Days: 419-428 (18 August 2015 – 27 August 2015)
Total distance travelled: 109,958.9 kilometres (68,297.43 miles)
“New York, I’ll take a pass…”
A New York Pass!
With two weeks in New York and obviously plenty to see and do, once we’d confirmed it as a destination, we quickly began to research offers that might make the doing of such both cheaper and/or easier.
That’s how we ended up with the New York Pass (very similar to the London Pass).
We collected them a couple of days in advance, ready to explore the town with them once Sarah’s mum Julie had arrived (the following day) and had some time to recover (the day after).
Plans, well they however change at the drop of a hat, and just like that, we decided to instead use our cards (therefore initiating their ten day life period) that very next day, kicking things off with a sightseeing cruise along the Hudson River and around to the East River.
It seems that travelling the skies in either business class (or in this case premium economy) does have its benefits, as Julie had energy enough to agree to getting out and about immediately.
A short subway ride later and we were back down in Battery Park, right in the bowels of Castle Clinton presenting our passes in exchange for three ferry tickets.
It offered us our first chance for both a full view of the city skyline (which was pretty impressive) where the once towering Chrysler Building now simply mingles amongst its peers, and the further we travelled down river, a clear view of the Statue of Liberty.
We’d get an ever better look at the statue in the days to come, but for now, this was a bit of a wow moment.
Circling around lower Manhattan, we took a brief turn up the East River, which offered more views of that now gargantuan skyline…
If we turned our head a little to the right, we’d catch sight of another New York icon, and one that I was particularly keen to both see and eventually cross, the Brooklyn Bridge.
The gothic arches of its two main supports stood proudly like sentinels as we cruised beneath (okay it’s possible, in fact likely most people didn’t see it as romantically as I did), docked briefly on the east bank before continuing on our way.
We sat aboard this vessel, riding it until it had completed a total circuit of its route, depositing us back where we began.
It (the end), by then couldn’t come soon enough, as the pushy nature of the guide over the intercom system first begging for, then eventually demanding tips had by now left a bit of a bad taste in our mouths… still, the views had been good!
From here, we didn’t stroll far.
In fact it was probably only one or two wharves further down where we took some time to marvel at, and again use our passes to visit the USS Intrepid.
On board (and indeed on the pier itself) we had the opportunity to view combat aircraft of several eras, as well as the worlds first (and thus far only) supersonic airliner, the Concorde.
It was possible to wander the bowels of the carrier, experiencing the cramped confines that would have been home to many naval personnel and aircrew for months on end.
The true attraction for me however, was the space shuttle Enterprise (no, not the USS Enterprise of Star Trek fame), only after we’d queued to enter, we discovered a separate entrance ticket was required.
A little annoyed, we wandered back down to the wharf and ticket office where we discovered it would cost us an additional fee to enter, thankfully not too steep a fee, so we sucked it up, paid up, then re-boarded the vessel.
After all that, the space shuttle was indeed pretty cool… but worth an additional cost, probably only if you’re into your space stuff like I am.
The next morning we hit the ground running (not literally), and our first stop was one of the bigger ones by our reckoning, the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
If art just isn’t your thing, don’t be disheartened, as this place is as much (if not more) a museum as it is gallery, housing exhibits from North American history, alongside pieces from ancient Egypt and feudal Japan.
We lost a few hours within, lunched outside on the stairs before traipsing along to another iconic building of the city, the Guggenheim.
Resembling an upside down and upscale version of the headwear worn by Devo (that 80’s era band), we figured the best way tackle this ‘masterpiece’ of design and architecture was from the top down.
At the top we discovered that not all was as intelligent as the design suggested (who’d have thought that Guggenheim would make it difficult to take a piss), but if the building is considered a masterpiece, to us, the art was mostly downright odd…
A disclaimer or advert for the suicide prevention line might have also been a nice thought to the Pinocchio exhibit… or if his tragedy was indeed accidental, then why had he simply not lied his way to salvation?
If you think this wasn’t enough, we didn’t in fact call time until the early evening, as there was time enough for us still, to inspect the Museum of the City of New York.
Sure, it was no highlight, but it did have one hell of an impressive light feature to show off its main foyer and grand staircase!
Some of the big ticket items were to come in the following days, starting with the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Having had a taste alreadyy during our City Sightseeing cruise, we had little need to jostle at the rail for shots of this gift from the French.
The day was a little sunnier, meaning the blue sky provided a nicer backdrop and the sun some better light, but with a little patience (and the fact that we were close to being first off the boat) we got ourselves some nice viewing time.
One thing we hadn’t factored in was the demand for tickets to the crown, so if you want them, unlike us, you’ll need to book well in advance.
Ellis Island was a sobering experience, when you think of the dreams that could have been shattered in an instant had these folks been turned around and sent back home after such a long journey to this ‘land of opportunity.’
Parallels with the present global refugee situation immediately come to mind, and it is staggering how little the world seems to care for these people fleeing for their lives.
It is very possible that some of this antipathy stems from the next couple of sites we visit on this whirlwind tour of New York.
The new One World Trade Center (although we didn’t enter it) and a pair of 9/11 memorials at ‘ground zero.’
Irrespective of your politics, it was hard not to be moved when you see, hear and read about the personal family tragedies intertwined as a result of the almost three thousand people who died at the site.
It also baffles, when one considers that this place is regarded as hallowed or sacred ground, the amount of people that think it’s a perfect spot for ‘selfies’ and group photos…
And then it was time for us to go up.
Go up and take in this New York skyline now devoid of those (what I always felt were quite ugly) Twin Towers, but with so many grand buildings, it makes classics such as the Chrysler Building seem miniscule.
We were riding the elevator to the Top of the Rock!
We deliberately chose to make the ascent during daylight rather than night, so that we’d guarantee ourselves a good view over Central Park as well.
The weather certainly played its part to perfection too!
MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art) was next, and in truth one never knows what to expect when the words art and modern are thrown together.
Some of it was cool, some of it was bullshit (how some rubbish qualifies as art is boggling), and some was rather famous, such as the Andy Warhol pieces on display.
From the modern, we turned to the past, again visiting the Met, although this time it was a different branch in a different location, The Cloisters.
Accessed using the same ticket as used for the Met proper (remember that tidbit of information), this amalgamation of European structures (the various parts create a beautiful whole) in the north of Manhattan, is seriously so lush and peaceful you’d forget it was even New York, serves as a museum to medieval Europe.
The building itself was a collection of various artifacts, and well worth the visit.
We continued with the old, and visited the museum and former synagogue on Eldridge Street (well it is still a synagogue, but its congregation is now tiny), a building of beauty that was almost lost to the city and indeed the world when it was left to slowly decay from the 1940’s through to the 1980’s (parts of its ceilings had collapsed when restoration began, the volume of pigeon shit possibly all that held it together).
We wasted our time at Madame Tussaud’s (seriously, it was so rubbish with FREE entrance thanks to the pass, I’d hate to think how pissed off I’d have been had we paid the ridiculous, almost $40.00 US entrance fee), before taking in some seriously good stuff at the American Museum of Natural History.
Plenty of our prehistoric ancestors were on show, a wonderfully impressive cross section of a giant redwood and the stunning Star of India (amusingly quarried in Sri Lanka, and possibly the most famous sapphire in the world).
All of this housed within yet another stunning structure.
Grand was what this city seemed to be about, and grand is surely what we got.
Leaving Julie to rest, Sarah and I explored the immense Cathedral of St John the Divine (possibly the largest or second largest Anglican cathedral in the world… depends who you believe), enjoyed a couple of warm and gooey cookies, before continuing the ‘grand’ theme the following day.
Yankee Stadium is considered one of the premiere ballparks in the country (although admittedly we’ve never watched a game there, it sits lower than other ballparks we’ve visited), so we enjoyed a tour here thanks to the New York Pass, where we also ran into a couple of other Australian baseball fans.
When we were done touring the Manchester United of the baseball world (yes, I do believe there are a lot of Yankees fans on board because of the success they’ve had… everyone loves to back a winner), we went all art-deco, taking a visit to Radio City Music Hall and enjoying its pre and post depression are look.
Some may have been excited to know, we also happened to be cruising through as an episode of America’s got Talent was being filmed as well.
Having taken the city in from above during the day, we also figured why not do it again at night, and for this we had a couple of options.
One World Trade Center, or the Empire State Building.
We were in New York City, so for us, it was always going to be the Empire State (after all, even the number plates called New York the ‘Empire State’)
The other side of the East River wasn’t neglected as well, with the New York Transit Museum offering us an interesting history into the city’s rich commuter past.
For us, we couldn’t ignore the amusement we had reading the old advertising within the various subway carriages on display.
I mean how else would we have ever known that Enid Berkowitz was ‘Miss Subways’ in 1948?!
There was a final taste of art at the Brooklyn Museum as well, and just like that, our ten days of New York Pass adventures were done.
Sure there is more I could write, after all, I haven’t even mentioned any of the walking tours that we enjoyed as well… but this has already proven a marathon, so before anybody who’s still with us begins to doze off again I’ll call time.
The simple verdict is: For us, the New York Pass proved of great value.
Sure, we had some pretty full days, but we also visited and enjoyed some amazing places that wouldn’t have otherwise even been on our itinerary.
If you don’t believe me, just read through the numbers below…
* We bought our New York Passes online and well in advance (during a promotion) at the cost of $220.00 US Per person with the ten day validity.
* Sites visited/activities completed and their respective individual costs:
– City Sightseeing Hop On-Hop Off Ferry $29.00
– USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum $24.00 (An additional $7.00pp for the Space Shuttle)
– Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) $25.00
– Solomon R Guggenheim Museum $25.00
– Museum of the City of New York $14.00
– Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island $18.00
– Fraunces Tavern $7.00
– 9/11 Tribute Center $15.00
– 9/11 Memorial & Museum $24.00
– Top of the Rock $30.00
– Rockefeller Center Tour $17.00
– MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) $25.00
– Grand Central Audio Tour $9.00
– The Cloisters (Included in the MET) –
– Slavery & Underground Railroad Tour $35.00
– Skyscraper Museum $5.00
– Museum at Eldridge Street $12.00
– SOHO/Little Italy/Chinatown Tour $35.00
– Madame Tussauds New York $37.00
– Highline/Chelsea/Meatpacking District Tour $35.00
– American Museum of Natural History $22.00
– Cathedral of St John the Divine $6.00
– Yankee Stadium Tour $25.00
– Van Cortlandt House $5.00
– Museum of Sex $17.50
– Radio City Music Hall Tour $26.95
– Food on Foot $49.00
– Empire State Building Observation Deck $32.00
– New York Transit Museum $7.00
– Brooklyn Museum $16.00