Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Costumes & Cocktails in NYC

Gorgeous gowns and lovely ladies streamed across my Instagram feed on Monday evening as the fabulous and the fashionable arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the annual Met Gala. I'm sure the C&G invite to the hottest cocktail party of the year got lost in the mail, but I'll forgive Anna this time. Both boys had sports practice and games, plus we were just at the Met less than two weeks ago.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was our top priority when we visited NYC over April break. Big C&G is studying Greek and Roman history at school and we figured it was the perfect opportunity to keep him engaged and interested while wandering the wings of one of the world's largest art museums.

Even with a very specific destination in mind it's easy to get overwhelmed as soon as you walk in so I've got a few tips to share to make the Met more manageable for your little tourists. Fuel up before you go or just trying to affix everyones admission sticker will seem like an impossible task.

Start your visit to the museum before you leave home. The Metropolitan Museum website has an excellent page for visiting with your kids, complete with family guides and suggested itineraries to look over before you go. A Percy Jackson themed guide is perfect for fans of The Lightening Thief and help make the massive collections of Greek and Roman artifacts more accessible. For your fashionistas (and future Met Gala goers) the costume guide takes you through the European paintings wing with a detailed eye on the elaborate clothing of the day. All the guides are available at the information desk if you don't want to print them at home.

I found the book Inside the Museum: A Children's Guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the gift shop two hours too late to be of any use so I'd highly recommend buying this for your family ahead of time. Pictures, fascinating stories and facts highlight some of the most popular works in the collection. Pick out a few things from the book to search for and that would easily be enough for one visit.

Lines can be long at the admission desks to the left and right of the entrance hall, thanks to their location next to the coat check and bathrooms. Instead leave the kids with your other half at the information desk to collect family friendly maps and guides while you head straight back to buy your tickets. Two admission desks are just in front of the grand staircase and almost always empty. Audio guides are available for an extra fee ($7 adults, $5 kids) and although we didn't try it this trip I've heard the kid version is excellent.

A lot of research went into finding the perfect pre-meltdown post-museum cocktail spot on the Upper East Side within walking distance from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Neighborhood bars can be found on every corner but little boys sitting at the bar are usually frowned upon and possibly illegal so I had to track down a lounge with plenty of space to spread out.

The sleek and chic Bar Pleiades in the lobby of The Surrey Hotel is my new favorite for its well crafted cocktails, low lighting, and Chanel inspired quilted banquettes. It's ideal for aprés art cocktails even if you can't ditch your kiddos in the Temple of Dendur and they happily welcomed the little C&Gs through their glass doors.

Café Boulud is the restaurant in the hotel, which means bar snacks are not your average fare but Daniel Boulud's famous madeleines are on the menu. Bowls of olives, chips, and nuts will keep your kiddos busy while you try to decide what cocktail to order. Thankfully we visited with the C&G Grandparents so we didn't have to make any hard decisions. Within two rounds of drinks we tried eight of the sixteen on the menu and they were all unique and amazing.

The brilliant man behind the bar is named Darryl and he'll be happy to help you choose if you didn't bring your cocktail tasting army along. Bar Pleiades is on 76th Street at Madison Avenue and the lounge is open from 3:00 to midnight. It's the perfect retreat from the culture and crowds at the Met, and you'll all enjoy sinking deep into the cushions with your swanky cocktails and Shirley Temples.

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