Weekend in New York Without Kids

If you’re in need of a vacation away from the kids, and don’t want to go far, go to New York City. Spend the weekend in New York without kids. It won’t be cheap, but if you live within train or bus distance, you save on plane fare. Here’s a sample itinerary for a weekend in New York without kids.

The Spyglass Rooftop Bar at the Archer Hotel. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

We’ve stayed at a number of hotels in New York City, from StayPineapple, to Hotel Elysee, to The Muse, to Hotel Giraffe, to Yotel. And that doesn’t include all the more corporate hotels I’ve stayed in for conferences, since I didn’t want to head home late at night. This time we stayed at the Archer Hotel in midtown. It was a few blocks from Bryant Park, a good place in the summer to go for outdoor drinks.

We also went to the Spyglass Rooftop Bar for a nightcap, at the Archer. And what a view – see above. Make reservations if you plan to go – they had room for us (it wasn’t all that late) but they easily could have turned us away.

Zucker’s Bagels has multiple sites in NYC. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

In the morning we got breakfast at Zucker’s Bagels, across the street from Bryant Park. They have some seating or you can take the food to go. Order in the back and then pay for your bagels at that register you can see at the photo above. We were not disappointed (except for the cole slaw in the little container – it was meh).

Zucker’s Bagels has multiple sites in NYC. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

In the summer, NYC (all 5 boroughs) closes down a street in each borough to car traffic for select Saturdays in July and August. We got lucky hitting the Manhattan Summer Streets as they closed down Park Avenue from morning until around 1:00 pm. We walked from Bryant Park up to the 80s with no car traffic. Here we are (below) walking toward Grand Central Station. Along the way we heard some entertainment (musicians) and there were cops and volunteers directing cross traffic. Lots of cyclists (those wheels are fine). It really was something special.

Summer Streets in NYC mean pedestrians and bikes get the road for several hours. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Our destination during this weekend in New York without kids was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which merits its own post, so we will not do it justice here. For once, we decided to take a tour. There are lots of free tours at the Met, and we chose a highlights tour based on the timing.

In the Greek and Roman area of the Met, an instructor was working with people sketching. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

There were a lot of people who wanted to go on the tour, so we divided into several groups. The tour guide was excellent. We broke off a little early as our number popped up for the Van Gogh exhibit, which is no longer there. We did go back for the Manet and Degas exhibit a few months later, also excellent. You should go.

Our tour guide at the Met took us into a number of galleries to show us highlights of the collection over 90 minutes or so. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kapla

I hadn’t been up to the rooftop before and there was an exhibit by Lauren Halsey exploring the connections between Greek architecture and Black history/culture. It was especially interesting given the juxtaposition with the NYC skyline. The exhibit is no longer there.

A rooftop installation by Lauren Halsey at the Met. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

After the Met, we headed to Xi’An Famous Foods, a Chinese restaurant my husband loves. Just down the street we passed Tiny Doll House, a store with dollhouses and miniatures to fill them. As a dollhouse aficionado, I was thrilled and went inside. It was packed with all kinds of goodies, including brownstone dollhouses, modern furniture, and nuns. The store is at 78th Street between 1st and 2nd.

Loving the Tiny Dollhouse Store on 78th Street in Manhattan. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

A few years ago, we went on a subway tour, which I’ll write about at some point. But one thing I love is seeing the art in each subway, because each one has a different artist providing their vision.

Art in the subway. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

After a break and shower, we went to get drinks at the Civilian’s rooftop bar, the Starchild. This is my second time there. First time I sat inside (it was colder). This time it was gorgeous – and look at the view.

Drinks at the Starlight Rooftop Bar at the Civilian. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

The Starchild has a bunch of espresso martini drinks, and I’ve now had them all. The one above has gelato in it. They were all good. If you go to the Civilian, go upstairs to the Rosevale Cocktail Room, and check out the waiting area – which is full of Broadway memorabilia. The Rosevale Cocktail Room is also stunning, with high ceilings and brick walls – and models of various Broadway sets. It’s special. Not great for kids, though. They also have a fabulous iron circular staircase from the lobby to the Rosevale floor.

The view of Hell’s Kitchen from the Starchild Rooftop at the Civilian. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

While having drinks with our friend, we learned that there’s a reason Hell’s Kitchen is not built up. It is a preservation area and the buildings cannot exceed 66 feet or 7 stories!

Sweeney Todd on Broadway. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

After drinks, we headed to Broadway, to see Sweeney Todd. Not such a great show for kids, so it’s a good thing we didn’t have any with us. It’s very dark! We found out the day before our show that Josh Groban was not performing – he had COVID. They offered us refunds but we decided to go anyway. The understudy was amazing, so all worked out. And look how awesome our seats were – it was our first time getting box seats.

The lower east side. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Weekend in New York without kids

Okay, so now it’s Sunday. We love walking tours so we signed up for the Lower East Side Everything Bagel tour with Ben’s Bagel Tour, led by…Ben Wagenberg. He met us in front of Yonah Shimmel’s Knish Bakery on Houston Street. When getting out of the subway, there were a number of awesome murals like the one above.

Yonah Shimmel’s Knish Bakery. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

I’m not going to give you a full recounting of Ben’s Bagel Tour, but we really enjoyed it. Ben brought us bagels from a shop around the corner from where he lives, which we munched on in the beginning. Yonah Shimmel’s Knish Bakery wasn’t open on a Sunday morning, but we got some history of the store as well as the neighborhood. Given that my grandparents lived on the Lower East Side in the early days, and met in a tenement, this area holds interest for me.

Katz’s Deli – Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

You’ve probably heard of Katz’s Deli. It’s famous. Not just because of the When Harry Met Sally scene (Sally fakes an “o”). We’d been there before, but Ben gave us additional information about its history, the family that owns it, the building, etc. We had fun watching the other tourists getting piles of meat on a Sunday morning. It wasn’t too crowded yet.

Katz’s pastrami. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Ben got us some pastrami to taste as part of the tour, along with a little rye bread. I specifically recall the last time I was here was with my kids, before seeing Hamilton in September 2015, a month into its Broadway run. The kids and I were doing our own informal Lower East Side day, and we went to several of the same places as on this tour.

The Lenin statue on the rooftop. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Around the corner from Katz’s, Ben showed us an apartment building that used to have this statue of Lenin in front of it. Now it’s on a building a bit away, facing Wall Street, as an F-U to capitalism. I’m skipping a bit more of the tour here, as we passed a former synagogue that is now an empty lot (there’s an interesting story).

Economy Candy. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Economy Candy is an old-fashioned candy store around since the 1930s, stuffed with candy of all types, including international candy, single-color Jelly Bellies, M&Ms, foil coins, and all kinds of other treats you can’t imagine. It was fun to go through. I took my kids there in 2015 as well.

A selection of goods from Economy Candy in the Lower East Side. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

From here we saw the former location of the Streit’s matzah factory, a view of the Tenement Museum, a lingerie shop owned by an orthodox family, and more.

Ben told us about the old Essex Street Market (above) where vendors sold all kinds of food items in a non-air conditioned market. Now there’s a new Essex Market (below), which is gorgeous. We spent a lot of time in there after the tour ended.

The new Essex Market. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

I highly recommend spending some time there. Go through both levels. The street level has vendors ranging from fruits to gourmet ice cream, to beer to pizza. Below the street level, you’ll find some more food, a coffee shop, a corn hole game, a fancy cake pop place, and more.

Ben of Ben’s Bagel Tours. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

I’ll get back to the Essex Market at the end. We went to the Pickle Guys and tried some pickles. They have more than just pickles – you can see the assortment of pickled vegetables and olives below.

I recognized this area because in 2015 I took the kids to Doughnut Plant, which is on the same block. Meow Parlour is around the corner and we went there too (not on the tour).

The Pickle Guys – lots to choose from. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Last, we went to Kossar’s to get bialys. I think it’s in the same strip mall. To be honest, I’m not a big bialy fan, but I’ve been told it’s the best. They were pretty small. The bialys I grew up with (in Arizona, so there you go), were a lot bigger. Ben got us bialys and we ended the tour here. We really enjoyed the tour and would recommend it for the history. While I’ve been down in this area before, we learned a lot and saw it from a different perspective. Thank you, Ben!

Kossar’s Bialys and Bagels. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

So after the tour was done, we went back to Essex Market to explore it more – and get a beer. The pictures below are from Essex Market.

Desserts at Essex Market. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Rebecca’s Cake Pops. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

We loved seeing Rebecca’s Cake Pops which were super detailed and creative. I took a lot of pictures of them.

So that was our weekend in New York without kids. We plan to do it again. Soon.