Elaine and I went to NYC yesterday.
We went via Lucky Star/Fung Wah buses which were nice and cheap ($30 round trip). We then went to Planet Hollywood to buy New York Passes, which I highly recommend.
The deal is that you pay $70 for this pass which gives you free access to a bunch of touristy things as well as lets you skip the lines for many of them. Seeing as most NYC tourist sites are $20 to $30, this makes a lot of sense very quickly.
Nothing we did was exceedingly notable, but I did want to warn everyone away from visiting the Empire State Building past the hours of 11 AM. The place is a trial balloon for a new circle of hell: one where you just wait in lines until you fall down. Then, they prop you up in a chair and wheel you into the gift shop.
So, we came to the ESB. There’s a huge line around the edge of the building. But we have our trusty New York Pass! We ask an attendent, he suggests that the best way to advance is to go in a side entrance, go through the New York Skyride event, and then we’ll be able to go to the observatory. He made it sound like the skyride was the first half of a shortcut to the observatory.
So we go up. We get free tickets to the skyride because of our pass. We go wait with a group of people for skyride to start. The skyride, I should say, is shit. It’s supposed to be a little movie about New York, in amusement-ride form. But it’s so bad.
You sit on a platform that can rock. You watch a helicopter flyover of NYC on a screen so small you can never be very immersed. The whole thing is narrated by Kevin Bacon with a sprinkling of freakin’ James Doohan! Occasionally your helicopter will encounter some crazy Blue Energy that makes it go all crazy and rocks all the seats. Very silly, stupid, and uninformitive.
When we got out, the exit led not to some super s3krit elevator access to the 86th floor, but rather the same lobby we entered from. We were sad.
Next, we got some 3rd and 4th opinions about how to use our passes to get to the observatory. No attendents seemed very sure. We finally got inserted halfway through the line for tickets (we were promised by the pass to not have to wait in that line). Then, with tickets in hand, we were told to go to a line for elevators and say, brandishing our tickets, “we have already been through skyride.” So I guess the skyride did help, but god damn, it’s not clear it was worth it.
After we queued up for the elevators, it was another million hours until we saw one. They shoot you up onto the 80th floor, where you get the unique opportunity to either walk up 6 flights or queue further for elevators (said queue goes by a sales desk for one more chance at buying the audio tour or $8 map of sights from the top).
After getting to the 86th floor, it’s a madhouse at the top. When you’ve had enough of being run over by strollers, you can get in line to escape. You must wait your turn to go back down to the 80th floor, where you are let off into the gift store. You must find your way out of there into the 8th line for elevators you’ve been in so far. Since you go down the same elevators that people are coming up in, it’s just as slow as all the other lines, even though all you want is to go get the hell out.
Pretty much the worst experience ever. Not to mention that, although the view is plenty nice, it’s predictably nice. It’s a bunch of buildings, people-as-ants, some water, and some stuff fading into the distance. Which is very pretty and enjoyable. But you can guage before you go up exactly how nice you typically find such things and then decide whether it’s worth the skyride+queues.
Alright, enough ESB. If you want to go on the NBC studio tour at 30 Rock., make sure to sign up as early as possible. They get booked fast.
Lastly, although I’ve heard so much about how the NYC metro system being awesome, I just found it amazingly confusing. There are many lines, and each one has all these exceptions about “on odd days, this train runs on a different platform 30 mins ahead of its normal schedule” and such. There were fliers up all over the place explaining this week’s errata to the schedule. Very difficult to figure out what you needed to do to get from point A to point B.