Another 24 hour trip completed, another brilliant success.
I rolled out of the rack about 5A Saturday morning, grabbed a quick shower and drove down to the Akron airport in time to catch my 6:30A flight. Flying out of Akron is great because it is a small airport and you can get from your car to your gate in 20 minutes or less. The flight only takes an hour and I was on the ground a little after 7:30A.
The landing at La Guardia was awesome. The plane came down hard on the right side and bounced to the left, back to the right and then finally settled down. It was by far the roughest landing I have ever been in and I have had some rough ones flying into Colorado Springs. In the pilot's defense it was very windy and he probably got hit with a gust just before he touched down. It was jarring enough to invoke a few "Oh my gods" from some passengers.
I grabbed a cab around 7:50A and headed toward Battery Park hoping to catch the 8:30A boat (the first one of the day) to The Statue of Liberty. When I purchased my ticket for the ferry online there was a note saying plan on waiting in line for around 2 hours. If this warning held true a 2 hour delay would be a real monkey in the wrench for my trip. Fortunately I only had to wait about a half an hour and made it to the island just after 9A.
I spent about an hour on the island. There is not much to see but is was nice to see the statue up close. You can still go into the statue but only in the base of it. You need a separate ticket for that, is is free but they run out weeks in advance so I did not get into the statue but for 11 bucks it was definitely worth the cash to get over there.
When I returned to Battery Park it was a little after 10 and I was amazed by how many people were in line for the ferry. It was incredible the line wrapped all through the park. If you look at the picture below the people in the picture represent the amount of people in line when I showed up and the red line indicates the length of the line only about an hour later. I guess that 2 hour wait warning was justified.
My original plan was to hop in the tube and head up to central park, this would have saved me a ton of time and energy but I figured I would not see much of the city being underground so I decided to walk. A few minutes into my journey I realized I made the correct choice. The streets were absolutely packed with people even though it was only 10A. Several of the streets were closed down and vendors setup booths with everything from fruits and vegetables to "designer" purses and sunglasses. I found a great Coach European carry-all that matched my shoes so I had to buy it.
I choose the Empire State Building as my next destination because I figured it would get crowded and since I could see it from Battery Park so I figured I could get there without a hassle. I made it to the building just after 11:30A and it was packed, damned tourists, the line was wrapped around the building. I made my way up to the front of the queue to find out the estimated wait time, which turned out to be 2-3 hours. I tried explaining to the security guards that I was on a tight schedule but they would not let me cut in line. I had enough time to wait if I wanted to but it would severely cut into the amount of other things I could see so I decided to bin the Empire State tour and head toward Grand Central Terminal.
Getting over to the terminal proved to be a little difficult because I had to take a detour around a couple of streets that were shut down due a steam pipe explosion a couple days earlier. Officials claimed the air was safe to breath but all of the police officers enforcing the barricades were wearing respirators which made me question the air quality. The terminal is very normal looking from the outside but once you pass through the very little doors the interior is indeed quite grand. One of the grandest features of the terminal was that they have beer stands near the entrances to the train tunnels. That is a brilliant idea, what a great way to pass the time while waiting for your train. I figured I should sample some of the local brew while I was in town so I sucked down a couple nice cold Buds.
By now it was almost 2P so my next stop was going to be Reuben's for some much needed sustenance. According to the America Eats show on the History Channel Reuben's is located on Madison Avenue. Now either I walked right past it or they had to close shop due to their new found popularity from the show. I used the Google 411 service (800-466-4411 a free 441 service from Google) to get the phone # and address but there was no answer and I never found the building. Lucky for me in New York there are probably as many delis as there are Starbucks so I found another place to get my Reuben straight away.
With my belly now full of food and beer I was ready to head over to Times Square but on my way I stumbled on to Rockefeller Center. This was not even on my to do list but it turned out to be a great bonus. The observation deck of Rockefeller is only a few stories shorter than the Empire but has 2 big advantages. First there was no line, I bought my ticket and was at the top in 20 minutes. Second there is not a glass or fence barrier blocking your view. Another thing that is awesome is that the elevator has a clear ceiling and the shaft is illuminated with cool blue lights (see photos in my Flickr stream of the elevator and views of the city).
I finally made my way over to Times Square just before 4P. I popped in to the ESPN Sports Zone for a couple of beers and to catch the end of the Yankee's game. When I eventually left the Sports Zone I was hungry again so I stopped at Sbarro for an authentic New York slice. I walked around for a bit more then started toward Central Park.
When I arrived at Central Park I stopped at the Chess and Checkers House and lined up 4 chess matches and 2 games of checkers. Of course I played all 6 games at the same to give myself a bit of a challenge or so I hoped. I used the same Kasparov opening on each of chess matches so I could gauge the players and figure which match would require more attention. Non of the players responded to the opening with any sort of recognizable defense so I figured they were all low level players and I dispatched them quickly. The checker players proved equally novice and I defeated them handily. If I ever make it back there I'll look for matches in the 7-10 year old group as the 5 and 6 year olds never stood a chance.
The park itself is awesome, tons of stuff going on, concerts, huge playgrounds for kids, some type of fair with carnival rides and plenty of open space to just hang out. If lived in New York I could see myself spending a lot of time here. I made my way though the center of the park up to 85Th street which bisects the park. I would have liked to walk all the way to the North end of the park but I wanted to see more of the city.
My last stop on my NY tour was the UN. This was a bit of a walk from Central Park but I took a round about path to get there so i could see more of the city and a few more pubs. The trip to the UN proved to be a waste of time. I am not a big fan or the UN in general so I imagine my opinion is a little jaded but I was not impressed by their complex or most of their policies for that matter. It was almost 7P so I flagged down a cab to get me back to the airport in time for my 8:50 flight.
When I got to the airport I had a little over an hour to spare so I stopped in the lounge to kill some time. I made it to my gate 25 minutes early but as it turned out I held up the plane, not Dobbie Keibler style but since I was the last one to board they were waiting for me to take off. To the 22 passengers I made wait I would just like to say, suckers.
The flight back was solid, it was totally empty so just about everyone had their own row. I noticed that there was a couple that were on my flight out, so I was not the only one that flew to New York for the day. I struck up a conversation with Denny and his wife Jamie , last names omitted due to drunkenness, and found out they just flew out for the Yankee's game, solid! I think that would be a great idea for a future trip, especially if I decide to take a trip to a city I have already been to.
This trip could not have gone better. I really like the city, the amount of people out on the streets is preposterous. The one thing I was not impressed by were the buildings. Granted there are a lot of them but most of them are not that tall. You don't really have that cavernous feeling like you do in Chicago. If I ever go back I'll take advantage of the tube so I can save myself a bit of walking. I covered just over 11 miles, at least according to google earth that is how much ground I covered. I only spent about 13 hours in the city and I would have liked another 4 or 5 hours to do a little more exploring but the trip was so cheap I can have another go at it sometime.
My August trip is going to be put on hold because I am planning something completely mental for September and I'll need the extra cash. I hope to have the details for September hammered out this week and as soon as I do I'll let you know. If anyone would like to donate cash or One Pass miles to my cause let me know, cheers.