New York City: What to see with your tween girl
A reader writes::
What hip things can I do in NYC with my teenage daughter when she accompanies me on her first big-girl trip in less than two weeks?
Our main advice? Go to shops you can't find everywhere.
• The Market NYC: Up-and-coming clothing and jewelry designers sell their wares in booths (FYI, it's also known as Young Designer's Market). 268 Mulberry St., 212/580-8995, weekends only
• Dylan's Candy Bar: Flagship of the burgeoning sweets empire of Ralph Lauren's daughter features hard-to-find candy, cute candy-related clothes and gifts, and a retro soda fountain (love the peppermint-striped stools!). 1011 Third Ave., 646/735-0078
• Kate's Paperie: The company's five Manhattan locations are filled to the brim with unique note cards, calendars, journals, handmade wrapping paper, and racks of fine stationery; the SoHo store is the best.
And don't forget to catch an up-and-coming hip star in a show on or off Broadway. Of all the shows currently on Broadway, "Wicked," "Billy Elliot," and "West Side Story" are among those that will appeal most. Read Budget Travel's coverage of Broadway Tickets on the Cheap. Quick hint: Avoid the mile-long lines at the Times Square TKTS booth by buying discounted Broadway tickets in advance at playbill.com and theatermania.com.
New York City has plenty to offer a teen girl looking for both the hip to traditional.
Check out On Location Tours, which offers a "Gossip Girl" tour of New York City. For the real thing, see the On Location Vacation blog for movie and TV shoots as they happen. If they're shooting a scene outdoors, it's OK to watch. But this is New York, so please try to look bored and pretend you see this stuff every day.
And while there are also "Sex and the City" treks, maybe check out one of the crazes it helped spawn, the cupcakes. Besides Magnolia Bakery (the girls' go-to spot for cupcakes, at three locations), see the Cupcakes Takes the Cake blog for a rundown of the "it" cupcakes of the moment.
As for shopping, out-of-towners who I assume don't have the Internet are still enthralled by the big branches of Macy's, H&M;'s, TopShop, American Apparel and the like. But your time shopping in NYC is better spent looking for goods you can't get elsewhere. Sample sales may be a bit too hit-or-miss and time-consuming, so maybe best to pick a neighborhood with plenty of boutiques, such as Nolita. The shopping blog Racked usually does a Friday map with the weekend's best sales.
It's also worth noting the top floor of the Tiffany's mothership offers plenty of trinkets under $100 that she'll probably keep forever. About a block away from Tiffany's is the 24-hour Apple store and FAO Schwarz.
Elsewhere, picture-perfect ice skating options include Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and Bryant Park (where it's free to skate and rentals are about $12 a person).
With kids, make sure the museums don't sound like a chore. If you venture into any of the biggies such as the Met, MoMA, Whitney, or Guggenheim, keep in mind it's OK to just dip in briefly. (Also note that many museums, including all those mentioned above, have free, pay-as-you-wish or suggested donation hours.)
But most importantly, don't overestimate your teen's need for cool. Institutions that sound stuffy—such as Carnegie Hall or the NY Philharmonic—do a number of excellent programs geared for kids. New York has the great ability to stretch kids' minds, plant seeds and show them a gazillion things are possible and within reach.
Learn more at Newyorkology.
MORE TIPS, FROM BUDGET TRAVEL
Need hotel recommendations? Read our reviews of New York City hotels at a price that's right.
Instead of the Empire State Building—with its three-hour long lines, why not try Top of the Rock—the three-floor art deco observation deck atop the GE Building in Rockefeller Center—is superior in every conceivable way. First, there are the views: Instead of the Empire State Building's jailhouse bars, you get glass panels that look like they were washed that morning; the first floor (of three total) also has large indoor areas for those who'd rather not venture outside. Second, the top floor, because it's set back from the edge of the building, has totally unimpeded views. Third, the art deco details will take your breath away; wandering around, you feel a bit like Lex Luthor in his evil (but sumptuous) aerie. Fourth, the visitor experience is infinitely better: The workers treat you like a human being, rather than use the fact that you're waiting in line as an opportunity to give you the hard sell. Finally, there's the elevator ride. Stand in the back of the car, to the right as you enter. Then look up. 877/692-7625, topoftherocknyc.com, adults for $21, ages 6-12 for $14.
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Iconic Italian designs on view
Even as fewer things are made there, Italy remains a persuasive lifestyle brand—a shorthand for effortless style and timeless quality. A new exhibition in Rome, Disegno e Design, sheds light on Italy's reputation and the design process by bringing together sketches, advertising clips from the RAI archives, original patents, and products dating from the early 1900s to the present. A Moka Bialetti espresso maker, a 1940s Vespa scooter, and a Ferragamo shoe are among the best known. The exhibition will stay open through January 31, 2010 at the Ara Pacis Museum (€6.50/$9.65), which is an example of modern design in its own right. Architect Richard Meier unveiled the glass-encased home for Ara Pacis, an ancient Roman temple, in 2006. You can pick up a made-in-Italy souvenir from the museum's gift shop. I'm a fan of the clever Rome-inspired products from Tre Tigri, founded by two industrial designers in 2008. They just so happen to make iron-on graphics of Vespa scooters and Moka espresso makers (which you could apply, say, to a T-shirt or throw pillow). ELSEWHERE IN ROME... The MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts, conceived by Zaha Hadid, opens to the public this Saturday, November 14, for a two-day preview. (It's slated to officially open in early 2010.) MAXXI gets a rousing review from NYT architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, who guesses that Pope Urban VIII would have been equally ecstatic. Ouroussoff writes: "The completion of the museum is proof that this city is no longer allergic to the new and a rebuke to those who still see Rome as a catalog of architectural relics for scholars or tourists."
Literary Paris: A lesson in pictures
Shakespeare & Company, the legendary left-bank English-language bookshop, has long been a magnet for literary talent. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and George Orwell all frequented the store. So did the sultry Anaïs Nin, along with her lover Henry Miller who described the place as "a wonderland of books." The shop even published James Joyce's Ulysses when no publisher would touch it. New portraits of these and seven other Lost and Beat Generation writers were recently unveiled at Shakespeare & Company, thanks to the pen of a young English artist and blogger who calls herself Badaude. Her series winds up the very narrow staircase leading to a library where customers can sit and read for free. This is the same space where, after hours, young writers can sleep in exchange for work. To read more about the inspiration behind these portraits, check out Bomb magazine's recent interview with artist Badaude/Joanna Walsh. And for more information about Shakespeare & Company, including free English-language events like the one we described here, check their site. Shakespeare & Company, 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 5th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-25-40-93.
Paris: Tips on renting a bike
In Paris last week, my fiancé and I really felt as if we were living like the locals. We sipped our espresso at the bar each morning and strolled hand-in-hand through the Luxembourg Gardens. But the most fun—and possibly most Parisian—thing we did was to crisscross the city using Vélib, which roughly translates as "free bicycle." (It's a euro per day for a subscription, and any rentals under 30 minutes are free.) The city is utterly different when viewed on two wheels. We felt especially chic on the day we filled our little chrome bike baskets with Clementines from the market on Rue Mouffetard. Earlier this year, my colleagues at Budget Travel recorded a video of how to rent a bike in Paris. But I learned some additional lessons while cruising around. • Tip: When a bike is defective (because its gears won't shift or it has some other flaw), a Parisian will typically turn its seat backwards as a signal to others not to use it. • Try your AmEx card. This blog has previously reported that most American credit cards don't work at Vélib kiosks—the stands at each station that unlock available bikes. The typical European credit card has a microchip rather than a magnetic strip, but lucky for us, American Express Blue cards run on the chip system. On our first morning, we signed up for a one-day subscription in minutes using our AmEx Blue. • Take the road less traveled by staking out a non-conventional route. We were staying fairly far down on the Left Bank, and each morning we'd bike up to the river, only to be met with Vélib stations that were at capacity. If all the spaces at one station are full, the kiosk screen will direct you to the nearest station with open spots, but we found this information wasn't always accurate. More than once we trudged from station to station looking for two spaces—a slightly deflating way to end an otherwise exhilarating ride. It seemed like most bikes were ditched at stations lining the river, but if you can start there and bike outward, you're sure to find plenty of working bikes and end with plenty of empty spaces. • Think about Vélib rush hour. It seemed like the times we were looking to turn our bikes in—typically right around the time sidewalk cafés started to fill up—everybody else was returning their bikes, too. • Parts of the city (around Canal St. Martin and down toward the Bastille, for instance) have gloriously divided bike lanes that are scenic and peaceful. In other parts of the city, though, one-way streets and bike lanes that double as bus lanes make it hard to get around. On one trip, we were yelled at by a French grandma and nearly barreled down by a bus. Let's just say that from then on, we mapped out our trips beforehand. As noted in Budget Travel's video, you can download a free map of the Paris bike routes. EARLIER Video: How to bike in Paris Our Paris City page
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