Beams in the City // NYC Family Photographer

Adventure is one of our family values.

We Beams take off and see what the universe throws at us. We don’t have itineraries, we don’t make detailed travel plans. To some that might seem cavalier, especially with kids. But to us it’s part of being fully open to the possibilities that travel holds.

This summer my husband had to attend a weeklong trade show near Times Square, and it occurred to me, “Why not bring the whole family along and squeeze into his tiny midtown hotel room?”

I went to college in the Hudson River Valley and spent many weekends taking the Metro-North train along the river until it deposited me in the middle of the majesty of Grand Central Station. I usually only had enough money for a subway pass and a bagel, and I would spend the day people-watching at Rockefeller Center at Christmas or roaming the East Village, pretending to be a little bit punk.

And that’s all I wanted for my kids — to be immersed in the city.

We gave each kid their own metro card and set off.

We ate a 1920s pho house in Chinatown.

We got my 16-year-old an $8 haircut and shave at a barbershop where no one spoke English.

We took an impromptu walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at night.

We followed a fast-walking older Chinese man to a second location in Little Italy in pursuit of “Gucci” accessories.

Sometimes we just spent a few hours in Bryant Park or Washington Square Park, playing chess or jenga or splashing in fountains.

We skipped any attraction we would have to pay for, except for The Met, where we spent an entire day.

We ate a lot of bagels and pretzels and cheap pizza. We people-watched in Rockefeller Plaza and roamed around the East Village. I tried to let them lead the way and do whatever they were interested in each day. No itinerary. No plans.

I loved seeing their amazement. But more than that it was incredible to see how quickly they adapted to the city, the ease with which these small-town Wisconsin kids trudged six or eight miles a day among skyscrapers and through crowded subway cars.

I’m proud of them for so many reasons, big and small. But their openness to seeing what the world holds for them just breaks my heart right open.