City Tavern Philadelphia:  Great Food With a Side of Colonial American History

City Tavern Philadelphia: Great Food With a Side of Colonial American History

Among the old city Philadelphia restaurants, City Tavern Philadelphia stands out not only for being the oldest tavern in Philly but for Chef Walter Staib’s recipes which pay homage to colonial-era cooking. Established in 1773, when Philadelphia was the pre-eminent city in colonial America, the City Tavern was the haunt of everyone that mattered in that day and age. When you are visiting  the historical aspects of old city Philadelphia, such as the Museum of the American Revolution or the Liberty Bell, visiting the City Tavern is a perfect way to round out your introduction to 18th century Philadelphia. Although the food at the City Tavern Philadelphia is inspired by 18th century colonial fare, the City Tavern’s menu is diverse and suited for people with dietary restrictions as well as children.

A City Tavern Philadelphia PA sign is proud to announce that it was around before the American Revolution.

A City Tavern Philadelphia PA sign is proud to announce that it was around before the American Revolution.

About City Tavern Philadelphia

The city Tavern Philadelphia is the oldest tavern in Philadelphia. Lots of famous names you know from history class ate, drank and stayed here, such as George Washington, John Adams and Paul Revere.

City Tavern History

The City Tavern was built as an elegant establishment by the great and (possibly) good of Philadelphia’s citizens. Meant to convey that Philadelphia was the top city in Colonial America, the City Tavern Philly had a bar, a coffee room, 2 kitchens, two dining rooms, meeting rooms, a ballroom and lodging..

During the years before the American Revolution, the City Tavern became a hub for the most eminent of the colonists where they could discuss the ongoing issues with Britain. For example, during the First Continental Congress, George Washington stayed in lodging at the City Tavern.

City Tavern Philadelphia: Great Food With a Side of Colonial American History

City Tavern Philadelphia: Great Food With a Side of Colonial American History

When Philadelphia was occupied by the British during the American Revolution, prisoners of war were housed at the City Tavern.

Fun Fact! The country’s first Fourth of July celebration was held at the City Tavern in 1777 by the Continental Congress.

After the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers congregated at the City Tavern when they met for the Constitutional Convention.

The tankards remind you that you are in one of old city Philadelphia’s restaurants.

The tankards remind you that you are in one of old city Philadelphia’s restaurants.

After this heyday in the 18th century, the City Tavern lost its allure to newly formed hotels in Philadelphia. It was demolished in 1854.

City Tavern Philadelphia History – A New Beginning

Saved by the National Park Service!

In 1975 the National Park Service rebuilt the City Tavern faithfully copying the original. It was open in time for America’s bicentennial celebrations in 1976.

As one of the historic taverns in Philadelphia, the City Tavern restaurant and bar were on the ground floor with traveller’s accommodation on the floors above.

As one of the historic taverns in Philadelphia, the City Tavern restaurant and bar were on the ground floor with traveller’s accommodation on the floors above.

Walter Staib

Enter Chef Walter Staib. Chef Walter wins congressional approval to be the operator of the City Tavern Philadelphia in 1994. An Emmy Award winning TV presenter (for A Taste of History), chef and culinary historian, who better to oversee the oldest tavern in Philadelphia?

Chef Staib has also written 6 cookbooks, including The City Tavern cookbook and A Taste of History cookbook.

A selfie with Chef Walter Staib who was at the restaurant talking to reporters from CNN.

A selfie with Chef Walter Staib who was at the restaurant talking to reporters from CNN.

As if he is not busy enough, Chef Staib is at the restaurant often overseeing the kitchen which is how I got to meet him!

The City Tavern Menu

When we went for lunch my kids didn’t know why the City Tavern menu said “Mid-Day Fare”. Although the words on the City Tavern lunch menu, may have been old world English, the food on offer was surprisingly diverse.

There was something for everyone, including vegetarians and gluten-free options. When I first mentioned trying a colonial restaurant in Philadelphia, I was met with skepticism by my family.  My husband had nearly convinced the kids to go to JJ Bootlegger’s, another one of the old city Philadelphia restaurants nearby, primarily because he wanted to try moonshine and the kids wanted tacos. I got to enjoy the feeling of smugness when we all decided we like the City Tavern in the end!

Walter Staib Recipes

Chef Staib has created a menu inspired by 18th century colonial cuisine. Yes, it’s farm to table but that would have totally been an authentic colonial experience. The wait staff are also in full colonial gear adding to the time warp feeling of the place.

The old City Tavern Philadelphia serves you free bed at the table that is true to colonial recipes.

The old City Tavern Philadelphia serves you free bed at the table that is true to colonial recipes.

His original source material is the writings from Colonial America. For example, the sweet potato and pecan biscuits above were supposedly Thomas Jefferson’s favourite.

Interestingly the Sally Lunn bread (middle) was based on the Sally Lunn bread first found in the spa town of Bath, England in 1780. They were nowhere as decadently sugary as the Sally Lunn biscuits we tried in Bath. Apparently this type of Sally Lunn bread was served with clotted cream sort of like scones are served today for afternoon tea.

The third of the bread trio was called Anadama Bread – cornmeal sweetened with molasses. I have to say I preferred cornbread like we have it now. Overall, colonial bread was not as sweet as today’s bread.

The folklore of Anadama bread seems to indicate an irate husband who said of his wife “Anna damn ‘er”. In one version, it was on a gravestone expressing a husband’s frustration that Anna was no longer around to make his favourite bread. In another version, a fisherman had a wife (Anna obvs) who would make him nothing but cornmeal and molasses.

City Tavern Lunch Menu

I was totally tempted by the West Indies Pepper Pot Soup on the City Tavern lunch menu but it was such a brutally hot day that I decided I couldn’t cope with habanero pepper! The corn chowder I chose instead  was excellent – creamy with chunks of potato.

The City Tavern Menu has the most delicious corn chowder I have ever tasted.

The City Tavern Menu has the most delicious corn chowder I have ever tasted.

Before you think the pepper pot soup couldn’t possibly be Colonial fare, Chef Walter’s The City Tavern Cookbook explains that it is!  Sadly it is related to the story of slavery and the triangular trade with the West Indies. Ships from the Caribbean would bring spices and slaves to Philadelphia so colonists were familiar with these flavours.

In fact, during the long brutal winter at Valley Forge, George Washington had his cook make this soup to feed the starving troops. Presumably the numbness of their tongues from the habanero would take their minds of their frozen numb shoeless feet.

You can find the pepper pot soup recipe in the City Tavern cookbook. Can you believe that the pepper pot recipe that is more than 300 years old?!

the City Tavern Cookbook with the Walter Staib recipes he uses at the restaurant.

Chef Staib has released the City Tavern Cookbook with the Walter Staib recipes he uses at the restaurant.

I also scoffed at the fried tofu entree because it couldn’t possibly be colonial era food. According to the City Tavern lunch menu, however, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter in 1770 on how to make tofu!

My husband was thrilled with the choice of beers (a compensation for not getting his moonshine).. We tried a sampler of the four different choices named after the Founding Father whose recipe was used – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton. He preferred the dark chocolatey taste of George Washington’s Porter while I preferred the lighter taste of Alexander Hamilton’s Ale.

Fun Fact! The recipe for George Washington’s porter is on file with the New York Public Library.
The City Tavern Philadelphia menu offered up a flight of beers that were created to the recipes of four of the Founding Fathers.

The City Tavern Philadelphia menu offered up a flight of beers that were created to the recipes of four of the Founding Fathers.

You can buy Founding Father beer to take away too. Relive your City Tavern Philly experience in the comfort of your own home!

The City Tavern Philly sells founding father beer!

The City Tavern Philly sells founding father beer!

Kids Menu at City Tavern Philly

There’s a kid’s version of the City Tavern Philadelphia menu, too. The closest you get to colonial food is probably the Turkey Pot Pie. We were told the cheese and meat dish is a lot like lasagna. My unadventurous kids went for chicken strips and fish and chips.

Chef Staib has created a new version of ‘shrub’ a colonial drink made with berries.

Chef Staib has created a new version of ‘shrub’ a colonial drink made with berries.

My kids  were more daring on their drinks choices though and both ordered a raspberry ‘shrub’. Colonial-era shrub was a fruit juice vinegar sweetened with sugar (and occasionally spiked with alcohol like rum). The shrub my kids had was made with club soda and they liked it!

Visiting City Tavern Philadelphia PA

The City Tavern Philadelphia is a popular restaurant and reservations are encouraged especially on the weekends and evenings. You can get City Tavern coupons at the nearby Visitors’ Center in Philadelphia.

Want a second opinion? Read the excellent TripAdvisor Reviews of the City Tavern Philadelphia!

The City Tavern is located at 138 S. 2nd Street in Philadelphia. It is open most days for lunch starting at 11:30 and dinner from 3 pm (harkening back to an older time when people ate earlier so that they could get home during daylight).

City Tavern Philadelphia: Great Food With a Side of Colonial American History

City Tavern Philadelphia: Great Food With a Side of Colonial American History

It’s right across the street from Welcome Park (which used to be the site of the city home of the Penn family, founders of Pennsylvania). It is also conveniently near other historic attractions in Philadelphia, such as the Museum of the American Revolution and the Liberty Bell.

Swarovski Annual Snowflake Ornaments Bring the Sparkle of the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center To Your Home

Swarovski Annual Snowflake Ornaments Bring the Sparkle of the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center To Your Home

We aren’t collectibles type of people – there’s so much clutter in our lives that I don’t feel the need actively to add clutter to our belongings. We have , however, created a collection of Swarovski crystal snowflake ornaments for each of our children. The idea was suggested to us by a Polish friend before our children were born. Her family collects the Swarovski annual edition ornament every year for their children so that they will have a set of Swarovski crystal snowflakes for their own Christmas tree when they grow up. Since I grew up with an annual visit to the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, the Swarovski annual snowflake ornament is also a way to bring a big of New York Christmas sparkle to our London home.

Christmas Tree Rockefeller Center

Austrian company Swarovski are a world-wide leader in the crystal industry and we have been to the Swarovski Crystal Worlds museum near Innsbruck. Swarovski produce crystals for many famous events such as the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show as well as the star on top of the famous Rockefeller Center tree in New York City.

The Christmas tree Rockefeller center with the Swarovski crystal topper

The Christmas tree Rockefeller center with the Swarovski crystal topper

Not going to be in New York City to visit the Rockefeller Center tree? Swarovski crystal adorns other Christmas trees around the world including major cities such as Paris, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Toronto and international airports like Heathrow Airport.

In Manhattan, here’s been a Rockefeller Center tree since 1931 and Swarovski have provided the crystal star since 2004.

Rockefeller center ice skating in front of the Christmas tree Rockefeller Center

Featuring 25,000 Swarovski crystals, this Rockefeller Christmas tree topper is 9.5 feet in diameter and weighs 600 pounds.

Fun Fact! Despite all this bling, thanks to the use of LED lights the star uses less than the energy of a regular 100 watt bulb.

Sort of like being a millionaires have made for billionaires, there is a new Swarovski crystal tree topper being unveiled for the Christmas tree in Rockefeller center in 2018. Why have mere thousands when you can have millions??

The Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center is getting a new star designed by Polish-American starchitect, Daniel Liebeskind.

The new and improved Rockefeller Christmas tree star will have 3 million Swarovski crystals. It will weigh 90 pounds and reminds me of a medieval torture instrument. There’s a round ball which will be the source of light and 70 spiky light bulbs with the millions of crystals on it.

As per usual, there will be a Swarovski crystal ornaments pop-up store selling the usual Swarovski crystal Christmas ornaments including the .Swarovski annual edition ornament.

Swarovski crystal ornaments come in all shapes and sizes like this crystal poinsettia

Swarovski crystal ornaments come in all shapes and sizes like this crystal poinsettia

Our Swarovski Crystal Christmas

We now have 12  of the Swarovski crystal Christmas ornaments – one Swarovski snowflake for every year of their life and an extra one for when they were in utero.

I have put them on a Scandinavian-inspired wooden Christmas tree so that they can show off their crystal sparkle to full effect.

Swarovski snowflake ornament | Swarovski crystal snowflakes | Swarovski annual edition ornament | Swarovski annual snowflake ornament

Our Scandinvian inspired wooden Christmas tree displaying our Swarovski crystal snowflakes

Limited Edition Swarovski Crystal Snowflakes

The Swarovski snowflake ornaments every year are limited edition and comes with the year etched on a silver tag. They sell out every year but you can find them on resale from previous years on sites like Amazon.

One year, I forgot to get the Swarovski annual snowflake ornament until late in December and had quite the hunt trying to find it. I have since learned my lesson and now get the Swarovski annual ornament early in December!

Swarovski snowflake ornament | Swarovski crystal snowflakes | Swarovski annual edition ornament | Swarovski annual snowflake ornament

The Swarovski snowflake ornament comes on a white ribbon with a silver tag indicating the year of issue.

If I were to be honest, my daughter adores her Swarovski snowflakes and looks forward to receiving one every year. My son is less enthusiastic about his Swarovski snowflake ornament. He generally mutters “pretty” and then returns to his Lego or whatever.

Swarovski snowflake ornament | Swarovski crystal snowflakes | Swarovski annual edition ornament | Swarovski annual snowflake ornament

Our Swarovski crystal snowflakes are always a highlight when we bring out the Christmas ornaments every year.

Maybe he (or his partner) will be more appreciative of them when he is older. The thing about twins though is that he simply would have had to have a similar collection – twins have a finely honed sense of injustice and it would not have done only to have one set of ornaments just for my daughter. The cost of therapy for my son would have been far more than just simply getting him his own set!

Swarovski Christmas Ornaments History

The Swarovski annual edition ornaments have been issued in their current form since 1991. Swarovski in the USA issued Christmas ornaments in the 1980’s, they weren’t available worldwide. Starting in 1991, Swarovski started issuing Christmas star ornaments for a few years. These are highly collectible and can fetch up to $1500 each.

The Swarovski crystal snowflakes came out in 1992. In 1999, the crystal snowflakes were modernised so that it was less clear whether it was a star or a snowflake. By 2011, the Swarovski annual edition ornaments were regularised across the world. Irrespective of where they are sold, they come in a blue triangular box with a certificate of authenticity and are held by a white ribbon.

Swarovski snowflake ornament | Swarovski crystal snowflakes | Swarovski annual edition ornament | Swarovski annual snowflake ornament

Is this a Christmas star or a snowflake to you? Swarovski deliberately muddied the waters on that question!

It’s cool to see what the Swarovski annual edition ornament is every year. We felt the Swarovski annual ornament 2017 was relatively plain compared to other years.

Swarovski snowflake ornament | Swarovski crystal snowflakes | Swarovski annual edition ornament | Swarovski annual snowflake ornament

The Swarovski annual ornament 2017

In other years, the Swarovski annual edition crystal snowflake ornament has been quite elaborate with crystal cut-outs or three-dimensional features. You can see the full collection since 1991 on the Swarovski website. Every year though our Swarovski crystal snowflakes never fail to please!

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Swarovski snowflake ornament | Swarovski crystal snowflakes | Swarovski annual edition ornament | Swarovski annual snowflake ornament

The Swarovski annual edition ornament is a Christmas tradition in our home

The giant Rockefeller Christmas tree and Rockefeller Center ice skating are must-do Christmas cavities in NYC

The giant Rockefeller Christmas tree and Rockefeller Center ice skating are must-do Christmas cavities in NYC

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Go Mad for Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York

Go Mad for Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York

So many bad MAD jokes that I don’t even where to start. MAD Museum  (also known as the Museum of Arts and Design) in New York City is a small and quirky museum located on the west side of Manhattan. After a morning spent wandering around the area, my children and I stopped by MAD to check out the Judith Leiber exhibit featuring dozens of her bejewelled evening bags and minaudieres.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

An exhibit of Judith Leiber bags at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City

Judith Leiber is the name to know in celebrity evening bags. She has a colorful international history herself. Born to a wealthy Jewish Hungarian family, she studied at Kings College London, worked at a prestigious Hungarian handbag company, survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary during World War II and married an American soldier.

After the war, the couple moved to New York. Judith first worked with a New York handbag designer but then started her own company in 1963.  Of course, it was only natural that MAD would highlight this hometown immigrant hero of the decorative arts with a special exhibition.

The Museum of Arts and Design

If you are in Columbus Circle, you really can’t miss the 10 story gleaming Museum of Arts and Design. The building shimmers like a vertical lake thanks to a $90 million tile and glass facelift to the modernist building that was previously at the location.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

The Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle

Whats On at MAD Museum

Although the museum was founded in 1958, the MAD Museum only got its swanky new digs in 2008. The museum had acquired thousands of pieces of art, craft and design from the 1950’s onwards.

Yet, only 10% of the museum’s permanent collection is on display at any given time. The other floors are devoted to assorted things like artists’ spaces, an auditorium, and an education centre.

Bookending the building, on the bottom floor there is a very cool gift store and on the top floor, Robert the restaurant has great views of Central Park. I couldn’t visit Robert the Restaurant without thinking of Robert The Doll.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

One of the many beautiful craft and design items available for purchase at the gift store.

Special Exhibits at MAD Museum

So whether you enjoy this museum really is dependent on what the special exhibitions on display happen to be at the time of your visit.

For example, the Judith Leiber exhibit showcasing her crystal-encrusted evening bags was beautiful and interesting to both my daughter and myself. My son’s eyes glassed over like he was contemplating throwing himself into Columbus Circle traffic as a more appealing alternative. Each of the floors though are small and so we were able to finish ogling over the gorgeous Leiber handbags before he got too desperate.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

The MAD Museum in New York City put on an exhibit of Judith Leiber handbags.

Previous temporary exhibits have been Crochet Coral Reef (a crochet project with yarn and garbage that highlights marine life issues); Richard Estes: Painting New York City (photorealism); and fashion After Fashion (an exhibit on the end of times for the fashion industry). So, as you can tell, it’s a mixed bag catering to many different interests.

The Judith Leiber Exhibition

We went to the Judith Leiber exhibition on her evening bags which was fantastic!!! Well, for my daughter and me. My son’s reaction was less enthusiastic. He does not appreciate the beauty of jewel-like evening bags.

Judith Leiber Bags

Judith Leiber is a firm celebrity favourite for evening bags. These little bags can run into thousands of dollars and have achieved collector-status similar to Faberge eggs. There’s a lady in New Orleans who has almost 300 Lieber bags.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

A Mondrian inspired Judith Leiber handbag

Leiber became a household name when she designed the handbag carried by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower at President Eisenhower’s inauguration ball. Leiber has since  made evening bags for several first ladies, including a minaudière of Socks the White House Cat for Hilary Clinton.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

Judith Leiber has designed thousands of bags for her celebrity clients.

If you want to read more about Judith Leiber,  Jeffrey Susan has written her biography, No Mere Bagatelles.

Although the Leiber exhibition at MAD has finished, the Leibers have set up their own small museum in the Hamptons called the Lieber Collection. Entry is free and the museum is open for limited hours during the summer.

The Story of Handbags

I loved that MAD gave an introduction that explained the rise of handbags as a fashion accessory to my accessory-and-sparkle-mad daughter.

Until the 18th century, women had pockets in their outfits that they could carry stuff. Imagine all the stuff that you could stick inside one of those Elizabethan skirts. With the rise of a more streamlined silhouette for women’s clothes, women started carrying a reticule (a pouch on a cord).

Judith Leiber handbags at Museum of Arts and Design Boston

A 19th century silk reticule at the MFA (copyright of MFA Boston)

Women, of course, had to carry a lot of stuff for themselves (lipstick, money etc) as well as stuff in their role as caretakers. As a mother, I often felt like a packhorse with my ginormous diaper bag with essentials for two babies.

Even now, I am the one who carries the water bottles, the band-aids, hand sanitiser and everything else the kids need. Their pockets are reserved for important junk they pick up along the way, like interesting sticks and stones.

Judith Leiber’s Creations As Decorative Art

Judith Leiber’s creations are truly a cross between art and accessory –  similar to many of the items we saw at the Swarovski museum in Austria. You can see why many Leiber  pieces have become collector’s items.

The designer is most famous for her minaudieres (metal evening bags encrusted with jewels and precious metals) which she started making in 1967.  The minaudière started off as a way for her to repair a damaged handbag but then came into a life of their own.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

Judith Leiber like to use animal motifs in her work.

Judith Leiber has designed more than 3500 bags, all of them handcrafted and unique over her 35+ years designing under her own name. Judith designed her last bag, The Peacock, in 2004.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

The Peacock was Judith Leiber’s last design.

Visiting MAD Museum

The Museum of Arts and Design is a small but cool museum. You’d be MAD to miss it. Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s right near Columbus Circle, the shops at Coumbus Circle and the 57th west entrance to Central Park.

Definitely check out future exhibits at MAD before you visit to make sure that you want to see what’s on. The entrance price of $16 for adults is pretty steep if you don’t like the rotating exhibits. Luckily, children 18 years and under are free. MAD is also free for everyone on Thursday nights.

MAD is located at 2 Columbus Circle. Like many museums in New York City, MAD is closed on Mondays.

Where To Stay

We have stayed near the Mad Museum at The Hudson Hotel, a charming boutique hotel just behind Columbus Circle. The subway at Columbus Circle is a major hub so there are many transportation options available.

Nearby we have stayed at Row NYC which is closer to Times Square. It’s small but great location. The Westin New York is also closer to Times Square and has larger rooms. If you are looking for suite apartments, we can recommend the newly renovated The Benjamin which is a short walk across to the East Side.

Where To Eat

If you chose not to eat at Robert, we recommend eating at Landmarc, a French and Italian bistro by Chef Marc Murphy at the Time Warner Center next door. My kids were thrilled that there was cotton candy as a dessert option at Landmarc. Alternatively we have also gotten freshly-made deli sandwiches at eaten in Central Park nearby.

Jean-Georges Vongrichten’s flagship restaurant Jean-Georges is across the street at 1 Central Park West. They do have a reasonable lunch menu if you would like to try a 3 star Michelin restaurant in New York. For my kids, though the decision was a no-brainer when cotton candy was involved.

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Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Although the Flatiron Building has always been a famous landmark in New York City, the area now known as NoMad has really only been a trendy area in the last few years. With the clean up of Madison Square Park and the Flatiron district going residential, the area has become very family-friendly. Although all these things below are fun, my children absolutely adored the National Mathematics Museum, aka MoMath (much to my surprise). Younger and trendier than other more touristy areas of Manhattan, the neighbourhood is still good with kids (thanks to its gentrification over the last few years).

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Things to do with kids in the NoMad neighbourhood and the Flatiron District in Manhattan

The NoMad Neighbourhood and the Flatiron District NYC

The NoMad neighbourhood and the Flatiron district are basically two neighbourhoods divided by Madison Square Park. NoMad is to the north of the park, and Flatiron to the south.

NoMad Neighborhood

With the arrival of the trendy Ace Hotel and NoMad Hotel, real estate professionals dubbed the area north of Madison Square Park “NoMad” since 1999. In New York city, as my friend Andrew said about NoLiTa (North of Little Italy), you know a neighbourhood has arrived when property people give it a nickname. A trendy neighbourhood emerged from the gritty urban landscape of pawn shops and bodegas.

Madison Square Park

Named after the fourth US President, James Madison, Madison Square Park was established in 1847.  The park is most famous though for giving its name to a sporting and concert arena, Madison Square Garden.

In the late 19th century, many wealthy New York families had mansions in the area, including the Roosevelt family and the Jerome family (a Jerome daughter was the mother of Winston Churchill).

In the 20th century, Madison Square Park had a fairly grim phase before the whole area got cleaned up at the turn of 21st century.

Flatiron District NYC

The Flatiron district is named after the Flatiron building, a triangular shaped building which was an architectural marvel built in 1902. It’s one of the most photographed buildings in the world and also appeared in numerous movies, like Spider-Man and Godzilla.

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

The Flatiron building is one of the most photographed buildings in the world. So, of course, I took a photo.

The Flatiron district itself was a pretty commercial area with lots of clothes and toy manufacturers alongside artists attracted by cheap rents. Now it’s known as Silicon Alley because of the number of technology companies in the area. It’s also become very residential with young professionals and families.

Places To Visit

Museum of Mathematics (11 E 26th Street) is a fabulous little museum for children. My kids are not fans of math at school but I could not get them out of this museum. Ironically, I met with some resistance when I announced we were going to a Maths Museum. A museum and math combination seemed a bridge too far as far as my kids were concerned. They were pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was though!

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

The MoMath museum fronts onto Madison Square Park

There are two floors which introduces maths concepts that many kids don’t even know are mathematics. For example, kids think they are playing but they are really learning about patterns, symmetry, cryptography and the like. Computer generated exhibits like the pattern paints or the dynamic wall show kids in a fun way wave phenomena or symmetry.

Although the top floor is for younger children, my children enjoyed both floors. The bottom floor has a lot of logic games which kept them captivated. In addition to the games, you also have a small cafe and even more activities such as the Tessellation Station where kids use magnets to make patterns.

Madison Square Park is a small green space located between Fifth Avenue and 6th Avenue from 23rd to 26th streets. It’s got a playground and public art spread out amongst the landscaping. My kids also like to watch the dogs in the dog run.

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Little Miss-Butter-Wouldn’t-Melt gently shoving her brother off the hammock installation at Madison Square Park. Totally caught in the act on film.

Books of Wonder (18 W 18th Street (between 5th and 6th)) is the largest American children’s book store. Nora Ephron, director and writer, used the store as the inspiration for the children’s book store in the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail.

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

The NYC mural in the story time space at Books of Wonder

The store is always running events for kids of all ages. Frankly, it’s also a great place to hang out  in air conditioned comfort in the dog days of summer or escape the bitter chill of winter. I have never been able to leave this bookstore without buying something!

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (28 E 20th St) is run by the National Park Service.  Teddy Roosevelt was a sickly child who went onto be a adventurer and president immortalised on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. It’s a small museum so pretty easy to get kids to go around.

The Lego Store (200 5th Avenue) has the usual giant displays of Lego creations you find in other Lego stores such as the one in Rockefeller Center. Unique to this location though is the giant Lego recreation of the Flatiron District. My kids are Lego crazy and can spend hours in any Lego store.

Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Flatiron District NYC:

Eataly (200 Fifth Avenue) has delicious paninis and gelato either to eat in or to go.

Big Daddy’s (239 Park Ave S (btwn E 19th & 20th St.)) is a retro-style diner where you can get the usual comfort foods such as burgers, mac & cheese and milkshakes.

Shake Shack (11 Madison Ave (at E 23rd St)) is a safe bet if your kids are craving a burger.

We ate at this branch of Rosa Mexicano ((9 E 18th St (btwn 5th Ave. & Broadway)) the night before the twins were born. Not that I’m saying that this place brings on childbirth or anything but maybe that explains our kids fascination with Mexican food??

I prefer Burger & Lobster (39 W 19th St (btwn 5th & 6th Ave)) to Shake Shack. Burgers for the kids and lobster for me!

Maybe your family really can’t agree on where or what to eat (it’s been known to happen to us!). In that case, just go to Whole Foods on 4 Union Square so everyone can just pick something for themselves from the deli counters. Sushi for one person, a sandwich for another person, and life can continue without further drama.

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Family-friendly things to do, where to eat and where to stay in the NoMad neighbourhood and the Flatiron District of New York City

Accommodation near NoMad

You have several good choices for staying in the area if you are looking for cool and contemporary hotels. The stuffy more traditional type hotels tend to be further uptown.

NoMad Neighborhood

We love the Ace Hotel and hang out with the hipsters in its lobby even when we are not staying at the hotel. The downstairs Ace Hotel lobby has large tables, sofas and great WiFi. Throw in the hipper than hip coffee shop and you’ve got a perfect place to unwind after a hard day of sightseeing.

By the way, there’s an old-fashioned photo booth which throws out the coolest vintage-style photo strips. My daughter is a big fan of the photo booth!

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Colorful flowers outside the Ace Hotel cafe

The NoMad Hotel attracts a slightly slicker but still young and attractive crowd. My favourite part of the NoMad Hotel is it’s library cafe where you can order a light meal in a beautiful setting. The restaurant itself was a bit too grand for my children.

FlatIron District

I have not stayed at The New York Edition but my occasional contributor, Dianna, has stayed at the hotel this year. It’s the usual trendiness with compact rooms. The bar is full of beautiful people and difficult to get into (even if you stay at the hotel). It reminded me of the way original Whiskey Blue bar used to be at the midtown W hotel way back in the day. I won’t even give a year because it just makes me feel old but it was definitely pre-children.

Gramercy Park

Alternatively, you can go to the original trendy hotel which rocked the neighbourhood when it opened in what seems another era (2006).  The Gramercy Park Hotel is within easy walking distance of this area. My daughter loves its full on dashing red glamour as well as the fact that you can get access to Gramercy Park (the gated residents-only park). The Bar downstairs has great comfy seats and even better people-watching.

If you are wondering why I am on about the public spaces are in these hotels, its because the rooms are fairly similar for what you get — cool and quirky and small. Definitely small square footage for the amount of money you pay. You can get a double double room with children (that accommodates four) or a suite that has a separate sofa bed.

The biggest differences are in their public spaces. And, I’m a fan of their bars for meeting up with old friends. When you are travelling with kids in tow, you can set them up with an iPad on a comfy couch while you have a drink with friends nearby. If I have been hanging out in the Lego Store all afternoon, it ain’t no surprise that mama needs a stiff drink and adult conversation!

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How the Easter Egg Hunt Become An American Tradition

How the Easter Egg Hunt Become An American Tradition

I always wondered how the Easter egg hunt became an American tradition and what the Easter Bunny has to do with eggs. Was he just a confused rabbit with a secret chocolate addiction? Once again, this American ritual turns out to be a hodge podge of immigrant customs.

According to tradition, the Easter Egg hunt started with the German immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 18th century. These immigrants had a tradition of an egg-laying hare for which children would make nests as an act of kindness.  With the passage of time, the hare became the Easter Bunny, the eggs became chocolate and the nests became baskets.  Proving once again, Americans firmly believe there is no Old World tradition that can not become commercialised.

How the Easter Egg Hunt Become An American Tradition

How the Easter Egg Hunt Become An American Tradition

In addition, to Easter Egg hunts you also had Easter Egg Rolls. The U.S. White House still has its annual Easter Egg Roll which was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in the mid-19th Century.

Technically the presidential egg rolling tradition was started by President Andrew Johnson for his grandchildren to roll hard-boiled eggs down Capitol Hill. Easter 1876 though proved particularly messy and Congress banned the egg rolls on Capitol Hill.  Enter President Hayes and his offer of using the White House lawns to save the day.

The White House Egg Roll event is so popular there is a lottery to award entry tickets.  Egg rolling, however, has faded from popularity in the rest of the country.

We were in Pennsylvania this weekend for one of the traditional Easter Egg Hunts.  Last year, a neighbouring town had to cancel its Easter Egg Hunt because parents were getting too vicious trying to hog chocolate eggs for their own kids. The Easter egg hunt we attended had a firm 6 egg policy for children.  This prevented older kids from running down toddlers in the search for candy as well as parental competitiveness.

If you are in the USA around Easter, definitely try an Easter Egg Hunt with your family. They are locally run by organisations in every town. The Easter Egg Hunt we attended was at a local farm.  It’s a charming tradition for kids (so long as the adults behave!).

How the Easter Egg Hunt Become An American Tradition

A cherry orchard filled with Easter Eggs for the kids to find.

How the Easter Egg Hunt Become An American Tradition

It was a beautiful day for an Easter Egg Hunt.

How the Easter Egg Hunt Become An American Tradition

My kids joined in the Easter Egg Hunt with their younger cousins.

How the Easter Egg Hunt Become An American Tradition

When Easter chocolate isn’t enough – Deep fried Oreos!

How the Easter Egg Hunt Become An American Tradition

It’s an Easter Egg tree!

 

Getting the Most Value From City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

Getting the Most Value From City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

Although my children have been going to New York City every year for the last 9 years, we have only just completed visited all of the major tourist attractions in Manhattan.  Why?  The crowds, the lines and the expense.  I can only cope with a couple of sightseeing options per trip  before we go do something more off the beaten path.  I feel New York City is crowded enough without immersing yourself in hordes of tourists.  This recent trip we visited so many more of the top Manhattan attractions thanks to the New York City Pass.  We used the New York City Pass for a 3 day visit to New York City and easily covered all the major attractions.

Thanks to City Pass you, too, could have an easy time sightseeing in New York. Check out the bottom where I am giving away 2 adult New York City Passes to one lucky reader.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

You will get fast and easy access to 6 of the top attractions in New York City with the City Pass.

The New York City Pass

The New York City Pass saves you money and time.  You don’t have to wait in the long lines (and, trust me, there are always lines at these major attractions).  So many people have seen these monuments on television and film that they are always at the top of the list for visitors to New York.

Here’s what’s included in the New York City Pass:

  • The American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is housed in a gigantic building on Central Park West. There are exhibits, a library and a planetarium.  Although wonderful with children, the museum is a treasure trove for adults too.

  • The Empire State Building Experience

The Empire State Building Experience takes you through exhibits related to this Art Deco building and then up to the top viewing floors.  Recently renovated, the Empire State Building is gleaming from top to bottom.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

From the Top of the Rock, you can see both the Empire State Building and One World Trade.

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a diverse collection of art spanning over 5000 years of human creativity.  It is the most visited museum in New York City.

  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR the Guggenheim Museum

The Top of the Rock Observation Deck gives you a view of New York City 70 floors up from the middle of Manhattan. Unlike the Empire State Building which is further away, you get a clear unobstructed view of how Central Park is laid out.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

The green space of Central Park is a lure for New Yorkers and tourists alike.

The Guggenheim Museum is world-famous for both its modern art collection inside and Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture on the outside.

  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise

The Statue of Liberty is a well-known American symbol where you can walk around the base.  With extra tickets which you have to get far in advance, you may be able to go inside the statue as well.  Ellis Island Immigration Museum is where over 12 million immigrants came into the USA and has lots of exhibits on the immigrant experience.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

The Great Hall where millions of immigrants to the USA were processed.

The Circle Line takes you on either an hour cruise or a 30 minute speedboat ride (during the summer) around Manhattan’s famous skyline.

  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum pays respect to the nearly 3000 victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre on 9/11.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

The view of New York City from inside the aircraft carrier, The Intrepid.

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is located on a former working aircraft carrier, the Intrepid, and also lets you go inside a former submarine.

Suggested Itinerary for 3 days with the New York City

The New York City Pass lasts for 9 days once it is activated at the first attraction. Lucky you, if you have 9 days to roam the Big Apple.  I’ve put together some suggested itineraries using the New York City Pass for a 3 day visit to New York City.

The best way to use City Pass

Use City Pass in New York City for access to the best sightseeing day and night.

Museum Lovers

If you are a museum lover, start at the American Museum of Natural History and walk across Central Park to the Guggenheim Museum for the afternoon.

The next day you can easily spend an entire day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art because the collection is so massive. Visiting the Empire State Building Experience at night gives you a magical display of Manhattan lights at night.

Getting the most value from City Pass New York City

One of the best ways to experience New York City is with an aerial view of its nightscape.

The third day can be spent exploring the museum at Ellis Island and either the 9/11 Memorial and Museum or the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (depending on your interests).  Although both museums are excellent, I prefer the 9/11 Museum for its excellent curation of those tragic events.

Family Travel

If you have children with you,  I would suggest that you spent more time at the American Museum of Natural History on the morning of the first day.  Children recognise it from the Night At The Museum movies with Ben Stiller.  Between the dinosaur exhibits and the planetarium, most children love this museum.  Then hang out at Central Park stopping off at the playgrounds especially the excellent Heckscher playground at 7th Avenue and Central Park South.  The Empire State Building is once again a great place for the evening.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

A horse and carriage ride through Central Park is still a must-do for many tourists.

The next day watch New York City spring into action at the Top of the Rock Observation Deck.  My kids can’t seem to get enough of seeing New York City from the top of skyscrapers.  There’s plenty for families to do at Rockefeller Centre and nearby, including the American Girl shop and Radio City Music Hall.  You can once again wander through Central Park on your way up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It’s either a 45 minute walk or a short taxi ride (depending on traffic!).  Once again, there is a great view of Central Park from the rooftop terrace.

On the third day, the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island is a nice cruise for children and interesting history for adults.  Alternatively, you can take a Circle Line Cruise which is conveniently located right next door to the Intrepid Museum.  My kids LOVED the Intrepid Museum.

I would suggest children be at least 8 years old before they visit the 9/11 Museum because the subject matter raises a lot of questions.  The more graphic exhibits are zoned off and parents can decide if they want to go through that section.  For example, the live coverage of the day, including of the people who jumped from the towers, is in this section.

My New York City Pass Choices

My kids love the American Museum of Natural History especially the planetarium.  We did a short stint at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for my daughter to check out a special Faberge exhibit.  She likes anything sparkly.  I wanted to see the Psycho House exhibit on the rooftop terrace.

PsychoBarn is a special exhibit by Cornelia Parker on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

PsychoBarn is a special exhibit by Cornelia Parker on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My children were duly impressed visiting the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island for the first time. The audio guides that walk you through the monuments have a special children’s audio tour which they found entertaining.  You need to book far in advance if you want to go up into the base of the Statue of Liberty and even longer (to get into the torch area).  I’ve heard from friends that the inside of the statue can be crowded and claustrophobic.

We went to the Empire State Building at  night.  As much as my kids loved the Guggenheim Museum, they preferred the Top of the Rock Observation Deck to another museum.  I thought going at night would be less lines.  Nope!  Thankfully we breezed straight past the line with our New York City Pass.

The third day we went to the Top of the Rock in the morning and then the Intrepid Museum in the afternoon. My kids can spend hours at the Intrepid – for example, it’s got an old Concorde, lots of fighter planes, a Space exhibit and a submarine to explore.

New York City Pass Giveaway

Thanks to City Pass I am able to give away to one lucky person 2 adult New York City Passes (valued at $116 each for a total value of $232). Please note that you can use the adult New York City Pass in lieu of a children’s New York City  Pass.

  • This giveaway ends on September 29.
  • You have until February 28, 2018 to use the two City Passes.  That’s plenty of time to plan a trip to New York City!
  • The giveaway is open to anyone worldwide.

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How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

The New York City Pass comes in a booklet with tickets you trade in for the attraction ticket.

I partnered with City Pass to receive 2 New York City Passes and bought the third New York City Pass myself.  All opinions are 100% my own.

This post is linked up with Monday EscapesThe Weekly Postcard, Fly Away Friday, Weekend Travel Inspiration and Photo Friday.

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