I live about forty-five minutes outside of New York City. Since suburban life is a completely different experience than urban living, my family enjoys taking a bite out of the Big Apple as much as tourists from anywhere else. We just have the luxury of doing it more often.
Long Islanders travel into the city for a variety of reasons other than work or connecting with relatives. We like to catch shows on Broadway, go out to dinner and shopping, see baseball games, visit museums, attend concerts, and go out to the bars. For holidays, many will hop the LIRR (train) to see a parade, watch fireworks, or count down until the ball drops. The difference with us local visitors is that we generally skip tourist attractions like the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and tours of any kind.
Two years ago, my son’s fifth grade celebrated their “moving up” to the middle school with a very special event. They scheduled a private day cruise around Manhattan on the Skyline Princess , and we parents were invited along for the ride. This gave us an oppotunity to view the city from a different perspective–away from Times Square crowds and midtown noise.
At first, I was hesitant about whether our son would enjoy the daytrip. His autism and sensory issues can lead to him acting out during new experiences, and we didn’t want him to leave his classmates with that lasting impression before they parted ways for the summer. To get him excited about the outing, his grandmother told him he’d be going on a cruise just like she does with his grandfather. We also showed him online photos of the cruise boat and explained the schedule. That did the trick. He wanted to go. For good measure, I prayed for nice weather.
Cruise day arrives and it’s sunny! The boat’s pier happens to be across from CitiField–the Mets’ new stadium. We load onto the large, comfortable boat and the party begins. We watch planes take off from LaGuardia as we make our way onto the East River. We gaze in awe at the beauty of the skyscrapers lining the water’s edge, spying landmarks along the way.
The Empire State Building peeks above the other buildings as we travel beneath the 59th Street bridge. If you’re a movie buff, you may recognize Pier 17, featured in the romantic comedy, Fools Rush In, for the helicopter scene where the hero realizes he cannot live without his heroine. Don’t you just love happily-ever-afters?
We take a break from our sightseeing and photography to indulge in a catered lunch. For guests who’ve had their fill of water with a backdrop of tall buildings, the DJ begins the afternoon of dancing and music.
The Skyline Princess honks joyfully to the Staten Island Ferry as we glide into open water. It’s a bittersweet moment as we pass the southern tip of Manhattan. We then turn our thoughts toward the beauty of the monument ahead.
I’ve been to Ellis Island, but this day cruise is a relaxing alternative. We are able to see the Statue of Liberty from all angles, and imagine how the immigrants felt at their first glimpse of her after a difficult journey across the Atlantic.
After a dozen or so photos of this beautiful gift from France, we head back toward Manhattan. The kids are excited to see all sorts of water craft on the return trip. I have to admit, I am, too.
It’s not often I get to see a tugboat pushing a barge, a fireboat spraying its water in all directions, or a beautiful sailboat with the New York skyline behind it. It’s been a wonderful day–relaxing, comfortable, pretty, and fun. In other words, a perfect escape.
Have you ever visited New York City? If so, what were your favorite activities or attractions? If not, what would be on your must-see list for the Big Apple?