Vic O’Sullivan took his son for the ultimate ‘dad and lad’ trip of a lifetime to New York.
A New York minute is “the time it takes for the light in front of you to turn green and the guy behind you to honk his horn”.
That’s how Johnny Carson nailed it when he nabbed those words from a New York traffic commissioner to define Manhattan’s frenzied pace of life, which I had subscribed to on a whistle stop ‘dad and lad’ trip to the Big Apple.
Time slowed down at one point, just as the summer sky turned from orange to deep blue on the viewing deck at the panicle of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
A Japanese tour guide arrived with his bolshie group and then time sped up once again. The guide, armed with a baton, hijacked our corner.
He used the baton to point out downtown landmarks which restricted my camera’s line of vision from the Chrysler Building past One World Trade Centre.
It prompted the decision for a swift departure from ‘the Top of the Rock’, right until we overheard a security guard tell someone ahead “No, hang on buddy, the view will be phenomenal tonight.”
As it turned out, he was right.
Within ten minutes Times Square flared up with blue and red neon, rainbow colours fluttered up the side of the Empire State Building to commemorate Pride Weekend and the glass veneer of One World Trade Centre reflected the brilliant, final gasp of the setting sun.
The experience is something my son Cillian won’t forget, which was the whole point of this birthday present trip.
The choice of an experience over more stuff for my generation Z son came after his generation X father read a report about the spending patterns of millennials.
The report, sponsored by global ticketing giant Eventbrite, deduced that millennials prioritise experiences over possessions.
Apparently experiences define their lifestyle choices, like, why own property when you can rent in a better place?
Why invest in a future that may never happen, when there’s a world out there to discover?
Millennials are old enough to remember the calamity that fell out of the sky for even the most prudent materialist a decade ago; and young enough to sample life’s many experiences.
When it comes to the New York experience it’s impossible to take full advantage of it when you set the pace of a New Yorker. It’s better to leave that to the locals.
An early morning stroll across Brooklyn Bridge, facilitated by a minor dose of jetlag, is the best way to see the jagged roof-scape of the world’s most famous skyline.
Over on the other side, Brooklyn’s DUMBO (or Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) area was just stretching awake.
Grimaldi’s pizzeria on Front Street still had its shutters drawn and pre-worktime joggers stopped for a break along the decking to breathe in the view from the edge of the Hudson River.
My son ordered ice-tea from a Lizzmonade, a timber kiosk which sells old fashioned soda.
At a safe distance he commented on the taste. “It’s just cold tea with ice.”
Who’d have guessed?
Back in busy midmorning Manhattan a small tour bus pulled up on 5th Avenue, right across the street from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
The tour guide jumped outside and he was immediately surrounded by the cargo of the bus.
I waited to hear his secrets of New York’s most famous church. He pointed across to it and said “This is where you guys learn to jaywalk like real New Yorkers. Remember, walk up on the right aisle of the church and return by the left. And while you’re up there, take a look at the organ. It’s huge.”
My son and I had no ambition to jaywalk like New Yorkers. We moved further downtown to Times Square where time appears to be permanently in short supply.
Heading west we found Pier 83, the place to gear up the pace of our millennial type ‘take time to smell the coffee’ New York experience.
Bouncing across the waves at 45 miles an hour aboard ‘The Beast’, a high octane boat ride that blasts its way across the Hudson to Lady Liberty, my son was in his element.
At that point it occurred to me that the millennials have it right. I can’t say when he’ll ride on The Beast again, or if at that point he might be far to cool to go with me.
But at that very moment, it was the finest place in the world.
Superhero Walking Tour of Manhattan
32 East 32nd Street
Justin Van Voorhis guides Marvel and DC comic fanatics along with their parents or partners through midtown Manhattan’s streets and avenues like a game of Pacman.
The tours stop by filming locations, Marvel offices, Grand Central and there’s a focus on Gotham and its parallel history with Manhattan.
Justin said that Paul LePelletier, his touring partner and tour founder, once worked as a cartoonist.
It’s a mine of information of all things superhero with intriguing links to mainstream press. Hero attire is optional.
American Museum of National History
Central Park West at 79th Street
“If you wait another fifteen minutes the entry is free” was the thrifty advice from the lady at admissions. From 16:45 until closing time an hour later admission is free at the city’s museum of natural life.
The museum permanently hosts temporary exhibit of anything from Earth’s inception to a study of the modern day brain, so there’s always something new to see.
The ‘to scale’ blue whale at the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life makes for the ultimate selfie and visitors to the 65-million-year-old Triceratops at the Hall of Ortnithischian Dinosaurs trickles to a handful shortly before closing.
The original museum, which is the star of the movie Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller, was endorsed by President Theodore Roosevelt.
219 W 48th St
Prices vary widely for those who don’t want to waste a New York minute queueing on Times Square for value.
Ticketmaster offered the best value for The Crucible at the Walter Kerr Theatre on this side of the Atlantic.
Arthur Miller’s tale of deception and narrow minded superstition had a cast of top notch Irish and British actors, which included Ben Whishaw, Sophie Okonedo Saoirse Ronan and Cairan Hinds.
WHERE TO STAY
570 Tenth Avenue
If New York time is truly at a premium The Yotel has a resident robot on hand to help with luggage. The converted industrial robot can handle up to 300 pieces a day in this busy property just off Times Square.
All that hospitality nonsense can be peeled away for simple check in to one of their ‘cabins’ in the lobby’s kiosks. Rates start from $175.
The Plaza Hotel
768 5th Ave,
The Plaza’s cinematic draw and plum location right across from Central Park pulled us to one of New York’s swankiest addresses. The price tag is swanky too, with summer rates starting at $400.
The creature comforts and polished, but not starched staff make it a welcome destination.
Watch out for room service; which starts at $30 for a classic burger and soon becomes $143 (for two) with the addition of water, a beer, soda and service.
WHERE TO EAT
A full traditional breakfast at this busy diner style restaurant near Times Square should keep hunger pangs away; at least until the next hotdog vendor appears on the horizon.
It’s famous for its cheese cake for late risers.
152 West 44th Street
Spare ribs for son and a great selection of craft beers for dad.
The pulled chicken and pork sandwiches are a welcome break from some of the other casual dining outlets, and there is the opportunity to pig it out - with the pig out.
It’s not for the fainthearted, with a sample of the full menu’s highlights. The menu has recommended beer pairing and the service is swift, genuinely friendly and professional.
WOW will operate Cork-New York flights from May, with fares from €149 one way.
Norwegian Airlines launch low-fare direct routes from July. Aer Lingus, Delta and United Airlines operate daily from Shannon and Dublin.
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