26 April 2017

Five days in New York: Central Park, Top of the Rock and Times Square

Day One

After loading up on bagels and waffles (so American!) at the hotel breakfast, we decided to take advantage of the sunny weather that day to head to Central Park. We walked up to Bryant Park on 42nd street to get a ‘real’ coffee before purchasing our weekly subway tickets - with difficulty I might add. Two worked on one credit card but we ended up having to pay cash with the other two. 

Before long we were in Central Park and into the zoo - Noah’s bucket list item the first to get a big tick, he’d wanted to go ever since seeing Madagascar - one of his favourite movies growing up. Mylo and I went straight to the sea lion enclosure and caught some hilarious antics - I’m pretty sure it was close to feeding time. We caught up with Mark and Noah in the tropical zone spying all kinds of interesting creatures like snakes (a first for him), mongooses, piranhas, and coatis. It’s not a particularly large zoo - probably not even as big as Wellington zoo but it did have grizzly bears, snow leopards and owls which were all new to the boys. The penguin enclosure was probably my favourite - with several different species they were highly entertaining zipping in and out of the water at speed and coming right up to the glass to say hi!

From the zoo we navigated our way back to the edge of the park to get lunch - the boys succumbed to their first full-size American pretzel although the cheese pretzels the vendor sold were not very nice at all - and they couldn’t finish them! We went slightly healthier with a Fresh & Co salad and sandwich and took advantage of the free apples they were handing out on opening day. From here we walked back into the park and the boys had great fun climbing all over the exposed bedrock rock formations scattered all over the place. I must admit I had no idea that Central Park was so undulating, I fully expected it to be flat the whole way through but the myriad trails through the park wind up and down providing much more interest than I’d anticipated. 

We walked the length of the Mall before reaching Betheseda Terrace and Fountain - sadly no water in there at the moment. After that we found the boating lake with model sailboats out on it, before walking through the Ramble to Bow Bridge. The boys were in their element squirrel spotting - final count 43, but the bigger surprise was finding a heap of turtles in the ponds there too - final count 27 according to Noah!

One thing that surprised me was the lack of new spring growth - New York had a fair few dumpings of snow over the winter and the last one quite soon before we arrived. There were some lovely cherry blossoms dotted through the park though providing a lovely contrast to all the bare trees.

The scale of Central Park is overwhelming - some 850 acres in the middle of Manhattan with myriad trails leading all over the Park. We umped and ahhed about whether to head further north to Belvedere Castle as the boys were getting tired but decided we should - when would we ever get the chance again?

The views from there were lovely  - you could see across to the grand buildings on either side of the park and well worth the extra walk. After this we headed back to the hotel for a short rest. We’d booked 6pm tickets for Top of the Rock - the observation deck at the top of the Rockefeller Center. As well as Top of the Rock, you can also go up the Empire State Building (close to where we stayed) or One World Trade Center which is currently the tallest building in New York. However many people choose Top of the Rock as it has the best views in both directions - the Empire State building and One World Trade in one direction and Central Park in the other. The Rockfeller Plaza is also pretty impressive - an underground maze of so many shops combined with a beautiful outdoor ice skating rink that was still in use. We had a little bit of time to kill so Mark took the boys into the LEGO store while I took some shots of the exterior.

Noah proved to be pretty anxious about going up - we cajoled him along telling him it was completely safe and that we wouldn’t be going up if it wasn’t. He still wasn’t very convinced but we could hardly leave him behind so along he came.

It was certainly good having a timed entrance to the observation deck - even then it took at least 20 minutes to get through security and various lines before finally making it onto the fast elevators up to the viewing floors. There are 3 observation decks - at the 67, 69 and 70th floors. The last one being the best as it’s outside without glass shields to obscure the view, but it’s also the coldest!

My plan was to stay for sunset but we were quite early to the top so I wasn’t sure if the kids would last that long. I wandered back and forth taking shots - a little disappointed in how hazy it was up there. The sunset wasn’t looking at all promising, and it got colder and windier by the minute. But minutes after the sun sank to the west behind New Jersey, the sky lit up with an intense sunset right over the city. Wow.

Then gradually it faded leaving behind the glorious dusk and twinkling lights of Manhattan behind as a dessert treat. By this stage it was about 8pm and we hadn’t even had dinner so we made our way down towards Times Square for a slice of Ray’s Pizza. Then the bright lights of Times Square beckoned.


On our way to Times Square we also stopped in at the MNM's store - it was full of lots of awesome NYC branded items and even some NYC special flavours - like pretzel, vanilla cupcake and cherry.

And my goodness Times Square is cray cray. It’s a huge sensory overload on the eyes - you really can’t decide where to look it’s so bright and eye-catching and hard to concentrate. We took some time to just sit and watch amongst the thousands of others there at the same time as us. 

While we were there the NYPD turned up on horseback - I'm not sure if they do this every night (most likely) but it was pretty cool to see! At some point we ended up in a melee of people getting their photos taken with the Disney characters who then of course wanted money for the privilege - Mark had disappeared into the Swatch store by then so I honestly said we had no money which they weren’t best pleased about - but it was the truth. I think we finally rolled home after 10pm - a massive first day in the Big Apple!

Video snippets from Day One:

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