Travel Dreaming

My New York City: Icons and Hidden Gems

Visiting in New York City and living there have completely different definitions. You could say that they are two sides of a very shiny coin. Living in NYC has a certain energy. The city itself becomes a living, breathing part of how you define yourself. For the tourist, the city can be overwhelming and chaotic. Perhaps it’s because residents see the patterns of the ebb and flow of day to day life and visitors have a harder time sorting it out. Chaos or not, NYC has it’s moments. Some good, some over hyped, some under rated, some over done. So, what’s the balance? That’s the number one question that I am asked. Here’s a look at my New York City: The Icons and Hidden Gems.

The One Line

When New Yorkers talk about the subway system you often hear thoughts like “I’ll take the 1 Line to 42nd Street and then hop on the 7 line to get to Grand Central.” It’s quite the shorthand and can be confusing for a visitor. So, if I were to recommend one train to know, I’d say 1 Line links together more sites than any other. From the Bowery to the Bronx, the 1 Line will get you where you need to go- fast.

the one line
Photo by Life of Wu on

The High Line

New York is in a constant state of renewal. It’s part of the magic that draws so many visitors. One of those renewal projects is the High Line. What used to be an old railway line has been transformed into what may be the narrowest park ever! At just under 1.5 miles, you can hop on and off the High Line to explore 34th Street down to 14th Street. With art, nature and walkable access to plenty along the way, the High Line is a new New York City must.

the high line
Photo by Ioannis Ritos on

St. Patrick’s Churches

Quick note: there are two St. Patrick’s in Manhattan: the big one in midtown and the little one downtown. They are both worth the visit. Let’s start with the one you are most familiar with- the cathedral. Built in 1879, these days the cathedral is bright and shiny after years of restoration that was presided over by the ever congenial Cardinal Dolan. Since it sits opposite Rockefeller Center, it’s an easy stop to make and enjoy. I highly suggest the audio tour to really understand the history of this church in the NYC community.

Downtown is the other St. Pat’s. Officially called the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, this lesser known church is over 200 years old and holds a big NYC secret. Each day, the church offers candle light tours of the catacombs under the sanctuary. Learn about the history of the church and the who’s who of the catacomb world.

st. pats
Photo by Pixabay on

Radio City Music Hall

Step back to the roaring ’20’s with a tour through the Great Radio City Music Hall. A living breathing example of theater from days past, the hall has daily tours that dig deep into this temple of art deco. With super guides who know their RMH trivia, explore all seven floors including the front and back of the house. Learn about the secret code in the carpets and how the hydraulic stage influenced the military. I can’t think of an icon that shows off more of New York than this one.

the lobby

Irish Hunger Memorial

Understanding the great immigration that builds the foundation of New York City is paramount to fully getting the point of it all. This creation of neighborhood after neighborhood filled with hopes and dreams is the truest essence of why New York City is like no other place in the world. One way to start understanding is at the Irish Hunger Memorial. I mean, take in the very name of it! These people came to our shores in boats called coffin ships. Imagine how they felt to be here away from the persecution and famine and meet new harsh realities like signs that said “Irish need not apply”.

Built in 2001-2002, the memorial is a great way to understand why people flocked to America the way they did.

the hunger memorial

Staten Island Ferry

I can’t think of anything that is more New York than The Ferry. This staple of commuting shuffles more than 60,000 people each day from the most residential area of New York City, Staten Island to the Bowery. It may seem hum drum but I beg to differ. Each day, these 60,000 people pass some of our most important history. They glide past the Verrazano Narrows Bridge where ships enter New York Harbor. And many of them made their way to Ellis Island to process in to early 20th Century life. Of course, they pass New York’s grande dame, Lady Liberty. She is breathtaking and you can just imagine what it must have been like to sail in under the bridge and see her for the very first time. She was and still is a true beacon of hope.

staten island ferry

Arthur Avenue

It always eludes me as to why visitors to NYC never venture out past Manhattan. There is SO much to see and do away from Times Square! I think a really good place to start is a great neighborhood at the end of the 2 line. Your stop is Pellham Parkway where you find yourself 5 minutes away from some of the best Italian American experiences out there. Historic Arthur Avenue is filled with shops and restaurants with some of the best Italian-American cuisine this side of Sicily. This slice of NYC will make you wonder why so many others don’t know about this gem.

arthur avenue
Photo by Engin Akyurt on

Bronx Zoo

At that same 2 line stop is the World Famous Bronx Zoo. Full of a menagerie of animals the amazing staff works diligently to fuse the old world traditions with modern zoo keeping. in other words, they take care of the unbelievable buildings with unique stone carvings while ensuring that the animals housed here are not just for entertainment. Learning this conservation story is totally worth the visit.

bronx zoo new york city

Bonus List: What’s worth skipping?

Here is a list of what I would totally skip if I were in the city:

  • Times Square, instead go up to the Bronx and enjoy the calming Cloisters.

~ Central Park horse carriage rides, instead go up to the boat house and rent a model to set sail.

– Rockafeller Center, instead enjoy the cool vibe down by the World Trade Center and grab a meal at Eataly.

~ The Empire State Building, instead catch the next cool thing happening at the NYC Public Library or in its backyard, Bryant Park.

~-The Plaza, instead go enjoy Coney Island sans the fancy clothes. Eat a hot dog, ride the roller coaster.

There’s More!

TGC loves to share books that inspire travelers both young and…. experienced!! Click here to see an unbelievable list of books to inspire your next adventure in the Big Apple!

10 Books In 10 Minutes Series

Ten Books In Ten Minutes: Lovely London

Thanks for joining us for our 10 Books in 10 Minutes Facebook Live Event! (coming soon!) Sharing stories from around the world is an amazing gift to give any child. Putting the world in a young mind’s hands is one of the best ways to create productive, understanding adults. Books like this allow readers to develop life skills like empathy, cultural understanding, and a global sense of self. Let’s dig in to books about London!

London icons
Photo by Valeriia Miller on

TGC strives to connect travelers with quality literature and media that allows the curiosity in all of us to thrive. More importantly, the most powerful tool we have to be the best travelers we can be, regardless of our age, is gobal literacy. So, for more great reads and connections to travel and culture, click hereNote that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

Mary Poppins

Full disclosure: I am not promoting an unnamed recently released movie. I am, however, promoting a fantastic piece of literature that will certainly promote your lexicon! P.L. Travers’ epitome of literary perfection is Mary Poppins. I know, I know, you saw the movie and it was delightful but, folks, the movie is just the tip of the iceberg! Trust me when I say that the movie is only half of Mary’s charm.

Travers books are in-depth, thoughtful, smartly written with a timelessness that needs enjoyment as well as effort. Travers dives deep into Edwardian England and gives one a sense of historical understanding. This book is the perfect read aloud for young imaginations or an addictive bedtime read for the older set. So, go beyond the Jolly Holiday and put away the sugar because a spoonful of the one and only Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way! For more on a perfect Mary Poppins Tour of London, click here.

London City Trails

Straight from the publishers of some of the best travel guides for children comes London City Trails. This book, great for your older explorers, has over 15 walking tours themed for every interest a kid could dream up! From crown jewels to fancy parks, this book covers England’s capital covered. The pages are designed to explore all aspects of culture and get your kids excited about visiting this amazing place.

101 Dalmatians

Did you think that this story was a creation of Disney? Me Too! But, it turns out, that this British classic is so much more than the enchanting movie. Join original author Dodie Smith as she develops the rescue of all those spots from the dastardly Cruella DeVil. Included in this 2-books-in-one volume, is a second book about Pongo and Perdita as they explore the city. With chapters about the National Gallery and Trafalger Square, this classic is perfect!

Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone

What more do I need to say? Harry’s story is a sensation for a reason but, ask any Potterhead and they will tell you “don’t rely on the movie!” The book really is that much better. In the first of the series, Harry must head into London to get his school supplies and catch the train. J.K Rowling’s writing brings the city alive in the imagination of all who read it! There are many tours available that are themed for the devotees of the wizarding world. Just remember, read the book first!!

Katie In London

Katie and little Jack befriend one of the lions in Trafalger Square. It turns out the the lion is an EXCELLENT tour guide! He brings the children on an adventure across the big city and makes it more accessible to their young minds. This pick is perfect for those little ones who may need a bit of support in new spaces and for those adventurers who are ready to take on the next challenge in equal measure.

Will’s Quill

Shakespeare needs some help! and he finds it in an unlikely source. Introduce your kiddos to the bard through this clever English Classic that is designed to fill in a little information about his life in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Henry, The Queen’s Corgi

What happens when a clever corgi becomes the center of a royal mix-up? Check in with Henry who is always conjuring up another plan winds up with a VIP pass to the plushest palace in town. But how will he get back to his true family?

Winnie The Pooh

Half way to the coast as you go southbound from London is Ashford Forest. This is home to the famous 100 Acre Wood of Winnie-The-Pooh fame. Don’t be fooled, long before Pooh bear and his friends were in nurseries, the classic by A.A. Milne is meant for much older kids who can grasp the imagination of Christopher Robin. As with most quality children’s literature, it’s perfect reading for every age!

The Queen’s Hat

The wind has taken hold of the Queen’s very favorite hat! All of the Beef Eaters come to her aid and chase the royal hat all over town. Perfect to start introducing royalty and London’s icons

This Is London

If there were one book that started the travel literature craze for kids. this is it. From the “This Is” series, take a look at every London icon out there and explore this very big city before you touch down.

War Horse

This WWI epic is about a young man and the horse that sees him through the war. This book is so moving that it was turned into a West End hit and a blockbuster movie. If you are trying to connect your tweens and teens with history, look no further.

10 Books In 10 Minutes Series

Ten Books In Ten Minutes: France’s Many Treasures

Thanks for joining us today for our Facebook Live Book Review. I truly love these particular books and hope you will too! Each of them contributes to make us all better global citizens. Here are the Amazon links to all of today’s picks! Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

Katy and The Waterlily Pond by James Mayhew

In this delightful book, Katy and her grandma enjoy an adventure that brings Monet’s artistic masterpieces to life. They meet the subjects of Monet’s works and learn how to capture the light like the master. I had the pleasure of visiting Giverny, France and I could just imagine enjoying this book on a bench under the shady trees overlooking the iconic pond. Imagine inspiring your young impressionist and then visiting Monet’s shrine to the light with a box of paints and a canvas yourself! Katy inspires the inner artist in all of us. Furthermore, a book like this prepares young travelers to visit stunning Normandy or get out the art supplies and create a new masterpiece. TGC believes books like Katy and the Waterlily Pond enhance young minds and global literacy!

The Magical Garden of Claude Monet

Julie’s adventure starts in Paris as she looks at the river Seine. It’s what happens when she takes a train out to the country and meets a man that looks a lot like Santa that she realizes the river is special.

Charlotte in Giverny

Much like Katie, Charlotte has a few adventures to share. Charlotte, however, chooses to share hers in the form of a journal. Get a first hand look at what happens when Charlotte gets the chance to spend time in Giverny among the impressionist masters.

Who Was Claude Monet?

So why exactly is the famous son of France such a big deal? Read this great biography from the “bobblehead” series out of Penguin Publishing. Monet turned the art world upside down with his obsession with light. He spent his entire life seeking out that perfect light all while endearing the art world to his cause.

Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child

Oh Julia! How we love this american ex-pat who took the country on its first culinary journey! Explore her bigger than life world in this adorable book that contains all sort of different facts about her life in Paris and beyond.

Who Was Julia Child?

Another “bobblehead” book, this one shows how Julia fell in love with France and french cooking. More importantly, it really shows how France reciprocated that love. I’m including the link to a great move called “Julie and Julia” as an added bonus for to Julia lovers out there. It’s a great way to dream about traveling to France!

Gustave Eiffel’s Spectacular Idea: The Eiffel Tower

So how in the world did we wind up with an Eiffel tower anyway? And how is the Statue of Liberty connected? While we’re at it, did people even like the Eiffel tower? Find out the answers to these questions and so many more! This is a great read for your aspiring engineers!


The children’s classic still endures as great introduction to Paris as sweet Madeline walks in a line with her classmates and sees the city. She then deals with a serious tummy ache. Will she mend quickly? Read on to find out.

Paris City Trails

Explore Paris by foot and yet another wonderful addition of City Trails from Lonely Planet. This book is perfect for those older grade schoolers and tweens who need to start taking a role in the planning of family trips. Check out more than 15 themed walks that take you on, under, through, up , and around Paris.

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau

One last amazing French citizen to check in with is the amazing Jacques Cousteau. Known for his discoveries and conservation of our planet’s seas, Cousteau made it his personal mission to save our Oceans and their residents. But how did it all begin? Read on to find out more.