Friday, July 24, 2015

NYC Part 7: American Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building, Grand Central Station

On our last full day in New York City we went to the American Museum of Natural History. It was Saturday so it is absolutely insane. I would recommend if you are able to, go on a week day because there will likely be less people (and children) there during the week. Also, my tip is to enter in through the planetarium entrance off West 81st Street. We did this by accident because of where we came up from the subway, but there was absolutely no line, and later when we stumbled into the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall (the main entrance) it was completely packed. So save yourself some time and buy your tickets at the Hayden Planetarium. It's connected to the rest of the museum, and is worth a visit anyways.

Navigating the museum is very confusing and frustrating, especially when it's crowded. Stairs and elevators were hard to locate and the map we got didn't really make sense. Some of the exhibits were closed which was not indicated on the map. At one point we asked a guard for directions and she directed us to an elevator and told us to go to the fourth floor but the elevator she sent us to didn't even go to the fourth floor, we needed a different elevator. So my advice is be content to wander around aimlessly, or if you have somewhere to be at a certain time (like we did) ask for directions to the specific things you want to see, and then ask for directions again if the first set of directions you get proves faulty.

We saw African elephants and Asian elephants and birds of the world and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial all, and - my favorite - the Ocean Life exhibit. This huge whale hangs from the ceiling and the big room is all dark with "aquariums" of taxidermied and sculpted fish light up the room, except in the corner where one aquarium is dark - the giant squid and the sperm whale fighting. It was so creepy. It felt as if they were going to come to live and start fighting in front of us just like in the movie The Squid and the Whale. It was very cool. 

Stephen wanted to see the dinosaurs so we couldn't leave without seeing them but of course everybody wanted to see them. It was very crowded and full of strollers and children. Honestly, there weren't many places we went in New York where I felt claustrophobic. I think it was because most of the things we did had a fixed number of people allowed (all the shows) or were in wide open spaces (all the parks) or else just weren't as busy during the week, but I felt very crowded and cramped in the Natural History museum so I was grateful to leave. Still, it was a cool experience seeing some of the famous artifacts. 

That afternoon we went to our third and final Broadway show - The Book of Mormon, written by Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the creators of South Park and Team America:World Police).  The show was at the Eugene O'Neil Theatre which is very church-like with gold-gilted everything and painted, vaulted ceilings. It was an appropriate location for the show. The musical was really funny and we enjoyed it a lot. It was completely different from the other two Broadway shows we saw. The dancing and costumes were over the top. There was an entire choreographed tap dance number featuring a mid-song costume change. And there were references to other musicals like Annie and The Lion King. It was very self-aware. We really liked it, but if you don't like the satirical, sometimes offensive style of humor of South Park you won't like it. 

That night we went to the top of the Empire State Building! the 102nd floor observatory was closed but we weren't planning on paying extra to go up there anyway because I'd read that it isn't worth it. We didn't have to wait in line too long to ride the elevator up to the 80th floor. From there, instead of waiting for 20 or more minutes to take another elevator to the 86th floor, we just took the stairs. We got to the top just after the sun set, making for some beautiful views. (Above you can see part of downtown Manhattan with the Chrysler Building in the top left)

It was so awesome watching the city light up as the sun set on the river. 

We stayed at the top until it was dark out. In this photo you can see the corner of 5th Ave. and Broadway creating a V in the middle, and in the distance the new World Trade Center.

We took this photo of the Statue of Liberty through a pair of binoculars on top of the Empire State Building.

I was happy we did the Empire State building on the last night of our trip because it was cool to see the city from that perspective and be able to recognize places we'd visited on our trip. It was the perfect way to end our trip, and so special.

The next morning after checking out of our hotel we headed to Grand Central Station, because I wanted to see it, and because we needed to catch a train from there to head to the airport. It really is grand. Everything about it is very majestic looking. There is a mural on the ceiling of all the zodiac signs, and the famous ticking arrivals and departures boards, and the columns, and the crowds. It's just what I expected and it was cool to see in person. 

That was the end of our amazing trip! We had a really wonderful time and did so many cool things. 

Check out my packing tutorial for advice about packing for New York in the summer, and some general tips. 

Check out the rest of our NYC trip:

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