My Son’s 14th Birthday NYC Staycation by Robin Gorman Newman

My son turned 14 on February 24th.

Not only is he looking more mature, but I’m witnessing a maturity in behavior and demeanor, and it’s impressive.

I also see an ignited interest in socializing, which is both heartening and bittersweet.  An increased desire to hang with friends, as I always hoped he’d want to do, but now that it’s here, I’m feeling the shift and subtle separation.

Travel, and our many NYC staycations over the years, have become a mother/son tradition and a bonding experience I treasure.  We explore, we see shows, we meet friends, we chill in comfortable hotel lounges, but most of all, we make memories.

We have celebrated holidays or just visited on a whim during school breaks.  This trip was celebratory because it was his birthday…his second year as a teen….and we made the most of it despite my recovering from some health challenges

The weather was unseasonably warm which was great for roaming, but not as ideal on the hotel front.



We spent four nights at West House Hotel.

The boutique hotel, with a residential feel, is in an excellent midtown location on West 55th Street, and overall, we enjoyed the stay.  My primary letdown was the heavy comforter which would have felt great in cold weather, but the heat was piping into the hotel, and my son wasn’t keen on sleeping with the window open. The lighter weight blanket option was a stiffer waffle weave which I did not find comfortable, so I did not sleep soundly.  This was a shame because the bed itself was actually very comfortable, and I am quite discerning about mattresses.  I asked the hotel if they were able to lower the heat, but it was explained that it was programmed given the typical weather this time of the year.

On the strong upside, West House Hotel has both a welcoming lobby seating area and an ample, comfortable lounge on the 23rd floor where you can chill, read, watch CNN, and they serve a breakfast


buffet until 10:30am sharp weekdays (11am weekends), and food from 5-8pm which is quite substantial.  One night they had a delicious paella, with salad.  And, there is wine and cheese and soft drinks, coffee and tea.  Breakfast was very good as well, including hot food, pastries, meats, cheese, fruit, etc., and I became addicted to their Mint Citrus tea.  There is also a lovely outdoor terrace with


seating just outside the lounge.

Our room was a double queen, and didn’t have the most walking space.  A few others things in the room would have been appreciated: more counter space or shelves in the bathroom, a clock, and the phone on the night stand would have made wake up calls easier.

Other hotel pluses: Ample mini refrigerator in the room and bottled water is supplied.  Good Wi-Fi.  An attractive 24 hour gym with cardio machines and weights, and a nice street view.  Well-meaning staff, though I found the front desk wasn’t always well-informed.

Note: The hotel has an additional daily residents fee per person to cover the food, local and toll free calls, Wi-Fi, etc.

All this said, we would consider staying there again.

(With COMET Actress Ashley Perez Flanagan)

We took in two Broadway musicals….the first was NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET of 1812.  We had a distinctive view….Banquette seats on what would have been the stage, and one of the actors, Lucas Steele who plays Anatole, slid my son over in one scene as he plopped down next to him where they briefly interacted.  My son was initially mortified, but Lucas gave him a fist pump, and it left my son with a great story to share.  It is a stunning, high energy, immersive show, with huge talents, and my son was enthralled.

Next up was the classic CATS.  I had seen the original years ago and hesitated initially to check out the revival, given my memories of the show, but this production is visually appealing and well staged.  My son particularly enjoyed Mr. Mistoffelees (the magic cat) and when the Cats made their way up ‘n down

(CATS – intermission. Audience members visiting on stage.)

the aisles, with their glowing eyes piercing in the dark.

I love that my son and I share a delight in theatre, and he has cultivated sophisticated judgement over the years that enables us to have some engaging discussions.

(Black Tap)

His favorite meal this trip was our dinner at the ultra hip midtown Black Tap that happened to be just a few blocks from our hotel. This is a shake lovers dream, and the regular food is good too. I enjoyed a salad with chicken, and my son opted to save room by dining on just french fries followed by a Cookies ‘N Creme Supreme shake. He was in sugar heaven!  it is no wonder people line up to get in to each of the NYC locations.  Their decadent dessert reputation is well-deserved.

Aside from the shows, a particularly unique experience on this trip was our visit to Jump Into The Light. An eye-catching storefront down town, it is America’s first Virtual Reality Cinema Experience and Playlab. Visitors can view 360 films, play games in Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and be 3D scanned into Virtual Reality for sharing on social media.  It is a fab place for parties, whether for kids age 6 and up or adults.  I had never experienced anything like this before, and took a huge liking to one of the short 360 films that featured a trip around the world.  It felt both meditative and escapist, and I found myself yearning to watch it over ‘n over again. (You wear a VR mask and are seated in a swivel chair that you can spin around to get the full 360 effect.)  My son had a blast doing the HTC Vive experience where you stand and get to choose from three active options.  I sampled the virtual painting, which was beautiful, but he went for Space Pirates and could have played it all day.  The experience is highly addictive, and they are planning to move to a larger NYC space mid-March, and will be increasing their offerings and changing them up regularly, so that fans will want to frequent to keep up with the latest happenings.  They aim to raise awareness of virtual reality and support and encourage creatives in the field.

As my son gets older, I find it becomes increasingly challenging to come up with activities and attractions that interest him, and I know we will be making a return visit(s) to Jump Into The Light.

Thankfully one of my strengths is thinking out of the box and doing my homework, so to speak, to come up with cool things to do.  And, I’m glad that this birthday was one he raved about to both his friends and teachers.


Note: We were provided with press perks at Black Tap and West House Hotel, and a press visit to Jump Into the Light, but our opinions are our own.