A Grandparent's Guide to New York

I have spent the past nine months writing political commentary for FOX. This week’s offering will be a change of pace: a grandparents’ guide to New York City.

My wife and I took our two oldest grandchildren – Helaine, 8, and Simona, 6, to New York City recently for a two-day trip while they were visiting us from Texas. The grandparents had a great time and I think the kids liked it too. There are only two caveats: a visit to New York is not cheap and some of the things we did were seasonal.

We started off with a three and a half hour train ride on Amtrak (Washington Union Station to Penn Station in New York). I used to ride the train all the time while growing up in Texas but for this generation of children a train ride is an adventure.

After checking into our hotel, we went to Central Park for a carriage ride – something I recommend at some point in the trip. Our next stop was Macy’s Department Store to see the Christmas displays in Macy’s windows. The kids were enthralled by holiday scenes of New York that sprang from a closed book in each window. Shopping inside Macy’s was less of a fun adventure because it was “sale” crowded (store management probably liked that) and the store did not have inexpensive children’s watches, our top priority.

Then it was time for an early dinner at an excellent and kid friendly restaurant. My wife, Kathy, had discovered The Barking Dog online and so off we went. Not only were the waiters friendly, but the small eatery on the East Side had a great children’s menu with a full desert section. After huge meals of pasta, the girls still found room for a banana split and a brownie sundae.

Our next stop was a hectic hour at a gigantic Toys R Us store on Times Square (complete with an indoor carousel) which also was packed with post-Christmas shoppers and almost picked clean. Simona selected her own Hanakkuh gift (it was the sixth night). As we walked out the door, Kathy spotted a Swatch watch store and Helaine finally got a colorful inexpensive children’s watch we couldn’t find at Macy’s.

We topped the day off with a visit to Rockefeller Plaza to see people ice skating on the rink (the lines were too long for Helaine and Simona to have a chance to skate and everyone was tired by then anyway). We also got to photograph the beautiful Christmas tree on display at the Plaza.

We were up early the next morning and off to the American Girl Place (the closest thing to a kid cult I’ve ever seen). There the girls selected a Bitty Baby doll starter kit for their younger sister, Esther, 2, who had stayed behind in Texas. Picking the particular doll for Esther was an adventure all by itself. With so much to choose from, the girls couldn’t leave without souvenirs for themselves and a catalog for their parents.

Lunch was next (meals are a re-occurring theme when you travel with children). We had an early meal (early is important in New York for getting a table) at the Hard Rock Café which made the grandkids feel like big girls. The food was ok and the atmosphere was high energy.

The highlight of the trip was yet to come. We were off to a matinee performance of The Lion King. Both the girls had seen the movie, but the live performance at the Amsterdam Theater was spectacular. The theater was packed with kids and our seats in the first balcony gave us a good view of the action on stage.

I’ve seen many Broadway shows during my life but The Lion King is in a class all by itself. The costumes are both exotic and beautiful and the music evokes Africa in a way that is creative and highly appropriate to the story. Also, there are lines in the dialogue specifically directed to adults that left my wife and me laughing as well. The dance numbers are terrific and the kids picked up nuances in the story that we simply missed. The show leaves you with a warm feeling about how good triumphs over evil. It’s rare these days that you can go to any production that is satisfying for all ages.

One other good note about taking small children to New York – many taxi drivers stop more quickly for adults accompanied by children, particularly if the kids are cute.

We made it back to Union Station for the return train ride to Washington late that afternoon with one final good story about New York. A friendly porter spotted us in the station struggling with our luggage and used his key to unlock the train and board us early – just like a scene from The Polar Express. The grandparents were ready for a good night’s sleep and the grandchildren had memories that will be with them their entire lives.

I’ve always liked New York City. It’s even better when you see it through the eyes of your grandchildren.

Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel, and is a scholar in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.

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