Friday, August 12, 2016

My Trip to NYC | What I Did in New York City

Just a few days ago, I visited New York City for the first time ever. I'm a huge movie and TV show buff and just about every other film or show I've loved is set in New York. So this place was pretty high up on my list. I planned the trip with a friend and we did a ton of research beforehand. The official New York City tourism guide was a great starting point. To read a bit about all the places I visited, click.......

Before I venture into the attractions, I want to quickly talk about the CityPASS for New York City. Offering admission to three or six popular attractions, the CityPASS saves you up to 40% on ticket prices. Additionally, you get to skip the lines at many of the venues, which is a huge perk given how incredibly busy the attractions can get. The participating locales include the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty, and more. We got the six-attraction pack but our schedule only allowed us to visit a few of the options.
Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock:
A three-level observation deck atop the Rockefeller Center in Midtown, Top of the Rock provides a beautiful 360-degree view of Manhattan. We chose to visit here instead of the Empire State Building (also included in the CityPASS) because I read that the view is much better in comparison and the wait time is a lot shorter. I don't know about the shorter wait time because we were in line for quite a while even after we redeemed our CityPASS; we probably waited a total of 45 minutes. However, the view was really breathtaking. You get a completely unhindered view of the entire city and because there were three levels in total, it wasn't super crowded.
If you are visiting with the CityPASS, make sure to skip the line and exchange the pass for a ticket at the designated machines.

American Museum of Natural History:
I studied biology in university so I have a profound love for animals and biodiversity. Hence, the American Museum of Natural History was pretty much my most anticipated attraction in New York. This museum was very large and we hardly had enough time to thoroughly explore the exhibits (we were there for about two hours). There were some amazing galleries with taxidermy mammals, birds, various exhibits on cultures through time, and a couple of really big dinosaur exhibits.
American Museum of Natural History | Oryx from the Hall of African Mammals
Unfortunately, this was also the most crowded museum we visited on the trip. It started out pretty mellow because we arrived quite early in the morning but the place was soon bombarded with bevies of school groups and summer camps. With that said, our visit definitely made me wish I lived in New York so I can really discover every single exhibit in peace during the low seasons.
American Museum of Natural History | Miniature Diorama of Ancient Beijing
Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) | The American Wing
Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met):
A massive museum packed to the brim with various artifacts, paintings, and sculptures throughout the ages, the Met is probably the most well-known museum in New York City. As much as I was mesmerized by the pristine architecture and artworks, I was not very impressed with the almost maze-like layout of the museum. Even a whole day would not have been enough time to discover the entire place, and given how tight most tourists' schedules usually are, I think it's pretty much impossible to have a memorable and enjoyable experience unless you allocate a whole day at this place.
Also, compared to the MoMA (see below), the Met doesn't have as many notable art pieces. There is a lot of stuff inside, but most of it is very repetitive so it can get pretty dull pretty quickly unless you are a dedicated art aficionado. We visited the Rose Garden on the rooftop as per suggestions from a friend but I was pretty disappointed with the view, which was not nearly as good as Top of the Rock. So if you were planning on visiting the garden, I'd recommend allocating the time to browsing another gallery.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) | Medieval Art
With that said, we were lucky enough to visit during the "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology" exhibit. The collection explores the convergence of craftsmanship and technology in the world of fashion and we feasted our eyes on various couture and ready-to-wear pieces from Dior, Prada, Chanel, McQueen and so on.

*Note: Both the Met and the American Museum of Natural History have suggested admission prices. So technically, you can pay however much you wish for your admission.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Manus x Machina Exhibit
Madame Tussauds New York:
Both my friend and I are huge fans of wax museums so we had to visit the Madame Tussauds wax museum. The museum is located in the heart of Times Square so it was very close to our hotel. I wasn't displeased with the visit but the experience didn't completely meet my expectations. Some of the wax figures looked a bit old and worn-down and there weren't as many figures as I expected. Also, the short 4D Marvel movie felt poorly-made and childish, entertaining for the younger visitors but mostly a waste of time for the adults.
Madame Tussauds New York | Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games 2012)
We bought our tickets online because the price is significantly lower; however, once we arrived we were not given clear instructions on how to use or redeem our tickets. We ended up standing in line for 15 minutes when we actually could just have entered right away.
With that said, I was quite enamored with the new Ghostbusters exhibit. Having loved the 2016 reboot (bugger off haters), I was pretty excited to see figures of all four female Ghostbusters. Overall though, this place is not a must-visit in my opinion. If you have the extra time, then the Ghostbusters exhibit alone may be worthwhile.
Madame Tussauds New York | Kristen Wiig as Erin Gilbert (Ghostbusters 2016)
Times Square
Times Square:
Hands down one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, Times Square is a major intersection in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Our hotel was only blocks away from the place so we took a stroll there on our first night in the city. No pictures can do the place justice because the flashy billboards literally lit up the intersection to the point it almost looked like daytime. There is a huge Sephora there that's a must-visit for any makeup fan.

Brooklyn Bridge:
On our way to Coney Island (see below), we made a stop along the way to snap a few pictures of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. The weather was particularly beautiful that day but I don't think we found the spot to get the best pictures. Nevertheless, it was one of those places that we just had to drop by.
Brooklyn Bridge
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) | Dan Davin untitled
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA):
Located near the Rockefeller Center in Midtown, MoMA is a modern art museum featuring quite a handful of well-known pieces, including Van Gogh's The Starry Night, Dali's The Persistence of Time, and Monet's The Water Lily Pond. The museum was very crowded, especially at the permanent galleries where all the well-known pieces are kept. As a result, I missed quite a few key pieces and ended up having to go back around to try and find them.
I wasn't overly impressed with the current exhibits, which consisted a lot of photography and video pieces. However, this gallery is a must-visit for any modern art fans.
If you are planning to visit, definitely get your tickets online to skip the crazy long line-ups. Also, avoid bringing backpacks as you must check those in and the coat check lines can also get very long.
Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) | Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup Cans
Coney Island | Boardwalk
Coney Island:
Once known as "America's greatest playground", Coney Island was one of those places I've always heard about in songs and movies (Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby and Lana Del Rey's Carmen, for example). So we had to trek out to this summer hotspot in Brooklyn and boy was I glad that we did.
The place is basically a carnival next to a beach and something about it just felt so nostalgic and charming; we went during the day so the beach was packed to the brim with sun tanners. There was a really lovely boardwalk that branched into a long lookout dock that gave an amazing view out to the water and back onto the beach. Most of the rides were running as well but I believe the amusement park side gets a lot more lively at night time. The place was very easy to get to as well, several trains can take you straight there from Midtown Manhattan.
Coney Island | View from the Lookout Dock
The Tour at NBC Studios:
Last but not least we partook in a tour of the NBC Studios at 30 Rock. Because I am a huge fan of talk shows and SNL, this was one of those things I just did not want to miss. We got to visit the actual studios of several NBC productions, including Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Seth Meyers. The tour guides (NBC pages) were super knowledgeable and gave us a ton of interesting tidbits about the behind-the-scenes. The highlight of the tour for me was seeing the actual Target Lady outfit worn by Kristen Wiig on SNL, it's such a silly thing but I was totally geeking out.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any pictures so I don't have any photos to share with you. We were given an NBC pin to keep and I bought a replica of the Dwight bobblehead doll from The Office at the NBC gift shop.
My NYC Haul
So those are pretty much all the places I visited on the trip. In addition to all the attractions, I did quite a bit of shopping despite the horrendous USD/CAD exchange rate. I bought some clothes from Uniqlo, a couple pairs of earrings from & Other Stories, two bags from Macy's at Herald Square (aka the biggest store in the world), some much needed new pairs of injinji toe socks (don't even get me started on how good these are), a few bike accessories and knickknacks from Flying Tiger Copenhagen, and some beauty goodies I will share in detail in a later post.

So have you been to NYC? What are some of your favorite parts of the city? Share with me in the comments below!