Scrolling through the social media feeds of our friends in NYC, it seems to be getting really Christmassy there, with the city turning into a snowy Winter Wonderland this year. It filled us with some festive spirit, so we started thinking about what we could do to help the city, and its cultural institutions and attractions. You know what they say, Christmas is all about giving, so why not give the gift of NYC and delight the OutThere traveller in your life this year?
Looking for a last-minute present for NYC-philes like us, or even those who have now put the city at the top of their bucket-lists when it’s time to return? We have an idea. With the city’s world-class cultural institutions and attractions having had to close for most of the year and visitor numbers at a low, there’s a novel way to help them bounce-back and give a unique Christmas present to a loved-one this year. So why not consider a ‘gift of NYC’ for under-the-tree, or to send to a friend to unwrap virtually. Many of NYC’s top places to visit offer memberships and subscriptions for frequent visitors to the city and those who love and support their work. They also provide giftcards for entry or to spend in their retail outlets for those who are planning a visit in 2021.
We recently had the chance to check out some that were open for business, with social distancing measures in place, thanks to the NYC CityPASS that offers entry to a choice of six attractions in the city for 40% off the published prices … which incidentally would make a great gift in itself. An NYC CityPASS can be bought at any time and is now valid for 30 days from when it is first used. For first-time visitors or even people like us who have visited the city many times before, but never got into some of the moreobvious tourist spots, it is a great way to get to see some of New York’s iconic visitor attractions.
American Museum of Natural History
For the most part, this is a traditional museum, with a large proportion of its exhibits displayed in glass display cabinets. But it’s charming and worth a visit, like on the rainy day that we did. Beyond the exhibits, we also enjoyed its connections to familiar Hollywood movies, for example, the exterior formed the location for the classic Ben Stiller Christmas crowd-pleaser ‘A Night In The Museum’ and it doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to see the stuffed animals, dinosaur skeletons or figures of Native Americans coming to life as the museum doors close at night. The star of the show for us is the life-sized blue whale, Hope, which swoops down through the Hintze Hall. It’s enough to bring out childish-wonder in even the most cynical of adults.
We always make it our business to visit Frank Lloyd-Wright buildings. This is his most iconic and atypical edifice, with its signature spiral structure which personifies both the exterior and the main atrium, linking the interconnected galleries. Unfortunately, our visit coincided with the rather tedious ‘Countryside, The Future’ show. Better placed in a university science faculty, it took up the entire atrium and interrupted the beautiful clean lines of the spiralling walkway. But the other gallery spaces went some way to make up for it. We particularly loved the Jackson Pollock exhibit, which seems very well suited to the minimal clean white airy spaces.
There are mixed reactions to the Hudson Yards development, many of the native New Yorkers we spoke to fail to see the relevance or benefit of another ‘international mall development.’ The structures are impressive, though. The never-ending Ecshereque stairways of unique The Vessel is a masterful piece of architecture and engineering; and the adaptable cultural space of The Shed with its huge retractable roof structure is nothing short of world-class. The Edge, with a vertigo-inducing see-through floor area, offers panoramic views of the Hudson River. We timed our visit to coincide with the sunset which allowed us to witness this most cinematic of cities transform from a Cubist montage of buildings into a dazzling Pointillist display of colourful lights.
We have been travelling regularly to New York since 2005, yet we had never ventured up the most iconic of the city’s skyscrapers. However, the combination of a NYC City PASS and a stay at the Langham NY, just a block away, meant we really had to put that straight. The Covid pandemic has few positives, however, the current lack of visitors to NYC meant that the usual thousands of visitors a day were reduced to just a handful, and we could leisurely look around the exhibits and then take an unhurried, socially-distanced long-look at the jaw-dropping 360-degree view from the rooftop. We took way too many photographs of the mesmerising view before heading back to ground level.
There is only so much that can be done with a vantage point, but in our experience of this kind of attraction – and we have seen more than our fair-share around the world – the One World Observatory is the most comprehensive experience. Incorporating state-of-the-art audiovisuals and the largest curved indoor LED screen in the world. Multimedia wizardry aside, the main attraction is the spectacular view, from this, one of the highest viewing platforms in the world. The Downtown location provides a unique perspective on Manhattan island to the north, New Jersey to the West and Brooklyn and the bridges to the south and east.
Want to give more? Well, besides the NYC CityPASS, there are other New York City-based gifts available, through NYC & Company’s ShopNYC initiative of local businesses that offer e-commerce and giftcards to support those who make the city so OutThere.
Photography by Martin Perry