Travel: Our American Dream

Michelle and daughter Nicole on top of the Empire State building
Michelle and daughter Nicole on top of the Empire State building

For a mother-and-daughter trip, New York is the city that has it all. So after recently turning double digits, Nicole and I set off for three nights to celebrate.

We took a United Airlines direct flight from Dublin to Newark and treated ourselves to some extra leg space for $60. 

With personalised entertainment monitors, I was able to catch up on all the latest movies from Wolf of Wall Street to American Hustle – while Nicole enjoyed Disney’s Frozen and other kids’ classics.

The plane journey was an adventure in itself and as we descended over Mahattan and the Statue of Liberty came into view, Nicole gasped, “It’s tiny Mum!” 

Needless to say as we made the journey through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan, her perspective changed. 

Nicole had her heart set on visiting the American Girl store on Fifth Avenue, so after dropping our bags in the Radisson Martinique, we set off to see what damage we could do to my credit card. The American Girl brand is a subsidiary of the Mattel group and its products reflect every kind of American Girl.

With 60 personalised faces to choose from, your daughter can have her very own 18” doll that looks like her. They retail at $110, but you need to spend a lot more on accessories to get your daughter and doll co-ordinating. We were shown around by our personal shopper, Anne from Kentucky, who discreetly asked what our budget was.

This was a good thing as it would be very easy for mothers to lose the run of themselves in a store that has everything a little girl desires for her doll. We decided to treat Nicole’s doll to a hairdo and ear piercing.

Then the doll got a new outfit and a pet dog. We were meeting our friends for dinner and booked into the cafe on the third floor for the ultimate end to our shopping experience. Nicole’s doll got her own high-chair and we devoured the wonderful food, priced at $26 per person for three-courses.

After dinner we took a stroll around the Rockerfeller ice-rink, where there was an exhibition of decorated giant eggs on display. We walked back to our hotel via the bright lights of Times Square, and took a photo of The Real Naked Cowboy. With our biological clocks on Irish time, we were relieved that our hotel was located conveniently on 32nd street and Broadway

 Our room was on the top floor and large by New York standards. The Radisson Martinique is an historic hotel and the decor preserves the spirit of Beaux Arts perfectly. 

Next morning, buffet breakfast was served in the Cafe Martinique which whisked us to turn-of-the-20th-century Paris. Nicole devoured pancakes and syrup with hot chocolate, while I enjoyed a huge selection of fresh fruits, eggs and bacon.

Feeling like it was noon, we set off for the Empire State Building, only a short two-block-stroll from our hotel. With city passes in hand, and an 8.15 start, we skipped the first line and didn’t have to wait long before we were ascending in the elevator to the 80th floor.

The City Pass is a must-buy if you want to see the major sights and museums. We bought a T-shirt in the gift shop for the boys at home, and then took a walk around the 86th floor. With so much done before nine o’clock, we went for a Starbucks and then hit some shops.

Macy’s is only around the corner  from the Empire State and another must-see. Here, Nicole had her eyes done with sparkly lilac shadow because we had a very important treat lined up for the afternoon. Mamma Mia! is in its 12th year in the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway and we had tickets for the matinee presentation.

It is one of Nicole’s favourite movies, so I wasn’t sure how she was going to feel about seeing it on stage. I needn’t have worried as she was enthralled from start to finish, apart from the embarrassing moment when I got up to dance. But as the rest of the audience were bopping in the aisles, Nicole decided she should get involved too. 

Next day our friends took us on a magical drive over the Queensboro Bridge to check out the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. This suburb in Queens is where big-screen history really began.

The museum holds some of the most notable memorabilia from the movies and has plenty of interactive exhibits for kids. Nicole had fun doing a voiceover on the Wizard of Oz and making her own flick book movie.

Afterwards we strolled down Steinway Street and enjoyed the cafe life along the way. As the Herald Square subway ran directly under our hotel, we had a quick train ride home that night. The boroughs have a lot to offer with trendy bars and boutique shops, so it is worth stepping off Manhattan to explore further.

It was our last day and we had some important shops to visit. The FAO Schwarz toy store has to be every child’s dream. Nicole’s eyes were certainly bigger than her belly as she sped around the Big Candy Store collecting Wonka sweets and Gummy Bears. The shop is directly across the road from Central Park, so we bought an ice-cream and ventured over to sit in the sunshine. 

The stretch down Fifth Avenue took us to teen shopping heaven, including the Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch stores. Aeropostale is a good destination if shopping for the kids (with better prices, too). We swung by Juicy Couture, well everything was on 40% sale, before lunching in the Museum of Modern Art. Although Nicole loves art, I wasn’t sure how this would fit in with our agenda on this trip.

I needn’t have worried as she happily snapped her way around Van Goghs, Monets et al. She even had the energy after to take a trip on the Circle Line cruise, and delighted in the fact that the Statue of Liberty was a good deal taller than her brother.

We left New York with a suitcase full of shopping and a bagful of precious memories. It may be extravagant to take your young daughter to New York but it has to be the stuff dreams are made of.

Michelle Jackson is the author of ‘Three Nights in New York’, published by Poolbeg Press. See her website or