From Such Great Heights: A New Look at New York City

I’ve been up to New York close to a dozen times in the past couple of years. Ever since I discovered the amazing cheapness of Megabus I’ve used just about any flimsy pretext to head up there and visit.

Even so, most of my visits to New York have mainly involved partying it up with friends, eating out and getting lost for hours in the Strand.  The closest I usually get to sightseeing is walking through Central Park or maybe catching a Broadway show on the cheap.

I much prefer experiencing New York like a local, but maybe there is something fundamentally important about seeing the attractions of a city. Some insight to be gained. So I was kind of excited when, as part of our TBEX swag, the NYC tourism bureau offered each of us a City Pass- a kind of Golden Ticket to New York’s top attractions. Here was my chance to finally see some of New York on the cheap.

Unfortunately, with all the excitement and various plans going on with the conference, my sightseeing time was whittled down to one afternoon. One very hung-over afternoon, it turned out, after the PREBEX celebrations of the night before.  My brilliant sightseeing plan amounted to an exhausted wander around the MoMA and a more exciting trip up to the Top of the Rock.

30 Rockefeller Plaza, in addition to being the home of my FAVORITE TV show, has an epic observation deck.  The view is supposed to be similar to that of the Empire State Building with the huge advantage that you can actually SEE the Empire State Building.

I’ve been to New York countless times but the view up on the 70th floor was like nothing I’ve ever seen.  The view stretched from one end of Manhattan to the other. From the Brooklyn Bridge to the George Washington. Up here the skyscrapers looked like orderly building blocks, and Central Park was a rich oasis. The rivers that outline the island gleamed silvery in the bright sun. Downtown the Statue of Liberty twinkled in miniature.

I wandered around on the observation deck for a good long while, taking in New York from every possible angle. It was like seeing a new side of an old friend, “New York, I didn’t know you were so pretty!”

This was the kind of thing I would probably never, ever have dropped $21 to do under my own steam: it’s too gimmicky, too flashy. But it turns out I actually LIKED it, quite a bit. It was a new and different way of looking at New York, a wide-angle view that really demonstrated how impressive and vast the city really is.

In the end the greatest stuff I saw and did last weekend was with the brilliant travel bloggers at TBEX. Still, it was great- and actually insightful, to play tourist, even just for one sweltering hung-over afternoon.

17 thoughts on “From Such Great Heights: A New Look at New York City”

  1. I’m a native new yorker, born and bred… i volunteer as a tourist guide via Big Apple Greeter, our organization provides free walking tours of any borough any time, assuming there’s a greeter available. please visit the website and sign up.
    my favourite places are..the Highline ( west 12th st-22nd st) elevated rail track converted into a park overlooking the Hudson River; the East Village and alphabet city ( ave a, b c ) with Tompkins Sq park in the middle- cheap places to eat and lots of funky clubs; west village and wash sq park ( barrow st, morton st, hudson st, charles st, perry st, west 10th , christopher st , bleecker st, and all over..great shops and eateries abound; central park and bethesda fountain; canal st and chinatwon-little italy; southstreetseaport and the financial district; ground zero and battery park city-marina; union square-14th st; gramercy park; rockefeller center; MOMA ( museum of modern art); The Metropolitan Museum and museum mile ( whitney, guggenheim, jewish museum, etc); the cloisters;
    bronx and arthur avenue ( the real little italy); brooklyn heights promenade and DUMBO area, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges; Williamsburg-Bklyn, coney island, Flushing-queens, too much to see in a lifetime.. come visit..welcome to NYC.

  2. Reminds me of that Fascist architectural monstrosity in Rome (the Monument to Vittorio Emmanuelle) where you can get a panoramic view of the whole city including St. Peter’s. Only Rockefeller Center is actually pretty!

    Other perk of 30 Rock-ice skating there in the winter. It looked like so much fun. What a gorgeous day to see the city!

    1. Oh I remember that ugly thing- Mussolini’s wedding cake. Didn’t realize there was a view from the top! Will remember that for next time…

  3. call me old school, but i’m down with the esb and not with the tor. the esb is all restored and beautiful and now they took the entire 86th floor for nothing but viewing.

    1. I haven’t been to the Empire State Building since I was a little kid, but it’s definitely an iconic piece of New York.

  4. I love this view of NYC, too! It’s always fun to discover a new side of a city — especially one like New York.

    And, I’ll admit it — NYC is one of those cities that I don’t mind being a tourist in at all. I was there last year with my mom, and we bought the City Passes just for fun. It really was a great way to see the city without it being too overwhelming.

    1. those city passes seem like a good deal. I really wish I’d gotten to take more advantage of mine! Would love to have checked out Ellis Island for starters.

  5. The line ‘New York, I didn’t know you were so pretty!’ line seemed to come right out from the ‘Hey there Delilah’ song! 😀

    I haven’t seen New York from either Empire State or Rockerfeller but did see it from an airplane right after taking off from Newark. This was at night, and I was able to spot all these famous buildings including the Empire State. And the city looked AMAZING! 🙂

    1. Clearly I should be concentrating my talents on song writing (minus the tone-deafness).

      New York from the air at night IS a cool sight as well. I’d forgotten I’d done that before…

  6. I definitely like Top of the Rock a lot better than the Empire State building observation deck – sure, it’s not quite as high, but you can see everything and the overall experience is much better – lots more room to move around, and the views are much less restricted. And less crowded, too, I think.

    1. I did the empire state building once as a kid but don’t really remember it. I think Top of the Rock is a pretty sweet alternative

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