We stayed in Chelsea, and so we started our morning at Cafe Grumpy. (Well, we really started our morning in Connecticut, with a 7 am departure for the city. And then there was a bit of a delay on our end with our rental car return and subway ride from Brooklyn to Chelsea. So my parents and brother and nephews were just sitting around waiting for us for a while, which is not the best start to any day.) I hoped that the cafe name would not rub off on us all.
But how grumpy can you be when your hot chocolate looks like this?
It was time to get started on our big city tour. After some tough negotiations with the GrayLine Bus Tour rep, we were off and ready to see the sights, with our 48-hour-hop-on-hop-off bus passes.
As touristy as it seems, those double decker buses are really the perfect way to orient yourself, to see a lot in a short time and to relax and learn a whole lot of interesting things along the way. It's too bad it was still so blisteringly hot, but at least there were people selling water along the way (with cool contraptions that would deliver the water to you while you sat on the top deck). And we didn't have to line up to see things like this, but instead got a great view from above of all sorts of attractions.
As fascinating as the tour was, it was still a long day. Longer for some of us than others.
We got off the bus for Gray's Papaya, which is apparently a well-known hot dog/papaya juice establishment, with lots of imitators throughout the city (our guide counseled us to stick with the original). Only $5 for a hot dog and a papaya juice. Our tour guide also joked that New Yorkers will pay $2500 in rent but then stand in line for an hour to get a hot dog and a juice for such a bargain. I'm guessing if they have to pay that kind of rent, maybe they have to eat for a bargain price as often as possible.
Walking near Battery Park.
Another tip: avoid the Statue of Liberty entirely (it just re-opened on the 4th and was extremely crowded) and take the free ferry to Staten Island. You get a great view of the Statue of Liberty and a nice ride too.
Breakfast at the Doughnut Plant, absolutely the best doughnuts I have ever had in all of my 44 years. (Sorry Voodoo Doughnut, but it's true—although Max and Otto still think your doughnuts are more fun and can't wait to return.) Plus, Doughnut Plant has a bathroom that doubles as a discotheque.
Otto and Noah had a vanilla bean, Max and Owen had the Valrhona chocolate, and I had the coconut square. David got a peanut butter crusted and jam filled square. All were so amazing. Then Max went back for a lavender doughnut and I thought my head might explode (or at least my taste buds). He said it tasted like eating a garden, but in a good way.
We made our way to Times Square (this is where the buses begin their tours). Along the way, we met Mario and Luigi.
We got on the bus (easy on, easy off!) and made our way to the Guggenheim, by way of the Uptown Tour. We were really lucky this time, we got a great tour guide, and we all got seats together and near the front, so everyone was happy and comfortable for a long ride. Plus the guide was informative and funny but not annoying. (By this point, we were very opinionated about our tour bus guides.)
Finally at the museum.
Smoothie break before we went inside.
We weren't allowed to take any photos inside the museum, but the most memorable part of the experience was pretty difficult to capture anyway. The main gallery of the museum has been temporarily taken over by an installation by James Turrell, famous for his sculptures with light. We walked into the hushed rotunda to find a whole lot of people lying on the ground or sitting on the angled benches along the perimeter, looking upward, very quiet, very still. The kids immediately joined in, and we followed suit, and our entire party of eight was soon meditating peacefully and watching as the light changed slowly (very slowly). The kids whispered excitedly as each change would become noticeable. It was a good change of pace to be lying on a cold floor (when temperatures outside were still in the 90s), and focusing on the colors and shapes put me into almost a trance like state. It was a very sweet and relaxing introduction to the museum, especially because we would go from there to stand in a very long and slow-moving line to see the next Turrell exhibit, which baffled or underwhelmed us, to say the least. I found a few photos which adequately capture the first exhibit, but this short documentary does an even better job of that.
After the museum, we walked through Central Park, looking for the paddle boats and a late lunch/early dinner option. We got a bit lost and meandered around the park for a long time. Luckily, everyone pretty much held it together and we found our way to the paddle boats with perfect time for an evening ride.
And the timing just kept working out, because even though they initially thought we couldn't get a table, it turned out they could seat us after all, and at a table right by the water. We considered ourselves extremely lucky and enjoyed a truly delicious dinner with a fabulous view of the water and the evening sun.
The next morning, we went back to the Doughnut Plant for breakfast. (I'm not kidding when I say these doughnuts are amazing. We are already planning which doughnuts we'll try next year.) This time we tried the creme brulee, the vanilla bean and blackberry jam, and the fresh blueberry and cream, a black out (chocolate-chocolate) and we threw in another vanilla bean and Valrhona chocolate for good measure. There are more photos, but I think I have to stop talking about them now or I will surely place an air mail delivery order before the day is done (I don't think they even do that, but it's tempting to ask).
Then we went for a walk on the High Line, former elevated railroad tracks that have been turned into a walking path and a botanic garden.
There is also a sculpture trail.
Lunch at Chelsea Market.
We were all flying out that afternoon/evening, so we made our last event of the day the Art of the Brick (an exhibit at the Discovery Museum). Nathan Sawaya uses Lego as a medium to recreate famous paintings and sculptures as well as to create original work.
We were there. We got to write our names on Legos to prove it. (And after the exhibit closes, the artist will make a sculpture from all the marked Legos. Cool.)