When visiting New York we stayed in Neptune Township, New Jersey one night so we could be close to Asbury and the Boardwalk there (those photos to come a bit later). Accommodations were at the Holiday Inn Express in Neptune Township. It was a very clean and comfortable hotel and a short and inexpensive ride to the boardwalk. If you have a car, it is also located very close to some shopping but I wouldn't recommend a walk to the shopping since the hotel is located on a busy street. Despite it's location, I didn't find it noisy at all.
After visiting Neptune Township we stayed for several nights at the Holiday Inn in Secaucus, New Jersey. I was able to get this hotel on my Priority Club points. After years of saving points on Airmiles and not really needing or wanting anything from their rewards offerings, I converted my points to Priority Club and was able to get this lovely hotel. The hotel is recently renovated with beautiful calming colours and offers everything you could want: friendly staff, free hotel shuttle within the city limits and to the NJ train station, Starbucks coffee, and is conveniently located within a shopping complex with many shops, restaurant and cinemas nearby.
|Buildings & street life
The car can be parked for free in the hotel parking lot and and you can take a city bus from across the street or take the hotel shuttle bus to the train station. On the train it is a short journey into Manhattan where you will be dropped off at the Penn Street Station (central station for connections). This is an excellent way to avoid the astronomical parking fees in Manhattan as well as the chaos of the city traffic.
My main goal in New York City (NYC) was to go to the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building (ESB). I didn't think I would make it due to the heavy storm caused by Tropical Storm Andrea the previous night. But when I awoke the next morning the sky was sunny. Throughout that day it alternated between sun and clouds. It was a perfect day to walk around Manhattan and to look out from the top of the ESB. There was a nice breeze blowing throughout the day though the weather was quite humid as is the norm during summers in eastern Canada and the USA.
My left knee had begun to act up on the morning of my walk so I found the short walk from Penn Station to ESB quite far for me. Thankfully I had my walking poles with me though I must have looked quite a sight walking the streets of Manhattan. Walking around I wondered how those who are mobility challenged get around NYC. I only saw one man in a wheelchair. He was also going to the top of the ESB. On the streets, I only saw one older woman who was using a walker.
After walking about 5 blocks I reached the ESB and was pleased to find out that the waiting time to get to the observation deck was only about 30 minutes. I went immediately to the 2nd level where I purchased my ticket and got in line. Regular tickets to the Observation Deck are $25. If you wish to by pass the line up and go straight to the top, the tickets cost just over $47. You can also purchase your tickets on line and pick them up at the ESB where there are ticket dispensers at the start of the line up. By the time I got to the ticket wicket, I was told the waiting time was now 45 minutes. I still thought that the wait was short given that it is a top tourist attraction in NYC. I had read on line that the best times to visit the ESB are at 8 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m. I didn't want to go so early or so late so I got there close to 3 p.m. and true enough the wait time wasn't so bad.
At about the half way point in the line I was channelled through a section where a photographer took my photo. They seem to do this for all parties whether you want it or not. When you exit the ESB, you can view the photo and decide whether you want to purchase it at a cost of $20. I opted not to purchase mine.
At the top of the ESB, I was treated to 360 degree views. It was easy to make out a number of the landmarks without the help of the tour help the ESB staff will rent to you. If you are unfamiliar with the city landmarks and want to make sure you learn more about them, I think the cost of the device with recorded tour information is a good value at $5 which 2 people can share.
After you decide whether you want to purchase your photo or not, you will be channelled through a store where you can purchase memorabilia if you wish. I purchased a small snow globe with some of the NYC skyline inside. That was $10. I also purchased some water (another $4) as I was getting rather thirsty. I guess I could have waited for the water but I didn't know how long it might be before I got to a restaurant.
Now you might wonder what you do in a long line up if you need to use the restroom. I am happy to report that the ESB seems very well equipped with washroom facilities. I also noticed that the first washrooms have long lines up so it is better to wait until you get nearer the end of the line. There are numerous toilet facilities located at several junctures throughout the wait line. There are also washrooms on the Observation Deck itself. When you finally get into the elevator to go to the Observation Deck you will get out on the 80th Floor. There you will see lots of information about the ESB, including historical information and some of the improvements that are being made to the building for environmental reasons. Then you stand in line again to catch the elevator to the 86th Floor where the Observation Deck is located. Some people opt to go even higher to the 102 Floor. I didn't bother with that as I'd heard that it is enclosed and not really worth it. It costs more money to visit at the higher level and the cost depends on whether you wish to by pass the others in the line up.
While I was on the Observation Deck, the sun was not shining but that was good because it was a humid day. There was a nice breeze and the sun would peek out every now and then. There is enough colour in the buildings so as not to be so dull.
Exiting the Observation Deck, I found I was quite tired as I had been standing for several hours. I asked the one of the ESB hosts about what a person does when he/she is disabled and can't stand for many hours. They said just ask one of the hosts and you would be escorted right to the front of the line. So that is good information to know if you have any kind of mobility issue.
After leaving the ESB, I needed a snack and refreshment. We went to a rather expensive restaurant (independent of ESB) located right at ground level. There I swapped travel stories with two women from Syracuse in upstate New York. After resting a bit it was another walk of 15 blocks or so to the Theater District of Times Square and to Rockefeller Center (known as the GE Building) where NBC and CBS have their news offices.
|All these advertisements made me want to take in ALL the plays but alas I did not have time. Two nights later, I saw that Kinky Boots (see billboard) had won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
|It was fun soaking up all the vibes in this area of Manhattan.
|I think seeing The Lion King would be so much fun. Maybe I will see it when the show tours again.
More buildings, taxis & billboards
When we were ready to leave Times Square and Rockefeller Centre, we walked back another 17 blocks or so to Penn Station. Needless to say I was very tired from the pain, the long walk and the humidity. I was very happy to sit down and rest awhile on the train during my journey back to Secaucus. I was equally happy to have been able to complete my mission of visiting the ESB.
|Penn Station is underneath Madison Square Garden.
|Penn Station is a major intercity train station and a major commuter rail hub in New York City. You can catch the Amtrak to many points or find your way to NJ Trains and Long Island Railroad at the station.
|Street life @Times Square
Hook up with Skywatch Friday here.