March 2012 Part 5 Day 6: Central Park / American Museum of Natural History Our last full day today, but luckily it was sunny with clear blue skies, so we could go to Central Park and the Natural History Museum as planned. We left the room around 8.30am and walked 7th Avenue to Central Park, just stopping on the way for some orange juice. As the museum didn’t open until 10.00am, my plan was to walk up to the museum through Central Park, so could have a look round before we went into the museum. Once we got up to Central Park street, I wondered whether Aidan wanted to try and have a look in the Apple store, as we couldn’t get in yesterday, and I thought as it’s open 24 hours, it couldn’t possibly still have people queuing for ipads. So we walked down towards 5th avenue, but when we got there, guess what, people were still queuing outside mg: , so we didn’t bother trying to get in for the 2nd time. Instead, we crossed over the road into Central Park, and had a sit down on a bench for a few minutes to watch the world go by. It was St. Patrick’s day today, so the roads were all being fenced off ready for the parade later that morning. There were already quite a few people walking around dressed in all the green St. Patrick’s day outfits, which was interesting to see. After a few minutes, we walked further into the park – as we had entered from the south eastern corner, the first thing we came to was the ice rink. Although it was still only just 9.00am, there were already a few people skating round. Central Park Ice Rink by andrew.ellams, on Flickr The next thing we came to was the Dairy, which is the area children used to come back when the park was first set up, as it was where all the kid stuff like the carousel was located and also, they could get fresh milk there. Unfortunately, the carousel was closed for refurbishment, so we couldn’t have a look at that which was a shame, but there was lots more to see anyhow. As we walked up towards the museum more people began to appear in the park, joggers, cyclists and dog walkers especially, which isn’t surprising. The road through the middle of the park is closed to traffic at the weekends, so there were lots of cyclists and joggers making use of it. We walked up to Bethesda terrace, which looked like a nice place to sit there were a couple of street entertainers doing their thing there even this early in the morning. Bethesda fountain was also very impressive, unfortunately, it was empty when we visited, probably for the winter? Bethesda Fountain by andrew.ellams, on Flickr It was very pleasant just slowly making our way towards the museum through the park, taking in the sights as we went. Finally, we came to the central park west road, just by the entrance to the American Museum of Natural history. It probably took us about 1 ½ hours from leaving our hotel on Times Square to arriving at the entrance to the museum, but we weren’t rushing, and we also made the detour back down to the Apple Store and the back up through Central Park, and we definitely didn’t take the direct route through Central Park :grin: Natural History Museum by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Anyhow, we then entered the Natural History museum and I bought our tickets while Aidan took some photos of the dinosaur skeletons in the entrance hall. Natural History Museum by andrew.ellams, on Flickr The admission cost at the museum was a bit strange, they have a suggested price, of $19 which is what I paid, but you can basically pay whatever you want. When I thought about it though, how would you know what you wanted to pay before you’d actually been inside to see it? Maybe they should take the money when you come out! There was also extra exhibitions that you could pay for like the planetarium and when we were there, there was an exhibition about the future of space exploration. I would have liked to have seen that, but I didn’t get tickets, as I thought we wouldn’t have enough time as it was. The museum itself was extremely large, I’m glad I didn’t buy tickets for any extras, as we didn’t even finish visiting the basic museum exhibits. The way the museum is built is a bit confusing. You actually enter the museum on the 2nd floor, and then there are 2 floors below and another 2 floors of exhibits above you. I found it was very easy to get lost in the museum though, as for most of the exhibits the halls were sort of connected to each other, so you had to go through other halls to get to the ones you wanted to see, or in our case, end up somewhere else entirely. While we were there we did quite a lot of the exhibits, including the hall of the universe, we saw a lot of the halls about the history of different peoples of the world, south American, African, Asian amongst others. The meteorite hall was interesting, there was a meteorite in there which I think weighed 34 tons. The supports for it went all the way down through the building and right into the bedrock under the museum. We also saw the minerals and gems halls which again were quite interesting. We saw the dinosaur halls on the 4th floor and made a point to take lots of photos here, as my niece is interested in dinosaurs! Don't Look behind you! by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Our final port of call in the museum was the hall of ocean life, as we wanted to see the life-size model of a blue whale they’ve got there. When we got there, there was a shadow puppet show going on on the stage down below the hall, which I think was part of the event they were having to celebrate Japan and Japanese culture. After we finished watching the puppet show, our feet were beginning to ache from walking around the museum, so we decided to make our way back outside for some fresh air. As I said, the museum is very large, I would think you’d need at least 2 full days to see everything and watch all the extra exhibitions, but I was glad we visited and saw what we did. When we got outside, it was still sunny and warm, and I could hear the St. Patrick’s day parade on the other side of the park, so I decided to go over to have a look. After walking round the museum all morning and some of the afternoon, it was quite a hike to get over to 5th avenue and the parade, but we made it eventually! When we got over there, the park was very busy by now with people celebrating St. Patricks day, unfortunately, the number of people meant we couldn’t really find a good spot to watch the parade. We did manage to find a spot in the end though, behind some trees, but the view was OK, and we watched the marchers passing by for a while. St Patricks Day Parade by andrew.ellams, on Flickr After making our way through the people enjoying St Patrick’s day, we eventually got back to 7th Avenue and started walking back in the direction of our hotel. As you can imagine, all the Irish pubs and bars were packed, with people congregating outside most of them. Everyone was having a good time – I’m sure in this country, there would have been lots of fights by now! There was lots of singing but that was about all! As we gradually walked back down 7th avenue, I noticed that most of the normal restaurants were full as well, not as full as the Irish places, but still quite full, so I decided that we’d go for dinner now to make sure we could get in somewhere. As it was our last night, we decided to go back to Junior’s, as we’d enjoyed eating there when we first arrived. When we got there, it wasn’t too busy, so we got a table straight away, we got a table outside once again, so we could watch the world go by. After reading the menu, we couldn’t decide what to try this time, so in the end, we stuck with what we’d had on our first visit – not very adventurous, but we enjoyed it, so I had the Pastrami Swiss Cheeseburger again, and Aidan had the Chicken burger again. Once again, they arrived quickly and were delicious! For our deserts we had something a bit different, I had the Strawberry shortcake cheesecake, and Aidan had the chocolate swirl cheesecake. Mine was huge, and I’m afraid I couldn’t quite finish it this time – what a failure . Aidan also enjoyed his, and he did better than me, and managed to finish his with no problems. We debated what to do now, until Aidan decided that he wanted to get some headphones that he’d seen in Toys R Us the other day when we visited, so we walked back down there and he bought these headphones, which apparently you can’t get in this country any more, so he was pleased with them. Once thing I’ve forgotten to mention before – what are all the different people dressed up as characters all about? We saw all sorts when we were walking up and down Times Square – Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Mario & Luigi, SpongeBob Squarepants and Homer Simpson, amongst others. Do people pay them to have their photos taken with them? I just didn’t really understand what they were there for. After Aidan had got his headphones, we walked back up through the crowds of people having a good time, and picked up a last couple of presents for the family. After this, we were once again feeling tired after a long day, so I called into Duane Reade, and picked up some snacks and drinks, and I treated myself to a can of beer. We then went back into the hotel. That night I wanted to do the online check-in for our return flight. The Crowne Plaza had a little business centre, which was basically just a few PC’s and printers in little room off the lobby, so I went down there and did the online check-in, which was basically just a matter of saying how many bags we had to check-in then printing off our boarding cards. You had to use your credit card to use these facilities, and I think it cost me around $12.00 in total, but I thought it was worth it , as it would be one less thing to do when we got to the airport (of course, if I’d known how much spare time we’d have to kill at the airport, I wouldn’t have bothered). After that, I went back to the room and we both crashed out exhausted! Day 7: The Journey Home Today mainly consisted of waiting around, due mostly to my poor planning! We were going home today, so as we had to be out of our room by 12.00pm, I decided to let Aidan have a sleep in. I got up around 7.30am, and looking out of the window, I noticed that the road was fenced off, and there were people running down the street. When I checked, I found out it was the New York half marathon today. I needed to get some money for the journey home, so I left Aidan in the room and made my way outside. I stood watching the runners go by for a while, there were also quite a few people supporting the runners holding up signs. I did see that lots of the runners were stopping to take photos as they ran along, so I don’t think they were planning on breaking any records! It was nice to see the runners though, something else unusual I’d seen on my trip. New York half Marathon 2012 by andrew.ellams, on Flickr After taking some photos of the runners, I walked along to the Bank of America a couple of blocks down to get some funds for the journey home, and I then got some orange juice and breakfast to take back to the room while I waited for Aidan to get up. I did all the packing while I was waiting for Aidan to wake up, and finally gave him a shake at around 11.00am. We checked pretty much at the deadline of 12.00pm, and as I couldn’t think of what to do with a suitcase, I decided we would walk back to Penn Station and just get the train back to the airport. We got to the station, around 12.30pm, and unfortunately, it appeared the trains ran round about every half hour, and we’d just missed one, so this meant we had a half hour wait for the next train. The train did arrive on schedule, and we got on board with no problem. This train wasn’t a double decker like the one coming, but the overhead racks were big enough to put our suitcase on, so there was no problem. We arrived at Newark Airport train station right on time, and caught the airtrain back to terminal C where our flight would be leaving from. We still had about 6 hours till kill before our flight left, so we were way too early to even check-in yet. I was hoping that there might a food court or something we could pass the time in, but in terminal C there was absolutely nothing before security, even chairs were in very short supply. We then went on the airtrain to terminal B, hoping there might be more to do there, and luckily there was a small food court there with a Wendy’s, Subway etc. As we don’t have Wendy’s in this country, we had a meal there and sat there for an hour or so before heading back to terminal C. When we got back to terminal C, I asked for directions to the check-in, which all seemed to be self-service ones, and we’d soon checked in our suitcase, and had gone through security. Luckily, once you go through security at terminal C, there are lots of seats and shops, so we managed to while away the time until our flight was ready to board. We boarded the flight with no problem, unfortunately, the flight going home was a lot busier than the one coming, so we had to stay in our booked seats. When the captain came over the loudspeaker he originally announced that we were on the such and such flight from Newark to Manchester, and Aidan & I both thought great, we’ll be home a lot quicker! But then he corrected himself and said, sorry, that’s the route I was on last week, we’re going to Heathrow … he got our hopes up there for a moment - Oh well, never mind. Anyhow, after a delay of about 15 minutes while we waited for a take-off slot, we were off. The flight passed without any problem, and we landed at a very cold Heathrow around 6.30am on Monday morning. I had off peak train tickets back to Runcorn, so I didn’t think we’d be able to get the underground back to St. Pancras until 9.30am, but when I checked, luckily, we could use the underground any time, so we caught the train at 7.30am and were back at St. Pancras by 8.30, I expected the underground to be heaving at 8.30am on a Monday morning, and it did fill up in the middle of the journey, but it then emptied out and by the time we got to St. Pancras, it was mostly empty again, which was good. Then it was a quick walk up to Euston, where we had one final wait of around an hour to kill, so we had some breakfast in Burger King. Finally we boarded our train at 9.45am, which left on time at 10.07am, we then promptly fell asleep, and woke up just before the train arrived in Runcorn. And that is my trip report for our fantastic holiday to New York! Final Thoughts Firstly, I think like most other people who visit New York, I want to go back again! Most of America is car focused, so if you don’t drive or don’t want to drive, you have a hard time getting around, but New York is just the opposite, it’s so easy to get around on the Subway, buses or walking, and in fact, after seeing the traffic, I think you’d have to be mad to want to drive there! There’s just so much to do there that it’s all a bit overwhelming, and there’s a temptation to try and do too much. I think we managed to limit ourselves to a couple of things a day, but it meant there was lots left that I wanted to see that we didn’t get a chance to do. I did want to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, get the Staten Island Ferry, explore more of Central park amongst many other things, but there are only so many hours in a day! It’s similar with the restaurants, I’d definitely like to try some different ones, but because there are so many to choose from, it’s hard to pick one. I did find that having dinner earlier (around 4.00pm) meant we never had to wait for a table though. When I go back again, I would try and stay a bit further off Time Square, the hotel we stayed in was great, but once you’ve been once and have seen how easy it is to get around, I wouldn’t be worried about staying a bit further away from the action to save some money! I would also try not to be so generous with the time I allow for everything, as you’ve probably read in my reports, the one thing we did a lot of was waiting around, so I wouldn’t leave as much time for everything e.g. getting to the airport, checking in, getting round the city. If I booked further in advance than a week like this trip, I would also fly from Manchester, my nearest airport, as that would save a lot of money on trains and the hotel at Heathrow, even though the Yotel was an experience, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who needs to stay at Heathrow. Also, make sure you’ve got comfortable shoes, and if you’re not used to walking much, get in some practice before you go – You’d give the same advice to someone visiting a Disney park though so I’m sure everyone already knows this. Finally – I hope everyone has enjoyed reading my reports and looking at the pictures.