Thursday, August 30, 2012

Grand Central Terminal and The Empire State Building, New York City

On the first of August, we started our family vacation, an overland trip by car, to the northeastern part of the U.S. to visit my brother and his family, and to visit several points of interest in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  I will be putting up a series of blog posts about this in the near future, but for now I decided to start somewhat in the middle of our road trip, in New York City, and at least cover part of our first day there... we did so much in slightly over 2 days in NYC there that it's difficult to put it all in one blog post!   

It's highly advisable for tourists visiting The Big Apple to leave the car behind, because driving there is hectic, parking spaces are almost  nonexistent and parking garages are very expensive, and a car  practically becomes more of a liability than a convenience.  So we started our day early on a Friday and drove to New Haven, Connecticut, where we parked our car at Union Station, brought our bags for 2 nights' stay, and then hopped aboard the Metro North train for a 2-hour trip with a destination in the heart of Manhattan.    

Beautiful old train station at Union Station, New Haven, Connecticut

That final destination of our Metro North train was the famous Grand Central Station, aka Grand Central Terminal (GCT), which has been featured in many movies and is truly a sight to behold and quite an experience.  Covering an area of 48 acres (19 hectares) and a masterpiece of the early 1900's Beaux-Arts style of architecture, GCT was completed in 1913 after 10 years of construction and excavation.  It is the world's #6 most visited tourist spot according to  Travel  Leisure magazine, and is the largest train station in the world in terms of the number of platforms.  While some major changes have taken place in the platforms etc. in the conversion from using steam locomotives to modern-day trains, the main concourse looks much the same as it did in 1913.  Wish we could've seen GCT and experienced its sights and sounds back when those lumbering behemoth steam locomotives plied the tracks of America.  
Arrival - ready for adventure in New York - Grand Central Station!

Beautiful clock at Grand Central Terminal

Main concourse of Grand Central Terminal

Bustling crowd in the main concourse of Grand Central

These cashiers' windows probably haven't changed at all since 1913

We next made our way to our hotel, Hampton Inn Manhattan Chelsea, which was in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, just on the southwestern fringe of Mid-town near the intersection of 6th Ave. with 24th St.  It was a nice place, and we enjoyed staying there.  We dropped off our bags since we were too early to check into our room, and since we wanted to make the most of our day. 

Our next stop was the Empire State Building, a 1,453 foot (443 meter) tall Art Deco masterpiece finished in 1931 and prominently featured in the 1933 classic film King Kong and many other movies. Going up to the observation deck on the 86th floor (about 1,050 feet/320 meters high) entails a considerable wait (at least on a beautiful sunny weekend in the summer) to get through the line:   you have to go through security and buy a ticket (if you haven't bought one already), then wait in line for the elevators.  The rather lengthy wait was well worth it, though, for the view from the observation deck on the 86th floor about 1,050 feet (320 meters) up above Manhattan is amazing.  Needless to say, on a clear day you can see all over the place.  The sounds of the bustling megalopolis below can be heard, too, especially the many fire trucks and ambulances that are on a run at any given moment... pretty exciting! A kindly native New Yorker security guard on the 86th floor observation deck took our photo and even let our daughter wear his cool hat for the photo... we told him it was a real honor!  The lobby of the Empire State Building is pretty awesome too, with amazing an Art Deco aluminum relief of the skyscraper on a marble background, above a map of the area surrounding New York City and an awesome looking clock.  There's a photo below of our daughter posing in front of this lobby art work and the information desk.   It amazes me that some of the most spectacular and extravagant Art Deco architecture was built during the economically darkest days of the Great Depression.   

To be continued - I've only gotten through about half of our first day in New York City!

Glowing in Art Deco splendor - lobby of Empire State Building
Map of region around NYC topped by relief sculpture of the building
Honored to wear the kind Empire State Building security guard's hat 

(Pinay-) American Girl on the 86th floor of Empire State Building
The 3 Stooges - anyone recognize the logo on my hat?
On the 86th Floor Observation Deck, Empire State Building

View to the south including Flatiron Building and One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower)

Looking north toward Central Park (far in the background)
Looking East toward the Chrysler Building and the East River

View of spire of Empire State Building from 86th flr. observation deck - can you believe they originally wanted to tie up a blimp to this and then disembark passengers?!!



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