Friday, July 29, 2011

The Best Things In Life Are Free: Staten Island Ferry

The Statue of Liberty is an amazing sight, albeit one that is rather difficult and time-consuming to get to. In keeping with the “being a tourist in our own city” theme, I had tentatively planned an all-day pilgrimage with Charlie to see the Lovely Lady this summer, only to find out that on the day we were scheduled to go, all tour boats to Liberty Island were completely booked. So we ended up doing what I don’t think is only the next best thing, but may just be the best thing: we rode the Staten Island Ferry for free (let me repeat that: for free) and then followed a Time Out Kids itinerary for the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island.

I’ll be honest with you: St. George is no great shakes. You could probably skip it altogether, although I’ll fill you in on what we did anyway in case you’re jonesing to break out of your Manhattan malaise and visit another borough. Exotic it ain’t. But it is another borough. Just manage your expectations accordingly—which, come to think of it, may just be my best piece of advice when attempting any type of activity or outing with young children. That, and always arrive armed to the teeth with snacks.

What you absolutely, positively should do on a regular basis, however, is ride the Staten Island Ferry if for no reason other than that it’s free (did I mention that already?), it’s easy, and it offers an unparalleled view of the Statue of Liberty. If I had to do it all over again, I would just ride the ferry over and back and not leave the ferry terminal. In fact, the Staten Island Ferry may be my new favorite go-to stop for out-of-town guests.

Now for some of the other stops on our day’s journey, courtesy of Time Out Kids:

Staten Island Ferry, Getting there: Take the 1 Train to South Ferry and head to the Whitehall/Staten Island Ferry Terminal,; Hours: During rush hour, the ferry runs about every 15 minutes; during non-rush hour, it runs about every ½ hour; Free.

Rispoli Pastry Shop, 29 Hyatt Street, Staten Island, NY 10302-1801, (718) 273-5224: Most of the time, the key to my children’s happiness seems to be simply keeping them well-fed. To that end, this was our first stop immediately off the ferry to stock up on Italian cookies.

Lt. Lia Playground, Wall Street between Belmont and St. Marks Place, Staten Island, NY: With few exceptions, a playground is a playground is a playground and this one was no different. Its one benefit worth noting was that it was encircled by a shady pergola with benches.

Everything Goes Book Café & Neighborhood Stage, 208 Bay Street (near Victory Boulevard), Staten Island, NY 10301-1904,  Directions: turn left when leaving the terminal and either walk along Bay Street until you run into it on your right or take the #51 or #76 bus to Victory Blvd,, (718) 447-8256: A hippie dippie bookstore and café that will make you feel like you’ve stepped back into a friend’s rec room circa 1979. Their shelves were well-stocked with vintage Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and comic books and they had lots of records for sale, which led to an interesting discussion with Charlie as to what, exactly, a record is.

Gourmet Dog, 40 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301-1904, (718) 727-1234: Try their world-famous crunchy dog, a split, grilled hot dog layered with their secret sauce and potato chips. Be prepared for friendly, but very slow, service.

-Riding the Ferry with Captain Cruz by Alice Flanagan

Monday, July 18, 2011

Anybody Seen Snooki?: Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

We may be dyed-in-the-wool urbanites, but that doesn’t mean that, come summer, we don’t crave cooling ocean breezes and sand between our toes as much as the next person. New York City boasts a plethora of sandy shores all suitable for daytrips by car or train. We chose Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, mostly because it afforded me the opportunity to crack jokes about the Jersey Shore.

Charlie and I hit the road bright and early, arriving in Point Pleasant around 10:30 AM to find plenty of empty parking spaces in lots ranging from $2.25 to $10.00 a day depending on beach proximity. The air temperature barely hit 70 degrees and the ocean was freezing and rough the day we were there, but that didn’t deter my six-year-old cold-blooded water baby from dashing pell-mell into the arctic surf, shouting and whooping in delight as the cold water lapped at the hem of his bathing suit.

We didn’t catch a glimpse of Snooki or any of her fellow Guidos or Guidettes (they actually rose to fame 11 miles down the road in Seaside Heights), but we did find a delightfully uncrowded expanse of beach, a mile-long boardwalk with an old-timey, retro, not-too-cheesy vibe, buff lifeguards cruising the beach on those groovy lifeguard dune buggy things (what are those called anyway?), candy apples, and miniature golf.

Not bad for an hour and a half drive from the city on a random Monday in the summer.

Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, Public beach access at the southern end of town; two bath houses with bathrooms and changing rooms can be found at the end of Broadway Avenue and at the end of Parkway Avenue and open at 9:00 AM,
Jenkinson’s Beach Boardwalk,, Most rides open between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Calling All Non-Crafty Bookworms: Scribble Press

My kids didn't write this book. But I wish they had.

I have always been kind of a nerdish bookworm, so Scribble Press, a make-your-own-bookstore on the Upper West Side (there’s another location on the Upper East Side and for those of you on the left coast, one in Los Angeles as well), is the kind of place I would have adored as a child.

An open studio of sorts, Scribble Press has a variety of projects from which to choose. Books are really their signature item, but for less bookish types, there are also calendars, notecards, bookmarks, and placemats just crying out to be created and personalized. Once you’ve decided on your project, pick out your art supplies and start writing and illustrating your masterpiece.

No fighting over markers at Scribble Press

While you’re waiting for your book to be printed and bound, head down the street and grab lunch at Artie’s, a retro 1930’s New York Jewish delicatessen. 

Pull up a barstool and place your order at Artie's

By the time you’ve sufficiently stuffed yourself full of corned beef, potato pancakes, and cheese blintzes, your book should be ready for pick-up.

Tada! Pirates, Princesses, and airplanes

For those enterprising and crafty readers who might argue that they could produce equally impressive books at home for a fraction of Scribble Press’s cost, I say break out the Magic Markers and get on with your bad selves. When I practice parenting, however, my cost analysis goes something like this:
  • The cost of making a book at Scribble Press: $28 and up
  • Getting out of apartment and not having to plan and execute a book-making project and being able to not feel bad about my own lack of arts and crafts inclination and prowess? Priceless

There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s plastic.

Scribble Press, 217 West 84th Street (@ Broadway), New York, New York 10024, (212) 362-2555,; Open Monday to Thursday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Friday and Saturday 10 AM to 7:00 PM, Sunday 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM; Costs: There is no studio fee and products start at $15.
Artie’s, 2290 Broadway (@ 83rd Street), New York, New York 10024, (212) 579-5959,