Driving an RV around the New York City metro area is not for the faint of heart! Nor is trying to see the sights of this city in two rainy days. But we did it and lived to tell the tale, so here goes!
We once again brought the rain with us, so getting into Jersey City in a big RV in the rain, with crowded freeways (even on a Sunday) and narrow streets, was pretty darn scary. While we had hoped to use our Sunday evening to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, the pouring rain nixed that idea, and we just hunkered down to recover from the stressful drive.
On Monday morning we took a 30-second ferry to Liberty State Park, and then boarded the big ferry to Ellis Island. The displays and exhibits around immigration at Ellis Island are extremely well done by the National Park Service. We especially liked the spaces that are re-created to be similar to what recent arrivals would have gone through.
A definite highlight was seeing the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, where my grandfather’s name was one of the many engraved (thanks, Mom!). While Grandpa (Hagop) Chakmakjian landed at Ellis Island in 1939, his wife and four children, including my mom, came through San Pedro, CA, so all 6 were immigrants to this country (my mom came in 1941, just months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor). The wall is enormous and the names go on and on around the circle and sides. Beautifully done!
The Statue of Liberty was our next stop and what a treat that was. We had tickets to walk up the 215 steps of the pedestal (even months ahead of time, there weren’t any available tickets to go to the crown), and it was fascinating to see the scale and magnitude of the statue, both from inside and out.
Landing at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan after our ferry ride, we walked less than a mile to the new One World Trade Center, and took a 47-second ride to the 102nd floor. This building is now the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, and the One World Observatory provides a 360-degree view of Manhattan and beyond. We could even spot our RV in Jersey City by zooming in with our camera. Lots of rain and mist, so not great visibility, but on a clear day, this would be an awesome sight.
On to a more somber experience, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. We didn’t know what to expect, but they have kept large pieces of the wreckage from the World Trade Center and built exhibits around these structures and pieces of equipment. They also have a room where every person who lost their lives has their picture on the wall, and each name is recited. Many of the recited names are followed by family members sharing a little about their son, mother, etc. It was very moving, and we highly recommend a visit.
After walking around in the rain all day, we needed a break, so we boarded the Grayline Hop On-Hop Off Downtown bus tour, for a narrated description of the buildings which we were driving by. We didn’t visit the United Nations building, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, and Wall Street, but it was fun to at least see these iconic locations for ourselves.
The biggest highlight of the downtown bus tour was seeing the Soup Kitchen that was parodied in a Seinfeld episode about the Soup Nazi. “No soup for you!” the owner of the Soup Kitchen exclaimed to Jerry Seinfeld during the episode. Apparently, when the cast and crew visited the restaurant after the episode aired, the owner refused to serve them, claiming the episode had ruined his business. “No soup for you!” he told Jerry Seinfeld, as he threw the cast and crew out of the restaurant.
We met a friend for dinner at the newly opened Hudson Yards, a massive structure that includes offices, apartments and a mall, plus some wild sculptures.
Our friend Marcy wanted us to have the true New York subway experience, so she rode with us (out of her way) on the subway to help us get to our PATH train connection back to Jersey City. It was very fun, though we wouldn’t want to attempt it by ourselves. Thank you, Marcy!
Day 2 in NYC started with the Hop On-Hop Off Uptown bus tour. We hopped off to explore the American Museum of Natural History, site of the Night at the Museum movie with Ben Stiller. Their dinosaur exhibits are incredible—huge and varied. We want to watch the movie again just so we can visualize all the places we went inside the museum.
We also visited the Episcopal cathedral St. John the Divine, built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and purported to be the largest cathedral in the world. It contained some of the most beautiful stained glass windows we’ve ever seen, including the largest Rose Window in the U.S., made from 10,000 pieces of glass.
After riding the bus through Harlem (Apollo Theater) and past the Guggenheim Museum, we hopped off to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now, we aren’t big art aficionados, but this place was out-of-this-world. It’s massive, and it has massive collections of art from every period and region we could think of. We barely scratched the surface.
Just a few highlights from the Met (not to be confused with the Metropolitan Opera, also known as the Met)—gorgeous inlaid wood and suits of armor, plus Faberge eggs…
An incredible collection of Impressionist paintings, including some that my mom has always loved…
The rain foiled our plan to ride bikes through Central Park, but at least we got to see much of the park from the dry confines of the tour bus.
No Broadway plays for us – most theaters are dark on Monday and Tuesday nights. And there were so many things we did NOT do in our two days there. But we’re not really city tourists, so two days was enough for us.
We were terrified about driving around the city on a Wednesday morning as we headed for Cape Cod, so we left at 6:15 am, drove north past the Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel, and the George Washington Bridge, and crossed the Hudson River north of Manhattan and Yonkers on the Tappan Zee Bridge (thanks, Roger and Phyllis, for alerting us to this option). Plenty of wide lanes on this newly-renovated bridge made it one of the less stressful parts of this drive. We made it safely to our state park campground near Cape Cod, and that will be our next post.