Friday, 10 December 2010

Dusk on the Empire State Building

After our sea-level ride on the Staten Island ferry, we were already getting a good grasp of the size of Manhattan and it was bigger than I expected. So now it was time to get a better view of the rest of the city and the surrounding area. To do this we headed for the highest vantage point possible in New York City whilst still attached to the ground; the top of the Empire State Building.

Manhattan and New Jersey Skyline
Finding the Empire State Building is kinda like finding the Eiffel Tower in Paris, if you're not underground or stood under a lot of other buildings then it really is quite hard to miss. We were soon finding our way to the entrance but not before we had stopped for some drinks. I ended up with some fake imitation of an iced tea that was basically chilled liquid sugar. If you think the flavoured milk on Jamie Oliver's recent show were bad, these things took the biscuit, infact a pack of biscuits probably has less sugar in it. Normally an addict to the sugary goodness, after reading this label I refused to drink it all because I didn't want to fall into a dibetic coma half way up the building.

Empire State BuildingUpon entering the lobby of the Empire State Building it's all rather grand and exactly like you see in all the movies. In front of you is a big image of the skyscraper with signs lower down pointing the way to where you need to be.

We hadn't bought our tickets on-line like you can, however being nerds who like to tailor make our plans to our suit our whims, we had gone so far as to work out a good time to get there in order to see the daylight, any possible sunset and then night time too. On this day the time we were aiming for was... around 3.30 for a 4.30ish sunset. We were not too sure what was up there but we were looking forward to getting to the observation deck.

First of all it was an escalator. Then an empty looking queing hall to security. Once through there it was a relatively short queue up to the booths to buy the tickets. At the counter we chose to get the tickets which also take you up to the highest point, the 102nd floor. Once bought, we scurried down several long empty lines, sales stuff and around a few turns before reaching the elevators.

It wasn't long before we were heading up. The elevator stopped and we were then in another queue pretty high up the building with 3/4 blanked out windows so you couldn't see the view. Luckily I'm of a decent height and standing on tip toes, plus adding a small jump, were enough to see quite a pretty view of the city and beyond. Having to wait in a queue this wasn't a sustainable long term sightseeing plan and why they have to blank the windows in that queuing area I really don't know. I presume they're trying to save the wow factor of the view for higher up but since there is such a wait I can't see the harm in a little eye candy at least of the view from one side. Sure, since you're on your feet waiting for that next lift for as long as it takes, it would seem to me only fair that there is something to focus on other than relatively plain walls.

As it turns out Norngirl and I just chattered as we queued, the excitement was keeping us from worrying about how sore the feet might get later. Eventually we were in a lift and the next stop was indeed the 86th floor observation deck.

When we made it out of the door and onto the deck the view opened up from behind the bars. Apparently the fence around the 86th floor observation deck was put there in 1947 after a string of attempted suicides. It does take away from the view a little but the bars and diamond shaped fence do allow enough space to see a lot even when you aren't against the fence so they aren't much of a hindrance to the view.

New York Skyline

From taxis looking like snails to people like ants and planes like flies. It was awesome to look down and around over the city as if it were a part of a computer game, it was like playing Sim City again, especially with the night and day passing from one to the next as quickly as it happened to whilst we were there.

Small world down there

Empire State Building at Dusk

The view down was quite fun, peering over the edge maybe isn't something for anyone with vertigo but given the Art Deco style and layered architecture to the building looking down gives a view like this:

Long way down - Empire State Building

New York Skyline

It was still light as we planned to go higher. The quality of my experience on the 102nd floor observation deck however wasn't so good. We got the lift up to give us chance to see what was up there before the view changed. The lift man was very nice and chatted to us. He advised us to take a spin on the Staten Island ferry which we were proudly able to agree with having just been on the ferry that morning.

102 floor Empire State Building
Once on the 102nd floor, the view is a little different, the horizon stretches that little further but sadly it's all indoors and the glass or plastic in the slightly cramped room was quite smudged and dirty. That meant the photos obviously didn't come out quite so well as they did with only thin air as a barrier on the 86th. We were not too impressed given approx £5 each (give or take a little with the exchange rate) extra cost. I would personally only head to the 86th next time. To give it some credit, it is high and it was interesting to find out that the mast at the top of the building and the 102nd floor was originally intended to accommodate mooring Airships. It's just a shame it had the feel of the inside of an aircraft about it and nothing really special enough to justify the extra cost for us.

Empire State Building mast and flag

So we headed back down in the lift, a little disapointed but eager to see the setting sun dip over the hill and plunge the city into darkness. The urban sprawl below was already switching its lights on before the sun did set for us. Due to the height of 86th floor of the Empire State Building (1050ft up) we were almost peering over the hills to the West and so the city below was in shadow and darkness as we were still being bathed in a deep orange glow.

Manhattan at Sunset November 2010

Eventually the sun did set and quite a view it was too. The dusty city air gave the sunset a real kick.

New York Sunset

Once the sun had tipped over the point of no return, we took another walk or two around the observation deck to see the city at night. There was certainly lots to see, it was almost like seeing the view for the first time again. At night one of the most beautiful buildings in the city has to be the Chrysler building and it was shining bright, as was all of New York. Even the busy streets of brake lights and headlamps looked pretty.

Chrysler building at night

New York Cityscape at night

New York Cityscape at night

New York Cityscape at night

Suffice to say I enjoyed our trip up the Empire State Building, it is primarily just a photo opportunity and a view but to see New York City from it is quite something, the photos don't really do it justice.

The way down was a lot quicker, less queing though still a few to wait for lifts. There is a gift shop and photo opportunity places again on the way down too but we gave those a miss so not to blow all our spending money before we'd really found our feet in the city.

Our feet were at this point starting to ache from all the standing of the day. Thankfully for us there was a New York remedy to this problem for over 21s. We hurried back to the Subway and onwards to Brooklyn where Happy Hour at the Brooklyn Brewery awaited!

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