As April approaches I am reminded of how excited my family and I were last year at this time as we planned our first trip to New York City! Despite growing up only a few hundred miles away in Canada, I had never actually been there. Over the years I had heard so much about this famous city that I just had to visit!

We stayed for a week in a simple little hostel on 103rd Street, just a block from Central Park. On our first day we got ourselves weekly passes for the subway and bus system, so we could explore the city easily. Of course we had a list of must-see tourist attractions, like Times Square (above), the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum and Brooklyn Bridge.

Although I’m not very keen on going to the top of very tall buildings, it would have been crazy to visit New York and not go up the Empire State Building. We had to wait for a clear day, as it is so tall it sometimes gets enveloped in clouds!

Inside, the building is very beautiful, with 1930s Art Deco design in marble and brass. It was begun in 1930 and took just over a year to build, with up to 3,000 men working on it at one time. Getting to the top takes quite a while, but it’s worth it for the amazing view of the city you get from the top. In this picture we are looking north-east, and you can just see the point of the Chrysler Building, another beautiful Art Deco masterpiece.

To see another well known landmark, the Statue of Liberty, we decided to take the Staten Island Ferry which sails right past it. The ferry was free, so we got a great view as we went by. You can see by the size of the people down below just how big the statue is!

One of the things my children were very keen to try was a New York hotdog! There are lots of hotdog stands all over Manhattan, so it wasn’t hard to grant their wish. Once they tasted the first one, they wanted hotdogs every day for lunch!

We did lots and lots of walking around the city, crossing Central Park most days to catch a bus down Fifth Avenue. It’s amazing how enormous the buildings are all around you, with so many people bustling about. It was all very exciting!

One day we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, which goes from the City Hall area over to Brooklyn (south-east of Manhattan). It’s a huge suspension bridge built in Victorian times (1883 to be precise). If you want to see a video of what it’s like to cross this bridge, click HERE. From Brooklyn Bridge you can see some great views of the city.

We were very lucky in the timing of our visit, as some great things happened while we were in New York. First, we discovered that an opera called The Elixir of Love was on at the Lincoln Centre, and that tickets were only $12! This was an opera that we all knew quite well because my son had been in a production of it when he was younger (playing a village boy). We don’t go to a lot of operas but this one we knew and could hum along to so we had to buy tickets! It was a fantastic show, and the set was done in 1950s style with a real car that rolled on in the second act!

The other amazingly lucky thing that happened was in the middle of our trip, on a Wednesday. We were walking along Fifth Avenue, heading towards the Apple Store which is a giant glass cube. As we came to 47th Street we found there was a barricade blocking traffic and pedestrians, with police standing around. A crowd had gathered, and when I asked a policeman what was happening, he said simply, “The President.” As we stood there, a whole fleet of black security vehicles and several motorcycles zoomed past. Sure enough, a few minutes later two huge black limousines rolled by with little flags on them. In the back of the second one, I saw President Obama waving!

My son was so busy trying to take a picture of the first big limousine that he missed seeing the President in the second one. He was so upset! We weren’t sure how to console him, so we carried on walking to the Apple Store and looked at computers and iPhones for about an hour. He was still miserable as we headed back up Fifth Avenue, but when we got to 47th Street the road was still blocked. You can imagine our delight when the policeman I asked said, “The President” again! He was coming back!

This time we were ready, and when the second limousine went by we lifted my son up as high as we could over the crowds of people. (As he was eleven at the time, this was quite a feat!) But it was worth it to let him share in our amazing experience. We saw President Obama! (We found out later that he was in New York to attend an important meeting at the United Nations Headquarters.)

On our last day in New York it was sunny and hot, and we hired bikes to ride all the way around Central Park. What a fantastic way to end our amazing holiday!

If you want to see more pictures of New York, here’s a YouTube video of one of my favourite Rufus Wainwright songs, called 14th Street.