Amazing Kids! Magazine

Top Attractions in New York City Using the CityPASS

By Sean Traynor, Editor-in-Chief and Ryan Traynor, Contributing Writer

Over spring break I was able to visit New York for 5 days.  I was so excited because it was the first time I’d been there and I had heard so many fabulous stories about all the things to see.  Luckily I was able to get a CityPASS for New York which helped me to decide which places were the best to see.  At 46% off the normal ticket prices, New York CityPASS includes one-time admission to 6 of New York’s most famous attractions:  Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or Circle Line Cruise, and Top of the Rock or the Guggenheim Museum. The tickets are valid for nine days beginning with the first day of use so they were perfect for my 5 day trip.  It also made my visits easy because the booklet includes detailed attraction information, hours, location, insider tips and a map.  It also helped us skip most ticket lines because we had the ticket in hand.

Day 1

You can’t visit New York without visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  My grandfather immigrated to the United States here so it meant a great deal to me.  We took the subway down to the Battery Park Ferry.  There I was able to skip the long lines with my CityPASS ticket.  The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 and was a gift from France to celebrate the alliances of two nations in achieving United States independence.  The French sculptor Frederic Bartholdi modeled his huge statue on one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Colossus of Rhodes.  The torch symbolizes enlightenment, her seven-pointed headdress represents the continents of the world and in her left arm she holds a tablet that represents the Declaration of Independence.  The Statue of Liberty is 151 feet tall, weighs 225 tons and has a 35-foot waistline.  Inscribed on the base are words by Emma Lazarus, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

We were able to walk around the entire rim of the island to get a great view of the statue, even though it was raining.  Inside the base we saw the original torch, having been replaced in the recent restoration in 1986.  We also viewed the museum inside which gave us a great overview of the history of the statue.  We got different views from the pedestal observation deck and the promenade.

From  Liberty Island we took a quick ferry ride over to Ellis Island.  I imagined what was on my grandfather’s mind as he approached the buildings here on the ship from Ireland.  We entered through the main baggage room and climbed the stairs to the Great Registry Room – a room 200 feet long and 100 feet wide where lines of arrivals would wait to be processed into the country.  As you exit the registry room, the immigrants would enter the Staircase of Separation where immigrants were separated into three aisles by a metal railing.  The middle aisle was reserved for those being refused entry for health issues, lack of money, missing information or a number of other reasons. This would be the last time some families would be together.  Although it is a barren staircase, the gravity of the situation of the people who passed through there was ever-present in the echoes of the footsteps on the staircase. You could almost hear the walls talk.  I was able to follow their walk through the entry inspections and health checks, the dormitory and dining hall.  We visited rooms where the immigrants told their stories with stirring photographs of the immigrant experiences from different regions and eras.  It was fascinating.

We topped the day off with an evening at a Broadway show.  It was awe-inspiring.

Day 2

After a perfect first day, we ventured to some of the best museums in New York.  We took a long 20-minute subway trip (but worth it) to the Cloisters Museum. Entering Fort Tyron Park in Upper Manhattan, the Cloisters  is centered on a cliff among many trees with beautiful vistas of the Hudson River.  It was quite a walk to the building from the subway stop but it was through beautiful gardens. The Cloisters houses over 1,200 pieces of medieval art including some fabulous tapestries. It is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Four medieval cloisters have been integrated into the building including sculpture, tapestry, stained glass, metalwork, painting and manuscripts.  I found certain areas of the building and gardens very quieting and reflective.  It helped me appreciate the interesting medieval artwork.  Don’t expect armor and weapons like I did when I first read about this place – it is all about the tapestries, gardens, altarpieces and sculptures.  But you won’t be sad you made the trip out there.

We next went to the Guggenheim Museum for a stark contrast from the Cloisters.  The Guggenheim has a fine collection of 20th-century European art.  Standing in front of the Guggenheim, you will stare, chin up, at the unbelievable architecture of the building.  Frank Lloyd Wright designed this expanding six-floor spiral.  The Great Rotunda looks up to a glass dome with exhibits that fill the walls of the long ramp and lead off into the chambers.  There were pieces from Klee, Picasso, Kandinsky, Chagall, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh.  They also had special exhibits which I found not to my taste, but if you want to experience new talent alongside some of the world’s greatest artists, this museum fits the bill.  I’d recommend parents review the art and special exhibits prior to the children because some exhibits were very mature.

Day 3

My younger brother was very excited to see the American Museum of Natural History.  What I found was that it is not just a museum for young kids.  I found myself fascinated by the complex scientific and educational exhibits.  It sits near Central Park so you can spend time exploring the park before or after your visit here.  The museum covers over four square blocks and owns nearly 40-million specimens. There was so much to see, anyone could easily spend several days here.  So, we reviewed the brochure and picked our favorites.

Just like in the movie Night at the Museum, you will see dioramas of Africa and the evolutionary progress of humans and its gemstones including the famous 563-carat “Star of India” sapphire.  The new exhibit halls are airy and house some exciting exhibits such as the dinosaur exhibit.

There are also new hands-on exhibits such as the Cultural African Republic rain forest.

The Rose Center for Earth and Space is a 95-foot glass cube enclosing a “floating” sphere that is the planetarium.  Exhibits nearby discuss the evolution of the universe and the likelihood of extraterrestrial life.  The American Museum of Natural History also has special exhibits.  We were lucky to see the brand new The World’s Largest Dinosaurs exhibit (open until 1/2/12) which explored the anatomy of a super-sized group of dinosaurs, the long-necked and long-tailed sauropods, who lived 140 million years ago.  We also attended the exhibit called Brain, The Inside Story and learned all about how the brain functions.  We also enjoyed the Butterfly Conservatory.  There was so much to see, you just have to make a full day into your schedule to see the American Museum of Natural History.

To give us a good perspective of New York, we decided to visit the Top of the Rock to get the best views.  It is at the top of Rockefeller Center.  Rockefeller Center has walkways, a sunken plaza with ice skaters, gardens, outdoor sculpture and the art deco building. The whole center has 19 buildings!  At 30 Rockefeller Plaza you can head up 70 stories to the Top of the Rock Observation Center for a 360-degree view of Manhattan.  Designed to look like the decks of ocean liners in the art deco era, it reopened in 2005 after being closed for nearly 20 years. Now it has non-reflective safety glass on the 67th and 69th floors and an open-air 70th floor.  A glass-topped elevator ride that had some neat new-age graphics showing a movie and a Swarovski-crystal chandelier were the highlights of the visit – besides the view, of course.  The vantage point gave us excellent views of not only Central Park but of the Empire State Building.

The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is not your typical museum; it encompasses all aspects of art, including 150,000 paintings, sculpture, drawing, photographs, design objects, prints and architectural drawings and models.  There are about 22,000 films, videos and media works, 300,000 books and historical archives.  It has six curatorial departments: Film and Media, Prints and Illustrated Books, Architecture and Design, Drawings, Photography and Painting and Sculpture.  I was able to see some of my favorite pieces including Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”, Monet’s “Water Lilies”, and Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”  The modern painting and sculpture collection is the largest in the world.  You can see works by Paul Gauguin, Frida Kahlo, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollack, and Andy Warhol.  The museum doubled in size in 1984 and it now has the opportunity to display more of its extensive collection.  Even if you don’t think you like modern art, I know everyone will find something here that will excite and inspire you.

No one can go to New York without visiting Central Park.  Amidst all the bustle of the city, the park looms with its beauty and quiet oasis ready for your exploration.  It covers 51 blocks and fills three avenues.  It crosses east to west in only five places (which does cause a little bit of a walk when you want to go from the American Museum of Natural History to the other side of the park to the MET.) From the initial construction (which took 16 years and brought in 5 million tons of fill dirt and rock and 5 million trees), the park now contains 22 separate playgrounds, a skating rink, 5 man-made lakes, theme gardens, restaurants, performance venues and many mini parks within the park.  We made a point to visit the statue of the Mad Tea Party and Hans Christian Andersen.  We walked the entire length of the park, watching the horse-drawn carriages pass by us and bicyclists with tourists in tow.  A stop at the Chess and Checkers House and the Carousel were important to gain the fun feel of the park.  It was a clean, refreshing and safe park amongst a big city.

Day 4

I was really excited about this day because I had heard so many fabulous things about the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art.) I was not disappointed.  The MET is the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere, housing a collection of more than 3.5 million items, some dating back more than 5000 years and representing every culture in the world. We knew we couldn’t see it all, so we had an administrator show us the highlights.  The heart of the museum contains an extensive collection of European painting, sculpture and decorative arts including pieces by Botticelli, Rembrandt, Degas, and Rodin.  On the ground floor you will find the Costume Institute that includes 100,000 pieces dating from the 15th century to the present including traditional garb and high fashion from every corner of the world.  The American Wing includes a wide range of items from early colonial to today that include paintings, a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie House room from Minnesota and even furniture. My favorite part of the museum was the three room Temple of Dendur (ca 23-10B.C.).  It alone is located in the Sackler Wing, including a gateway to the temple adorned with reliefs of the Roman Emperor Augustus.  This temple was given to the United States from Egypt when construction of a dam along the Nile threatened it. It was brought block by block over and then reassembled.

Next to the temple is the Egyptian Collection which displays objects and artifacts from ca 3000 B.C. to A.D. 641.  It includes a reconstruction of a tomb in which an official of the Old Kingdom was buried.  Near here is also the Arms and Armor collection – one of our favorites.  They have an Equestrian Court which includes armored knights on horseback.

We also loved the Japanese armor with fierce face masks worn in battle.  They included an interesting collection of elaborate arms including samurai blades and a Kentucky rifle.  There was so much to see:  Medieval Treasury which includes gold and other precious metals, works by Michelangelo, Matisse and Rembrandt in the Drawings, Prints and Photographs collection, 30 galleries of European paintings including Botticelli, Rembrandt and Lawrence, the Far Eastern Art galleries that include around 60,000 objects including lacquers, metalwork, ceramics, calligraphy and textiles, the Greek and Roman Art that includes beautiful Greek vases, and 19th Century European Painting and Sculpture with pieces by Mary Cassat, Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Rodin, and van Gogh.

Although it wasn’t included in the CityPASS because it is free, we decided to peek our heads into Grand Central Station because we’ve seen it so many times in movies.  The Main Concourse is 120 feet by 275 feet with arched windows soaring 60 feet on either end.  The floor is made of marble and there is a large clock topped by the figure of Mercury.  It was interesting to watch the rhythm of commerce as people rushed to get to work.  We went down below to eat at their large food court which contained just about every New York delight imaginable.  It was a great place to rest awhile.

Another quick stop was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, modeled after a Gothic cathedral in Cologne, Germany.  It has beautiful spires and three sets of bronze doors on Fifth Avenue.  Inside you can see a marble Pieta by William O. Partridge.

Although we didn’t visit the top of the Empire State Building because we went to the Top of the Rock with similar views, we did visit the outside.  The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for more than 40 years.  A high-speed elevator can take you to the 86th floor outdoor observation deck with glass-enclosed viewing areas as well as an open-air viewing area.  On the 102nd level you can see for about 80 miles on a clear day from the enclosed viewing area. If you want a good view to orient yourself to the city, this is a good option. It is a 102 story building with a 16 story metal-and-glass tower on top.

Times Square is a great symbol of New York.  Make sure to stop by just to peek at the gigantic illuminated signs and bustling traffic and pedestrians.  I hear it used to be a dangerous and dirty place that was avoided, but now it is clean, safe and dazzling.  We were able to walk to another Broadway play and have dinner at a famous New York steak restaurant – perfect!

Day 5

We toured Greenwich Village to get a sense of where some of the world’s most famous literary and artistic geniuses found their muse.  This has been the home of Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry, Louisa May Alcott, Winslow Homer, and more recently, the chef James Beard.

We ended our trip with a visit to the United Nations.  The entrance is lined with flags of the 192 member nations. After extensive security screening we were able to take a tour of the General Assembly.

The trip was nothing less than extraordinary and we really were able to see so much in such a short time.  The CityPASS helped us save money and avoid some long lines so I’d really recommend the purchase of this before visiting.  New York is a lively, exciting place that I think everyone should visit.  Make a trip there soon and be sure to visit the places I listed.  You will experience New York in a way that includes art, culture and fun.

Editor’s Note: To find out more about the New York CityPASS, visit their website:  Have fun! 🙂