New York 2014 Day 5 – Sun, Stars, and Animals

We finally got a bit of a rest and didn’t get up until 07:00. Our first task of the day was to pick up our passes for Comic Con. We still had lanyards and t-shirts to collect, but we wouldn’t be able to do that until the next day. Our passes had Daryl from The Walking Dead (a TV show) on them, and I assume other passes would have different characters from the show on them. Unlike San Diego Comic Con, picking up our passes was incredibly quick.

New York Comic Con setup in progress

From there we walked to the Rockefeller Centre and went around the NBC Universal shop, this time having a proper look around. We were surprised that they had souvenirs for “Saved by the Bell” as well, a show that ended in the 90s. There were also a lot from other popular NBC Universal franchises such as Friends and Despicable Me.

NBC Universal Store

The entrance for the observation deck was around the other side of the building – we went for the “Sun and Stars” ticket which would mean we could revisit later in the day as well. As with the other major attractions, this requires you to go through airport-like security on the way up.

Contrary to what I thought, the Rockefeller Centre isn’t just the massive skyscraper, but the whole complex of buildings around it; including Radio City Music Hall. It was constructed and funded by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and was originally intended to be the home for the Metropolitan Opera. The land was owned by Columbia University and was only leased until the Rockefeller Group bought the land in the 80s for $400 million.

Central Park as seen from Top of the Rock

To get to the top you take a lift up 60-something floors, and as it rises the ceiling turns transparent to reveal a lift shaft illuminated with little blue lights. At this point you can go outside on one side of the building (which gives you views in three directions), though if you take an escalator up another level you can walk all around the building getting views of Manhattan and Central Park. As with the Empire State Building, there are huge reinforced panes of glass stopping people from jumping or falling off, but it also protects you from the majority of the wind.

Pretzel from Times Square

We also took a flight of stairs up to get a little higher, but it doesn’t make a great deal of difference to the view – it just doesn’t have glass around it so it’s easier for some to take photographs. Once we’d done we descended, exited through the gift shop and headed back to Times Square. From there we bought a pretzel to eat later, but I took a bite out of mine to see what it was like as it was still warm. We then got on the metro and headed north as far as Pelham Parkway.

Pelham Parkway, Bronx

The whole journey was around 40 minutes, but it was only a short walk from the metro station to the Bronx Zoo. I’m not sure if we took the best route there, but it seemed quite short and reasonably well sign posted once we were in the Bronx.

American Bison

We’d heard that it was free to go in on Wednesdays, but still got charged $14.95 admission per person. As we entered the first thing we saw was the Bronx River running alongside the path and under a bridge, though at the side of this was a field full of American Bison sitting down. Oddly an American asked me what animal these were – I had incorrectly assumed an American would know about the animals in their country so I went ahead and told him (though I could have pointed at the sign that was there to tell visitors what the animal was).

The next area was “World of Birds” which housed quite a variety of birds, though they also had some monkeys in there. There was a second level to this, but it was closed at the time we were there. Instead, as it was after midday by this point we sat and ate our pretzels before moving on.

Tiger

A small building named “Tiger Mountain” provided my first ever look at a tiger – I thought it seemed a little on the skinny side though. It was nice to see one though, and I hope the next one I see is in the wild, or at least a sanctuary. Seeing the tiger in captivity left me feeling sorry for it, but I guess the positive here is that it’s safe from poachers.

Polar Bear

Grizzly Bears

Moving through the different areas of the zoo we saw a polar bear, grizzly bears, various animals from Africa, and all along this route we found the food places were closed. I wasn’t sure if it was because it was mid-week, or if it was out of season.

“The Congo”

Gorilla

Eventually we got to “the Congo” and had to show our tickets again – ours were “full experience” tickets which made some of these areas feel like “add-ons” as a way to raise additional money for the Wildlife Conservation Society (which I personally feel is a good thing if it goes towards saving animals). Inside the Congo the main attraction are the gorillas they have there, one of which was protecting its young. I think if we’d had more time available to us we could have sat and watched the gorillas for some time as they’re so fascinating to watch. Alas we were on a bit of a schedule and had to move on after a while to ensure we could see some more of the zoo before we needed to go.

Eventually we made it to the Dancing Crane, a cafe that was actually open, so we got some Hershey’s ice cream and sat out in the sun. I went with the Cookie Dough flavour, which was nice but we both found the ice cream to be far too sugary. We decided at this point we had around an hour left so we’d miss out some of the areas, but we still went in “Butterfly World” and the reptile house. At the time we were there it seemed like they only had three species of butterfly in the building, but the reptile house was far better.

Ring-tailed Lemur

On the way out we passed the Madagascar building where they kept lemurs, and also encountered a White Rhinoceros. There was a feeding session going on for some seals around this time but with how often I’d seen seals before, and the fact my sister wasn’t that interested in them meant that we instead headed onwards to the exit and back to the metro station.

White Rhinoceros

Back on the metro we travelled all the way back to Times Square and then changed lines to head back out to Queens. Both legs of the journey were quite busy, but we still managed to get seats for some of it. As we approached Queensborough Plaza we passed a building that had the “Silvercup Studios” sign above it. This was one place I wanted to take a single photograph of because it’s roof and sign featured in a Queen music video for “Princes of the Universe” as part of the soundtrack for Highlander.

Silvercup Studios

From the metro station it was only a short walk, and as we left the station I saw three police officers putting two sets of handcuffs on someone. When we got back after I’d taken the photograph of Silvercup Studios, one of the officers were still there and recognised us from earlier and let us straight through the barrier without using our metro cards.

Empire State Building at sunset

This journey they took us back to Times Square with the remainder being on foot back to the Rockefeller Centre. This time it was a lot busier with a queue at the door, but when we shown the doorman our tickets he let us straight in. Eventually we joined a queue that took about 15 minutes to get through, and we got to the top just in time for the setting sun.

Empire State Building in twilight

We had about 10 minutes until it set, so once I found a good spot I stayed there. I then continued standing there for the next hour so that once the last remainder of the light left the sky I could take a nighttime photograph from the same place. It was a very long time to stay standing in the same place, especially when my knee hadn’t been too good the past couple of days. We were also getting hungry as we’d not really eaten much during the day up to this point.

Empire State Building at night

Once I’d finally taken the photograph I wanted we moved on and had a look in the gift shop. I bought a hoodie for $45 and almost immediately put it on as it was starting to get cool outside as well. Our next objective was finding somewhere to eat. We’d seen one place a couple of days previous that we thought might have been suitable so we headed in it’s direction. This was delayed slightly though when my sister noticed my backpack was open and I had to backtrack to see if anything had fallen out.

Eventually we made it to the restaurant, but it turned out they didn’t do hot food. It was already passed 20:00 by now, so reluctantly we headed on to look for somewhere else. Eventually we found a place called Renaissance Restaurant which seemed to be a family run business. It may have been one of the strangest lasagnas I’d seen, though their food tasted quite good. The portions were massive – combined with the side of fries I’d ordered I couldn’t finish everything. I guess though it’s better to get too much and not be able to eat it all than to not get enough and still be hungry.

Once we’d done here we got back to the hotel for 21:30. Upon arriving back we had to activate our passes for Comic Con as apparently the RFID for them wouldn’t work until we had. This is something that may not be that practical for international visitors as it’s not necessarily easy or possible to find somewhere to get internet access to do so.

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