Having limited time in the Big Apple and wanting to do as many attractions as possible, a city pass looked a great idea. There are many passes from 1 to 10 days available which all have slightly different benefits and attractions, the biggest difference is whether the company includes the ferry to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty, I decided against this as I only had one full day in Manhattan so it would have been too time consuming. I really wanted to get the most from the pass so I had an idea of the attractions that I definitely didn’t want to miss and I even roughly created a plan of the order I would visit the attractions based on their opening hours so I could carry on having fun till late in the evening!
I settled on The New York Sightseeing Pass which was $129 for the day, I read that the pass could be ordered easily online and the pass is sent to your phone instantly so after ordering I went to a café for a breakfast bagel (what else would I get in New York!) and waited for the pass to come through to my email so I could start exploring. I waited, and waited…. around an hour passed and this felt like a frustratingly very long time when the website stated I would receive my pass instantly and I knew I could be getting on with my fun-packed day. 2 hours had now passed and I was wandering the streets passing attractions that I couldn’t enter yet, refreshing my email more times than you could ever imagine, getting ever more nervous that my order hadn’t gone through (I had exited the confirmation page so didn’t have an email, order number or anything!). With almost no contact options on the website, I decided to look up where the office was based, which luckily for me was just a short walk from where I was at the moment! Surely, they can resolve this, the city sightseeing office had many handy city maps and information of all the attractions, so this was probably a blessing in disguise. I picked up a few, joined the queue to speak to someone and all of a sudden I received the email and my pass! With me in a speed to see things and not wanting to waste anymore time, I immediately ran out the office and headed to my first attraction!
This was one of the newest in Manhattan, the National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey. I entered and was squeezed onto the next group where a tour guide leads you through rooms filled with exotic sea creatures and friendly sea mammals, however all of these are projections or screens educating you about the animals, their homes and our climate and environmental impact on these. In what they describe as a virtual ocean, they use the latest technology and unique ways to provide an enjoyable and informative experience and some of the effects are really clever such as posing in front of a seal lion who will follow your movements and a looking into the jaws of a giant humpback whale. For what it is and being included on the pass I enjoyed it but the heafty price of $40 for a single ticket if paying for the attraction separately is far too much when it is largely geared to children.
Staying in the area I only had a short walk to the next attraction Gulliver’s Gate, now I didn’t really know what to expect here but I was blown away. Well known icons from around the world are recreated in a model village style but with a modern twist, so there is everything from London’s Buckingham Palace to skyscrapers in Malaysia and the Pyramids in Egypt. Little details make these places and I spent a lot more than I intended to do in here admiring the clever engineering and the hidden comedy figures placed around the sets. Everybody was given a key upon entry and if you touched your key against the specific touch points, it would start the moving features; the room I was most impressed with was a full blown airport featuring planes that actually took off! Unfortunately, I have seen that the venue has now closed due to the high rent of its location but I hope we see similar places open in the future as it was a real gem.
I was starting to get hungry and one great benefit of the pass was $15 to spend at Planet Hollywood. I couldn’t not make use of it so off I went for a late lunch/early dinner. At that time it was very quiet so I got seated straight away and picked the club sandwich with fries, very delicious, quick service and no pennies spent! Now it was time to go to a different part of Manhattan and the pass includes the sightseeing bus so I boarded for a very interesting tour down to the world trade center area. We passed the Empire State, Madison Square Garden, the Flat Iron building and Macy’s department store all with personal and unique stories from our very knowledgeable guide. One of the most enjoyable parts for me of the open air bus was the fact that the traffic lights came so close to our heads and if you were to suddenly stand up you could have got taken out by one!
I disembarked at the World Trade Center for the next attraction, One World Observatory, the viewing gallery at the top of the new One World Trade Center. This was the 3rd tallest building in the world when built, now has fell down to 7th position but still holds the title of the tallest building in the Western hemisphere and wow do you know when you see the views! The lift is a masterpiece itself, with a video on each wall showing the construction of the tower as you ascend, it feels like you are in Willy Wonka’s glass lift rising above New York, such a brilliant start. Once at the top you would expect to exit straight out onto the viewing level, though no, One World has other ideas, they guide you to the left down a corridor to a video projection room. A short video shows all the best features of New York and then all of a sudden the projection screen lift in front of your eyes revealing the windows to the actual view. Such a great way to surprise you and give the first glimpse of that spectacular view, because you are so high the view is one I have never seen before, you are looking down on actual skyscrapers, you can hardly see people on the ground and the view is uninterrupted for miles. The sun was just setting so I timed my visit perfectly, as well as the huge windows providing views of central park, Brooklyn bridge and further there is a bar, gift shop and an informative show on the buildings statistics and regeneration of the area.
It was approaching the evening but I had plenty more left in me, as I had saved the late opening attractions till last. The sightseeing bus had now stopped running so I got the subway to times square and headed into Madame Tussaud’s. I’ve been to both of these in the UK so knew what to expect, lots of world wide famous stars, interactive areas and this one included a 4D Marvel cinema. It would have been a lot more fun with others, as asking people to take your photo with different figures every 5 minutes was getting rather annoying by this time of the day but still really enjoyed it. Next, I literally went next door to Ripley’s Believe it or not! A museum filled with all sorts of ‘curioddities’ (as they call them) from the longest fingernails to past torture instruments which all got me very intrigued and I spent a good fun hour in here, before exiting through the black hole, a revolving tunnel that makes you completely dizzy.
Before it was time to call it a night, I wanted to see the most anticipated views of this trip for me, the city lit up, for that I had saved Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller center till last. I was swaying between this and the Empire State, but after hearing about tiny windows I was very happy with my choice. The glass panels gave unrestricted views, plus on the second level there was nothing giving an unbeatable spectacle of every skyscraper lit up at one one side and central park in total darkness on the other. It was the perfect end to a fun packed and very tiring day.
The total cost of every attraction would have been $235 so to complete 4 attractions, ascend 2 skyscrapers, ride a bus tour and get free lunch, I think I got my $129 worth, Can you tell I love getting the most for my money and time! There is something I actually enjoy about running around and seeing as many places as possible but now I had managed to do everything I wanted, I was ready for a much more relaxing day tomorrow to take in times square and central park at a much more slower pace!
Day 3 in New York here 🙂