This trip began on the wrong foot. We were due to arrive the same day as winter storm Stella, the blizzard that was supposed to blanket New York City with six inches of snow. The snowstorm came, our flight to New York was cancelled and rescheduled for the following day. Undeterred, I went out to buy warmer clothes for the kids. I told myself it would still be fine, we will just be in a snow covered New York. I’d bundle up in layers so that my hatred of all places cold didn’t ruin my experience there.
Our flight to New York was riddled with annoyances. The flight was delayed, and the airplane had a maintenance problem after we boarded. The airplane was small and since our original flight was cancelled we weren’t all sitting together. Once we landed at Newark Airport we sat on the tarmac forever since the plane had yet another issue. Definitely not my favorite flight but it could have been worse. We disembarked the plane and had another long wait for our luggage. I had decided to take the train into the city as that seemed to be the easiest and most economical way. Tickets for all five of us costs about $42.
The train was pretty straightforward, there are signs in the airport that will point you towards the AirTran. Once you buy your tickets at the kiosk, you take the AirTran to the correct platform for the train that takes you into the city. There was an employee standing at the kiosk to make sure we bought the right ticket and went to the right platform. Very easy. I found the ride to the city pleasant, with lots of helpful people that went out of their way to help me with my suitcase. It was a bit of a challenge getting my huge suitcase on a seat, as you cannot leave any luggage in the aisle. We got off on our stop at Penn Station, headed up the escalator, and found ourselves in New York City.
The wind was sharp and cold, I wrapped the boys scarves around them tighter. People were everywhere, the weather had not swayed all the New Yorkers to stay inside. I gave my oldest two children the task of figuring out which way we needed to go to get to our hotel. They’re both much better at directions than I am, so I’m more than happy to hand over that job to someone else. Unfortunately we went the wrong direction, so it took a lot longer to get to our hotel than it should have. Getting lost wouldn’t have been a big deal with better weather and lighter luggage. The struggle of wheeling our luggage through snowy sidewalks and wind slapping us in the face had me seriously considering a taxi, but the long lines of endless sedentary cars, and nonstop honking made me decide to soldier on. Getting to our hotel was definitely a hell I never want to experience again, and poor Sahki was just about in tears because he was so cold. We find our hotel, and it’s fantastic. I will have to do a review in a separate post.
None of us were too keen on going out in the weather again, but we needed lunch. We set out for McDonald’s, not the greatest choice but it was close and we wanted to save the pizza restaurant next door for dinner. McDonald’s in NY was definitely an experience as everything was 20% more than at home, the place was total chaos, and all the workers spoke with a Puerto Rican accent. We found a seat in the crowded restaurant next to a sleeping homeless man. I try sticking to a vegan diet, but nothing at McDonald’s is really vegan so I ate fries and an egg mcmuffin minus the ham. I must admit that it tasted a lot better than I remembered. After McDonalds we headed back to the hotel to rest a bit.
Once the itch to explore set in we decided to head out. We went shopping for breakfast items and see what’s nearby before getting dinner. It didn’t feel as windy outside as before, but I really wasn’t impressed with New York. It just felt too chaotic and dirty. All the snow and garbage piled up on the sidewalks didn’t look like the Sex and the City image I had in my mind. I knew I was tired and being unfair, but I just didn’t feel instantly smitten like the way I felt about Washington DC. I tried to keep my spirits up and have fun. I knew my boyfriend Michael would be joining us in a few days, and that tomorrow would be better. As we walked, I saw a man on a pay phone! I don’t think I’ve seen someone using a pay phone in ten years, and I don’t think my kids have ever seen someone on a payphone. For the rest of the trip we noticed that NYC has a lot of payphones but we never noticed many gas stations. Weird.
The next day we decided to visit the Museum of Modern Art, or MOMA. All the kids were free, so it only cost $25 for myself. Besides my daughter, the kids aren’t too keen on art museums but I heard that this museum was more child friendly than the MET. Since we were all bundled up and the museum was warm, we decided to check our coats (free!) before looking at the art. Our first exhibit was strange. I cannot remember the name of the exhibit, but there were pictures of naked people everywhere. It was of an erotic nature with recently ejaculated penises being showcased and unshaved women in crotchless pants. The boys didn’t seem to notice, but we made that exhibit very quick and went on to less weird pastures. I wasn’t overly impressed with the rest of the first floor, and I started to wonder if I had made a mistake bringing the kids there. MOMA is a very large museum and my first impressions were wrong. It really has some excellent artwork among the ones that make you go wtf?
The boys did pretty well throughout the museum. I could never really stop and savor the art for as long as I would have liked, and the boys were pretty bored and restless towards the end. We did make it through the whole museum, but it may be best to split the museum up into two trips, or plan to take a break in the cafeteria for a while if you have kids. I didn’t do either, but I probably should have as the boys started to misbehave a bit and wanted to chase each other. They both started to complain that they couldn’t touch anything and their complaining started to sour the whole experience. I still managed to snap a few pics, including the famous Van Gogh, and Sahki enjoyed all the big windows inside the museum. I really did like MOMA.
Since it was our first visit to New York we decided to visit the Empire State Building and take the elevator all the way up. Now Michael was with us, so we all ventured out to one of the world’s tallest buildings. There was security and metal detectors to go through upon entry, but this was expected and the boys are used to this since its a breeze compared to airport security. The queue didn’t seem long at first, but boy did it take forever. Luckily it was our first stop that day, and the boys didn’t seem to mind the wait. There were lots of lights for them to check out and the line took you around different areas in the building. I did experience the usual annoyances of the boys standing too close to people, and Sahki constantly picking his nose, but you have to expect some less than ideal behavior when you have long waits combined with autism. Even with the minor ‘problems,’ the boys did very well. No breakdowns or whining at least. We all had our CityPASS tickets ready which made things easier, just be sure to keep it available until you get in the elevators. They seemed to check our tickets about 4 or 5 times after the initial entry at different points. I found this to be unnecessary and waste a lot of time. After the third time of being asked to show our tickets it really seemed unnecessary. After a cheesy photo was taken, it wasn’t long before we were all jammed into an elevator heading up to the first stop. The boys were pretty nervous about the elevator, like they are about all elevators, and asked the workers how safe they were. The employees were very nice and assured them the elevators would not get stuck and would take us up very quickly. Sahki got a bit nervous during the ride up and grabbed the wrist of the woman next to him. I apologized to her, but she didn’t mind, only giving me a nod and Sahki a sweet smile. Bless the kind hearted people who aren’t overly upset about children touching them or being mildly impolite.
Once we got to the first stop we were able to look out all the windows and read the walls telling us about the construction of the building. The views were nice but it seemed not worth the wait for me. Once we were done there we headed to the next and final stop. The highest point was definitely more enjoyable. Here you could step outside and get a good view. The views were wonderful of course, and you can really see the city in a completely different way. The boys marveled at how small everything looked at the bottom. I feel it was worth the wait if you have time, but I liked Top of the Rock better. We didn’t take the kids to Top of the Rock because we were out alone that night but the queue was far less insane and I actually liked the views better. This is a good option if you have kids who cannot handle long waits, or you could shell out the extra money for an express pass and bypass some the lines at Empire State.
The Empire State building is also where our time together began to take a turn for the worse. I will go further into this later, but my oldest son has some emotional problems. I don’t want to delve too much into this out of respect for his privacy, but he’s impulsive and angry sometimes. He refuses to go to therapy and says he hates traveling, even though he never seems to hate it when we are there. As we were exiting the gift shop he stole something. I knew he stole it because he announced it. Shocked and unsure of what to do, I told him to give it to me so I could put it back. He refused and not wanting to cause a big scene with all my kids there or have him get arrested in NYC, I let it go. I knew once we got home he’d be in a hell of a lot of trouble. I didn’t want to spoil the trip even though I was livid. Now that we are back home I’ve gotten back the stolen souvenir and my son is still not speaking to me. I had to say and do some really harsh things (no, I didn’t hit him) but he definitely did not like the things I had to say, nor the ultimatum I gave him. Things like this are tough when you’re a single parent and you have problems like these. I don’t want to go further into this incident on this post but I want to keep this blog real. Part of keeping it real isn’t hiding the truth or the problems I have with my kids. This just goes to show you that travel won’t magically fix problems at home.
Spectacular views from Empire State
After leaving the Empire State Building and having a bad lunch at a Chinese restaurant, we decided to go to central park. We didn’t delve into the park as much as I would have liked but we did make it there on St. Patrick’s Day. I wish we had taken the time to watch some of the parade, but I wasn’t sure the kids would be very interested and I didn’t want to deal with the crowds. We did get to walk past plenty of colorful people and some men playing the bagpipes in full Irish getup. There were also some noticeably drunk young people who had gotten the party started early. Central park is beautiful, even though it was covered in slushy snow we enjoyed our time here. We didn’t find the carousel but we had a snowball fight which put smiles on all our faces. It definitely helped lighten the mood and ease my anger over what happened at Empire State. There’s nothing better than laughing with people you love. We also passed by “Big Bird” from Sesame Street. He was sitting on a bench and you could take pictures with him for $5. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an official version of Big Bird. While the boys were chatting with the bird, someone hit him with a snowball from the bridge above us. We weren’t quite expecting that! We planned to go back to Central Park when the weather was better but we never did make it back. I really wished we could have explored more of the playgrounds. What we did see was wonderful, just be mindful of the horse poop!
Our walk along the icy path in central park.
We decided to take the Subway back from central park and I love riding public transportation. I never did figure out the subway on my own, and I found the subway way more confusing than the metro of Washington DC. The subway was also busier, dirtier, and smellier than DC. Its still pretty much a must for getting around NYC. The traffic seemed perpetually busy and horrendous at almost all hours of the day. At least we only saw one rat in the subway!
No first time visit to New York is complete without a stroll in Times Square. Yes it is touristy. Very touristy. Yes it is busy. But it is truly something to marvel. Even at night, Times Square illuminates the streets with consumer indulgence. It definitely must be seen at night, not just during the day. I wanted to go to the M&M’s store, the Hershey store, and Toys R Us. We found the M&M’s store first and it’s a lot of fun. We did lose Keiren in the store for a minute (the place was packed!) but he was found quickly, though quite upset. But it was nothing a bag of M&M’s couldn’t fix. The butter pecan and cherry M&M’s were my favorite, but there were a few other flavors I’d never seen before. The Hershey store was right across the street so we headed there right after. It was a huge disappointment and we left the store after only a few minutes. I didn’t see anything that caught my eye and the place just felt like a giant tourist trap with oversized plain Hershey bars, nothing really unique, and overpriced merchandise. I really wanted to find the toy store but then we learned Toys R Us closed after the holidays. Bummer, I’d really wanted to check out this store and I heard it was similar to a toy store in London. Oh well.
A selfie in Times Square. Hershey’s looks cool on the outside but don’t be fooled!
Autism travel in New York City is hard. I was surprised how much harder it was compared to everywhere else. It could’ve just been the weather, my mood, and all the snow but I wasn’t too keen at first. You really have to keep an eye on your kids here as the sidewalks are always crowded during the day. We did have a good time dodging all the puddles once the snow melted a bit. New York is a city I slowly fell in love with. I’d love to come back and spend a month here, it is already on my must do again list. Sure, NY wasn’t an instantaneous love for me like DC, but it truly is one heck of a city. More posts on New York coming soon!