While I enjoyed having the opportunity to visit New York City, and I cherished spending time there with my brother, I was actually pretty underwhelmed by the place. First, as I hope that my blog illustrates, I am primarily interested in traveling to experience the natural world. Of course, big cities are great destinations as well, but for me, there has to be a balance between culture/historical attractions and the relative artificial nature of the city. I really love Chicago and DC, but New York didn’t strike up the same balance of elements for me, it just felt like miles and miles of unadulterated urban landscape. There wasn’t enough open sky, and it seemed like even the animals I am used to seeing around humans were scarce. Not only that, but I found the people to be surprisingly rude.
That being said, I loved the fact that there was interesting and delicious food to be had around every corner. I had some yummy sushi, Mediterranean food, French fare, and of course, tons of wonderful American classics like hamburgers and pizza. Traveling without a car was also amazingly easy, and once you get a handle on the subway system, it really opens up the city for exploration. It goes without saying that there are also tons of cultural and historic attractions that I really enjoyed checking out, and due to the short nature of my trip, my brother and I opted to get the New York Citypass to help us structure our time. This includes tickets to the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Top of the Rock or Guggenheim Museum, and the Statue of Liberty or a Cruise Line Cruise. I have used the Citypass before in Chicago, and I didn’t regret getting it again in New York, although I wasn’t too interested in a couple of the attractions.
I have heard some bad things about the lines when visiting the Statue of Liberty, but I am a MAJOR national park buff, and I really couldn’t miss the opportunity to see this landmark for myself. Luckily, the harsh winter cold seemed to keep a lot of the crowds away when I was there. It was surreal to see this iconic statue in the flesh, and while I wasn’t able to go up into the statue as the tickets were sold out, seeing it from the ground was not at all disappointing, even in the biting cold. Ellis Island, which was the second half of my Statue of Liberty visit, was also a pretty surreal experience. It is hard to imagine what people went through there, including my own family, and exploring its halls made me feel an experiential connection to my ancestors. Besides exploring the museum, I also spent the extra money to use Ellis Island’s resources to do some family research, and ended up taking home my one and only souvenir from their print shop. To cap off our New York City national park experience, I also stopped by Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace, where I caught a free tour of the house. The tour was a little on the long side, but I think anyone interested in American history or Theodore would have enjoyed seeing the house and hearing the stories of the Roosevelt family- I certainly did.
In terms of museums, the Met was my favorite, which was somewhat surprising. While I am fairly artistic, I tend to find art museums boring. The Met was unlike any art museum that I have been to, however. Along with the paintings and sculptures that I have come to expect in similar places there were artifacts from all over the world, and large sections of the museum were highly immersive. I particularly enjoyed the recreation of French and English rooms, and the Egyptian section. The American Museum of Natural History was also pretty enjoyable, but was much more traditional than the natural history museum in Chicago. There weren’t as many immersive aspects to the museum as the Met or the Field Museum, and I was reminded of Tucson’s International Wildlife Museum, which features hundreds of taxidermied animals from all over the world. Finally, I was not impressed by the Museum of Modern Art. First, the entrance to the museum was hard to find, as was the line to have our tickets checked. By the time that we got to the point that we were going to enter the museum with our tickets, we were then told that we couldn’t have our bags and would have to check them. This turned out to be a major inconvenience, as the bag check area was just as disorganized as the rest of the museum. The art on display was interesting, but I was turned off by the hassle of getting in, and I can’t say that I am particularly fond of the weirdness exhibited by modern art.
Finally, while I am not a big theater connoisseur, a show or two is not something to be missed in New York, and in retrospect I would have liked to have seen at least one more show while in the city. I did go to Radio City to see the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular, and it was a great experience. Radio City was a beautiful theater, and the show was the first time since I was little that I have really enjoyed hearing Christmas songs.
And if you have any questions about my experience in New York City or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂
My next update will be on January 15th, and I am actually not sure where I will write about next.