The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

NYC Recap & What’s Next

When I told people I was taking the girls to New York a lot of people said “What are you going to do there?” I began to question it myself a bit, but I also knew that my girls would love the city and they did!


My biggest advice to anyone going to New York is not to stay in Times Square. It’s too crazy. There are hotels that are a few blocks away that are great, I highly recommend the W Union Square if you can swing it, otherwise do your research and find an airbnb apartment. Being in a neighborhood made a huge difference for our trip. The girls loved hanging out on the fire escape watching people walk their dogs, and it was so nice returning to somewhere quiet after a day walking around the city.


Regrets.
1. We never did pizza. I had scoped out a few pizza places that had gluten free pizza, but I figured we’d hit one of the slice places for lunch at some point. I’m not sure we even saw any? I didn’t even see a Ray’s Pizza! Maybe we were in the wrong areas, but I feel like New York has changed a lot in the last few years.

2. I need a new baseball hat and saw the perfect NYC hat on our walk to the boat. I didn’t stop because I figured we’d see it again but we never did!

3. Brooklyn. I really thought this would be the trip we’d finally make it to Brooklyn but nope. Next time.

4. The High Line. If we’d had better weather, we definitely would have hit the high line. Our apartment was just a few blocks from it and I think everyone would have loved it.


A few months ago I was talking with a coworker who just got back from Thailand. She was telling me how cheap everything was there so I started doing some research. Thailand is actually not a bad place to take kids. There are lots of beaches, and the food is kid friendly, but the girls weren’t necessarily on board. After some discussion, we decided to go to Paris for next year’s spring break. We were all excited and even started learning French! But, after this trip and all the walking, we discussed it again and agreed we wanted a beach vacation instead. So next year we’re headed to San Diego! It’s about time I bring the girls to my other home state of California. I found an ocean front condo in Solana Beach that we are all excited about. We can take walks along the beach, there’s a community pool we can use, and it’s centrally located between my friends and family in San Diego. I’m super excited and so are the girls.

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NYC – Cookie Do & Bronx Zoo

Tuesday! Cookie Dough! I have no idea how I found this place, but somewhere along the line I pinned it when I realized they had gluten free/dairy free cookie dough as well. So yes, it really is unbaked cookie dough. They use pasteurized eggs so you won’t get sick. It’s in Greenwich Village and very popular, so we got there just before they opened. It was the perfect 10 minute walk from our apartment. Oh! And! We saw them shooting a tv show as we walked, that was very cool.

The girls both got the Unicorn flavor, although neither of them loved it.

Since we may never get back here, I told both of them to get two flavors to try. It was definitely more than we could eat, but we took it back to the apartment and had it for dessert that night. My mom got a salty/sweet flavor which she really liked, and I liked both of my flavors (regular choc chip cookie dough, and a pb choc chip flavor). Everyone that works there is super nice and they make the experience really fun!

I love the Village and really wanted the girls to see NYU and Washington Square Park. Unfortunately, it was drizzling but we did wander through the park and they played on the playground for a bit before we headed back. We had lunch at the apartment, then headed to the subway for the 43 minute trip up to the Bronx Zoo. This was easily the longest subway ride any of us had been on and it went by surprisingly fast! We even were above ground for a good portion of it which was cool as well.

The Bronx Zoo! This was Caden’s one request and I’m so glad we did it. The grounds are lush! It was raining but that really didn’t matter because of all of the trees.

We headed into the Bird building right away to avoid the rain and were all pleasantly surprised by all of the gorgeous birds! I will spare you the 50+ pictures my kids took of them (didn’t bring the big camera along due to rain) but we were fascinated. The zoo did a really amazing job with the enclosures. There were gorgeous paintings and lots of trees and rocks for the birds to hang out on.

Both lions were sleeping, but doesn’t he look like a curled up kitty?

I love zoos, but goodness with all of the walking. We were exhausted by this point, so we headed over and grabbed a snack so we could rest a bit. There were peacocks everywhere throughout the zoo! They must get along with every animal because we saw them in 90% of the enclosures. This guy was just wandering the zoo, and came over by everyone eating. Some kids were chasing him so I stepped in, and he followed us to our table.

If you are in New York and have the time to hit up this zoo, we all highly recommend it. It was an absolutely gorgeous zoo, and they do a fabulous job with all of the animals. Every animal has a big enclosure and plenty of room to roam and play. The one bummer was that because it was middle of the week, a lot of the shops and extra things were closed. Would be fun to get back on a sunny day!

After our subway ride back, we had intended to go to Chelsea Market for dinner, but on the walk there we passed a chicken place that had intrigued me when we passed it earlier. Dirty Chicken! The food was delicious, and everyone was happy. The girls got soup and mashed potatoes, my mom got fried chicken and I had rotisserie chicken. They even served alcohol (rose cider for the win!).

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NYC – 9/11, Grand Central, Library

Because of the dinner fiasco Sunday evening, I tried to plan a little better for Monday. We walked a ton on Sunday, so we were hoping to walk a little less, and get back to the neighborhood in time for dinner, then watch a movie before bed (Ironman for the win!). Luckily, we had walked past a mexican restaurant that fit the dinner bill perfectly on Saturday. The promise of guacamole kept us going throughout the day!

First up, 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

The museum was incredibly well done. My mom and I worried that the girls wouldn’t understand the gravity of 9/11 while going through the museum, but they do such an amazing job that that wasn’t an issue at all. I assumed there would be pictures and memorabilia, but I was not prepared for the recordings. Listening to the voicemails people left for loved ones was overwhelming, and felt intensely personal. The girls listened to everything, I only listened to some. It was a heavy experience for everyone and I’m so glad we went.

After we headed to Wall St to catch the subway. I really wanted to find the Fearless Girl statue but I’ll be honest, I was tired and I wasn’t up to googling and mapping and figuring out how to get there. And I was hungry. So we headed to another one of my favorite places – Grand Central Station – for lunch.

My next genius idea was to head to the library! The girls love reading, and I’d never been to the New York Public Library so this was the perfect pit stop. We ate some treats in Bryant Park, then found the children’s section (which was right inside the door, clearly we weren’t the first people to do this) for a little down time. The girls found graphic novels to read, mom and I hit the couch for a little rest.

Can you spy them on the steps?

After we headed back to Times Square to catch the subway I’m guessing? And then walked to Dos Caminos for dinner? No, I think went to the apartment first? Either way, highly recommend Dos Caminos. Everyone loved their food, and the guac was worth it.

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NYC – Boat Cruise + Aladdin

The weather forecast was very iffy for the week and kept changing. Sunday seemed like a day that would be relatively rain free, so we booked our harbor cruise. The timing worked out well because the dock was on 42nd Street, and we also had tickets for Aladdin at 3:00, and the theater was on 42nd Street. Since we were hitting a Broadway show, the girls dressed up! Except right after this they put their coats on and really never took them off the rest of the day, so that was kind of a bust.

We ate a small breakfast at home, then went out for crepes as kind of a brunch? Caden was really excited about the crepes and turns out, she was right to be. They were fabulous! They even had a buckwheat crepe that I could eat. The girls did dessert crepes, and my mom and I got prosciutto and brie. They were to die for.

After brunch we took the blue line up to the Times Square station and what do we see as we get to street level? Carlo’s Bakery! We are big Cake Boss fans, so the girls were thrilled. We took a quick look inside, but since we’d just eaten, we came back after the boat cruise for treats. We had plenty of time, so we wandered Times Square a bit. This area has changed so much! It was mind boggling. Lots of places for people to gather and hang out, as well as food truck type buildings. It was pretty cloudy, so the girls got a good view of the billboards, but we also walked back through at night on our way to the subway stop when they got the full Times Square experience.

The boat cruise was really well done, except it was really hard to get pictures. People sat in chairs initially, but quickly got up to take pictures on either side. I’m not the type to do that so I have people in my shots. If you want unobstructed views, book the VIP package (premier I think?) where you have the top deck and it’s much fewer people. The guy did an awesome narration, but because we were towards the back of the boat, we saw whatever building he was talking about once he moved onto the next topic. My mom and I were v. confused at first until we figured that out.

 

You go right out next to the Statue of Liberty which was perfect. The girls got a great close up view of it! The guide had lots of great facts which they totally soaked up.

Isn’t the Brooklyn Bridge beautiful? We intended to walk across it, but with the cool and rainy weather, it just wasn’t in the cards. Next trip I’m definitely getting over to Brooklyn though!

I’ve done a harbor cruise before, but I think it was an evening cruise, and I don’t remember seeing all of the different bridges. This bridge was built after the Eiffel Tower, so the bases are steel rather than granite like the Brooklyn Bridge.

Right after the Statue of Liberty it totally started raining. My mom and I laughed because this was supposed to be a day without rain! And of course it rained. Luckily, the rain ended by the time we needed to hike back up 42nd Street to go to the show. LOVED Aladdin. Totally loved it! It was 2.5 hours long, but super engaging. The costumes were amazing, the musical numbers were amazing, and the Genie totally steals the show. Highly recommend it!

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NYC – Central Park

Apologies in advance for the picture overload, but Saturday was our only sunny day and we spent it in Central Park, so I have zillion pictures.

After trekking through Belvedere Castle, we wandered down towards the boat house for a little snack. There were a ton of people renting boats! It was a miracle there were no accidents out there. After our fries and ice cream, we headed over to the Bethesda Fountain. This is one of my favorite places for people watching in Central Park. We sat down by the fountain and proceeded to take a million pictures, most of them goofy. The girls don’t necessarily get the whole people watching thing and we needed a break, so I handed over my camera and let them snap away.

After the fountain we headed down the walk, intending to head towards the southern end of the park. But, there were portrait artists everywhere and Delaney really wanted her portrait drawn. One guy waved us over but as I looked at his drawings I realized I did not want to pay for that, so I snagged the girls quickly and found a different guy (who was of course directly across from the first guy, Caden was beyond embarassed but I did not care). He said it would only take 10 minutes, but it was just about an hour to draw both girls. It looks amazing though! He did a fantastic job. We wandered up and down and checked out all of the art, watched the guy do a sand drawing, and ogled the wedding parties having their pictures taken. Also a solid people watching spot.

By this time we were tired and hungry, so we headed back to the apartment to find dinner. Eating dinner was definitely more difficult with kids. Not every restaurant has kids menus, and I was not having my kids order expensive entrees. Saturday we went to a neighborhood spot called Corner Bistro that luckily served burgers, fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with bacon. There was a hangry moment where I thought we might lose Caden, but the bacon came through for her and she now has a new favorite sandwich.

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New York City!

If you’re friends with me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve realized we were in New York City the last few days. I have been planning this trip for a very long time! New York is one of my favorite cities to visit. It’s always felt like home to me and has been somewhere I feel a pull to return to over and over. But I will definitely admit, it’s very different doing the city with kids.

Two plus years ago we went to Chicago. While we live near a big city, it’s not really a big city. Chicago was the trip to see if the girls could handle NYC. When that trip went well, I knew we’d be fine in New York. I didn’t want to go over spring break, but instead just after school let out so we’d have a shot at warmer weather. It worked out well to go this year since we were in Arizona over Thanksgiving, which made it easier to skip a spring break trip.

In the past I’ve used to points to stay at nice hotels in the city but, I don’t travel enough to have a ton of points anymore, so we used Airbnb to rent an apartment. I love staying in apartments when I vacation. I stay in a lot of hotel rooms for work and while they’re fine when you aren’t in them much, I really like having a couch to relax on, rooms for people to retreat to, and a kitchen to cook in. I looked at a lot of apartments online, and ultimately went with one in the West Village that was nicely updated, but still in an area I was familiar with and knew would be a good neighborhood. We ate breakfast at home every day, and it was nice having a refrigerator to keep snacks and leftovers in. While the apartment was small, the space was used well and it didn’t feel small at all. It was also across the street from a chocolatier, Starbucks, and above a wine shop and a french bakery. We all loved having our home base in a quiet neighborhood, especially the girls as they watched dog after dog get walked on our street from the fire escape.

More posts to come once I have a chance to process all of our pictures, but for now, a few from our first day in the city. Saturday was our only sunny, gorgeous day, so we headed straight up to Central Park. I had never explored the Belvedere Castle before, so we climbed to the top and took in the amazing views!

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Epcot – Friday

Our last Disney day!

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Our final day was at Epcot. Because we knew we wanted to try to stay until the fireworks, I didn’t schedule our first Fast Pass until 11:10am. Laying in bed that morning, I had to give myself a little pep talk. My hips were hurting from standing so much the night before at the fireworks, and I was not looking forward to another long day of walking. Advil and Starbucks at the park got me through! We took our time around the house in the morning and got to the park about 11:30. All of the rides are near the front of the park, so I knew we’d have plenty of time to get to Test Track. The wait time for Test Track was 60 minutes, so I definitely recommend using a Fast Pass! (Mission Space never had a wait time over 20 minutes).

So Test Track. All I knew was that you designed a car, and then it was a simulator? My dad kept asking if this was really a ride. Once we saw the sign that said it was a turbulent ride, we knew. The girls had a blast designing their cars, but I had no idea what they would think of the ride. You get into a real car, and then it simulates different road conditions. We were indoors at first, but then it started going really fast and the next thing I knew we were outside banking a corner. Everyone loved it!

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Caden really, REALLY wanted to do Mission Space so she could be the commander of the spaceship. We went with the non-spinny version of the ride which was perfect. Delaney got a little nervous before we went in, but once we were inside she was fine. I got a little nervous once we got inside, but once the simulation started I was fine (although sweaty). This was super fun as well! Loved it.

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Our second Fast Pass was for Spaceship Earth. The great thing about Epcot was that we hadn’t been there in 20 years? So everything was new. The journey through history was maybe a little boring, but the girls loved at the end when they got to see what their future would look like.

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My mom is a huge gardener, and when we found these we all went nuts! Can you believe we were there one week before their big garden show??

We had dinner reservations for 6:15 in Mexico, which is the last country in the World Showcase. We headed to Canada about 3:00, which was perfect timing. A friend had told me that Epcot has little crafty things for kids in each country, so we found the Kidcot spot in Canada (why oh why do they hide them?) and the girls colored their little bears. We hit the Kidcot spot in each country and the girls LOVED this little activity. It was definitely worthwhile to hunt these down.

Around this time I was starving, so we hightailed it to the UK so we could grab a drink and some food. We absolutely should have eaten outside of the World Showcase. Once you’re in there it’s mostly sit down restaurants, and everything was full. We ended up getting fish and chips from a little booth. The guy told me I could have the fries, but they made me sick. At that point, I had to eat and all of my snacks were gone so I took all of my pills and hoped for the best. The pear cider I drank eased my pain though.

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I was super fascinated with the topiary characters in each country!

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Clearly.

We started in Canada at 3:00 and had to skip Norway to get to Mexico for our 6:15 reservations. If you want to drink your way around the world, you definitely need to leave yourself some time. We shopped in China (Caden loves pandas) and Japan (so many cool things to buy!), and hit the candy store in Germany.

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As we sat down for dinner my mom and I looked at each other and knew we weren’t staying for the 9:00pm fireworks. We’d had a great day, the fireworks the night before were amazing, there was no reason to push it. Dinner was fabulous! I had done my research, and Mexico labels the gluten free and dairy free items which was so nice.

Caden had found a souvenir in China, but Delaney still had money to spend. She really, really wanted us to go back to China to shop some more, but I really just wanted to head out at that point. I offered her $10 to do her shopping in Mexico, and the deal was done. They both found cute jewelry boxes and were very happy with their purchases.

Epcot was the perfect ending to our trip. We definitely could have spent more time there! I loved that it was almost like two parks, with the rides up front and the World Showcase in the back. Total steps for the day – 14,826.

disclaimer – it was super sunny out that day and it doesn’t seem to matter what I do to edit my pictures, they are all coming out green. Sorry!

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Off Day + Magic Kingdom again on Thursday

Just as I was pulling my weekend pictures off my phone, the battery died! It died doing the same thing when we came back from Florida, so I have a feeling a trip to the camera store is in my near future. While it charges, we will head back to Disney.

Wednesday was our off day with no parks planned. This day was key. By this point, we were all pretty tired. My brother and his family headed to Cocoa Beach, while the rest of us stayed back at the house. It rained in the morning, so we slept in, read books, and played foosball. Once the sun came out we headed to Downtown Disney. I loved it! Great shopping, and it was super fun to walk around. If you are gluten free or vegan, head straight for Erin McKenna’s bakery and buy as much as you can! I’m still thinking about that cupcake. We spent the rest of the day swimming in the pool, throwing steaks on the grill so we could just hang at home.

Thursday morning we headed out bright and early to Magic Kingdom, while my brother and his family headed to the airport to head back. Since our group was now just five people, I was able to get Fast Passes for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train (this is easily the hottest ride ticket. I saw the wait time get to 170 minutes one day). The rain storm on Wednesday ushered in a cold front and it was chilly! We knew it was going to be colder and thought we packed for it, but once we got to the park we realized our thin sweatshirts were not going to cut it. We bought sweatshirts to layer over our other clothes for everyone and thank goodness we did! We wore them most of Thursday and Friday, without them we likely would have been pretty miserable.

So, we did the mine train right away. I liked it, the girls hated it. That said, it’s fairly tame. After that my dad and I headed to Space Mountain. He didn’t get a chance to go on it when we were there on Sunday and since the wait time was 10 minutes, we figured it was the perfect time. Tomorrowland was empty! The girls and my mom did the Buzz Lightyear ride twice since there was no line! We joined them and rode it one more time, since I needed to redeem my awful first score.

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The girls really wanted to get some autographs this time around, so we waited for Alice and the Mad Hatter. It was about a 20 minute wait, and while they loved it, they both agreed they’d rather ride the rides.

Since we were right next door, we went to the Starlight Cosmic Ray’s cafe for lunch. I was able to get a cheeseburger with a gluten free bun AND fries! I can never eat the fries because they’re always cross contaminated, but she assured me I would be good. They were amazing.

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Caden requested that we go on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride again, and I really wanted a Dole Whip float, so we headed back that way. While cool, it was a beautiful day! So we stopped and took some pictures.

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In case you love the Dole Whip as well, we all agreed that plain is where it’s at. No one loved the float.

I waited way too long to write this, so I don’t completely remember, but I think we headed back to the house at this point? Our goal was to leave around 2:00, in order to get a few hour break in, and come back round 5:30pm.

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At some point during the day I switched out last Fast Pass to the Tinkerbell meet and greet. This was a clutch decision. We walked right in! And she was amazing. Perfect voice, super sweet, chatted the girls up, I loved it. Totally magical.

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Because the park opened at 8am, the electric parade was at 7:00 and fireworks were at 8:00. Thank goodness. We thought we had a good spot for the parade, but a park worker told us to head to Liberty Square. It was more crowded than we thought it would be, but we did get front row spots so it was perfect. The girls were able to sit on the ground and everyone around us was nice and not pushy.

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After the parade we booked it to get in front of the castle. I LOVED the Celebrate the Magic show before the fireworks! What maybe killed me a little was holding Caden for that show. It’s only 15 minutes, but I could really feel all that standing and holding the next day. The fireworks were also amazing, and I’m glad we were able to come back for them.

Total steps – 17,731! Our biggest day!

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Animal Kingdom – Tuesday

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Animal Kingdom! This is one of my favorite parks. As we walked into the main area of the park we had to stop and get some pictures in front of the Tree of Life. Sidenote, last time we were at Disney, PhotoPass photographers were everywhere. It was super easy to have them take your picture. This time around? Only saw them in a few places, and there was always a line. Not a fan.

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We made our way into Dino Land to hit those rides first. The kids did this ride first, then we went on Primeval Whirl. It looked like an easy ride, but they really whipped you around those corners!

After wandering around a bit, we headed to Expedition Everest for our first Fast Pass. I love this roller coaster. You are going along all easy and you think it’s nothing! Easy peasy. And then the tracks look like they were ripped apart and you remember YES! We’re going backwards! Might have been my favorite roller coaster of the trip!

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It was the perfect day for the Kali River Rapids ride, except it’s closed. We watched the monkeys for a bit, then wandered along the trails. Caden loves maps, so we let her be the navigator. They do such a great job with the variety of animals that they had. Even the birds were beautiful and birds I hadn’t seen anywhere else.

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This picture really sets the tone for Caden for the day. It was our third park, and she was tired. I felt about the same at this point, so we found a place to have lunch and sit down for a bit. Animal Kingdom gets the highest scores for food at any of the parks. I had plenty of gluten free options, everyone else loved their food, and there was plenty of shaded tables to sit at.

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Right as we got into our safari vehicle it started raining. Pouring down rain! It was perfect timing since those vehicles have roofs. Our driver said the rain might even make for better animal watching. Obviously I have to include a picture of the giraffes. There were so many, and they were so close to the truck, and they are so beautiful!

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And then, the elephants. My other favorite. The kids were beyond thrilled!

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After the safari we hiked along another trail. This one had bats (I skipped), hippos (under water so cool!) and a gorilla. The gorilla was so cool and so chill. I swear he posed for us.

Kristina had been seeing a train that took people behind the scenes of the park, so we hopped on that as our last thing. Luckily, it took us to Rafiki’s Planet Watch which is where Delaney wanted to go. They talked a lot about wildlife conservation, and had goats for the girls to brush.

As we were taking the train back both of my girls had meltdowns. They were both exhausted (I was too, it had been a long three days at that point). Delaney was mad at me because I had said we would circle back to these carnival games in Dino Land if we had time (which we didn’t). I ended up carrying Caden out of the park. From the look on her face I knew she was done and luckily, she doesn’t weigh much.

Total steps – 14,198.

I promise to completely drag this out next week too, no worries.

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