NYC: Central Park, World Trade Center, Staten Island, & Museums

Let’s continue on with the NYC Series! Central Park is an urban oasis with around 840 acres of lush green space bounded by bustling metropolitan streets on each side. Expect to see lots of talented musicians, excited children, and lounging picnic-ers throughout the park.  We didn’t really have a specific destination in mind within the park but there are certain famous spots within it that you should consider navigating to since it’s unlikely that you’ll stumble upon a specific spot, given the size of the park and the many winding paths. It’s easy to get lost in Central Park, but you can always just walk toward the skyscrapers to orient yourself. Also, there are horse-drawn carriages and people-drawn carts that you can ride if you prefer not to walk, but be aware that this option can be pricey. Since Central Park is recognized globally and is a main tourist attraction, there are lots of people trying to sell things to tourists on the outskirts of the park (one of these people started talking to me in German which was a first for me).

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From Central Park, we walked to the nearest Levain Bakery. This was a tiny space with no seating room, which was unfortunate because it was a bit of a walk to get there and quite hot. However, I will make a bold claim that their chocolate chip walnut cookie is one of the best in the world. Go get one and see for yourself! Your taste buds will be transformed by this phenomenal cookie. See below for a photographic timeline of walking to Levain, ordering the cookie, taking a photo of the cookie, and then devouring the cookie.

After stopping to get lunch at a popular Chinese spot (Joe’s Shanghai), we made the trek over to the Guggenheim. I’m not sure I’ve ever walked as much as I did on “Museum Day” which was when we visited the Guggenheim, MoMA, and the Met in addition to Central Park and restaurants throughout the day. The rotunda of the Guggenheim was closed to prepare for an exhibit but it was still a worthwhile experience. The curving architecture reminiscent of Zaha Hadid and the all-white design is a feast for the eyes. There are several unusual art exhibits on display as well. The “A Year with Children 2018” exhibit showcased art created by children in the NYC schools, and it was fun to see art from a different perspective after viewing works by famous artists like Picasso. I bet those kids are so happy to have their art in such a well-known museum.

The Guggenheim houses quite a few works that leave me befuddled, but it is still an interesting experience. I found the words below to be particularly thought-provoking.

The Met is near the Guggenheim and it’s a must-see for anyone visiting the city. It is quite probably the most comprehensive museum I’ve ever visited–there were designated areas for Egypt, Oceania, France, Asia, America, and many more. It was stunning. The displays and pieces were so well-curated and flowed together in a way that made the museum seem unreal. My advice would be to make sure you allow enough time to fully experience the museum so you can read the placards and not feel rushed, though it was quite fun to bounce from room to room in an awestruck daze. Tickets are valid for three consecutive days, so definitely take advantage of this if you have the time.

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The French Revolution room stood out to us because of its intense music, low-lights, and the extremely well-dressed mannequins, some of whom were floating from the ceiling.

My personal favorite was the Oceania room which had quite a few artifacts from Papua New Guinea which were (probably unethically) acquired during Michael Rockefeller’s travels to PNG. The room’s pale blue walls made it feel serene like the ocean, and I found the Oceanic art so eye-catching and fascinating. Vast parts of Oceania still feel undiscovered in my eyes, and being in this space added to the mysterious appeal of the region.

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I also really enjoyed the Egyptian art, especially the statues of pharaohs and the hieroglyphs on the tombs. Ancient Egypt is endlessly captivating and unique, so it was a special experience to see so many objects from that era.

We also visited the MoMA which was slightly chaotic because we visited on a Friday evening, and they have free entry on Fridays from 4pm-8pm. It was very crowded and we were exhausted after being mindblown at the Met and walking for miles, but we were glad that we had free entry. I really liked the large Monet piece as well as Starry Night and some other Mexican and Caribbean-inspired art pieces.

Also, there was a kind of participation art piece in which you had to hum a song to the guard in order to pass into the next room. There was a group of us that were standing there who were confused at first, then grinning and kind of laughing when we figured out what needed to be done, but not bold enough to take part until one lady took initiative and started humming and dancing to a song with the guard (see below).

On another day, we decided to take the ferry to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty from the boat. The ferry is free, and for this reason, I highly recommend doing it because NYC is an expensive city and free entertainment/transportation means more money for other things like food.

Once we arrived on Staten Island, we sat on a sidewalk and waited for a bus to take us to closer to the Snug Harbor Botanical Garden. We wandered around the grounds for a while because 1) it was mostly empty except for a wedding party, 2) the buildings were either abandoned or locked, and 3) there weren’t many signs to guide us to the botanical garden. We thought we were at the garden because there were lots of flowers and decorated areas, but I guess these are just spaces open to the public because there was a separate little house where we had to pay for entrance to the botanical garden.

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This was a classic Chinese-style garden with pagodas and lots of water and rocks. Overall, we actually ended up spending quite a bit of time exploring the area and were glad that we made the trip because we almost didn’t go when we got tired of waiting on the bus. Also, it was definitely less touristy than some other attractions in NYC, and all the greenery reminded me of Maine because the two states are close ecologically and geographically but not at all close in terms of population or urbanization.

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After this, we went back to the ferry, walked along the water at the South Street Seaport area, and then made our way up to the 9/11 Memorial. The memorial was well-designed and a beautiful tribute to recognize the horrific loss of lives on that day. It seemed fitting to include this pristine mural of the American flag that I spotted on Staten Island with the photos of the memorial.

After visiting the memorial, we stumbled upon an architecturally-interesting, all-white building and weren’t sure what it was but there were lots of people taking pictures of the outside. I took a quick photo of the outside then we walked right past so we could look at the World Trade Center. Then, I was trying to figure out how to take the subway to midtown Manhattan and my beloved Google Maps told me to go to the Oculus Transportation Hub which turns out to be that white building we walked by earlier. The inside is really neat for photography, and it’s certainly the most aesthetically pleasing transportation hub I’ve ever been in. It’s definitely worth a visit and a few photos if you’re already in the Financial District.

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