But as time goes by, the memories start to fade just a bit, which is why it is important that I recount each day while it's still fresh! I know we'll appreciate it years down the road.
In all the reviews and travel blogs we'd read, one of the biggest, consistent complaints about visiting the Empire State Building was the looooooong lines. I mean, if Meg Ryan's character in "Sleepless in Seattle" were rushing to meet someone at the top of the building these days, it would likely be a long, boring account of her waiting in line after line after line.
We heard several accounts that said getting there when they opened at 8 a.m. was our very best bet for a quick, wait-free experience, so that was our plan. (We'll do almost anything to not have to wait in a line!) So we got up early, walked 11 (short) blocks south, and arrived at the Empire State Building at 7:50 a.m.
There were already about 15 people ahead of us in line (not bad!), and at 8 a.m., they started ushering us through security. We'd packed light, so security was a breeze, and we'd bought our tickets online in advance, so we got to skip that little line, too.
So when we arrived at the top of the building, the staff greeted us warmly, while one man lowered his voice and spoke into his walkie-talkie: "We have guests on the floor."
"Are we the first ones up here?" I asked one of the guards, an elderly black gentleman.
"Yes, you are!" he replied with a huge grin.
I'm not sure what took everyone else so long to get up there, but it was a good 5-10 minutes before anyone else joined us. A couple of the guards greeted each other, and one (I think he may have been a supervisor) asked the other if everyone had shown up for work that morning. Fascinating! In the meantime, I asked the friendly guard to take our picture. They don't usually agree to it, but he said he would since we were the only ones up there!
How lovely it was to watch the city wake up from high above! Ryley took this shot of the sun. I love it!
And courtesy of Ryan ...
(View to the north)
(View to the south)
Hey, look! Wouldn't you know it? It's the Flatiron Building! We were just there yesterday!
It's amazing how the Freedom Tower literally towers over the other buildings in Lower Manhattan!
What an epic experience!
Next, we grabbed coffee and headed to the New York Public Library, which was just a few blocks north, the way we had come.
This place is monstrous, and I think it took us about 20 minutes of wandering before we actually saw any books.
These are the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals that belonged to A.A. Milne and his son, and served as the inspiration for his famous stories!
It's not your typical reading library -- it's a research library. So while seriously impressive, it was honestly a little dry for my tastes. We looked around for bit (aka got lost) and then Ryley and I explored the gift shop. 🙂
Right behind the library is Bryant Park, and it was a beautiful place to rest our feet for a few minutes and plan out our next steps!
One of Ryan's biggest loves is art. And his favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh. So from the very beginning planning stages of our trip, MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art) was on the must list, specifically because it is the home to Van Gogh's most famous piece, Starry Night.
We walked to the museum, but there was a lot of activity in the area due to a firefighter funeral which was happening at St. Patrick's Cathedral down the street (the church we had visited Sunday night). We were also very hungry, and seeing that the museum cafe food was a little too formal and expensive, we decided to walk around the block to Xi'an (a NY chain that features hand-pulled noodles) so we could explore the museum on full stomachs and non-cranky brains.
We'd heard about Xi'an on a Travel Channel segment or something, so I'd been keeping an eye out for it. Anyway, it was delicious, but like every other fast-casual restaurant in the city, there was limited seating, and all of it basically consisted of stools shoved up against narrow tables that lined the walls. And as soon as any seating opened up, people attacked it like vultures. It was insane. The three of us had to sit separately to eat, but oh my gosh, it was tasty.
Now that we were no longer hangry, we ventured into MoMA, and like with everything, Ryan had a plan. He knew that the Van Gogh paintings were on the top floor, so we took the escalators all the way up and marched into the exhibit like we were on a mission.
And there it was.
Now, don't be fooled. It took a lot of patience to get this picture. This is the typical view of it:
People crowd around it all the time!
It wasn't Van Gogh's only painting there, though. In fact, I would venture to suggest that I actually like this one better:
Anyway, the MoMA had so much to look at, and I was personally impressed by their collection of works by Claude Monet. Specifically this one, which took up three walls:
Ryan really likes abstract art, and Pollock has always fascinated him.
And this very interesting, thought-provoking piece by Andy Warhol. It says so much.
Anyway, so that was MoMA. We didn't spend more than two hours there, and I think we saw almost everything! I have to be honest and admit that I actually found a bench and rested my tired feet for quite awhile. 😏
We were only a couple blocks south of Central Park, so we decided to hoof it up there and get our first peek! In full transparency, though, we were dragging. We were exhausted and whiny and thirsty. So we did not end up staying long.
We just cut through the southeastern corner and walked back down 5th Avenue toward our hotel.
It was about 4:30, and we had pre-purchased tickets to go to the top of Rockefeller Center at 6:30 (prime sunset viewing). But we found time to take an hour-long nap in our hotel. 💤 We woke up feeling refreshed and ready to walk again!
From "The Top of the Rock"!
This building in the photo below is the tallest residential building in the nation. Jennifer Lopez has a penthouse here, among other very wealthy people.
So we had made our reservations to go to the top around sunset, per recommendations. But a lot of other people had the same idea. And then we just stood around on the crowded, chilly rooftop of a New York City skyscraper waiting for the sun to set. I have to be honest here and admit that at times I wondered if it would be worth it.
It looks lovely, right? But I really shouldn't sugar-coat it. Those who had scouted out a place up against the edge were pretty stingy with it and unwilling to let other people take a turn. This picture below is more accurate as to what our real view was!
Any good pictures we got (and like I said, there were 194 total that we attempted!) were the result of strategically lifting up our phones to try to get a better view over people's heads. A lot of mine ended up crooked. 😂
Anywho, we did end up with some beauties, though.
Do you see any people on the Empire State Building's observation deck?
Oh look!!! Is J-Lo at home?
We ate burgers for dinner at a sit-down place called Bill's Bar and Burgers. It was very good! And they had free re-fills on drinks, which not everybody offers, so that was a plus.
Challenge: which burger belongs to whom?
Shortly after we finished this meal, we stumbled back to our hotel and went to bed. It had been a very long, good day. There's nothing more exhilarating than standing on top of a tall building, and we'd done it twice within 10 hours!
Total miles walked on Tuesday: 10.8
Stay tuned for Day Four, Ryan's 40th birthday!