by Stephen Johnson
It all started last New Year’s Eve. We were watching the celebrations from New York City when our son, David said, “I would like to go there next year for summer holidays.”
Fast forward six months, our train was pulling into Grand Central station and David was filled with excitement. Stepping out from the station on to the street, the first thing we noticed were the crowds. It was as if the entire city of Ottawa was present.
To get acquainted in a larger city, I always like to book a boat cruise or bus tour to get a better orientation. We decided to take a cruise with Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises. The cruise took about 1.5 hours and it was like passing through a movie set. It was one iconic site after another. David and my wife, Sandy, particularly enjoyed posing in front of the Statue of Liberty. I liked going to the front of the ship doing my best Leonardo Dicaprio impression from the movie, Titanic.
Once the cruise was finished, we went to check out the nearby Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Set aboard the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier, the museum features an amazing assortment of airplanes, ships and even the Enterprise Space Shuttle. It was incredible to see a real space shuttle and not just a replica. I explained to David that shuttle launches were a big deal in the 1980’s. Born in 2008, David looked at me as if I was from ancient times and we shared a laugh.
All of our sightseeing had worked up an appetite so we grabbed a bite to eat in the formerly gritty but now hip Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood. We had a Mexican meal that was almost as good as my wife, Sandy’s food. With our hunger satisfied, it was sadly time to hop on the train back to our hotel.
The following day, we were ready to see New York City with renewed energy. We decided to pay a visit to Times Square. While filled with frenetic energy, Times Square has also become a bastion for pedestrians. There were plenty of places to enjoy a coffee and just people watch. Street entertainers from the naked cowboy (not really naked) to a fake Donald Trump kept us entertained.
After visiting Times Square, we hopped on the subway and made our way to the 911 Memorial & Museum. Visiting the museum was a profound experience. The museum honored the memories of those lost in the tragedy with respect and dignity. For our family, the most touching moment was meeting a volunteer who had been in the World Trade Centre on September 11th. The volunteer and David had a conversation about his experiences that day. Their conversation was a more powerful learning moment for David than any textbook or documentary.
Leaving the museum, we were all justifiably in a solemn mood. To lift our spirits, we decided to join a hop on/hop off bus tour. The guide provided the passengers with amusing stories bringing a smile to everyone.
By the end of the tour, it was almost time to board our train, but not before a visit to the Empire State Building. While the view from the top was incredible, I was most impressed by the elevator. It climbed seventy floors in the same time most elevators go from the basement to the first floor. David loved exploring all the different viewpoints while I stayed firmly planted in the middle of the observation deck.
After having enjoyed the view, we rushed from the Empire State Building and took our train back to the hotel.
The next morning, it was our final day in New York City. I insisted that the American Museum of Natural History had to be on our bucket list. It was difficult to take in the entire museum in just one visit. There were displays on pretty well everything in the natural world. For me, the highlight was seeing the space show: Dark Universe. Narrated by world-renowned astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the show changed my perspective about outer space.
We wanted to finish our time in New York City by checking out the famous Rockefeller Centre. Constructed in the Art Deco style during the Great Depression, the Centre is an architectural masterpiece. The day we visited, it was gently raining so the views from the top were somewhat obscured. It still felt cool to feel like we were in the middle of the clouds. There was also a small museum talking about the interesting history of the building.
Our time in New York City was winding down but we felt like we had taken a great first bite out of the Big Apple.
For our visit to New York City, we found it invaluable to purchase the CityPass. It provided great savings to all the various attractions and helped to skip the lines. We also found the website, www.nycgo.com, to be very useful in planning our trip for attractions and events in the city.
As expected, hotels are expensive in New York City. We chose to stay at nearby Tarrytown and take the Metro-North train into the city everyday. It was about a forty-five minute train ride and was a peaceful way to start and end our day.