Last Updated on December 12, 2022
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
By Carla Marie Rupp
I’ve been showing Lari-Ann, my teenage niece from Colorado, around New York, and I decided to also take her on a cultural crawl through New York City. I didn’t want her time here to be all thrills since I felt she should also be exposed to the cultural, ethnic and educational side of the city, as well.
While we were at the American Museum of Natural History and the planetarium earlier in her stay she led me around which made me realize she has a huge interest in science. So on one of her last days in New York, I suggested we visit Liberty Science Center across the Hudson in Jersey City, NJ.
She was excited by the idea and when we did make the trip we came across an ethnic wedding on the way in Liberty State Park, a la Bollywood with costumes and the groom on an elephant! It was a stunning moment, a wonderful example of the ethnicity of the New York City area.
Arriving at the Liberty Science Center, we went to the Imax movie “Space Junk” because Lari-Ann is very concerned about all the “junk” out in space. After it was over I once again followed her, as she eagerly went to all the exhibits all over the Center, so curious about everything. We both especially liked the science, technology and media exhibits demonstrating how we are so affected by what we see and read, as well as many other things I didn’t expect in this wonderful museum.
On another day we experienced more of the ethnic and culinary side of the city on our way to Chinatown for a meal. Noticing the restaurant L’Ecole at the French Culinary Institute, where student chefs carefully prepare the delicious meals, I asked if she’d be interested in eating there, since I’d sampled it solo once and thought she’d enjoy it. She smiled. We booked.
I later realized Lari-Ann was eager to dine there, as was I, since she had been “a chef” for her family at home for years and enjoys food and food preparation. The next day, to my surprise, she suggested that we dress up and take a taxi. We arrived fresh at noon and for the next few hours had a fantastic, delicious, multi-course NYC Restaurant Week lunch, continually sampling each other’s selections.
At the end of the meal I was shocked when Lari-Ann pulled out her credit card and insisted on making this meal her treat. Wow, what a lady! We asked our server Alex to take a photo of the two of us.
Several other times we did Italian: once at Joe’s Pizza, where we kidded around and took pictures with the pizza makers, and another at the Mulberry Street Bar, where we sat outside having pasta and fried calamari. Both of us loved sitting in Little Italy watching everyone go by, even more so knowing we were at the exact place where the “Sopranos” and “Godfather” had been filmed!
Another day in our cultural odyssey, we went uptown to Grant’s Tomb, and at the end of a Jazzmobile concert, I saw Lari-Ann engaged in conversation with two older African-American women who told her about a “Frim Fram Jam.”
I didn’t know much about it, but Lari-Ann reserved a Thursday evening for us to go lindy-hopping at the 412 Club, a popular dance studio and center not far from Penn Station. We were given lessons and then danced and danced energetically with so many different partners of all ages and backgrounds. I was both amazed and proud of Lari-Ann and her energy, which got me up many more times on the dance floor. We loved it so much.
Another time, after a wonderful Indian all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet, we used our New York CityPASS coupons to go to the Guggenheim Museum and see a special abstract painting exhibit. We had so many wonderful conversations in front of the various paintings and the photographs that we became even more culturally understanding of one another.
After the Guggenheim we walked over to Central Park and wound up sitting on a bench in front of that world-wonder, “Cleopatra’s Needle,” chatting about history and ancient cultures. As soon as we saw it she knew right away it was an “obelisk,” the largest in the Western Hemisphere, and we learned that filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille had a hand in the translation of the hieroglyphics because he enjoyed playing in that part of the park as a child.
Central Park is perfect for strolling and seeing places such as the “Imagine” spot in Strawberry Fields. We also took in an Argentinian tango musical concert at the Park’s Naumburg Bandshell and walked by the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace.
Another time we went downtown to Washington Square Park since I thought Lari-Ann would like the bohemian atmosphere, and sure enough she did. Near the famous Washington Square Arch we saw someone on a bench with a sign saying “Advice,” and she jumped at getting a few pointers, while I listened to the guitarists and singers hanging out under the Arch until she came over and joined me.
Another night, wanting to show Lari-Ann another aspect of the city, I took her to Fat Cat, a popular pool hall / jazz club in the West Village where I knew we’d hear one of the three live bands and be able to play pool, backgammon, shuffle, ping pong, chess or some of the other things people of all ages play while they’re there.
After we went into the basement club with the music playing, we were looking around and a group of Polish people invited us to play ping pong with them. I watched Lari-Ann play and was just as stunned as they were by how good she was. Then I remembered Lari-Ann has had a ping-pong table at her home for many years, and her mother is a champion at the sport!
I started feeling sorry for the Poles. I think they’ll want to keep working on their ping-pong skills before Lari-Ann comes back to town next year.
We’ll play again!
If you go:
NYC & Company
810 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY
Liberty Science Center
Liberty State Park
222 Jersey City Blvd.
Jersey City, NJ 07305
New York CityPASS
412 Eighth Avenue, Fourth Floor
New York, NY
Fat Cat Jazz Club
75 Christopher Street
New York, NY 10014
French Culinary Institute
L’Ecole (the restaurant)
New York, NY 10013
7 Carmine Street at Sixth Avenue near Bleeker
New York, NY 10014
Mulberry Street Bar
176 ½ Mulberry Street (north end of Little Italy)
New York, NY 10014