Last week I asked you, my readers, to decide what I should do while in New York. NYC & Company was generous enough to offer each TBEX (travel blogger conference) attendee a NYC City Pass, allowing us admission to six of the most popular attractions in New York for free. This was an amazing gift and I am so thankful to them for offering it.
The top three winners in the poll were:
- Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Empire State Building Observatory
True to my word, I set out on Friday to do as much as I could in one day. I left Washington on an Amtrak train at 5:30 AM, which meant I was up at 3:30 AM. I arrived shortly before 9:00 AM, checked into my hotel and made my way to the NYC Tourism office. The staff were great and armed me with not only the city pass, but all the information I would need to make the best of my day in New York.
In my mind, I thought it prudent to first visit the Empire State Building since I was close by. In actuality, I really wasn’t all that close, but once I realized that it was too late to turn back.
There were a couple of factors I failed to take into account when planning my day. The first was the unbelievably oppressive heat. As luck would have it, it was one of the hottest days of the year and the humidity seemed to sap every ounce of energy within minutes. The second was that I apparently forgot that there might be just one or two tourists in New York on a bright summer’s day. The legions of tourists (and tourons) were both shocking and absolutely frightening. If it weren’t for the City Pass, I would probably have just given up and returned to my hotel for a much needed nap. Instead, I was able to skip the main ticket lines and quickly made my way to the front of the line to ascend the landmark building.
Even with the City Pass, it took at least 30 minutes to reach the 86th floor observatory. Provided with a complementary audio guide, I spent the next 45 minutes learning more about New York and admiring some incredible vistas. My favorite was the American Radiator Building, now the Bryant Park Hotel. This fantastic, 1920s skyscraper was meant to evoke thoughts of a radiator as an architectural nod to the purchasing company.
By the time I left the Empire State Building, it was almost noon. I was shocked that my day was half over and I had only done one thing. I went for a quick slice of pizza before taking the subway to the South Ferry stop, close to the Statue of Liberty.
It probably isn’t the fault of the National Park Service, more likely it was my poor navigational skills, but I couldn’t figure out how to queue up for the Statue of Liberty tour. After 20 minutes of wandering around the park, I finally found the reserve line. I know I’ve said it before, but thank God for the City Pass. While the reserve line wasn’t short, the normal line was many times longer. Not only did the City Pass save me time, but it also saved me from having a heat stroke. Once I made it through the security station, I boarded the boat and was eager to finally see the Statue of Liberty up close and personal.
By this time it was 1:00 PM and I wasn’t sure how much more I could get done. Rather than stop at Liberty Island and tour the base of the statue, I instead took copious snapshots and proceeded to the next stop, Ellis Island. Even though I didn’t spend enough time here, I really enjoyed what I was able to see. I was particularly impressed with the restored main building and could just imagine how many people were processed through this stately edifice.
After a quick tour of the island, I left on the next boat returning to the docks. Even though visiting the Statue of Liberty was a huge time suck, it was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. There is something so intrinsically calming about being on the water. There is simply nothing else like it.
Returning to the mainland (well sort of, since Manhattan is an island), I glanced at my watch and grimaced when I saw that it was 3:00 PM. I had to meet friends for dinner at 6:00 PM and knew that there was no way I could go to the MET, return to my hotel and get ready for dinner in time. And so my readers, I apologize. I did not go to the MET as instructed, but I have been there before and know what a tremendous museum it is.
Instead of an enriching experience at the MET, I opted for a nap in a fantastically cool hotel room, with a stop to buy as much Gatorade as I could carry back.
Even though I was only able to visit two of the six attractions on the City Pass list, I had an amazing day and remembered why I love returning to Gotham whenever I have the chance.