We just returned from our 3rd Annual FIRE WIRE Road Trip.  This time our destination was The BIG Apple – NYC. We again set out with the mission to find unique and interesting family friendly activities that appealed to our entire family. We had a fabulous trip and wanted to share with you all of the sights and sounds that we enjoyed. 

The Hilton Garden Inn, Times Square
790 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10019

After a 6 hour car ride, we were thrilled to check into our Deluxe Queen room at the Hilton Garden Inn, Times Square. Parking was conveniently located next door in the adjacent parking lot. Upon check-in we were pleasantly greeted and struck up lovely conversations with both the manager Laura and the bellman Donald, who offered a ton of tips and advice and was super knowledgeable given his 20 plus years of working at the HGI.  Upon entering our room, we were thrilled and surprised to find an array of goodies for our whole family.  There was a mixture of chocolates and snacks, bottled waters, postcards, pens, a set of “I ♥ NY” coffee mugs, and to top it off, a bottle of champagne with 2 flutes. The room was spacious and was well stocked with extra towels and toiletries such as shampoo, body lotion, and mouthwash to name but a few. Each room has adjustable beds where you can manually control the firmness of the mattress to customize the feel to ensure a comfortable night’s rest. Our room had a microwave, refrigerator, coffeemaker, 32” flat screen TV, and our alarm clock had an mp3 port. The hotel offered many free amenities that comparable hotels in New York charged for, such as free Wi-Fi, and the use of a well equipped fitness and business center. A morning newspaper (USA Today) was delivered each day (M-F) to our door and in the lobby they offer complimentary piping hot Starbuck’s coffee. We started each morning in their Paris inspired café, Pigalle. There we found a hot of choices daily from fresh fruit, Irish oatmeal, bagels and cream cheese, croissants, as well as frittatas, pancakes, home fries, bacon, ham, sausage, but best of all was their French toast.  We had to get their recipe because we unanimously felt that it was the very best French toast we had ever eaten. I can share with you that they use challah bread and soak it in cinnamon cream to get that moist fluffy flavor….soooo good! Our stay at the Hilton Garden Inn was also very enjoyable because it is located a couple of blocks away from the heart of Time’s Square. In the past we have stayed right in Times Square, and although exciting and active, it can also be really loud when you are trying to get your children to sleep; those steel drums keep playing all night long.  This location was not only close but very quiet, so we were able to get a great night’s sleep. The final piece that I want to mention is that the staff was exceptional.  Every person that we met was friendly, helpful and went above and beyond to ensure that we had the best stay imaginable.  I was also impressed that we were sent a pre-stay survey asking of there were any special requests to make our stay more enjoyable as well as a post-check out questionnaire asking for feedback about our experience.  I felt that the Hilton Garden Inn located in Times Square was truly a place where our expectations were exceeded, and we look forward to returning again soon.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Pier 86, W 46th St and 12th Avenue
New York, NY 10036-4103
877-957-SHIP (7447) or 212-245-0072

My husband Jeff is lover of history and was so excited to be able to explore the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The Museum is actually located atop the actual aircraft carrier Intrepid (CVS-11).  First let me say that the Intrepid is ginourmous. Imagine the length of several football fields, and you can visualize the enormity, it also weighs 40,000 tons, and can hold 40 aircrafts. In 1943, the Intrepid was commissioned and served proudly in World War II. This ship was a primary recovery vessel for NASA, as well as three tours of duty off Vietnam, and submarine surveillance in the North Atlantic during the Cold War making it one of the most successful ships in US history. The museum is a family friendly location that offers interactive exhibits and events. The Intrepid is divided into four main decks; The Flight Deck, The Gallery Deck, The Hangar Deck, and the Third Deck. In addition, there are additional exciting areas to explore such as the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the Growler Submarine and the Concorde.

The Flight Deck

– Intrepid’s Island: Where you can take the helm of the Navigation Bridge.

– A Collection of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Aircrafts: Including the A-12 Blackbird spy plane.

– Restoration and Preservation Area: See where the museum’s collection is meticulously cared for and preserved.

– Space Shuttle Pavilion: Where you can see the actual Space Shuttle “Enterprise” (For an additional fee you can access this area) Here visitors can walk directly underneath this historic artifact, while an elevated viewing platform allows guests to gain even greater perspective. The Space Shuttle Pavilion has been engineered to express the shuttle program’s stories of human triumph and technological feats. Enterprise was NASA’s very first space shuttle and the inspiration and prototype for the shuttles that followed.

The Gallery Deck

– Restored Berthing Areas: See how close the quarters were for 3,000 enlisted sailors.

– Mess Deck: See where the crew members ate their meals. In addition, if you or your family is hungry, there is an adjacent au bon pain restaurant right next to the mess deck.

– Pilot Ready Room: View the area where pilots received their final briefing before taking off on their missions.

– Combat Information Center (CIC): View the top secret area where the location and movement of all nearby aircraft and ships locations were tracked.

The Hangar Deck

– “The Story of Intrepid” Movie: This is an 8-minute film that chronicles the history of the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid and her crew.

– Medal of Honor Exhibit: You can explore The Medal of Honor Database kiosk contains a complete, searchable catalog of all Medal of Honor recipients.

– Fo’c’s’le: Explore the most forward portion of the ship where you can see the massive chains that hold the Intrepid’s two 30,000-pound anchors as well as the dormitory-style accommodations for junior officers and two-man staterooms for higher-ranking officers.

– Soyuz TMA-6 Re-entry Capsule: Here you can learn about flying to the International Space Station while viewing a genuine piece of space hardware that, in a way, also tells the story of engineers who created pioneering spacecraft of the 60s and 70s.

– Kamikaze: Day of Darkness, Day of Light: 99 crew members were lost as a result of kamikazeattacks on Intrepid in 1944 and 1945. The multi-media experience “Kamikaze: Day of Darkness, Day of Light” transports visitors back to November 25, 1944, when Intrepid was struck by two kamikaze suicide planes.

– The Exploreum Hall: This area consists of 13,000 square feet filled with fully interactive exhibits.

The Growler Submarine: Is the only American diesel-powered strategic missile submarine open to the public. The Growler offers museum visitors a firsthand look at life aboard a submarine and a close-up inspection of the once “top-secret” missile command center. Access is available to the various compartments as they were used during operations.

– Crew’s Mess: Enlisted men ate in the crew’s mess, or dining room. For relaxation, crew members would play games and watch movies in this space. Next to the crew’s mess was the galley, a tiny kitchen where Growler’s cooks would prepare all of the crew’s meals.

– Control Room & Attack Center: Growler crew members steered the submarine from the three seats in this space. Growler’s two periscopes, which allowed crew members to scan the surface of the water, are located in the center of the room

– Aft Torpedo Room: Growler had two torpedo rooms, located at the bow (front) and stern (back) of the submarine. Her torpedoes were intended for self-defense. This torpedo room also contained nine bunks for enlisted crew members.

In addition to the regular museum admission, additional activities and tours are available for an additional fee such as the Gforce Encounter Supersonic Jet Plane Simulator, XD Theater, and Transporter FX Flight Simulator. There are also guided tours available ranging from the history and life aboard the Intrepid to a tour exploring life in outer space.  One tour that really appealed to our family was the tour of the Concorde G-BOAD, the fastest commercial aircraft to ever cross the Atlantic. On this tour visitors are offered a rare opportunity to enjoy the comfort of Concorde’s luxurious first class cabin, as well as an up close look inside the flight deck.

Our Intrepid tour concluded with a trip to the museum shop where my younger son was able to get a flattened commemorative penny as well as two additional shiny silver colored coins to remember his day at the Intrepid. History truly comes alive at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. If you have ever wanted to see a US navy aircraft carrier up close and experience what life was like upon the Intrepid, it will be an experience that your whole family will enjoy.

11 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019
212) 708-9400

We loved our visit to the Museum of Modern Art. Given our very busy NY tourist schedule we did not have the luxury of slowly savoring each room. On this trip we chose quantity over quality in that there were so many wonderful exhibits to explore in addition to a trip to their expansive museum shops, we tried to see it all.  However, on our next trip back to NY, we are looking forward to slowing down the pace to really stop, look and experience MoMA on a deeper level. We were able to plan our trip and learn more about each of the exhibits because we downloaded and used the MoMA iPhone app (free). The MoMA app includes:

– A Calendar of current and upcoming exhibitions, daily events and screening, with the ability to share via Facebook or Twitter.

– Tours, which include the MoMA Audio programs, with five distinct tour options, as well as the ability to browse by floor or stop number.

– An Art index of all works and artists featured in the collection as well as a database of art terms.

– Information about the museum, including hours, admissions and directions.

– MoMA Snaps offers the option to take a picture and send it as a Museum postcard.

– MoMA Tracks allows visitors to select tracks from their own music library to listen to while exploring the Museum or the MoMA App.

MoMA is best known for its extensive collection of modern paintings, sculptures, and installations. When you visit the museum youwill find a vast assortment of drawings, photographs, architecture and design pieces, and theatres featuring daily film programs. MoMA is divided into a six-floor complex featuring special exhibitions as well as pieces from the permanent collection.

A Top to Bottom Floor-by-Floor Guide to the MoMA

6th floor: This expansive space is reserved for special and/or temporary exhibitions. Recently, the skylit galleries have featured works by artists Jeff Wall, Brice Marden and Edvard Munch.

5th floor: The 5th floor is divided into 13 galleries displaying paintings and sculptures by world-renowned artists. Grab a bite to eat at Terrace 5, a full-service café featuring appetizer-size snacks, desserts and wine selections.

On this floor:

– The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh

– Water Lilies, by Claude Monet

– The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dalí

– Dance (I), by Henri Matisse

4th Floor: Explore the galleries of the 4th floor and see more paintings, sculptures, and installations by famous modern artists.

On this floor:

– Campbell’s Soup Cans, by Andy Warhol

– One, by Jackson Pollock

– Map, by Jasper Johns

3rd Floor: The 3rd floor holds a vast assortment of drawings, photographs, and architecture and design pieces. Also check out the floor’s special exhibitions, which explore current architecture projects and larger collections from the drawing and photography galleries.

2nd Floor: The 2nd floor is home to the museum’s media and contemporary art galleries, which feature large-scale pieces and installations. Also check out the print and illustrated books section and Café 2, a cafeteria-style eatery with meal-sized pasta, chicken, and dessert dishes.

1st Floor/Lobby: With ticket counters, information centers, membership services and audio equipment rentals, the first floor serves as the museum’s information hub. In nice weather, take a stroll through the Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, also located on this level. Afterwards, stop by The Modern, the MoMA’s sophisticated fine dining restaurant. A separate bar room, which serves smaller plates of The Modern’s French-American cuisine, compliments the main room, which overlooks the Sculpture Garden.

As a final note, I also wanted to mention how wonderful the MoMA Design store was.  It was chock-full of rows and rows of art books spanning every kind of medium of art and artist imaginable, it also has a slew of prints, postcards, and keepsakes, as well as aisles filled with the most clever and uniquely designed items for your home, office. If you are looking for the perfect gift for that hard to shop for person in your life, this is a wonderful place to go. If you are pressed for time and cannot explore the museum, I would highly encourage you to stop by the museum shop.

Prior to our visit to MoMA, we were able to get our creative juices flowing by experimenting and creating unique works of art with the new MoMA Art Lab app for the iPad ($4.99). This app allows both children (ages 7+) and adults to explore how artists use line, shape, and color, and create and share your own artwork inspired by MoMA’s collection. A variety of artists are featured in this app including Henri Matisse, Jim Lambie, Brice Marden, Elizabeth Murray and Jean (Hans) Arp.

The app features include:

– Create a sound composition

– Draw with scissors

– Make a line design

– Collaborate on a group drawing

– Create a shape poem

– Make a chance collage

This app enables users to turn simple shapes and lines into art. Our favorite activity in the Art Lab was the ability to experiment with stretching, turning, shrinking, and layering shapes in a multitude of colors. The app offers additional fun suggestions such as creating an entire city using only geometric shapes, making a person or an animal using only straight lines, creating a design using only circles or only triangles, and much more.

Sister Act
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250

We have been Raven-Symone fans since the very beginning. Our boys have seen her as little Olivia on The Cosby Show via Netflix to the Cheetah Girls, That’s So Raven, and our family’s all time favorite, College Road Trip. We were blown away by her exceptional performance in Sister Act at the Broadway Theatre. We were not only able to sit in the second row, where we could see every expression she made, but were later able to get her autograph and get a picture with her as well. She was as real and as personable in person as she appears on the stage and screen.  In addition to her performance, the entire cast and overall show were fantastic and was thoroughly enjoyed by our entire family. (The show is recommended for children ages 9+)

The musical is based on the hit 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg as a club singer forced to seek refuge in convent and become a temporary nun after she witnesses a murder. Raven-Symone stars as Deloris Van Cartier, a would-be disco diva in 1970s Philly who goes into hiding when the bullets start flying. Deloris is quickly befriended by the nuns of the convent and has on-going difficulties seeing eye to eye with the Mother-Superior. This show is funny, is filled with catchy songs, wonderful set changes, and more costume changes than you thought could be possible for nuns.  The show had a great uplifting message that had all of us grinning from ear to ear.

The sad news is that Sister Act will play its final performance on August 26th. At the time of closing the show will have played 28 preview and 561 regular performances. Raven-Symone joined the cast as Deloris Van Cartier on March 27, 2012.  If you have the opportunity to see this show prior to its closing, it is highly recommended. Sister Act will launch a North America tour on October 2nd at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre.

Statue Cruises – Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
New Jersey.Liberty State Park
New York / Battery Park

We have visited NYC often.  In the past, I have been able to get photographs of Lady Liberty, but never as crisp and close-up as the ones that I took aboard our Statue Cruise.  The statue was a gift from France, and was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924, inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1984 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986. We were able to pick up our tickets at the Statue Cruise Line ticket office which was located inside historic Castle Clinton at Battery Park. The cruise offered ample seating below or above deck and had a concession stand as well as restrooms aboard. The statue is currently undergoing a $27.25 million renovation that includes long-planned safety and other critical facility renovations. Although the interior of the Statue of Liberty is currently being renovated and we were not able to go inside, the outside views were still spectacular. Liberty Island will remain open during the Statue’s year-long renovation. We were able to visit the island, walk around the entire statue, get some great photos of both Lady Liberty as well as the downtown skyline including the Freedom Tower, and explore the gift shop.

Upon leaving Liberty Island, the boat docked at Ellis Island. There you will find historic halls and galleries where more than 12 million immigrants first entered America. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and is one of the country’s most popular historic sites. In 2001, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, unveiled the American Family Immigration History Center. This family research facility at Ellis Island provides visitors with advanced computer and multimedia technology, printed materials, and professional assistance for investigating immigration history, family documentation, and genealogical exploration.

9/11 Memorial

It was a humbling and privileged experience being able to visit the 9/11 Memorial as a family. The 9/11 Memorial is located at the site of the former World Trade Center complex in lower Manhattan, and occupies approximately half of the 16-acre site. The 9/11 Memorial features two enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools, each about an acre in size, set within the footprints of the twin towers. We were able to locate many names alongside the North and South waterfalls and pay tribute to those individuals who lost their lives in the tragic events of 9/11. We were able to witness the ongoing progress of the Freedom Tower, as well as the construction of the 9/11 Museum. We were also able to see the Survivor Tree, A pear tree that miraculously survived the Sept. 11th terror attack and blossomed at ground zero on the first day of spring. The “Survivor Tree” was discovered amid the smoldering rubble, limbs lifeless, roots snapped, trunk blackened. Workers freed it and it was nursed back to health in a Bronx park before it was replanted. Now topping 30 feet, four times its size in 2001, it towers above other trees in Memorial Plaza at the World Trade Center.

Advance visitor passes to the 9/11 Memorial are required. Visitors must reserve advance passes for a specific date and time. Visitor passes are free and available through the Memorial’s online reservation system.  A limited number of passes for same-day visits are also available daily at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey St. (at Church Street) beginning at 9:00 a.m., the NYC & Co. kiosk at City Hall and the NY Water Taxi booth at the South Street Seaport.  Click here to access the Memorial reservation system.

Bike & Roll – New York City
866-736-8224 or 1-866-RENT-A-BIKE

On past visits to New York we have walked through Central Park, taken a taxi and even a horse drawn carriage ride. We have seen the merry go round and the zoo, eaten hot dogs and played Frisbee in the meadow.  However, we wanted this trip to be different, to experience the park in a new way. We learned that on the weekends, Central Park closes its roads from all vehicle traffic and it is a haven for the public to enjoy.  How better to experience the sheer beauty and magnitude of the park than by bike. On a gorgeous 80 degree Saturday, we rented bikes from Bike & Roll’s Tavern on The Green location in Central Park.  There we were each expertly sized and fitted with a Trek Comfort Bike, helmets, lock, water bottle holders and a handlebar bag to stow our cell phones and snacks.  We were given a park map and we were off to explore.  What an exhilarating experience to be biking alongside runners, other bikers, roller-bladers, horse-drawn carriages and Pedi-cabs, the park was truly alive.  We were able to see baseball games, a ginourmous public pool, as well as people boating along the water, painting, and groups of people doing tai-chi and picnicking.  It was an immersive experience for the whole family. The bike ride was comfortable and we were able to experience the park in a whole new active way.

We elected to rent bikes and freestyle through the park given our tight time frame between activities, however, Bike & Roll offers a whole host of New York City Tours & Rentals. These tours include choices such as: The 9/11 Bike Memorial, Hudson/Brooklyn Bridge, as well as Guided Central Park tours.   The guided tours are:

Easy. The tours are completed at a relaxing pace, on mostly flat bike paths and trails, with limited street riding. There are lots of stops scheduled to learn about the sites, soak in the atmosphere and take pictures.

Safe. The tour routes are designed with safety in mind and avoid automobile traffic when possible. Each tour begins with a safety and bike usage talk, and the guides are trained in CPR and first aid. Free helmets are provided, as well as reflective vests and safety lights on our evening tours.

Great for all ages. Bike and Roll can accommodate all different sizes and ages with our huge selection of all-new TREK bikes, including trailer carriers, trailer tandems, and kid’s bikes. Many of their tours are family-friendly, with just the right amount of riding, extra time built in to explore the sites on foot, and even a snack!

Gershwin Theater
222 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10019

For years I have heard about what an amazing show Wicked is and have been told that we MUST see it.  We finally did!  Everyone who says that it is the best show on Broadway is absolutely correct.  Wicked first premiered on Broadway October 30, 2003. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, it tells the story of the relationship between Elphaba (The future Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda (The future Good Witch of the North) and the events that led up to the popular story of the Wizard of Oz.  The musical is loosely based on the bestselling novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. The show features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman. With musical staging by Tony Award winner Wayne Cilento, Wicked is directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello. The show is suggested for children 8+ and from the moment you enter the Gershwin Theater you know that you are in for a huge treat.  The stage was elaborately decorated with a large multi-level set adorned above by a huge dragon and clock. The sets were incredible, the story felt as though it flew by with one amazing performance after another.  Everything was perfect from the orchestra to the ensemble’s singing and dancing.  The cast was phenomenal.  We were fortunate enough to see a matinee performance starring both Chandra Lee Schwartz as Glinda and Jackie Burns as Elphaba. The combination of Chandra Lee Schwartz’ comedic timing and the sheer vocal power and raw emotion that emanated from Jackie Burns blew us all away. We were able to return later that evening to get both of their autographs and have photos taken with them. We left the show in hand with playbills, a souvenir Wicked program, the CD as well as the piano sheet music.  Since our return home, our boys keep asking us “When can we go back to New York to see it again? Wicked was wonderful and a MUST SEE if you are in New York.

It was another fantastic FIRE WIRE Road Trip.  We look forward to sharing our experiences with you on our next adventure. (Written by Meredith Fire-Hess)

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