it seemed like a silly thing to do. Why would I tour a city I live so close to?
Upon further consideration, I realized that the open air bus would be the best way to really admire the tops of the skyscrapers. In fact, I couldn’t think of a better way to really see them the way a child wants to see them. It would be far superior than pressing our noses to the dirty glass windows of a city bus.
With this in mind, we boarded an open-air double-decker bus on Mother’s Day. We started near Rockefeller Center.
The weather was perfect for a tour like this and we all enjoyed being outside, even if the air was filled with the smells of car exhausts, street food, and sewers. We leaned back in our seats and oohed and aahed over the visions of skyscrapers passing us as the bus drove by.
After a couple of stops, we hopped off the bus in Times Square. The kids immediately spotted the M&M store, so we made a beeline for it. We paid far too much for a couple of bags of M&Ms, but it was fun to make our own mix.
We hopped back on the next bus and leaned back for a fabulous view of Times Square as the bus made its way through the traffic.
As the bus drove downtown, we listened to the tour guide tell us about each neighborhood we drove through. I learned a lot of fun facts I am sure I will bore my family with every time we go downtown.
Due to a detour, we drove right past the new Freedom Tower, which will replace the Twin Towers. It is 1,776 feet tall, its height is symbolically equal to the year the United States declared its freedom from Great Britain. (See, I told you I learned lots of little fun facts!) The kids were very impressed, and we snapped quite a few pictures of it.
I had planned to hop off at Battery Park, so the kids could get a view of the Statue of Liberty, but most of the park is under construction to repair the damage from Hurricane Sandy. Instead, we got off at South Street Seaport. That wasn’t much better. It also sustained quite a bit of damage from the hurricane and wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped. We did find a little playground across the street to burn off some energy. The kids loved the bus, but it did require more sitting still than they like to do.
Once we got back on the bus, we completed the loop of downtown Manhattan. We really enjoyed our double-decker tour. Leah said her favorite part was visiting the M&M store. Luke said he liked every part of the day. I was happy that we were able to spend Mother’s Day together, doing one of the things I enjoy best: completing a New Experience with my children.
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