New York: Grounded, Late, and High

Wednesday, July 6

One of the few things I’d been advised to look into was the Statue of Liberty, one that I had also thought of myself. By the time I went to look up a little advance information a day or two before leaving, I discovered that it requires some planning. If you want to get into the crown, you have to reserve months in advance. Just to get into the base/museum, you need to reserve weeks in advance. Since it was neither, I had to content myself with visiting the island and looking from a distance.

Taking the subway down to Battery Park, I found the ticket booth in the remains of Castle Clinton. I also discovered an ‘airport style security’ tent at the dock. Thankfully it wasn’t modern airport style, and the sign saying backpacks were prohibited was overstating things a bit.

The ferry went around the front of the statue, perhaps unsurprisingly, to the far dock. From there I picked up an audio tour, figuring I ought to make something of the trip. I later found that the audio tours were pervasive throughout New York attractions. I probably shouldn’t be surprised to see them at Chicago attractions, if ever went to any ;^) I learned a bit about the history of the island and it’s fortress-turned-base, as well as the construction of the statue.

Going back around to the dock, I found a line stretching across the island for the return trip, and it wasn’t even noon yet. Given the prospect of a wait, I went ahead and paid the connivence premium to have lunch at the cafeteria.

After waiting my turn in the line, I arrived at Ellis Island, which had been rolled into one package. I don’t know if it was route efficiency, or the association that the statue had picked up with immigration, or perhaps both. Many people didn’t get off, so the return lines here were much shorter.

Ellis Island was a major immigration center for many years. It was shut down some time ago, and in fact fell into ruin for many years before being renovated into an immigration museum. It was an interesting peak into a different era. I also got an explanation for the unnaturally rectangular shape of the island, courtesy a series of models. It did in fact begin as a much smaller island, and gradually got expanded over the years.

After walking my feet sore yesterday, and then walking around two islands, I thought that sitting down might be a good idea, so I set off to checkout the “Circle Line” that circumnavigated Manhattan. I arrived after their last departure however, so I picked up a time schedule for tomorrow. Another place where a little planning would have helped, but trying to plan out itineraries in the face of uncertain events drives me mad.

Another thing that came up often was the Empire State building, so I headed across town to see if they were still open – I knew that one of the high buildings advertised the night view, so it seemed likely. They were in fact open, and it was still pretty light, being just past the summer solstice.

I had to walk around a bit to figure out which side of the large building had then entrance. From there I wound my way through escalators and hallways, through another airport-style-security, passed on the audio tour, and finally ended up in a line proper. For whatever reason it actually takes two elevators to get to the top, and the upper ones appear to have much lower capacity. At the mid level (80th floor) it amused me that they frosted out the windows to keep people from getting a preview of the 86th. At this point you’d already paid, so why do they care?

Up top was a pretty nice view. A interesting find the waiting area is that they once planned to have airships docking at the spire (I guess they weren’t too familiar with the local winds, or the relative non-event of widespread zeppelin travel) Nowadays the spire mainly serves as a mount for antennas, although at 86 they were still glad to upsell you for a few more floors.

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