There’s nothing quite like a weekend getaway to NYC. Especially when one of your main goals is to go birding in Central Park. Yeah, that’s a thing. And justifiably so. This is a major stopover point for migratory songbirds (as there is no other significant green spaces for miles around) and many of them aren’t very skittish since they are, after all, in Manhattan (though I don’t think it’s common for a downy woodpecker to jump onto your hand ever).
My other main goal was to eat pizza. Lots of pizza. I’ve been dreaming of New York pizza since Paul and I first started talking about planning a trip up there back in the fall. I was not disappointed.
But, because it’s NYC, you get caught up in the whirlwind of so many iconic things to do. And, in spite of a notable lack of planning, we never had a moment of downtime. Some of my favorites…
- The Met. The sheer wealth of this collection makes it worth a trip. There’s not one sarcophagus in the Egyptian section, there are at least fifty. Seriously. And every nook and cranny are the same way. So much to see. Including a whole section on armor and weaponry, ancient Greek and Roman artifacts, and paintings galore – highlighted for us by Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware.
- NY Public Library. The Rose Reading Room was closed for renovations during our visit (which you might recognize from movies such as Day After Tomorrow). But the rest of the building itself is gorgeous too, with marble floors and columns, ornately painted and gilded walls and ceilings, and dramatic staircases.
- Broadway. We got same day tickets to The Phantom of the Opera. It’s currently the longest running show on Broadway and it was such a wonderful and beautiful experience that just the memory of it is enough to bring tears to my eyes.
- Ground Zero. Everyone has a memory of where they were when 9/11 happened. I was in college and driving to class, listening to the live reports when the planes hit the towers and then sitting in class watching unbelievable news footage when the Pentagon was hit. I remember trying to sort through the confusion of the reports and images and not understanding the full impact. Somehow I expected the memorial to represent that confusion and chaos. It didn’t. It moved past that to a place of tranquil immensity. The footprints of the two towers are now inset squares with water cascading into darkness via a smaller centered square abyss.
- Trinity church and cemetery. We stumbled upon this historic space while walking over to Wall St. Some of the stones in the yard date back to the mid-1700s and the stained glass inside is pretty gorgeous. It’s a nice detour from the modern building circuit and memorable juxtaposition of old history surrounded by shiny high-rises.
- Brooklyn Bridge. We took a water taxi across the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn and walked back over the bridge. Think Golden Gate, but not as long and not red and without the suicide prevention messaging. Basically the only thing they have in common is that they’re both bridges that many people feel the need to walk across. 😉
- Chinatown. This is a real experience – none of this superficial dragon gate nonsense of DC. Get a cheap massage, drink bubble tea, buy some chopsticks, eat some fabulous food (as with most of DC, if there’s a line outside a restaurant, you probably want to eat there).
- Empire State Building. I’m on the fence about this. I’m not including many of the things we did (because they were usurped in coolness by something else I wanted to give space to instead or it wasn’t specifically outstanding) and this one was a tough call as to whether to put on the list. Yet here it is. Because it is iconic. And a fantastic uninterrupted view of the city. But you literally only go up to snap a handful of pictures and that’s the whole experience – you’re shuffled through a lobby, up an elevator, around the balcony (at your own pace), and then back down. I was expecting something more, especially since the tickets to get in where significantly more than any of the museums we went to.
- MoMA. Not nearly as cool as the Met (probably because it focused just on modern art and not overly large, diverse range of topics) but still an expansive and interesting collection. We went for one reason: Starry Night. Totally worth it. Van Gogh never disappoints and it’s incredible to see his work on display all over the world, but it was especially exciting to see this most famous work. Also enjoyed works by Picasso, Dali, Mondrian, and Monet.
- The High Line. An abandoned elevated train track was turned into a 1.5 mile park/walkway. It’s about as urban of a ‘park’ as I’ve ever been in. As busy as a city street sidewalk and mostly concrete (sometimes covered, thankfully in the hot spring sunshine), the tracks themselves are planted with trees and flowers and grasses. You do get some neat behind-the-scenes sort of views of the city (close-ups of apartment buildings and slivers of skyscrapers and even the Statue of Liberty at certain angles).
- Staten Island Ferry. We didn’t have the half day available to go out Liberty Island and tour the Statue of Liberty, but I still wanted to get a closer view, so we rode the free ferry and that goes kinda close by the statue. So cool. But it just made me want to get even closer. That’s moved to the top of the list for our next trip to the city.
I have a new perspective on DC now, too. My sleepy little town where the subway doesn’t run 24 hours a day (I could spend several hours just regaling you with a comparison of NYC vs DC subways, but I’ll spare you that until my next trip to NYC when everything isn’t so new and overwhelming); where the scent of refuse isn’t always lingering in the background; where jackhammers aren’t pounding away; where you aren’t constantly shoulder-to-shoulder on every sidewalk and crosswalk, dodging your way along with the flow of foot traffic; where everything isn’t lit by gigantic neon signage; where you can’t get phenomenal Sicilian pizza slices or foodgasmic bagels; where people aren’t as quick to smile and say a kind word; where the police aren’t as present and friendly (I ❤ NYPD – seriously, those guys are fantastic and friendly and on foot everywhere); where the buildings aren’t so tall as to make you feel like you’re walking urban canyons; where there aren’t layers of decaying trash. I could go on and on. NYC is the ultimate urban experience and returning to DC felt …calm. And much appreciatedly so.
I surprisingly love NYC (specifically Manhattan, where we stayed and concentrated our trip); not as somewhere to live, of course, but it’s a great place to go visit. Already thinking about a return trip to go back to gorge on bagels and pizza and to wander some more through the expansive wealth of The Met…