Appreciating the little things on a big family trip

View from the boat.

View from the boat.

In many ways last week’s family trip to New York City was a homecoming—though we’ve lived in California since 2002, both my wife and I hail from the NY area.

The two of us always have agreed that we’ve wanted the girls to know the City. This is why we packed our itinerary with pizza and bagels and black-and-whites and Mister Softees—in many ways these are some of the very things we associate with NYC. It’s also why we spent so much of our visit experiencing things that we have taken to be quintessentially New York: Riding the subways, ogling skyscrapers, playing in Battery Park, and getting lost in the American Museum of Natural History, to name a few.

Central Park was high on our to-do list as well. One classic NYC experience there that neither of us ever had done: Rowing boats from the Loeb Boathouse and paddling them on The Lake.

Naturally, then, when our friends suggested doing this on a sunny Tuesday, we jumped at the chance. The boats are one of the best values in New York: $15 to rent a boat for an hour, and only $3 per hour after that. (You’ve got to give them a $20 deposit, but you get that back when you return the boat.)

The boats hold a maximum of four people and Baby G was (and is) too young to go, so Powerwoman stayed back with the babe, and I took L and R out my myself.

Rowing the big girls in the blazing sun was hard work, but it also was a great adventure. For everyone.

Donning their oversized life jackets, the girls yelled at me to, “stroke!” as we paddled under Bow Bridge (this was big for R; she loves bridges) and out into the main lake. We followed the shore to look for turtles. We happened upon a couple making out beneath a low-hanging branch. We marveled at the tops of the buildings near Columbus Circle. We even rowed aground near the west side to grab some leaves.

And even without the turtles and the leaves and the get-a-roomers and the skyscrapers, it would have been an awesome day. Because it was new for all of us.

The lesson, of course, is that family travel doesn’t always have to be a big, expensive ordeal. Yes, we flew across the country to spend a week in New York. But looking back on our trip, the very best hour IMHO was the one I spent on a rowboat in Central Park with my big kids—an experience that cost a whopping $15.

You can bet we’ll do it all over again next time. Maybe then I’ll even have them row.

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