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Secret NYC | T+L Family

Ericka McConnell David Strah, stay-at-home father and author of the book <em>Gay Dads</em>

Photo: Ericka McConnell

Freebie

Who needs the Yankees and Mets when you can watch The Coast of Utopia square off against Mary Poppins?Every Thursday afternoon the casts and crews of Broadway and Off-Broadway productions go head-to-head on the Heckscher softball fields (at W. 65th St.) in Central Park. Nearby: the carousel, and the Heckscher Playground, newly renovated with 14 swings and a wooden suspension bridge.

Eat

H&H Bagels (2239 Broadway; 212/595-8003; hhbagels.com) may be the best-known of the Broadway bakeries churning out the New York Jewish staple, but the Gersten-Reale clan says the poppy- and sesame-flecked creations at Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway; 212/932-2052) are superior.

Chef Mitchel London's no-nonsense Fairway Café (2127 Broadway; 212/595-1888; fairwaymarket.com), in one of the city's standout food markets, is where locals go for crêpe-thin pancakes before or after their weekly shopping.

Sure, you can brave the crowds at Zabar's (2245 Broadway; 212/496-1234; zabars.com) to see food-obsessed Upper West Siders in their native habitat. But if you want to avoid that nosh pit, consider Artie's Delicatessen (2290 Broadway; 212/579-5959; arties.com; lunch for four $27), where the hot dogs and pastrami sandwiches are everything they should be.

At Patsy's Pizzeria (61 W. 74th St.; 212/579-3000; patsyspizzany.com; large pizza from $16), the Upper West Side branch of a New York mini-chain that originated in 1933, crisp, bubbling pies with blistered crusts are whisked from the coal-burning brick oven to the marble-top tables, and everything from salads to spaghetti can be ordered family-style.

What exactly is Spanish-Chinese cuisine?Try to figure it out at Flor de Mayo (484 Amsterdam Ave. at W. 83rd St.; 212/787-3388; dinner for four from $60), where the Peruvian chicken, avocado salad, and maduros (sweet fried plantains) can't be beat.

Treat

At just-opened Grom (2165 Broadway; 646/290-7233; grom.it), the first U.S. outpost of a Turin gelateria that uses organic ingredients, the flavors change seasonally, but the sensational cioccolato and crema are always on hand.

Across from St. John the Divine (the world's biggest neo-Gothic cathedral) and its gardens (yes, those are live peacocks!) flutter the red-and-white awnings of the Hungarian Pastry Shop (1030 Amsterdam Ave.; 212/866-4230). In this coffeehouse beloved by students from Columbia, five blocks north, order linzer tarts, grab a rickety table—and imagine a time when your own kids will be in college.

Cucumber sandwiches and cranberry-orange scones arrive on three-tiered stands—and the hosts wear fairy wings—at Alice's Tea Cup (102 W. 73rd St. between Amsterdam and Columbus Aves; 212/799-3006; alicesteacup.com), a Through the Looking-Glass-themed tea room on a quiet side street. "It's not my boys' thing," says Jenny, "but my nieces and I love it."

Turtles, almond bark, butter crunch—it's all at Mondel Chocolates (2913 Broadway at 114th St.; 212/864-2111; mondelchocolates.com), a tiny mom-and-pop shop where the late Katharine Hepburn picked up her standing order once a month.

Sleep

Hudson Hotel (356 W. 58th St.; 212/554-6000; hudsonhotel.com; from $549) A mesmerizingly modern hotel steps from Central Park, with chessboards and a pool table in the library, a garden, and a restaurant modeled on an Ivy League dining hall.

Excelsior Hotel (45 W. 81st St.; 212/362-9200; excelsiorhotelny.com; from $229) The hood's mahogany and brass traditional, a stone's throw from the Museum of Natural History.

Outing

The Gersten-Reale family rarely misses a show at the New Victory Theater (209 W. 42nd St.; 646/223-3020; newvictory.org), a 1900 palace featuring the most innovative children's comedy, drama, and dance from around the world—and not just because Jenny's mom, Cora Cahan, runs the place. From there they might mosey over to Daisy May's BBQ (623 11th Ave. at 46th St.; 212/977-1500; also a street cart at W. 50th St. and 6th Ave.; daisymaysbbq.com; dinner for four from $40). But if there's time for only one quick stop, it's the indoor Ferris wheel at Toys "R" Us Times Square (1514 Broadway; 646/366-8855; toysrustimessquare.com) before blasting on Leo's favorite form of transport back to the Upper West Side.

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