A Very Sweet Sixteen

My daughter turned sixteen this month, and after MUCH advance discussion about her progressively more elaborate visions for a Sweet Sixteen party, I suggested that we take a little getaway instead. I figured that if I’m going to spend money celebrating a milestone, I’d much rather spend it on experiences and memories versus DJs and caterers.  And that’s how I found myself headed to New York City with three sixteen-year-old-girls in tow…and my husband’s laughter echoing in my ears.

I had asked my daughter to come up with a “wish list” of things that she and her friends would like to see and do while we were there, and had done some advance reconnaissance with my siblings who live/work in Manhattan, and we had a pretty ambitious itinerary planned out. And I have to say we did it all!  The weekend was a blast (even for me) and I think the girls will remember it forever.

We drove down (3 hours door-to-door, not bad at all) parked the car for the weekend, and checked in for a two night stay at The Muse, a Kimpton hotel on 46th St. between 6th and Broadway. The location could not have been better – one block in from Times Square, but just enough removed from the madness, and an easy walk to anywhere we needed to go.  The hotel itself was exactly what we were looking for. The girls wanted a boutique hotel with a cool downtown vibe, without having to actually be downtown, and The Muse delivered! From the serene lobby with its “faux” fireplace (a flat screen showing flickering flames above an abstract hearth of “logs”), to the funky lobby bathroom (unisex stalls, each one elaborately decorated, themed, and named), and the beautiful restaurant/wine bar, it had just the right atmosphere. Because they had oversold our room category, we were upgraded to a spacious suite on the 17th floor with a king bedroom and separate living area with pullout sleeper couch – more than enough room for four women and their “stuff”.

The location and décor aside, the thing that most impressed me about this hotel was the service. The front desk staff were quick to provide help, advice and directions. They delivered a handwritten welcome note and some delicious treats the first night. And when the girls decided to test the hotel’s “if you forgot it, we’ll provide it” promise on Saturday night, the front desk rose to the challenge by rushing us a curling iron and some hairspray!

So what did we do while we were there?

Friday’s agenda included a visit (and lunch) with my sister at the Google offices downtown, followed by some window shopping in designer boutiques in the Meatpacking District and the West Village. Then we fortified ourselves with cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery before heading back to the hotel to change and then run over to the East Side for manis/pedis (which were a very thoughtful birthday gift from one of the girls and her mom) From there, we grabbed hot pretzels from a street vendor while we walked back over to Times Square to board “The Ride”, which was an awesome 75-minute party bus ride through the city with music, commentary, and plenty of surprising (and interactive) vignettes going on outside the bus. Afterwards, we grabbed a slice of pizza for a very late dinner and went back to the hotel to crash.

On Saturday morning I dragged the sleepy teenagers out of bed with promises of a diner breakfast (this was our one “Fail” of the weekend….unbelievably slow service and ridiculously expensive prices) and then we hopped a cab uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty” exhibit. We could easily have spent hours in the museum, but we had an ambitious agenda ahead of us, so we worked our way south along Central Park to walk off our breakfast. We shopped our way towards Rockefeller Center (Dylan’s Candy Bar, Forever 21, FAO Schwartz, etc.) and ended up at Saks Fifth Avenue just in time for the girls’ 3:00 pm appointment for makeovers at the Bobbi Brown counter. Once they were suitably gorgeous, we walked back to the hotel to get dressed for the evening. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at John’s Pizza in the Theater District (a renovated church with a great stained glass ceiling and old-fashioned coal-fired pizza ovens) and then went to see “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” – a fantastic musical comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe who, by the way, can REALLY sing and dance. He was adorable!

We got a slow start Sunday morning because of our late nights, but once we checked out and stored the bags we were ready for another round of shopping – this time right in Times Square. We hit the Hershey Store, the M&M Store, and the giant (three story) American Eagle store where, in the highlight of the weekend, the girls had their photo taken and put up on a huge billboard in Times Square! We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Hard Rock Café, and then spent a couple of hours posing with the celebrities at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. On our way back to the hotel to pick up the car, we even ran into the infamous Naked Cowboy for a photo op!

Needless to say, the car ride home was pretty quiet (the girls studied and slept), but it gave me time to think about our weekend. I’m at a point now where I cherish time with my kids more than ever, because I know that college is just around the corner and my house is going to be pretty empty. A weekend like this, where I get to hang out with my daughter and her friends, having fun and making memories, is priceless.  I would choose that over a big party any time.

My only regret is that we didn’t make it to the Shake Shack for dinner as planned…but that just gives us a reason to go back!

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)