“Wouldn’t it be cool if we got our flights mixed up and ended up in Miami like Home Alone?” asked my daughter as we sat in the airport departure lounge on a warm June day.
Summer vacation started early for us when weeks of rotating teacher strikes led to an abrupt end to the school year. The children were thrilled to have 2 extra weeks of summer vacation but it wreaked havoc on my carefully crafted summer plans. Then, the idea occurred to me; it was the perfect time to take them to visit family in New York City.
So how do you take everything New York has to offer (it’s infinite!) and curate it down to manageable chunks that will create an epic week for your kids? I took my cue from the kids, for whom our impromptu trip to New York was just like a movie scene and looked to the movies for inspiration.
First up, Home Alone 2-Lost in NY a slapstick gem harking back to when Macaulay Culkin was an irreverent 10 year old pitting wits against the bumbling burglars with the Big Apple as a backdrop. Beginning with a ride on the subway into Manhattan on the N train from Queens (most kids adore train rides and the NYC subway system is always an adventure in itself!) we exited onto 5th Avenue across from the Plaza Hotel and Central Park. The cool shade of Central Park beckoned as did the lovely Bethesda fountain where my children didn’t believe my assertion that if they sat there long enough everyone in the world would eventually walk by.
The breathtaking fountain, with its Angel of the Waters statue is one of the largest fountains in New York. I adore the whole Bethesda Terrace not only for its views of the Central Park Lake and forest but because it is simply stunning. Walking through the tunnel, one can’t help but admire the mosaics and arches and marvel at the attention to detail and sheer beauty of the public structure.
From there we turned to Kevin McAllister’s home (Alone)-away-from-home, the Plaza Hotel. The original lobby where the movie was filmed is now the entrance for the private residences and not open to the public. But we managed to sneak a photo before walking down the hall where Kevin encountered Donald Trump and were suitably impressed by the Beaux Arts décor and the renowned Palm Court.
The final stop on our Home Alone checklist was FAO Schwarz, the sweetest toy store in the world. While the exterior shots of “Duncan’s Toy Chest” were shot elsewhere for the movie, FAO Schwarz was certainly the inspiration. I don’t think my kids noticed the difference when they were warmly welcomed by the Nutcracker doorman, entranced by the gigantic stuffed animals or thoroughly awed by the existence of 5 lb. gummy bears and 1 kg box of Nerds in the FAO Schweetz candy section. No child should visit New York without walking through those magical doors!
Night at the Museum is another favorite movie set in New York so we visited the American Museum of Natural History. As with many NY museums, you cannot do it justice in a single day, however since we only had an afternoon we focused on the Fossil Halls, Mammal Halls and the Biodiversity/Environmental Halls on floors 4 & 1.
The museum itself is a beautiful building worthy of hours of admiration. The Human Origins and Cultural Halls, Earth and Planetary Sciences Halls, Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians Halls, Rose Center for Earth and Space, and the hands on Discovery Room all contain wonderful and awesome artifacts that will awe and inspire children of all ages. And of course, the museum is the official state memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, New York’s 33rd Governor and America’s 26th President. Portrayed by Robin Williams in the film, I think we were all just a little disappointed that neither the statue, nor the fossils came to life.
To get to the AMNH, definitely take the subway! We had to switch trains at the 42 Street station and the concourse has the most beautiful mosaics. I can’t help but think that they just don’t make ’em like they used to. Take the time to admire their intricacy and beauty.
Can you guess which movie inspired our stop in Flushing, Queens?
While slightly cheating, because my kids haven’t seen it yet, Men in Black is yet another fun New York movie with Tommy Lee Jones impeccable dry delivery and Will Smith at his absolute owning Memorial Day weekend prime. The culminating scenes are set in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, so of course we had to see it in person.
While the Unisphere, built for the 1964 NY World’s Fair, up close is quite awesome, the entire park is lovely. It’s the home to Citifield, where the NY Mets play, and 2 professional tennis stadiums, and with the Queens Museum of Art, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Zoo and the Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing Park is a massive urban oasis.
Somehow a holiday to NY inspired by movies wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Museum of the Moving Image.
We were a few weeks early for the Chuck Jones exhibit but the interactive Behind the Screen exhibition where we produced our own stop-motion animation, added our voice-over to a scene from Coming to America, then starred in our personalized flip-book certainly made up for it. Fun, informative and unique, the MoMI was a great way to cap off our movie themed vacation.
Did we miss a million and one amazing things that New York offers? Absolutely. But that just gives us all the more reason to go back! With so many movies taking place in New York, the possibilities are endless!