Day 3: Empire State Building, Intrepid Museum and Top of the Rock
I was up at 6.00am the following morning thanks to the time difference and travelling. I dragged Aidan out of bed around 8.00am, as I wanted to get to the Empire State Building as soon as possible, as I’d read it can get busy later in the day.
We were out of the hotel and walking towards the Empire State Building by 8.20am. One thing that I liked about the New York streets is that once you’ve got your head around the street and avenue numbering system, it’s very easy to find your way around.
We arrived at the Empire State Building around 8.40am, and went straight in. We found that most attractions in New York had security checkpoints, and this was no different, so we went through the x-ray machine and metal detector and there was no wait at all for the lifts, so we were straight up to the 86th floor and out onto the viewing deck.
Before we went up to the viewing deck, there was an interesting exhibition of the history of the building, which we spent a good few minutes looking at.
Luckily, today was another fine day with clear blue skies, so we had a great view of everything for miles around. When we first got up there and wanted to take photos, we were a bit worried about holding our cameras through the fencing in case we dropped them but we soon got over that and were snapping away.
It was really amazing the view from up there, you could see the whole of Manhattan, looking south right down to the Financial district and the Statue of Liberty, and looking north, right up Harlem in the north.
We spent a good 1 ½ hours up there, just taking in the view and taking lots and lots of pictures, it helped that it was a nice day, with very little breeze, so it was very comfortable up there.
I had bought a souvenir map which unfolded and showed a lot of the points of interest to the north / east / south /west, which came in useful.
Anyhow, after these 1 ½ hours, we decided it was time to move on, so we made our way down, stopping at the gift shop to buy a couple of presents for the family at home.
Once we came out of the Empire State Building, we noticed there was a McDonalds across the street, so as we had left the room without having any breakfast, we made our way into there to refuel.
After that, our next port of call was going to be the Intrepid Air Sea and Space Museum. This was quite a hike (getting on for a couple of miles), so it took us a little while to get there, we also walked through some areas which weren’t touristy at all, with very few people around, so I was glad when we finally got to the riverfront.
The riverfront area was very nice, there were restaurants, and the area was pedestrianized, and you could rent bikes there as well. I also saw a number of people walking dogs.
You could see the Intrepid from a good way away, it’s a big ship!
We paid for our tickets and made our way in. The way the museum is set up is that the majority of the planes are outside on the top deck, then the next deck down houses a number of other exhibits including the simulators and a replica of the Intrepid made from Lego.
The first thing you come to though is the Growler submarine. This is the only nuclear submarine (it was used for nuclear missiles, it wasn’t nuclear powered), that is open to the public anywhere. Before you can go through the submarine, you have to climb through a hatchway to make sure you’ll be able to get through all the doors inside safely.
One interesting fact we learnt was that due to the limited water available on board, the submariners could only take one 2 minute shower every 7 weeks!
Anyhow, we made our way through the submarine, it was really cramped inside, I don’t know how the submariners coped with it, I could barely make it through on the tour.
Anyhow, we made our way out into the sunshine, and went up to the flight deck of the Intrepid. There were a number of planes here, but I think my favourite was the A12 Blackbird.
From there, we made our way up to the island (the sticky up bit on the flight deck), which houses the bridge. This was cramped, but nowhere near as bad as the submarine. At least the sailors on the Intrepid could go outside to get some fresh air, unlike the crew of the submarine.
From there we made our way to the hanger deck, which housed a number of exhibits, including a Soyuz space capsule that Greg Olsen who’s a millionaire who paid the Russians for a trip to the International Space Station travelled in when he made his trip.
Finally we made our way down to the third deck, which had a number of restored areas of the ship, including a mess deck which was made over to look like something out of the Wild West to raise morale for the crew when they were at sea.
The museum also has a Concorde there, but you have to pay an additional fee to tour that, so we didn’t bother doing that.
It was getting warm by this time, and also Aidan’s camera battery had died, so we decided to walk back to our hotel to take a breather and recharge the batteries (literally for Aidan).
We walked straight back up to our hotel, taking a route with more people around, and were soon back at our hotel.
After having a break for an hour or so, we decided to head out for something to eat.
Heading down 7th Avenue, we came across a pizzeria called John’s Pizzeria, which seemed to get good reviews, so we headed in. It was only maybe 4.00pm by this time, so we were seated straight away.
The interior of the restaurant was very impressive – apparently it used to be a church – there’s a huge mural covering one entire wall of the restaurant, and a staircase leading up to a balcony seating area upstairs. There’s also an impressive stained glass roof.
We weren’t sure how big everything would be, so we decided on a half loaf of garlic bread with cheese, which arrived very quickly, and was just the right amount for the 2 of us.
For our main course we decided on a large traditional pizza with Italian sausage and chicken. Again, it arrived quickly, and was just the right size for 2 of us.
Our server at John’s wasn’t the friendliest person, but he bought our food and drinks quickly enough, so that was fair enough.
After finishing our food, we made our way back onto the street, and had a think about what to do. We were originally going to see a movie (I did consider going to see a Broadway show when I was planning the trip, but decided that a) Aidan wouldn’t appreciate it and b) It was too expensive), but after looking at the films available, nothing appealed to us, so we decided to give it a miss.
I was originally planning on visiting the Top of the Rock the following day, but as were at a bit of a loose end today, we decided to visit that evening. We thought that if we went up around 6.30, we could see both the city in daylight, and then see it all lit up after it got dark.
We had our trip to the Statue of Liberty booked for the following day, and were planning on using the subway to get there, so we called into a Subway station and bought our metro cards to save a bit of time the following day, this was easy enough, as there are machines to buy the tickets right there.
We were an hour or so too earlier to make our way up, so we walked up to Rockefeller Plaza and had a good look round there. Aidan went into the Nintendo World store and spent a while playing on the games in there. We also had a look at all the old Nintendo games they had on display, like the original Gameboy, which was interesting.
We then walked over to the famous ice rink and watched the people skating for a while. We also took plenty of photos of all the buildings and the statues all round the plaza.
I hadn’t booked tickets for the Top of the Rock, but there a couple of booths in the plaza where you can buy tickets, which didn’t have a queue, so I bought 2 tickets, and we went inside the building.
It was busier than the Empire State Building had been that morning, but it wasn’t too bad at all.
Once you go through security, you get your photo taken for a souvenir photo, if you want to buy one.
Next you are shown a short film (3 or 4 minutes) about the history of the Rockefeller centre, and then you join the queue for the lifts.
As I said, it was a bit busier than the Empire State Building, so it took us about 10 minutes to get into one of the lifts.
Once you get out of the lift, you’re on the first level of the viewing area. The way the Top of the Rock is set up is with 3 levels – you come out of the lift and you’re on the bottom view level, then go up an escalator for the next one, and finally walk up some stairs to the very top – this level just has a wall together with a small fence, so don’t go up here if you don’t like heights – although having said that, you probably wouldn’t go up at all if you didn’t like heights!
The other 2 levels had glass screens to stop people falling off, which was good, but it made it a bit tricky to get good photos, there were small gaps between the glass screens, so the favourite place for people for to stand was in between the glass screens.
As I said we wanted to stay up there until the sun set so we could see the city at night, which we did. It was still nice and clear as it has been all day, so we got a great view of the sunset and the city as it got dark.
The nice thing about the Top of the Rock is that you get a nice view of the Empire State Building, which obviously you can’t see from the top of the Empire state itself.
It was great to see the city all lit up after dark. I especially liked Central Park, as it has lights running along all the paths at night, which looks great from a high vantage point.
Anyhow, we stayed up there until it had gone completely dark, at which time we were getting a bit tired again, so decided to make our way back down.
Unfortunately, a lot of other people had the same idea, so there was a bit of a queue for the lift back down, we had to wait about 15 minutes before we could get into a lift. It was all well organised with a queue, and a member of staff loading people into the lift.
The lifts in the Rockefeller had glass ceilings, on the way up, they show a film on the glass, but on the way down, they turn off the lights in the lift, and as there are lights in the lift shaft, you see yourself descending, which was a really cool effect.
By this time, it was getting on for 8.30pm, so we decided to call it a day. Luckily, our hotel was quite close to the Rockefeller centre, so it only took a few minutes to walk back to the hotel.
The end of part 2…