Updated: Jul 25
I grew up in the suburbs, just 10 miles away from the city of Philadelphia, but I only saw Philly through Channel 6 Action News with Jim Gardner. As I remember, it wasn't always the most cheerful news at 6 pm, but I focused on the good: the Phillies winning baseball games, the mummers strutting down Broad Street. They constantly talked about building a mall called the Gallery. My father's family lived in Philly but we rarely went there. My parents said the drinking water was bad, there was no place to park, and rats with long tails would run around the city. Despite this gloomy information, I still wanted to go although I was only 8 years old. My dad worked weekends and my mom said she wouldn't drive to Philly. 10 miles could have been 100 miles for all I knew.
Jim Gardner, ABC News
So that was that. No meant no in the Garrity house . No questions asked. Back to kickball, run the bases and jailbreak with the neighborhood kids. None of my 8 year old friends wanted to go to Philly either, even after they knew Rocky ran up the art museum steps. I never understood it.
Just two years later at the age 10, two monumental things happened. My Uncle Jack took me to see Annie, my first live play in Philadelphia, and my parents took myself and my brother out of school and drove to Philly (gasp) to attend the Phillies World Series parade. I was in 6th grade. I distinctly remember the steam from the subway and extending my neck way back to look up at very tall buildings. I recall being surrounded by people who were happy and laughing and cheering and singing. I was on the lookout for rats the entire time. I Ioved every second of those two specific events and I wanted more. The weekend after I got my drivers license, my mom said to me" Whatever you do Colleen, please do not drive into Philly,promise me honey."Twenty minutes later, myself, my friends and my 1977 Chevy Malibu were rolling down Front Street and around the Art Museum Circle. I learned to love the city of Philadelphia, then Baltimore and then New York. The art, the culture, the food, the people, the music. All of it.
My daughter's first visit to New York City was when they were about 9 or 10. I knew this was a daunting task, as they were shy and still quite sheltered but it was time to experience the city, especially at Christmas. As we were walking through Times Square, Stu had Sophie in his arms as her blue eyes took in all the lights and wonder. I think he carried her for a mile. I held Chloe's hand and told her if she got nervous or anxious to squeeze tight. As we were walking through Times Square, five different Elmos (some with their heads off) came towards us, my hand was being clutched as if this was the end of life. Death by Elmo. Year after year we would go back to New York City, exploring Midtown, Uptown and Downtown. We would pick out plays and eat at uniquely themed restaurants. Soon after they turned 21, they were going to New York on their own.This past weekend- they led me through the city. They taught me how to read the subway map and the difference between the three villages. I showed them a bit of Brooklyn. At 23 and 24 my time is precious with them. We had 24 hours to explore... and this is what we did.
Saturday: 10: 30 am. Pick up in Fairmount Park. New York is exactly 90 miles from us or under two hours without traffic. It is a Saturday and nearly 11:00 AM by the time we get out of of Philly. We have a play at 2:00 PM. Tight squeeze, as usual. My kids just accept this about me. I ponder the decision to drive into the city or park in Hoboken. Hmmmm. I do not mind driving into NYC on this particular beautiful Saturday; we are staying in the Financial District. This part of NYC tends to be less crowded, especially on weekends when Wall Street is closed.
I am a loyal customer of Marriott and their point system. When I travel, I shop Marriott properties by points- I was able to snag a full service Marriott downtown for 39,000 points, which is quite a good deal! (Marriott Downtown- 85 West Street at Albany Street). It is close to the the ferry, the seaport, 911 Memorial and Brooklyn. By the time we get into the hotel it is just about 1:00 PM. We have ten minutes to make the decision of how to get to Times Square. An Uber is $40 for a 40 minute ride; the subway is $2.50 per person for a 13 minute ride. Sophie convinces us to take the subway. Now, I know what you are thinking, “the subway is dangerous". I promise you, I didn’t see trash, homelessness, rats or even graffiti. If you take the time to figure out the subway in New York it is the best way to travel during the day- when it is filled with tourists, community members and professionals. At night… I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. We took the yellow line from Rector Street to Times Square (see above) We arrive at our play 20 minutes early. Beautiful. We made it in time. Told ya.
Play: Kimberly Akimbo, Booth Theater 2:00 PM. We love musicals. We have seen countless shows on Broadway with our favorites being Mamma Mia, School of Rock, and most recently SIX. On Saturday we saw Kimberly Akimbo which was a light hearted yet serious play about inclusion and the harshness of life. It is adult themed so I would give it a PG-16/R rating for younger kids but very entertaining. I recommend a Saturday matinee because it frees up your morning and evening to explore the city plus it is traditionally less expensive. Since we are all doing a form of intermittent fasting (lol- it is summer) we walked out of the play starving. I should mention that we typically don’t make reservations when we travel to NYC because I feel as though we are always chasing the clock and that is not my idea of fun. We prefer to go with the flow- and my girls are 100% on board with the no reservation idea. Our dinner stop is a beautiful restaurant called Oscar Wilde (45 West 27th Street). Sophie and I had eaten at the sister restaurant Lillys (249 West 49th Street) a few months ago. Both restaurants must hire creative designers because the interior is spectacular. They change themes quarterly. Our theme was Alice in Wonderland, complete with moving flowers, tea cups and rabbits. I have heard this particular restaurant around the holidays is a must see! The food bill (full entrees and two drinks each) came to about $220.00 for three people which is expected in NYC- and I justify this with the fact that I got a free hotel room!
Saturday: 6 PM As we leave the restaurant and walk 8-9 blocks towards the West Village we hear drums, laughter and see rainbows of people… thousands of people. It was the weekend of the Pride march and I can’t imagine there is a better city in this entire world than NYC to see this movement of people. As we were are leaving and dancing down the street to the brass band, we look up and see an ominous looking clock with large digital numbers counting down days and hours to… what the hell is this? I have no idea. Sophie, who seems to know a little bit about everything tells me it is a climate clock that is counting down the days until damage done by climate change is deemed irreversible. (Climate Clock is at 60 East 14th Street)
Saturday: 7:00 PM Our next stop was the one thing I did research on and was on a mission to visit. It was called the Beauty Bar. The Beauty Bar offered a manicure and a martini for $10 (231 East 14th Street). Yes- a real manicure and a martini for $10 , I asked twice. I had to see this. Imagine this: a 50s beauty parlor, complete with the blowdryers and hair products of the 50s and 60s combined with a full service bar and a bartender who resembled a very cool hippie from Woodstock. We are in. All in. We paid our $10.00 and picked out our drink (any choice, and a decent choice )and then lined up for our full manicure (some filing, cuticle cutting, base, color and top coat). Thirty dollars plus tip later we walked out with our hot pink nails, a significant buzz and a recommendation to find Oscar’s Shrunken Head Bar. This should be interesting.
Saturday- 8:00 PM Oscar’s Shrunken Head Bar- 538 East 14th Street was a very cool, laid back local bar with a groovy vibe and strong rum drinks served in fun tiki cups with names like Wicked Willies and Pang’s Punch. They also have live entertainment 7 days a week. The band was setting up as we were leaving. It felt like we were there for a minute but it must have been an hour. I never actually saw the shrunken heads but we got a tip for our next stop- it is time for some signing at the piano bar!
Saturday 10:00 PM When you do a google search for "NYC piano bar" you aren’t sure what you are getting, but asking a local for a recommendation is pretty much on the mark. Our google search took us back to Times Square for Shake, Rattle and Roll- 320 West 36th Street. This was your typical piano bar with a twist.The musicians were comedic piano players who took requests and they were very funny. There was a $30 cover charge here with a $20 drink minimum per person. We sweet talked our way out of the $90 cover charge and met the drink minimum with one round. This would be a great place to go after a play for a few hours where you are guaranteed a seat, fun music and entertainment. I think my mom would have loved it. We left because it was getting late and we needed to check out the second piano bar recommended by our shrunken head local friends. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner. Rule of thumb- always go with what the locals tell you.
11:00- 1:00 AM Oh, NYC...you just never know what you are getting yourself into. Sid Gold's Request Room- 165 West 26th Street. We walk into this place that is supposed to be a piano bar but all I see is a long bar, filled with people. But then I see a secret little red curtain and I peek in and see a piano bar with people sitting around it singing. Oh boy, this we have to check out. We had to wait the 20 minutes and then got a seat right in front. You scan a QR code with thousands of songs (he can play any song on the piano). We quickly realize this isn’t a Joe-Schmo, lip-syncing, anybody gets to sing karaoke sort of place. We have legit singers here, perhaps broadway singers. I know one thing for sure I am not singing, but my girl Sophie has a pretty good voice. I am waiting to see what Taylor Swift songs she picks. She disses Tay-Tay and goes with Tiny Dancer by Elton John. She asks the piano player to turn her mic up and Chloe’s mic down (teeee-heee) as she belts it out to the cheers of the crowd and way too many cat calls for this mom to process. Chloe provided dramatic theatrics. It was awesome and I highly recommend it, especially if you can sing.
We closed the place, but not before the girls orchestrate a barbershop quartet with 4 random guys they just met on the way out of the bar. Ahhhhh to be 23 and 24! Our only choice is an Uber at this point. With all the confidence in the world I told him the the wrong address about 4 miles away. We had to exit one Uber and call another Uber. Typical.
We slept. I always consider this a bonus on these little road trips. I cherish sleep. We have six hours left in our 24 hour trip. Our hotel was minutes from the Brooklyn Bridge and alongside many others we took the 1 mile walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.(Use the Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Walkway which begins at the intersection of Tillary Street and Boerum) If you have never done this before, I strongly encourage you to do it. As you are halfway across the bridge simply turn around and see the skyline of NYC against the water. If you look east, the Statue of Liberty stands in all her glory and straight on is the beautiful borough of Brooklyn- pizza and all! I have walked this bridge many times. The other side of the Brooklyn Bridge is a very safe, beautiful area including DUMBO , Brooklyn Heights and a very long promenade you can walk. Brooklyn is home to the famous Grimaldis Pizza (1 Front Street Brooklyn) and the very trendy Williamsburg , NY which is the “yuppie” park of Brooklyn. Williamsburg does not feel like NYC- my daughter said it seemed like Georgetown, I thought it was more like Boston. It is filled with beautiful brownstones, small little bars and tons of vintage second hand shops. It is also directly on the water and you can take the NY Ferry.
Sunday: 4:00 PM .The clock was ticking and we were now 2 hours past our 24 hour trip! It was the hottest day of the year so far. We decided to take the ferry back (New York Water Way from Williamsburg North to Wall Street/Pier 11) . On the walk home, I happened to glance at a tombstone at Trinity Church and it was Alexander Hamiltons- bonus.
I cherish this time with my daughters. We love the city. Explore New York, bring your kids, download the apps, look at the maps. We are so very fortunate we are a drive away. Many people travel across the world to visit this beautiful city.
XO The Fossett Girls
" New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of"