Exploring New York with Etta and Artie

Holly Branson in New York
Holly Branson
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 7 December 2023

I’ve been looking back on the most amazing 72 hours in New York City with Etta and Artie. I hadn’t been away with just me and the twins since Lola was born four-years-ago, so I decided to whisk them away on a work trip (during half-term) so they could see what I get up to at Virgin.

Alongside a brilliant gathering held at the stunning Virgin Hotels New York City (which you can read about here), we jammed as much as we could into two and a half days.  

Holly Branson with her twins in New York
Holly Branson

On the first day we got up at 3:30am (thank you jet lag!) Someone had mentioned that early morning is a wonderful to sight see in NYC, I knew Grand Central Station would be opened so we set off at 5:20am! It was an amazing start to the day as it felt enormous because it was so empty. From there we went to the lights of Times Square with all the lights and early excitement. Next, we had breakfast in Ellen's Stardust Diner, I decided not to mention to the kids that this was a singing diner. It was amazing to see their little faces when the waiters and waitresses burst into song. Fed and watered, we then walked the length of Manhattan: stopping to eat at street vendors, explore museums, walk the High Line and so much more. As an extra special surprise, we then headed to Brooklyn for the Dumbo Halloween parade and then shuffled over to the West Village to go trick or treating - every kid's dream! They could not believe the amazing decorations and ended up with more sweets than they could have imagined. I did 30,000 steps that day, so I can only imagine, with their little legs they would have done nearly double that, and they didn’t complain once.

Holly Branson's twin children in New York
Holly Branson

The next few days we walked from the Met to the MOMA, and from Central Park to FAO Schwarz, we slid from the Slime Museum to a Harry Potter exhibition, which the kids are obsessed with at the moment. It was just wonderful!

The last time I was in New York with Etta and Artie was in 2018, when I was there to launch my book, WEconomy, and they were two-years-old. At the time, we rode a cart through Central Park and we decided to replicate it this time around... wearing the same jumper and all! 

It felt so special to share my work life with them too – even if only for a half a day. When I was little, Dad worked from home on our houseboat, and I just loved sitting in the corner with my crayons while Dad built the Virgin brand right next to me and my brother Sam. I imagine the lawyers and investors would have been quite shocked by our presence in those meetings, but I love how Dad has always held onto the human side of business. Some of my favourite childhood memories came from Virgin Atlantic inaugural flights, company launch events, team parties, and waving Dad off as he embarked on world record breaking adventures. Now that Etta and Artie are old enough, I want to make sure they experience these exciting moments for themselves and learn more about what I do each day.  

On the (Virgin Atlantic!) flight home, I reflected on how special it was to spend this uninterrupted alone time with Etta and Artie. They are growing into the most remarkable humans, and they come up with the most fascinating, hilarious, and heart-warming revelations when you get them on their own.

I should add we did miss Lola and Freddie but I don’t think a four-year-old would have enjoyed so many steps in one day.  Plus, she got her dad Freddie and our new puppy Oreo all to herself for 72 hours. In our busy family of five, it's rare to find these one-on-one moments, but this trip made me realise how important it is to carve them out... Even if it was technically two-on-one on this occasion! My 2024 New Year’s Resolution is to take the kids on more one-on-one adventures, and I can’t wait.