Sydney – NYC 3: Central Park, Buskers, Museums, Empire State, Highline and others

What's Up?
I covered a lot of stuff in my last post, NYC landmarks, culture and other more casual observations. In this edition Sydney – NYC, I cover even MORE.

But before I do I would just like to say it right now before I forget: New York is a superb city for walking! There’s a lot of walking around as you’ll see in this post. And the grid-system street layout makes it easier for travelers to navigate. I think of the streets as a big Excel grid and all I really need are my cell and range references (street names and numbers).

And now, without further ado..

Central Park

It was a strange and welcoming winter day when we hit Strawberry Fields in Central Park to see the John Lennon tribute. Welcoming in that it was roughly 16-17 Celsius (that’s 60 Fahrenheit) and so I actually had to peel some layers off while walking.

5-minutes in, we stumbled upon a group of street performers who I thought were a sub-group of the party we saw the night before. Here’s a hand-stand walk by one of the guys:

Hand Stand

Now I actually enjoy watching street performers. And I fully expect the occasional crude humour and smack-chat as they attempt to attract/engage the audience. But it gets a bit silly when there’s an over-emphasis on race, sexuality, age and other stereo-types particularly when there are impressionable kids in the crowd (12 under).

n.b. seems like the people from New Jersey copped the brunt of the jokes – is there something I should know about between New York vs New Jersey?

And the guys here were getting a little bit pushy when it came to donations, hunting down every man and his dog with a big collection bag. These are donations after all; was there really a need to literally go after the money?

Here are some action shots:

In stark contrast, we passed under this bridge – can’t remember the name – where angelic voices greeted us:

I’m not being highbrow here, as I can get dragged into a cheap laugh with the best of them – but I’d rather watch these guys, in this magical setting (rustic, the tinge of light and shadows it made, the wintry-Xmas feel etc.) And I would like the option to donate.

Here are some more snaps of the walk under the bridge:

n.b. Yes, I donated to both. There’s just no need to be a Grinch.

Museums

Whew, does NYC have any or what?

I was able to go to The Natural History Museum, MET and the MoMA (will have to do the Gugg on a return trip one day!)

My favourite? The MoMA just edges MET out for it’s sleek new modern design, layout and diverse modern pieces (and the killer cafe they had inside – the food was top notch).

MET

In terms of pure art work however, they were pretty much on par – well to be honest the MET edges MoMA in that regard for its VAST array of art from Egyptian, English, Greek, Roman (etc) artifacts, sculptures, paintings, armor, statues and other treasures. So if you’re into ancient history and art, then this is your museum.

One day was just not enough as the MET is an absolute MONSTER! Here are some highlights:

n.b. a thing to note with these museum pics: they’re really rushed due to the number of people around. So these are predominantly, “snap! and move-right-along snaps”.

Did you recognise a few treasures there? Did you see Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Munch and others? My fave? It wasn’t actually a painting but the column from The Temple of Artemis (around the 00:51 mark). I’m a big ancient wonder nut and couldn’t believe the MET owns one of the original columns.

MoMA

MoMA as the name implies, is a very modern museum. It has all the features of a modern museum from the arrangement of the garden area to the hallways where art was on show.

Of course it has some absolute masterpieces inside too:

I bet you noticed the crowd at Van Gogh’s Starry Night? The crowds were HUGE around this particular piece and it had its own dedicated security guard (rightfully so).

Some wrap-up notes:

    • Best Times. The MoMA line was out of control during this period. The best time to get in, is before midday or after 5 pm.

Interestingly enough, the free museums, Natural History and MET as mentioned below, had no big lines (but packed inside nevertheless).

  • OMG – The Selfies have taken over. One thing I did notice was the rise of selfies; which appears to be the thing to do these days (and I have a few too). But I’m not too sure its a good idea to take selfies while standing too close to a very valuable (and delicate) piece of art. What was even more shocking was the selfie phenomena in the Ground Zero memorial – but more on this on the next post.
  • Do you donate or walk in for free? Did you know that the Natural History and the MET are on a donation basis? That is, you can walk in for FREE. You are encouraged however to donate (there’s that word again) for the upkeep of the museums, which I did on both accounts ($55 for the MET which kinda sounds pricey considering it was free). But both places obviously deserve it, and in an alternative universe where money flows, I would have no hesitation in giving more. This is human history on display, a culture “that was”, our evolution and all that. (I must see the European treasures one day..)

New Year’s Eve

It was an incredible thought to 1st think of being there when the ball drops in Times Square; this was as an ideal NYE activity.

Then reality slapped my half-frozen face silly and told me “Tell ‘im he’s dreaming“. Nice theory but hard to execute.

In practical terms, the cold, the crowds and the wait time – given that Times Square entry time before they close it off to the public (cutoff at 5 pm or thereabouts) – was too big an ask in the end.

A better idea particularly for families would be to do something a little more low key.

St Patrick’s

We ended going to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a NYE mass first. I took the opportunity to snap-it-up as I am a big fan of old architecture:

Although the cathedral was under construction, you can still see a glimmer of its old grandeur over the scaffolding. A magnificent church indeed!

Empire State

As I mentioned in my last post, we stayed close to the Empire State which means we had a free peak of the NYE light show display.

The Black & White edition:
Empire State B&W

The Coloured version:
Empire State colour

We went to the top of the Empire State at night and even then there was a large crowd that would have translated to an almost 2 hour wait (at 10 pm). The good news is that the Empire State provides you with 3 options of getting up there (and checking NYC at dizzying heights) which I’ll just call cattle, business and 1st class (like our airlines).

Cattle class means you’re able to get into the Main Deck (and you wait in line). The Business class means that you’re able to also access the Top Deck as well as the Main Deck (but you still wait in line). 1st class provides access to both, like Business class, BUT you also bypass the line. You have to love the old Time-Value-of-Money equation here.

Let me make that clear for future travelers: If you purchase the 1st class ticket, make sure that you skip all lines. You are entitled to do so. There were a few instances where the marking for 1st class ticket holders were not so clear (which caused us to wait). All you need to do here is wave your golden ticket and say “I want direct access to the Chocolate Factory now”.

The view from the decks (Main and Top) are simply incredible. There were some distinctive shapes and lights that were immediately recognisable, such as The Chrysler building, the bridges and even The Status of Liberty (dim but unmistakably her).

So is there a difference between the Main and Top deck? Of course there is but whether you value it as much as I do is another story. The view is pretty much the same, except, ahem – it’s higher. The 2 things you can take out of the Top Deck are bragging rights (of having experienced being on the Top Deck) and quality time (the longer you stay in the Top Deck, the more you realise the premium difference – pocket that under “experienced that, what’s next on the BucketList?“).

And on a final note, the Empire State Building view is less scary at night than I would imagine it to be by day. This is good news for me and my fear of heights.

The Highline

I heard about this once but to be honest it was not big on the priority list. Like most travellers, The Highline hit our list via a recommendation from a good friend (and I will be forever thankful to her for recommending this must-see site).

This used to be the meatpacker district, but it slowly transformed to what it is today. Check it out:

Did you see the stacked cars at 00:23? Those are not just cars stacked on top of each other; they’re very expensive cars stacked on top of each other! We’re talking about a lot of pricey looking luxury cars here. I asked a local about this and they confirmed that this area is full of yuppies and its “the spot” to go out at night these days.

But during the day time, this is the spot to have a lazy stroll (alongside Central Park).

Here are some more HighLine Highlights:

On a closing note, I would imagine this to be one incredible walk around Spring Time / Summer. There were a fair few plants on display that had potential.

Odds and Ends

  • How dominant is the Spanish language in NYC? I could have sworn that it was in every single street corner I turned. From the local Puerto Ricans and Dominicans to the Spaniards, Argentinian and other Latin American tourists. It’s another good reason why picking up a second language is so important particularly if you’re in the hospitality, retail and trade areas in NYC.
  • In stark contrast, it’s really more practical to learn Mandarin down under given our geographic location, tourism and local trade growth.
  • The foundations of hard work 1. Spotted struggling through the snow: Cyclists doing their delivery duties through the snow. Most of these guys looked like recent migrants on minimum wage (an educated guess). Where they source their will to power through the heavy snow to earn minimum wage to feed their family is truly remarkable. You guys inspire me to lift up my GAME!
  • The foundations of hard work 2. Over heard a Hispanic worker buying a gift for his little girl in the Xmas sales. He was insisting having it wrapped in Xmas wrapping as he had to send the gift overseas. Such a heartbreaking and warm story at the same time.
  • Domestic, International and NYC State of Mind. Met up with some family while in NYC and had an interesting conversation with an in-law. She mentioned that she would like to travel within US first before venturing out in the world. I have heard of this thought-process from Americans and this appears to be a cultural way of thinking (as a general statement). In Australia, most people have traveled overseas, that I know at least. And if they haven’t, they dream about going overseas first before traveling interstate (also a general statement). These cultural differences are quite interesting! But I would also like to point out that the average New Yorker has a different way of thinking in that they would love to explore cities outside the US first (the conversation I had was with a New Jersey native). I guess it’s the NY-state-of-mind! Nothing good or bad in this statement of course – just sayin’..

Whew, I think I outdid myself with this post. But wait, I have even more to share – which I will in the next Sydney – NYC post (where I’ll cover the snow, Ground Zero, Los Angeles and more).

Until then, have a great day / evening wherever you are!

Read the final episode here.


PC @ ThoughtsPC the Globetrotter? Hardly. More like PC the Holiday-lover as I big believer in having breaks in order to recharge batteries.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing about it.

 

7 thoughts on “Sydney – NYC 3: Central Park, Buskers, Museums, Empire State, Highline and others

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