I understand people who wouldn’t want to live in New York City: tons of traffic, crowded streets, parking hassles, outrageous rent. But I don’t understand them nearly as well as I understand the people who do want to live in what I commonly refer to as “the best city in the world.”
We are lucky to live near the best city in the world so our visits home twice a year always include various trips to Manhattan. The visits with just Husband are easy; we could do anything we want without considering our nap time or whether or not my behavior will be acceptable at that restaurant. Visits with kids are a bit more thoughtful. Though, if I do say so myself (which I am), we nailed it this time.
I’m a bit of a sucker for the West Village since I called it home, by serendipitous fortune, my junior year of college, just in time for my 21st birthday. I know that area in the way only one who lives there can know it, even if over a decade has passed since I left it (stop calculating my age). I know that Fiore’s Pizza on Bleecker used to be called Pizza Booth, that Red Lion was always where one started the West Village Pub Crawl, and that Mamoun’s Falafel will always have a line out the door and nowhere to sit.
So we decided to spend the day there but since we have two kids under the legal drinking age, we had to change up what festivities in the West Village would like with kids as opposed to what it looked like on my 21st birthday. Just slightly, you know. We came up with a Playground Food Tour which is spectacularly smart – if I don’t say so myself (which, again, I am) – and completely equal opportunistic.
After finding FREE parking on 3rd Street, which is a victory in it of itself, we headed towards 6th Avenue to the Minetta Playground. Husband and I sipped our coffee while the kids played on what looked like Spiderman’s dream playground. We weren’t ready for the bathing suits to come out but the sprinkler splash section was a nice touch too. You know what else screams nice touch? The FREE public wi-fi. Since our Dominican phones (yes they have passports) don’t get cell service here but do get wi-fi, having a place to use our phones is lov-e-lee.
From the park we turned left on Minetta towards MacDougal which took us all of 17 seconds to walk down what quite possibly might be the shortest street in Manhattan, and then another left back to 3rd Street. We had passed DumplingGo earlier on and to say Husband has an affinity for dumplings would be a giant under exaggeration, so we circled back to make this our first stop on the adult tour. We ordered the dumpling mix to get a taste of everything. Good stuff and a double benefit: dumpling variety pack and free, clean restrooms.
We took our dumplings to the next playground on LaGuardia. To the adult eye, this small space might seem simple. How could it possibly keep kids entertained. I guess, like some of my favorite happy hours, the simple and quirky are sometimes the most fun. Husband and I split our smorgasbord of dumplings while the kids played “Superhero” with their new friend. It was Moo Goo Gai Perfect.
It started to drizzle on the way to our next park, so instead of stopping at the Shade to Go crepe window on Sullivan, which was the plan, we went inside. I should have known what to expect, in terms of service, when we walked in with our admittingly large Cadillac of a stroller and the bartender rudely snarked, “I don’t know where you’re going to put that.” I looked around dramatically at the totally-empty-except-for-us bar/restaurant and said, “I’m sure I could find a place.”
When we were ready, I gestured to him that we wanted to order, at which time, he told me we had to wait because he was busy with someone else, a girl at the bar who looked to be scribbling something down but certainly not ordering. After a couple of minutes she looked up at Bartender Richard, but let’s call him Dick for short, and asked surprisingly, “Oh. Are you waiting on me?” He told her he was and she let him know awkwardly that she wasn’t ready so he didn’t have to wait. He smiled at her and begrudgingly slopped over to take our order. As he walked away my daughter smiled big at him, waved her hand brightly and said, “Hello.” A gesture, apparently so rude on her part, that he ignored her and waked away. He was a giant shmuck of epic proportions. It always ceases to amaze me how people like that have any kind of job near the general population of people. It was a shame because both the savory and dessert crepes were super tasty but I’ll never go back.
Our next playground was in the northeast corner of Washington Square Park, near the Arch and the equivalent to a short 3-block walk from Bartender Dick’s Creperie. The iron fenced entrance was heavy but worth the effort. The playground’s 4 sections were cool but not as cool as the fact that it came with its own toys. Yep. Its own toys: hula hoops, water pails, ride-along cars, even a Little Tikes kitchen! There was a guy there in charge of the toys, the Gate Keeper of Toys, if you will, who made life – for parents like us who don’t BYOT – easier.
Since the day was getting warmer, and mostly because we could no longer hold back the floodgates of why not, the kids put on their bathing suit and ran around the splash section. It was actually perfect timing since the running and playing was sure to wipe them out just in time for a midday nap.
And midday nap they did. And midday beer we did. At The Half Pint on 3rd and Thompson. I was excited to see they had free wi-fi but it came with directions that neither Husband or I could figure out. But I had a beer with Husband in the middle of the day while the kids were napping, so wi-fi, wee-fee, whatever.
The kids were still sleeping when we finished our beers and continued on our way so we checked out the West Village on the other side of 6th Avenue, one of our favorite sections since it is home to such great places like Faicco’s Italian Specialties, Amy’s Bread, O&Co. Olive Oils, and a number of other small specialty boutique food shops. When the kids finally did wake up, we took them to Murray’s Cheese Shop. This place helps me understand addiction. The service and cheese was at the highest quality and our cheese connoisseur staffer put together some eye-rolling, sound making concoctions. Unexplainable. Just go in and have them whip you up something, Anything. Even our kid was moved by the cheese.
It was starting to get late so we decided to hit one last park… and one last food spot. Walking up Bleecker towards 6th Avenue there was a corner park on the right with benches. A guitar player strummed some melodies for whatever change you wanted to throw his way. Had we not been looking for a playground we may not have spotted this one hidden behind the guitarist.
The playground entrance was more Secret Garden than it was NYC Playground since it was nestled within The Churchill Square park. Surrounded by trees and tall buildings, this park was the epitome of why playgrounds in Manhattan are dope. There we were sitting amongst giants, in a secret garden, kids laughing, sun setting.