A Foray into New York City

I have wanted to go to New York City on a whim without much prior thought since I arrived at Princeton. Seeing that there was no homework during Reading Week and exams, I decided to do it. After purchasing the tickets to a few attractions on Thursday, I was ready to go on Saturday.

I woke up (relatively) early in the morning to take the bus to Princeton Junction. There was an unusually large number of people waiting at the stop. I would not understand why until later. Upon arrival at New York Penn Station, I traveled to the Empire State Building observatory. Even though the sky was cloudy, I decided to ascend it. Their elevators were very cool. It featured a television screen on the ceiling that showed what it looked like to travel up the building as it was being constructed. At the 80th floor, there was a museum on the construction of the Empire State Building. I then took another elevator to the 86th floor observatory. I could not see much. This part of the building was in the clouds. Still, I walked around the outdoor platform through the mist. It certainly was not the “usual” experience.

After descending to the bottom, I strolled northwards — switching between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. At the New York Public Library, I noticed that there were a bunch of protesters in pink hats. I guess that the Women’s March was scheduled for this day. I figured that something would probably occur in the City, being that it was the day after a controversial president’s inauguration, but had no clue that this would happen.

I went into the library and looked around. It was classy. The New York Public Library definitely beats Firestone in fanciness but does not surpass the Boston Public Library.

I continued along Fifth Avenue, eating The Halal Guys while sitting in Central Park. After my déjeuner, I walked further northward to The Explorers Club headquarters on 70th Street. Unfortunately, it was closed.

As I headed south to find a subway station, I turned around a corner and found myself in the middle of the Women’s March. I don’t quite know how this happened, but I had to stumble through the crowds to reach a train. The police were warning people against civil disobedience on some loud speakers. I went to Union Square and looked around a bit before taking another train.

The sunny skies of Midtown soon turned to gloomy clouds as I arrived in Downtown Manhattan. I arrived at One World Trade Center (I’ll call One) barely in time for my slot. This place was rather deserted. I didn’t have to wait in any lines.

The experience started with a geology exhibit on Manhattan Schist. It was followed by an speedy elevator ride to the top. One, like the Empire State Building, had a cool effect in the ride. All of the elevator’s walls were television screens that showed the evolution of the New York skyline over time. Dually, it made it seem as if you were gaining altitude along with it and showed One being constructed when the time arrived. At the top, an attendant played a brief movie before the screen raised to reveal a dramatic view of Manhattan — or what would be a dramatic view if it were not for the clouds.

Fortunately, One was high enough that it was above the stratus layer blanketing the city. As a result, I had an airplane-like view as I gazed out over the tops of the fluffy marshmallows. I could see airplanes rising up into the sky and a few other buildings poking though the top, including that ugly cube skyscraper. It was cool to see One’s shadow on the cloudtops. I looked around for a while. One boasted a very expensive restaurant and gift shop along with an education center. I could feel the building sway under my feet during strong gusts of wind. No one else seemed to notice. After 45 minutes, I went back down.

I looked around the World Trade Center memorial at the building’s base. There was a somber atmosphere. Seeing that it was 4:30 pm, I began to walk north to catch a train into Soho. I stayed in this part of town for an hour before going to Grand Central Terminal and then taking the spur to Times Square. I enjoyed all of the advertisement for 10 minutes and then walked south to Penn Station. I was in a rush to catch the train, so I ate at a Johnny Rocket’s for dinner. The train was packed full of people, especially protesters from the Women’s March.

In all, I enjoyed this trip. It was a great way to relax following a long week of study. I would highly recommend it to other Princeton students who are looking for ways to burst the Orange Bubble. Very little planning is needed, only a computer and a bit of money. With the exception of the tickets for the building observatories, this trip was not too expensive.

I will probably return on a weekday to check out the Explorers Club and Princeton Club of New York.

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