Advantages Tremendous, breathtaking, spectacular views of the city, well priced
Disadvantages Queues, and more queues. Treated like a blithering idiot.
|Is it worth visiting?|
~~~~~~A (Brief) Trip to New York~~~~~~NY in 48 hours. If you need to know anything about New York, it should be that it’s monumental. This isn’t a Prague or a Vienna, it is a huge sprawling city going across more districts than I wish to name (or have the capacity to have remembered). Consulting our omnipresent Lonely Planet guidebook, I discovered that 48 hours was probably ample time – to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As the plane rumbled off the tarmac at Heathrow, I began to wonder what I’d been let in for.
To cut a long (and somewhat complicated) story short, I was travelling with my dad, post-exams, on his staff travel courtesy of BA, but despite having confirmed seats for once, staff travel is the first thing to get hurt when there are problems. Cue an unattended bag in Terminal 4, and 6 British Airways jumbos en-route to JFK grounded. Oh dear. Upshot was a severe delay, and arrival at the hotel with precisely 48 hours until a transfer back to JFK arrived outside the doors, which barely qualifies as a trip.While I’ve made it sound only slightly more favourable than the apocalypse, there were some advantages. One was that we would always have something to do – there’s no time to spend the afternoon wandering around aimlessly, and there’s no need to start digging around for places to go – you just pick the best places to see, and get to them as quickly as possible.
One priority for me was to see the Empire State Building and go up it. I went to New York nearly a decade ago, at Christmas, just after my seventh birthday in order to see this majestic building I’d read so much about. However, due to a overpowering fear of heights, the attraction of lots of snow and Christmas trees, and (so I’m told) various New Yorkers complementing me with a multitude of kind comments that would be far too embarrassing to ever republish at my current age, it ended up being somewhat like this:“Wow, we’re at the foot of the Empire State Building.”
This time, I was going to make a better go of it.~~~~~~The Manhattan Skyline~~~~~~
I’m not exactly the most well travelled guy on earth to say the least, but I have never seen anything quite like the Manhattan skyline in any other place in the world.I’d been lucky enough to go there back in 1997 when the twin towers dominated the view into the city, but regardless, in its current state it is simply spectacular, with the much more attractive Empire State Building and the quite stunning Chrysler Building dominating the skyline. Virtually everywhere I visited in Manhattan and Brooklyn showed off the Empire State, and I can’t help saying how tremendous it looked, as I was captivated by it time and time again. I’m probably about to go off on some long-winded praise that no-one wishes to read, but I really was amazed by it time and time again. At night, it was similarly special, as it was floodlit up the sides in various colours, dependent on which special events or festivals are taking place, adding to the magic.
For the best views possible, I would recommend walking out to the middle of Brooklyn Bridge – that is an experience in itself, and is truly excellent for seeing the city from a little way out. On that note, don’t cross over and into Brooklyn unless there’s something you specifically want to see, and don’t expect to find cabs heading anywhere except back into Manhattan. Not that we had a problem like that or anything. Another option is the Staten Island ferry, which is absolutely free for everybody, easy to reach by subway, and takes you right past the entire city, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Helicopter tours are also possible, but not something I could comment on. One place that we thought might be good was the rooftop garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park, and after our 1 hour walk around the museum (which didn’t do it justice), we took a look up there, but regrettably the Empire State was completely blocked from view by a tower block that resembled a black box of cornflakes.~~~~~~Climbing the Empire State~~~~~~
I’ve just realised that title is a touch misleading, it’s not like rock climbing on ropes, in fact there were barely any stairs, most of it was via a particularly rapid lift, powered by jet engines or something no doubt. Sounds more dramatic though, so I’ll leave it.Well, as is the nature of these things, I’ll lead you through all the mind-numbing rubbish we had to contend with prior to reaching the actual point of the trip, although if it’s half as nauseating as the real-life event, I apologise now, and you are more than welcome to skip it. The problem is that it absolutely incensed me, and without the full experience of how pathetic it was, you’ll never understand what I’m getting at.
The first process is to go up an escalator in a small front plaza, and when you reach the top, you’ll notice a large queue. That’s what happened when we went at 10 or 11pm mind, in the daytime it queued onto the street. This queue took about 10 minutes to get through, and seemed to have no discernable reason for existing, until we eventually reached security. No different to airport security really, I got checked several times due to having a potentially lethal button on my jeans. Once that’s done, there’s another queue to negotiate through in order to purchase tickets to get up to the 82nd floor. Thankfully we’d purchased online, so no worries about that, we got to skip through the queue. We adopted that smug ‘we’ve just skipped the queue look’, as you do, but sadly it was quickly wiped off our faces when we reached queue number 3. That was to get the high-speed lift up to the 70-somethingth floor. Well another 10 minutes later, after our tickets were checked, we got on the lift, and after swallowing every 10 floors to prevent a full-scale head explosion, we reached the new floor.That presented us with an entire floor of barriers, tape, and various employees trying to sell us a lot of tat. For a minute, I felt like I’d been transported to a Ford production line in Detroit, rather than the glitz of the Empire State in New York. We spent about 10 minutes trundling around, while some turnip with an enormous grin, a good dose of acne and that over-the-top salesman charisma that makes you want to hit them in the face with a cricket bat took photos of people in front of a green board (which would later be superimposed on top of a picture of the Empire State, as if they’re floating several hundred feet in the air), while a woman screamed at people to ‘move faster’. Hardly seemed like somewhere we’d paid to be, but anyway. We were then told to buy a brickphone that had a ‘friendly cabbie’ tell us what was in the skyline for $10 or so, and tickets for the skyride (which we’d already read was a waste of money). Then we got the option of queuing for 20 minutes or walking 6 flights of stairs up, unlike most, we walked up, and finally reached the 82nd floor observation deck.
And, once you’d escaped the somewhat irritating gift shop, it really was absolutely tremendous. We’d chosen to go at night, and the skyline was glimmering with the lights of Manhattan, with such sights as the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge and the hoards of taxis flowing down the streets, not to mention the odd firefly lighting up as it flew overhead. It was completely breathtaking, and far outstripped my experience of the London Eye at night a couple of years ago, even my expectancies of the tower itself. I could go on, but really, the best way to see the whole of Manhattan is without a doubt at the Empire State. The observation deck itself is outdoors, and you can view the skyline from all four sides of the building, walking around at your leisure, leaving whenever you feel you’d had enough. I’d also like to point out that as someone who is terrified of heights, I felt perfectly safe up there, the bars were very sturdy and you would have been impaled by the preventative spikes before you managed to get anywhere near the top of the barrier, while they weren’t obstructing the view.There was the odd person being guided around by the friendly-cabbie-phone, but in all honesty it seemed like a waste of money. The last thing I cared about up there was which building was which, who owned it, and when it was made, I was there to take in the sights and the spectacular view. There was also the option to pay more money to reach the 102nd floor, or thereabouts. That, in my eyes, is not for an improved view – even on the lower floor, you’re higher than anybody else is, and you won’t see anything more. What you will get is a more private experience, as less people are prepared to pay, and you could escape the hustle and bustle of the 82nd floor tourist honeypot. After about 20 minutes of further screaming, the passionate selling of the superimposed of photographs, and a lift down, we were ready to leave the Empire State, thoroughly satisfied with the visit.
I have to say, it was one of the highlights of the trip, and when doing Manhattan in such a short time, this is one of the best ways to take in a lot of the city in a short space of time. I prefer the view at night, but some may like to try in the day, when it’s busier. It stayed open until 2am, so I imagine if you wait even longer, you should be able to make your ascent with much shorter queues, and far less other tourists, but it’s all dependent on what takes your fancy. I was however, somewhat annoyed at the unbelievably pathetic tourist exploitation that took place up there. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind them trying to milk every penny out of people on their very own tin Statue of Liberty to display on the mantelpiece, but forking out, only to be whacked in a tightly controlled line of people, purely to give us no choice but to walk past all of the extras and souvenirs, as well as the screaming as if we were a bunch of kids blocking the routes was really not on.~~~~~~Tickets and Information~~~~~~
It’s much better to purchase online and print off your tickets, queuing yet again for tickets is just going to drive you insane, I promise you. The express ticket is an option if you really want it, costs a lot more but cuts out all the queues – if you’ve got the money to burn and you don’t want to wait, go for it.All prices are estimates from the online information, and are for online tickets unless otherwise mentioned. Exchange rate roughly $2 = £1 during my visit.
Adults (18-61) $20
Youth/Senior (12-17/62+) $18
Child (6-11) $14
102nd Floor (Only available on 2nd Floor at Empire State Building, in addition to 82nd Floor Ticket)
All Ages $15
Security information taken from the Empire State Building Site:
IMPORTANT: Everyone must go through the security check when entering the building. No glass or bottles are permitted to be taken to the Observatory. Cameras and camcorders are allowed but no tripods. ONLY carry-on size and style bags, suitcases, backpacks, duffle bags, luggage, etc., are permitted. We do not have a coat check, package, baggage check or holding area, so please do not attempt to bring non-carry-on style luggage to the Observatory.
Top of the Rock – The Recently Re-Opened Observation Deck at the Rockefeller PlazaAdult $17.50
New York Helicopter Charter, Inc, information taken from company website“The 10 To 12 Minute Liberty Tour lets you see the sights of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis and Governors Island, the South Street Seaport, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and the Wall Street Financial Center.”
“The 15 to 17 Minute Central Park Tour will let you see the sights that make NYC famous. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, Central Park, and the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum.”
$186 Per Person
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