One World Trade Center and the High Line

New York has three main city viewpoints: the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center, and the One World Trade Center (WTC). We’d seen the Empire State Building at night and although we didn’t get to the Rockerfeller Center, we did go up the One World Trade Center.

We had scheduled the WTC for a Monday to avoid crowds and long lines, so we were happy to see barely anyone when we showed up. We didn’t have to wait and went straight to the elevator. The elevator had screens covering all of its walls, and as we took the elevator up to the 102nd floor, there was an animation of New York being built from the marshes (before people were around) to the skyscrapers that exist today.

The main viewing area takes up the entire 100th floor, which is cool because we were able to see the city in all directions. The floor plan isn’t actually that large; it was a tall, skinny building. We were annoyed with the wide heaters at the bottom of all of the windows, which caused everyone to awkwardly lean over so that they could get close to the window. As well, the windows aren’t angled, so there is a lot of reflection when taking photos.

The views were still pretty good, and it was cool to see most of the city from high up. The tower isn’t much taller than the other surrounding buildings, but being at the top still gives a sense of being above it all.

At one end of the viewing platform, there was a guy standing in the middle of a circular tourism display giving an introduction to New York and some fun facts about the city. He waved his hands and the screens changed. We couldn’t figure out if it was motion-sensitive or if there was a remote in his other hand.

The elevator ride back down wasn’t as as exciting as the way up, but also had an animation. At the bottom, we exited into the Oculus building and walked through it to take a look at the 9/11 memorial.

Our last stop of the day was the Museum of Natural History. It was surprisingly late in the day when we got there, and the museum closes fairly early, so we didn’t get a lot of time there. But it was really cool! I didn’t expect this museum to be as interesting as it was. Natural history, animals, and fossils are definitely more interesting to us than modern art.

The first exhibit we walked through was really bizarre because there were windows displaying dioramas of African animals. The taxidermy animals looked very lifelike, so I was expecting them to move but they didn’t. The backgrounds were painted and took away from the scenes.

We took a look around the Africa exhibit and the underwater creatures, where we saw many animals, including seals(!), but couldn’t quite make it to the dinosaurs before the museum closed.

The next day we went to Chelsea Market, a Granville Island-esque place, and the High Line Park. The market was surprisingly busy and quite interesting. It is in a refurbished warehouse building, filled with food and other shops. The shops looked like they offer a lot of tasty food, but there weren’t many. The market only spanned one floor.

On the other side of the market was the High Line park, which we found to be one of the best urban parks we’ve ever visited. The park is an elevated walkway that was formerly a rail line running along the Hudson River through the city. The railway was repurposed in 2006 and opened in 2009 with an expansion in 2011 and another one in the works.

What makes the High Line so interesting is that the park fits so well into the neighbourhood. It is essentially a long walking route on concrete pavers surrounded by grassy areas, benches for rest and social time. There are planted trees and bushes along the entire path, which makes for a very pleasant stroll. The path meanders from side to side so it isn’t always straight, and there are interesting views of the city buildings nearby.

The last part of the High Line is around Hudsons Yard. It wasn’t landscaped as heavily, but did have a small play area for children. This was the latest extension and was less developed, but added more length to the park.

We also visited Grand Central Station and took some long exposure photos and time lapse videos. Like the public library, we were here just to see the building. There was a couple taking wedding photos at the same time, which made for some interesting photos.

After a stop at a cafe and our best dinner of the trip ($2 tacos!), we ended up at Macy’s on the way home. This is aparently the largest department store in the world. What’s more interesting is that they have wooden escalators that were refurbished in a recent renovation.